#4: Double or Nothing

4.1  Last week’s puzzle: I wanted to know how it is possible for your nephew by blood to be your wife’s 1st cousin by blood, without anybody marrying a blood relative. The answer is Chart 6…and it’s interesting that this arrangement can be arrived at in 2 different ways. The way I figured it initially was this: Your brother has a son, who is your nephew. That nephew has cousins on your side of the family, who are related to you…but he also has cousins on his mother’s side, who are not  related to you. One of these cousins on his mother’s side could be Zelda, the daughter of your brother’s sister-in-law Alice…and you marry Zelda. Now your blood nephew is also your wife’s blood 1st cousin.

chart 6

4.2  But a second sequence of events leads to the same thing: You marry Zelda, then your brother marries your wife’s aunt (Alice’s sister) and has a son…again, this son is your blood nephew and your wife’s blood 1st cousin. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

4.3  Today we are going to double up and double down…with half-cousins and double cousins.  But first, a word about the diagrams I use to illustrate family trees and interrelations. There are many ways to do this…I primarily use 2, which I call a Family Tree (seen below as Chart 7-A) and a Parental Tree (Chart 7-C.) The difference may seem slight, but it can prove a very big deal when charting out complicated cases, trust me. That difference is: in a Family Tree, 2 people who have an offspring are connected by a symbol…it could be a single horizontal line, a double line, an X, an X with lines, any number of things. This connective symbol implies a marriage…but that’s not necessarily the case, neither today nor a 1000 years ago. So think of it as a biological union…recalling Robert Louis Stevenson’s definition of marriage: a friendship recognized by the police… 🙂 😉

chart 7

4.4  The important point is that the offspring of such a union are connected to the union, not to the 2 parents that make up that union…as you can see in Chart 7-A…and as a result, siblings are connected to each other, as for example are the fathers of Abner (A) and Zeke (Z). With a Parental Tree, no symbol represents a biological union…parents are connected directly to their offspring…in fact, there are NO connecting lines other than parent/child…as seen in Chart 7-C. In general, Family Trees work best for outlining real families, especially where there are multiple siblings, uncles, nephews, etc. Parental Trees can provide a clearer picture when analyzing specific types of relationships…but as you will notice in Chart 7-B, these 2 types of charts can be mixed and hybridized to your heart’s content…so let’s introduce…

chart 8

4.5   half-cousins, or more specifically, half-1st cousins. They are the offspring of half-siblings…for example, the son of your father’s half-brother is your half-1st cousin. The main difference between 1st cousins and half-1st cousins is this: since full brothers have the same 2 parents, their sons…1st cousins…will then have the same 2 grandparents, their fathers’ parents. On the other hand, half-1st cousins will share only 1 grandparent…that being the parent their father share as half-brothers…as in Chart 8-A where Abner and Zeke have the same paternal grandfather but difference paternal grandmothers. Comparing with Chart 8-B, this produces 2 difference kinds of diagrammatic structures…for the Family Tree, one individual has a biological union with 2 different people, left and right…whereas the Parental Tree displays a W formation at the top…and contrast that with the X formation for full 1st-cousins in Chart 7-C.

4.6  I ought to mention that there are some people who think the concept of half-relations is a needlessly complicated one…surprisingly, some even argue that there is no such thing as half-relations! True, many people with half-relations regard these relatives as full relations in casual conversation…others will specify the exact relationship…different people do it different ways. If you grew up in the same household as your half-brother, he’s certainly your “brother.” At the same time, I doubt that you ever really think of yourself and your brother as having the same 2 biological parents…when the plain fact is that you don’t.

4.7  In olden days, when extended kinship was more important, these distinctions were crucial. And they can still be today…with the prevalence of organ transplants, the degree of compatibility is based on the closeness of the relationship…and siblings share 1/2 their genes…half-siblings 1/4…1st cousins 1/8…and half-1st cousins 1/16. BTW, it appears that some “half-deniers” base their belief on what is for Western society now an obsolete practice, that of reckoning kinship thru only one parent, and in our case, one’s father. Thus 2 sons with the same father were “brothers”…who the mothers were, the same or different, was not relevant. This is called unilineal, kinship thru one line…today, we consider ourselves related to both sides of our family, bilineal, thru 2 lines.

chart 9

4.8  Similarly, if you mention double cousins, the response from some people will be: There’s no such thing!  Unless of course they have them in their own family, in which case they know perfectly well what double cousins are: 1st cousins thru both sides of the family…as shown in Chart 9…Abner and Zeke are 1st cousins because their fathers are brothers…but they are also 1st cousins because their mothers are sisters. And it could also be a brother and a sister from one family marrying a sister and a brother from another family. This happened much more often in the past, especially when parents arranged marriages for their children…people had bigger families, didn’t move around as much, so the pool of potential mates was limited. Thus several unions between the Smiths and the Jones’s would not be unusual…especially if the first one worked out well! It was what was called 2 families having “close ties.”

