#24: All Answered Up


24.1  Finishing up wiseGEEK queries <21> raises several red flags, one of which is a herring of the same general hue…that is, your mother having siblings who have the same mother but a different father…half-siblings. I had to think about it, and in the back of my mind there remains a sneaking suspicion that I’m missing something…but plowing on ahead…

chart 89 re 24.2  As you can see in Chart 89, your grand aunt (your mother’s aunt) and her son (your mother’s 1st cousin, and your friend’s uncle) could be thru your mother’s mother, as I’ve diagrammed, or thru your mother’s father, the one not shared by her half-sibs…either way it comes out the same, so the half-siblings are excess information, with no bearing on the case at hand…but thanx for sharing. Your friend is your 2nd cousin.

 24.3  The part of your question that concerns me more is the problem of what I call “relatives that don’t exist”…in this case, what amounts to an uncle’s cousin. Why say that, and not father’s cousin? (Other examples would be nephew’s brother instead of nephew…or cousin’s father instead of uncle…)

 24.4   Am I over-thinking it? Possibly. For example, you could have seen the name Abner Lipschitz in the paper…your friend said: “That’s my uncle,” and you said: “Shut up! That’s my Mom’s 1st cousin.” Thus, the fact that your friend’s father is also your mother’s 1st cousin simply wasn’t part of the conversation.

24.5   But as I mentioned last week, when a relationship is stated in a general way, say as uncle’s cousin, this suggests that father’s cousin isn’t relevant…maybe he’s dead or at least no longer in the picture. But on the other hand, it might mean that father’s cousin literally isn’t true, since we’re really talking about half-relatives or relatives by marriage. I’m merely suggesting that when you encounter such a “relative that doesn’t exist,” exercise special care that the precise expression used doesn’t cary any deeper significance.

36 24.6  Case in point…in <36>, sally342 doesn’t call the woman her friend’s grandfather is married to his “grandmother,” so we don’t know, but can logically assume, that they were married after her friend’s father was born. Thus, you and your friend have no blood relation, altho you’re 2nd cousins thru marriage, if that means anything to ya, as in Chart 90.

chart 90 new jpeg


24.7  There now…all cases closed, and questions answered…except to critique the article that started it all…I’ll reproduce most of it here in italics, with my comments in red

24.8 Levels of cousins, also called degrees of cousinship, are fairly tricky to figure out. If you don’t know how, ANYTHING is “fairly tricky,” if not downright impossible “to figure out.” But kinship is fundamentally very simple. After all, illiterate, pre-industrial folks have extended families, with vast and sometimes quite intricate kinship ties. Especially if you come from a large family, deciding how to determine first, second, and third cousins, and also what once or twice removed means can be difficult. Wrong. Whether a direct ancestor has 20 siblings or only one, the method is the same. If by “difficult” you mean “time-consuming,” OK. But kinship rules don’t change thru shear numbers.

24.9  Cousins are not based on the relationship of your parents to siblings, and they’re not based on marriages, except on an informal basis. Completely and utterly wrong! In fact, without Siblings, you can’t have Cousins…or Aunts and Uncles for that matter. Can you think of a way you could??? Instead, you determine levels of cousins based on two people’s common ancestor. So that’s the reasoning. Well, those common ancestors need Siblings, or else everyone is some degree of Grandparent/Grandchild to each other, and there are no Cousins.

24.10  For instance, if your mom’s sister has kids, you might conclude that these children are your first cousins. Or you might, after much deliberation and soul searching, conclude that they’re something else! What planet are you from again? But that’s the trouble with weasel words like “might”…it implies “might or might not.” At any rate, “Children of Siblings” is the definition of 1st cousins, one of the first things you learn about families, as you compare your nuclear family to your Father’s Brother’s nuclear family…and I daresay your understanding that Cousins share Grandparents comes after your basic grasping of what a Cousin is.