4.9  Other people wonder, upon hearing of double cousins for the first time, if it’s even legal. Naturally, it is…since no one is marrying someone they’re biologically related to. True, some religions used to have…and others still do have…prohibitions against marrying in-laws. In Chart 9, assuming A‘s parent were married first, Z‘s father would then be marrying his sister-in-law’s sister. Whether in-law relations, technically called affines, actually spread out that far is debatable. The traditional rule has tended to be: affines of affines are not affines…in other words, your brother’s wife is your sister-in-law…your wife’s sister is your sister-in-law…but your brother’s wife’s sister and your wife’s brother’s wife are nothing to you. If you did do it that way, it could theoretically spread to everybody…and they’d be nobody left to marry…

4.10  Now unless you have this in your own family, double 1st cousins present some unique features that probably never occurred to you. For example, most people have 2 unrelated sets of 1st cousins, those on their father’s side and those on their mother’s side. Double 1st cousins have just one set….each is the other’s “other side.” Likewise “single” 1st cousins have 1 pair of grandparents they share, and each has another pair they do not share. Double 1st cousins share both pairs of grandparents…there are no “other” grandparents, again because the “other” sides coincide. It’s actually kind of neat when you think about it.

4.11  And here’s the important part: double 1st cousins are more closely related than single 1st cousins…not surprisingly, twice as related. That’s clear enough to see…for example, in Chart 9  double 1st cousins Abner and Zeke get all their genes from just 4 people, 2 pairs of grandparents…for single 1st cousins, there would be 2 more pairs of grandparents at that generational level…3 pairs in all, of which the single 1st cousins would share only 1 pair.

4.12  What’s called the Coefficient of Relationship or CR of 2 relatives tells how many genes, on average, they have in common. If you’ll recall your high school biology, you get half your genes from your father and half from your mother. So the CR between a parent and child is 50%, stated  fractionally as 1/2. I mentioned other common CRs in 4.7. For collateral relatives, that is those who aren’t your direct ancestors or descendants, these CRs are approximate…but with 20,000 genes, it averages out.

4.13  And this leads to one of the most important principles of genetics…and thus genealogy: Coefficients of Relationship are cumulative…which means if 2 people are related to each other in more than one way, both ways count. The passing down of genes thru one path is independent from another path…it holds whether another path is there or not. Thus, double 1st cousins are related as 1st cousins twice…1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4…and they are thus as closely related as half-siblings. But careful: they are NOT half-siblings…any more than your brother is your father, even tho both are related to you by a CR of 1/2.

4.14  And as a practical matter, one must give props to the state of North Carolina…about half the states allow 1st cousins to marry, with varying degrees of qualifications. But only the Tar Heels have noticed that double 1st cousins are as closely related as half-siblings…and since no jurisdiction allows half-siblings to marry, North Caroline prohibits double 1st cousins, while allowing “single” 1st cousins. And that, dear friends, can be described only as “astute,” I don’t care who you are…

chart 10

4.15   I know…some folks throw up their hands and say: Woof! Too much for me! Too much like math!  But if you’re with me so far, and digging it, it’s time to get real down ‘n’ dirty. Chart 9 showed the ONLY way 2 individuals can be double 1st cousins. But with more distant cousins, it gets more complicated. Chart 10  is 2nd cousins. We’ll analyze what happens when they double up in 2 weeks…next week I have a bee I gotta get out of my bonnet. For now, here are 2 different ways you can be be double 2nd cousinsit would be worthwhile to study Charts 11 and 12…contrast and compare, as they say…

chart 11 chart 12

4.16  And after you’ve pondered these for a while, here’s a quiz: sketch out a parental chart showing the relationship between double half-1st cousins…be seeing you!


Copyright © 2011 Mark John, All Rights Reserved


#3: Who’s Your 2nd Cousin?

3.1  Your 1st cousin can be referred to in many ways: your father’s nephew…your uncle’s son…your father’s brother’s son…your grandfather’s son’s son…your grandfather’s grandsonetc. This is convenient for  those who think saying “2nd cousin” is too complicated…and who’d rather say grandfather’s brother’s grandson…which is certainly more descriptive, altho I wouldn’t call it less complicated. The trouble is, saying something like “grandfather’s grandson” is ambiguous…yes, it’s your 1st cousin…but it’s also your sibling…for that matter, it’s also YOU!

3.2  Thus the definition of “1st cousin” you’ll find so frequently on the internet and elsewhere…that of having a grandparent in common doesn’t tell the whole story. To eliminate your siblings from being your 1st cousins, you must add but not a common parent. The same thing happens when “2nd cousin” is defined as having a great grandparent in common…you must add but not a common grandparent. This is a bit cumbersome, and more importantly, while this definition is true, what it means precisely may not be immediately obvious. For example, do you automatically jump from having the same great grand parent but different grandparents to having fathers who are 1st cousins? Maybe you do, and props to you, my friend…but there is a better way.

chart 5 new

3.3  Just as your 1st cousin is the son your father’s brother, your 2nd cousin is the son of your father’s 1st cousin. In Chart 5, each generation is a different color…yours is green, and the green 1C is your 1st cousin…your father’s generation is yellow, and the yellow 1C is his 1st cousin, and so forth. The basic family unit of parent and offspring…the building block of the family tree…repeats all up, down and across. In Chart 5, your father has 2 sons, you and your B for brother. Your father’s brother also has 2 sons…your father and his brother are the sons of your grandfather, who also has a brother, who has 2 sons, each of which has 2 sons…etc.

3.4  The thing to understand is that cousins…1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc…are of your  generation…not your father’s generation, not your grandfather’s generation, and not your son’s generation. Each of those…your father, grandfather, and son…have their own cousins, their own generation. The relationship of those cousins to you is called “cousins removed”…making it sound like they’re your cousins, but they’re not. It’s a quirk of the English language…after all, you don’t think of your uncle as some sort of brother to you, even tho he’s plainly your father’s brother. But if in English we called an uncle a brother once removedthen you very well might think of your uncle as a kind of brother.

3.5  Language drives perception. A good example is what the French call French fries: pommes frites…literally “fried apples.” That’s because a potato is a pomme de terre or “earth apple.” No one speaking French thinks of French fries as apples…this misnomer is ingrained in the language thru sheer repeated use.  And I daresay that genealogists don’t think of a “1st cousin once removed” as a cousin of your generation, but automatically of your father’s generation, similar to his brother, your uncle, only one step over horizontally, as in Chart 5. But if you’re just learning French, French fries sure sound like fried apples…and if you’re not conversant with kinship terminology, removed cousins sure sound like they’re just cousins, your cousins…which of course they’re not.

3.6  So the key to kinship is generations…equal steps down from the closest common ancestor. Chronological age generally coincides with generations, but not always. If for example your grandparents have a son after your father has you, you will have an uncle younger than you…and he will have a nephew older than he. It’s rare but it happens. Family trees are very flexible in that regard…over a long period of time, there may be a generational drift, so that 1st cousins removed, of 2 adjacent generations, may in fact be the same age. This happened with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor…they are often called 5th cousins, but Franklin was actually 5th cousin to Eleanor’s father Elliott and his brother, her uncle, Teddy Roosevelt. Thus Franklin and Eleanor were 5th cousins once removed, despite being just 2 years different in ages.

3.7  In everyday parlance of course, relatives of the same age are sometimes grouped together…so that you might call your uncle your cousin or vice versa. Individual families do it their own way. Altho I haven’t seen it yet in my family, some people researching their tree discover that what they always though of as a “cousin” is really an uncle. And going back many generations, one of the prime mistakes people make is putting ancestors, especially those who share the same name, in the wrong generation…so it’s important to be careful and watch for that.