24.11 This would be correct, but the relationship of first cousins is not based on the fact that these are the children of your mom’s sister. Instead, the children of your aunt are your first cousins to you because you share a grandparent in common. I suppose you’d also say that a Nephew is not your Brother’s Son but someone sharing a common Grandfather with your Son…actually, both are correct, because one is the flipside of the other…they are 2 different ways of describing the same relationship. The part I’ve underlined is especially muddle-headed, so for the umpteenth time: Cousins exist because somebody in your direct line has or had Siblings. Period.

 24.12 This is your common ancestor, to whom you both claim the same relationship. Note that this doesn’t apply for kids of the same parents who share the same grandparent. Instead these children’s closest common ancestors are their parents, so they are siblings, not cousins. Oho! Now we come to it…CLOSEST common ancestor…what you should have been saying from the very beginning…otherwise, your Siblings are, by your faulty definition, also your Cousins.

 24.13 When children share the same great grandparent, but not the same grandparent, they are considered second cousins. No, they are not “considered” anything….they “are” 2nd Cousins. So, if you have children, and your first cousin, (your aunt’s child) has children, then these children will have a great grandparent in common. It gets a little more complicated to figure levels of cousins, when you consider your cousin’s children. I wish she’d stop saying things are complicated…it’s subjective and not helpful. And really, if you want complicated, try the pedigrees they get in animal husbandry…

 24.14  When the common ancestor does not have the same relationship to two people, then you get into the whole issue of removals. In the case of your cousin’s children and you, your common ancestor is your grandparent, but to these children, that person is their great grandparent. Therefore your first cousin’s children are your first cousins once removed. Removals occur only when the relationship to the ancestor is separated by generation. Removals? I’d say Removeds, but that’s just me. Reminds me of “2nd Cousin, Three Times Removed,” but she kept coming back!

 24.15  It gets considerably more complicated when determining second or third levels of cousins and degree of removal. No it doesn’t…broken record over here.  If you have a great grandparent who is someone else’s great, great, great grandparent, you are second cousins once removed.  WRONG…should be second cousins twice removed. If you have a common ancestor of a person who is your great, great, great grandparent and to some else is a great, great, great, great grandparent, you are third cousins once removed.  AGAIN WRONG…should be fourth cousins once removed. Removal essentially counts generational differences or how many generations you and a person are apart from the common ancestor. Sloppy, sloppy, all of it. “Essentially” is another weasel word…hinting at undisclosed non-essentials..but “removals” don’t have any…their only job is linking generations.

24.16 There is one special cousin relationship called double cousins, which makes people doubly related to each other. Special? More like “irregular,” or “non-standard”…and there are many kinds of those besides Double…Half Cousins, Cousins 3 ways, Unilateral, Bilateral, Cousin-Siblings, you name it. This occurs when two sisters marry two brothers. Or Brother/Sister marries Sister/Brother.

24.17  The children of these marriages will share not only a common grandparent but will share two sets of grandparents. Hence they are double cousins, and likely to be closely related, from a genetic standpoint, to each other. “Likely to be”? No…ARE! In fact, they have double the Coefficient of Relationship of Single 1st Cousins…they are as closely related as Half Siblings, from any and all known “standpoints.” Anyhow, this was fun…like using an old bi-color typewriter ribbon. But don’t read her, read me. Next week, Getting Practical…

24.18  BUT FOR THE RECORD…2nd Cousins are the children of 1st Cousins…3rd Cousins are the children of 2nd Cousins, etc…all that stuff about closest common ancestor follows inexorably from that…as Archie Bunker would say…Ipso Fatso…


Wicked Ballsy


 The Bible says 969 years old…counting 12 generations, that would be 58 years per…seems a little old to be having kids…and 969 is a lot of candles on a cake…Did they get the number right?… I dunno…the heat drove me back.


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved



#23: Yet Still More Answers

23.1  Today we’ll answer more questions posed on this website: #####, where they resolutely refuse to let us link to here, or even mention this blog…hopefully, some of the posters will eventually check back and be ingenious enough to find us.