3.8  Looking again at Chart 5, just as your 1st cousins come from your father’s siblings…and your 2nd cousins come from your father’s 1st cousins…your 3rd cousins come from your father’s 2nd cousins…this basic pattern spreads out, across, up and down your family tree. One thing that’s interesting, that you don’t see on Chart 5, is the number of sets of cousins you have. Assuming no parent is an only child, you have 2 sets of 1st cousins…those from your father’s siblings, and those from your mother’s siblings…and these 2 sets are (generally speaking!) unrelated to each other. But your father also has 2 sets of 1st cousins…from these you get 2 sets of 2nd cousins, likewise on your mother’s side, for a total of 4 sets of 2nd cousins. And 8 sets of 3rd cousins…16 sets of 4th cousins…32 sets of 5th cousins, etc…and that’s Your Generation!

3.9  You might notice how this all ties together…2 sets of 1st cousins corresponds to 2 parents, each of whom has siblings, and these siblings come from 2 pairs of grandparents…just as 4 sets of 2nd cousins corresponds to 4 pairs of great grandparents… 8 sets of 3rd cousins corresponds to 8 pairs of great great grandparents, etc. This is how your family tree spreads out… siblings of those in your direct line giving rise to a flood of collateral relatives, across and down.

3.10  To summarize: If you and Zeke are 1st cousins, you have parents who are siblings. If you are 2nd cousins, you have parents who are 1st cousins…and Zeke has a grandparent who is a sibling to one of your grandparents. If you are 3rd cousins, you have parents who are 2nd cousins, grandparents who are 1st cousins, and great grandparents who are siblings.

3.11  Going back the other way, as 3rd cousins, you and Zeke are the great grandchildren of siblings, the grandchildren of 1st cousins, and the children of 2nd cousins. If you’re 2nd cousins, you’re the grandchildren of siblings and the children of 1st cousins. If 1st cousins, you’re the children of siblings. Patterns building upon patterns…


3.12  I’ll finish up today with 2 practical examples from TV. The relationships I’ve diagramed here from The Beverly Hillbillies are referenced many times on the show. Jed Clampett and Pearl Bodine are called “cousins” several times and I am assuming that means 1st cousins. Some people swear that they were once referred to as siblings…making her Pearl Clampett Bodine…but no specific episode is ever cited. And with DVD box sets today, proof one way or the other is completely possible, albeit time-consuming! But assuming Jed and Pearl are 1st cousins, that makes Elly May  and Jethro 2nd cousins…they are called “cousins” for short, and that’s fine.


3.13  Next, this The Sopranos chart I didn’t make myself…I found it on the web…altho I did tweak it a little and add the pictures. Now Carmella always called Chris her “cousin.” This is common practice, altho as you can see, it was Chris’ father “Cousin Dickie” who was Carmella’s 1st cousin, making Chris her 1st cousin once removed. Thus Chris is 2nd cousin to Carmella’s daughter Meadow, altho on the show, again, he and Meadow are always simply “cousins.”

3.14  But I’d like to leave you with a little puzzle to ponder. Carmella’s husband Tony, leader of the pack, always referred to Chris as his “nephew.” They’re not a blood relatives, obviously…but Tony’s wife’s nephew would be his nephew by marriage…except of course that Chris isn’t really Carmella’s nephew, since he is the son of her 1st cousin, not of her brother. Still, from a practical standpoint, according to everyday usage Tony isn’t “wrong.” But here’s the puzzle: could it all be genealogically true? Is it possible for a man’s blood nephew to also be his wife’s blood 1st cousin, and can you do it without anybody marrying someone they’re related to? Answer next week…ciao. 


Copyright © 2011 Mark John, All Rights Reserved

#2: My Generation, Cousins!

2.1  A family tree spreads out in 2 directions: verticality and horizontally. The vertical is called your “direct line” or “lineage”…the technical term is lineal. Going “up,” this consists of your father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc. Going “down,” your son, grandson, great grandson, etc. These are the people you are directly related to…your ancestors (up) and your descendants  or progeny (down). These are the people who passed genes on to you, and to whom you passed genes. This reflects the biological reality of procreation…which is what family is all about, nez pah?

2.2  Horizontally along your family tree, you have what’s called your collateral relations…which is everyone who isn’t lineal…these include your brother, your father’s brother (your uncle), your grandfather’s brother, etc. And because each “nuclear family” unit is repeated, up, down and sideways thru-out your family tree, collateral relations also include your cousins, your father’s cousins, your grandfather’s cousins, etc. You are of course related to all your collaterals…and collateral relatives of past generations are in a general sense your ancestors, but you are not “descended” from them…that term is reserved for members of your direct line only. Thus, the snooty club for people descended from passengers of the Mayflower will deny membership to someone related to one of those passengers collaterally, but not lineally.

2.3  In terms of where your genes have been, and where they’re going, the relevant relations are the lineal ones. Indeed, they are the whole basis for kinship, for families, for “blood lines.” Your father and grandfather are the past…and your son and grandson are the future. As for the present, your most important relations are your collateral ones, your siblings and cousins…they are, quite literally, Your Generation.

chart 2

In the Chart 2  above, orange is your lineal relations…blue is your collaterals…and dark blue is your generation.

2.4  In days gone by, when mobility was limited, most people lived their whole lives in one place. The people you lived with, worked with, worshiped with, marched to war with, organized and governed your community with…were your kith (neighbors) and kin (relatives.) But there was overlap…to varying degrees, kith was kin!

2.5  Now the governing principle here is that the same patterns repeat…the basic “nuclear family” unit…of father and mother, sons and daughers. You are part of such a unit…as was your father, as will be your son. What’s true genealogically of you is true of them too…thus, you have your generation, and they have theirs. How do we describe the relationships between generations?

2.6  And the answer is twofold…for lineal relations, we use the terms grand and great. For collateral relations, we use that mysterious word removed. Try this experiment…when somebody mentions their “2nd cousin,” and makes it clear they are talking about their 1st cousin’s son, ask them what a 1st cousin once removed would be? Chances are they don’t know…they never learned…and besides, it’s just too darn complicated!

2.7  But it isn’t! Removed just means a cousin in somebody else’s generation, not yours. A “cousin removed” is a cousin to somebody in your direct line…your father’s cousin, your grandfather’s cousin, etc. That’s it in a nutshell…the whole secret revealed…it’s just that simple.

chart 1 father

2.8  Let’s look at your father’s generation in highlighted in Chart 1he, like you, has numbered cousins…1st, 2nd, 3rd…his generation. Your father’s box is colored yellow, and in the yellow sections of the boxes to his right, the relatives of his generation are indicated. And you (the green section) are related to each individual the same way your father is, except once removed. Thus “once removed” literally means “of your father’s generation.” And it’s an easy thing to extend this upward…your grandfather’s generaiton, “twice removed”…your great grandfather’s generaiton, “3 times removed,” and so on.

2.9  Well, all of your father’s generation of relatives is a “removed” relative of yours…EXCEPT his siblings. We have special names for our parents’ siblings: uncles and aunts. And going back, we treat uncles and aunts like parents, which is to say, your father’s uncle is your grand uncle, in the same way that your father’s father is your grandfather. This language developed because of the special bond of the nuclear family unit. But if you wanted to look at it mathematically (and in some cases of complicated kinship analysis, it makes sense to), your brother can be thought of as your 0th cousin…that’s “zero-th”. Thus, your uncle would be what? Your 0th cousin onced removed.

2.10  We ought not underestimate the importance of our generational relatives. These were the relationships that cemented a community together, the blood-ties that were, as they say, “thicker than water.” Consider this: Assume that historically every man in your village had 5 sons who reached adulthood, and each of them had 5 sons. Your generation, your siblings, 1st cousins, etc, extending out to your 5th cousins, would constitute 15,625 individuals! Mind you, that’s just on one side of your father’s side of the. Add another 15,625 thru your mother, you’ve got quite a little burg going there…30,000 people…which in 1776 happened to be the population of the city of Boston…I’m just sayin’…

2.11  In fact, the experts say everyone alive today, all 7,000,000,000 of us, are no more distantly related than 50th cousin.Taking an average generation as 20 years…which is rather conservative considering that for most of human history, life expectancy was half what it is today…50th cousins have a common ancestor only 1,000 years ago, and recorded history goes back at least 4,000 years. It’s actually kind of mind-boggling when you think about it.

2.12  And the one part of community life that was far and away the most important was marriage, parentage, and offspring. Believe it or not, the experts say that 20% of all marriages in the world today are between 1st cousins, and down thru history, that figure is 80%! In fact, it was very unusual to marry some one who wasn’t related to you…it would have had to be someone from another clan or village, what the experts call “out-breeding”…and of course, for the sake of genetic diversity, this was a beneficial thing, but rare nonetheless. “Keeping it in the family” made perfect sense: parents arranged their children’s matches, and they chose from the pool of people who they lived with and who they knew…even to the degree of those rare societies that practiced sibling marriage.