2chart 84

   23.2  You’re welcome. Next question…

7chart 85

 23.3  Here we must make 2 assumptions: first, that your husband is your son’s father, a dangerous assumption in this day and age, but that’s just me…and second, that when you say “mother’s cousin” you mean her 1st cousin. Given those, the person in question is your husband’s 2nd cousin, so she would be your son’s 2nd cousin once removed.  As to what he should call her, the ultra-modern way is by her first name…in some families even the children call their parents by their first names.  The more traditional way would be by age…if they are close in age, “Cousin”…if it’s more a parent/child age difference, then “Aunt” or “Aunty” is fine.


 23.4   This is one of the few questions that got an answer, and of course both the poser of <11> and the answer from amypollick are wrong…altho if you’re a stickler, she’s technically right when she says “that’s how it works, as I understand it“…it’s just that she understands it wrong, right?

chart 86

  23.5  I’ve given you-all names in Chart 86, and as Connie is your 1st cousin, her late son Carl is your 1st cousin once removed, and 2nd cousin to your kids Abe and Ann. And to give the devil her due, altho amypollick’s answer is mixed up in an ingenious way I’ve never seen before, she at least suggests that the relationship between you and Carl (in that direction) should be called something different than between Carl and you. (in the opposite direction)..and here’s where the Spanish system of 2nd aunt/2nd nephew is useful, far better than 1st cousin once removed ascending/1st cousin once removed descending.

25chart 87

23.6  It’s the familiar 2-step process…shorter list minus 2 = degree of cousins…remainder of the longer list = the removeds…here, 3rd cousin 5 times removed.

23.7  Of course, we’ve been a little sloppy, assuming that this Common Ancestor you refer to is the Closest  Common Ancestor…otherwise this “other person” could very well be your 3G grandfather, whose 2G grandfather is indeed your 7G grandfather, as you can verify on Chart 87.


chart 88

23.8  You would be right on the money if you inserted “half” in front of everything you said: it’s your Dad’s half-sister, so she’s your half-aunt, and her son is your half-1st cousin. Thus you’re right to say the son isn’t your 1st cousin due to the different grandfathers… instead, half-1st cousin is correct, altho informally of course “cousin” works just fine.

23.9  BTW, last week I also promised you something on Donald Duck’s family, didn’t I? So here we go… 

wicked ballsy

1Phooie, Phooey, Fooie, or Fooey is the name given by Disney fans, actually coined by a comic book editor, for the mysterious 4th nephew who has popped up a couple dozen times over the years…always in print, and never, as far as I know, in an animated cartoon. Of course, it’s simply an oversight that nobody caught. The reason the above sightings are in foreign languages is that they have embraced this phantom canardling with much more gusto than have we here in the USA…in fact, in Denmark, they had a contest to name him, and the winner was Fup, to go along with their names of the other 3, Rip, Rap, and Rup. In Finland, he’s Rupu, along with Hupu, Tupu, and Lupu.

I was going to note that he is always seen either capless, or with a Junior Woodchucks pelt…otherwise, what color would his cap be? But of course, in the upper right, he does wear a cap…I’ve blown it up, and it’s brown of all things, along with the usual red, green, and blue…altho sometimes one is yellow.  And doesn’t this make you think it was more than simply an oversight, if they picked a different color for this 4th cap?


There is even an example of his being addressed by name…altho obviously here “phooie” is meant in the sense of “nerts” or “cripes.” Still, it could be argued that since the other 3 nephews are nowhere to be found, and they are usually seen as a group, maybe this really is the 4th nephew…anyway, anybody ever seen a 5th?



Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#22: Still More Answers…

 22.1 …continuing with more real-life kinship questions from this website: !$%#. A website that seems to raise more questions than it answers…hee hee…

 22.2 That makes you any 2-topping pizza with wings and bread-sticks for $11.95. Seriously, it makes you nothing.  For “distant”, I’m going to suppose you’re 3rd Cousins, but no matter…it’s a relation by marriage, nothing more, and no impediment to anything that I can think of, if that’s what concerns you.

chART 78

 22.3   But this is an