2.13  It’s funny, but today we think of it in terms of who you can’t marry. While legal in half the states for example, 1st cousin marriages are still uncommon, and usually frowned upon. The Christian world generally bans 1st and 2nd cousins from marrying…3rd cousins and beyond are allowed. In fact, that was Rudy Guliani’s reason for divorcing his 1st wife…as Catholics, they thought they were 3rd cousins, but it turned out they were 2nd. Yeah, there were raised eyebrows over that “explanation,” but let it pass. The point is, kinship today is used to exclude potential mates…in olden times, it was just the opposite!

2.14  But I should clarify something. When considering 5th Cousins, I mentioned15,000 cousins plus change descending from 64 great great great great (i.e. “4G”) grandfathers as if those ancestors were all different individuals…and they may not have been. You may have heard the argument that “we’re all related” because if we weren’t, a thousand or so years ago, a trillion different people would have had to have been alive, which is impossible…I’m ballparking the figures, but you see the point. And this is absolutely true. There is a ton of “overlapping,” and for a dramatic example of this, you need look no further than the royal houses of Europe. Untangling their interconnections is a real challenge, and good practice, too.

2.15  And it isn’t exactly “in-breeding,” at least not in the sense of farm-animals. But cousins of any degree were fair game…and you’ll even find uncle-niece pairings, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Such eminent personages as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (the guy “in the can”) were 1st cousins. And Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, both great great grandchildren of Queen Victoria, are 3rd cousins…thru various other lines, they are also 2nd cousins once removed, 4th cousins, 4th cousins once removed, 5th cousins, and who knows what else.

2.16  But getting back to “cousins removed,” keep this mantra in mind and you can’t go wrong: a removed cousin is a cousin to somebody else, not to you…they belong to the generation of somebody in your direct line, but not to your generation. Next week, we’ll look more closely at precisely who your 2nd cousins are, and why. But before we go…

chart 3

2.17  Answers from last week…But take for example your maternal grandmother’s niece. How is she related to you [1st cousin once removed], to your mother [1st cousin], to your daughter [1st cousin twice removed], to your own niece [also 1C 2R]? I’m guessing the answers didn’t roll off your tongue. How is your 2nd cousin related to your 3rd cousin [3rd cousin]? How are your father’s uncles related to your nephews [great grand uncles]?”

2.18  Also from last week…I posed a half-brother puzzle, to demonstrate how kinship relationships can be far from obvious. I asked how Al could be your  half-brother, and not related to your wife…and Zeke could be your wife’s  half-brother, and not related to you…and yet Al and Zeke could be  half-brothers to each other. To those of you who saw immediately how this could be, I salute you. Here’s the diagram…

chart 4

As you can see in the top half of Chart 4, left, you and Al are  half-brothers thru your mutual father…likewise, top half, right, your wife and Zeke are  half-siblings thru their mutual father. And if the mothers designated “?” are the same person, then Al and Zeke are half-brothers thru her. Which is another way of saying, your brother’s brother is your brother, but your half-brother’s half-brother might not be your half-brother. Thank you, and good night, till next week…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#1: Genealogy for Who?

1.1  This blog used to be called Genealogy for Baby Boomers…it was a sub-blog, a once-per-week feature, of a daily blog called Deep Fried Hoodsie Cups, which began as a celebration of growing up in New England in the 1950s and 60s, but evolved into a general Baby Boomer nostalgia blog. G4BB was renamed Related How Again? and split off as its own blog starting with post #118. The focus had shifted from BB’s to…everybody!

1.2  BTW…why are paragraphs numbered, like some sort of text book? Because my sister said: That’s cool!…that’s why… 😉 😉

1.3  But as a result of the redo, the first several posts needed to be rewritten…sort of like when the second edition of a book comes out…Completely Revised and Updated!  And I have to say, my early posts were awfully wordy…geez louise. But it’s like in the good old days of hard copy…nothing like taking a red pencil and going zaaaaaap…you’re gone!

1.4  The inspiration for this blog was something that a lot of us are doing these days…reconnecting with relatives via the Internet and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Sharing old photos…who’s that? …how are we related?  My great grandfather’s 2nd cousin? That makes him what to me? Many of us used to know but have forgotten…many of us never knew…and that’s why we’re here!

1.5  Related How Again? doesn’t deal so much with how to research your family tree, altho we will touch on that from time to time.There are many resources, both on and off the net, to help you with that. We examine how the information you’ve gathered fits together…the “inner workings” of our kinship system…how who is related to who. You might think, Well, gee, I know all that stuff.  Maybe you do. Your grandparents, your nieces and nephews, your uncles and aunts, your 1st cousins, sure. You might even know who your 2nd cousins are…and beyond…but then again, maybe you don’t. A lot of people don’t these days…families over the past 2 generations have spread out geographically, and lost track of one another. Thank you, horseless carriage!

1.6  Take for example your mother’s grandmother’s niece. How is she related to you, to your mother, to your daughter, to your own niece? I’m guessing the answers didn’t roll off your tongue. How is your 2nd cousin related to your 3rd cousin? How are your father’s uncles related to your nephews? Do you know what double cousins and half-cousins are? How about Enhanced Half-Siblings? Um, does that mean they’ve had an operation? Good try, but no. And what in the heck is removed supposed to mean? I mean, we do, but they keep coming back!

1.7  The twists and turns are seemingly endless. Consider this scenario: You have a half-brother Al, who is not related to your wife…and your wife has a half-brother Zeke who is not related to you. And yet, Al and Zeke are half-brothers to each other! Some of you may have immediately thought: sure, that makes sense…but I’m guessing not a lot of you.

chart 1

1.8  So let’s get started with Chart 1. It is of my own making, as will be 99% of the diagrams we’ll use. Chart 1 at first blush looks mighty complicated…when I’ve shown it to people, the response is often a satisfying Wha–? But that’s because a lot of basic information is packed in there, in a way I’ve not seen elsewhere, altho I’m sure someone has done it…nothing new under the sun, right?

1.9  Chart 1 is actually 3 charts in one…it focuses on 3 individuals…YOU, the green square…YOUR FATHER, the yellow square…and YOUR GRANDFATHER, the pink square. And yes, for simplicity’s sake, I am using the male terms…obviously what’s true for father/son/brother/uncle/nephew is true for mother/daughter/sister/aunt/niece.The gray arrows indicate parentage and offspring. The individuals they point to are all your relatives…and each box in divided into 3 parts…the Green part tells how that person is related to YOU…the Yellow, how they are related to YOUR FATHER…and the Pink, how they are related to YOUR GRANDFATHER.

1.10  For example, start with the green square labeled YOU. The individual represented by the square directly to the right of YOU is divided into 3 colored sections. This person is your brother (the green part), your father’s son (yellow), and your grandfather’s grandson (pink.) Now look at the individual to the right of YOUR FATHER. The three colored sections tell you this is your uncle (green), your father’s brother (yellow), and your grandfather’s son (pink.) These 2 examples deal with relationships you are completely familiar with. But we also move both vertically and horizontally to parts of the family tree you might not be as familiar with.

1.11  “C” means cousin, and “R” means removed…thus “2C 1R” is a 2nd cousin once removed….these are standard abreviations in the world of genealogy.

1.12  The most important thing you should notice in Chart 1 is this: Who are your “cousins”? Look at the horizontal line of relatives directly to the right of YOU…in the green sections of the boxes, you will see: 1st cousin, 2nd cousin, 3rd cousin, 4th cousin…and had I extended the chart, 5th, 6th, 7th, etc. These “cousins”…which collectively I call “numbered cousins,” to distingished them from “removed cousins”…make up YOUR GENERATION…along with your siblings, of course.

chart 1 a

1.13  I know…that may not be the way you “do it” in your family…to you, a 2nd cousin is the child of your 1st cousin, not as here, the child of your father’s 1st cousin. But you are wrong. Trust me, according to all genealogical authorities…as well as civil law, church law, anthropology, what have you…this is how cousinship is reckoned. You’re perfectly free to persist in this mistake. If somebody tells you Cindy is your 2nd cousin, you can put her under one of your 1st cousins if you like…I guarentee your family tree will be a mishmash of incorrect and inconsistent connections.

1.14  True, most dictionaries say both definitions of 2nd cousin are in common use…but to clearly and unambigously communicate with other people, this is the standard way genealogy defines cousins, and you might as well get used to thinking that way. In everyday talk, “cousin” can refer to any relative who is NOT covered by some degree of father/son or uncle/nephew…”degree” here indicated  by grand and great. That’s like saying both apples and oranges are fruits, which is fine. But if you then call an apple an “orange”…well, good luck at the farmers’ market…and see you next week!


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved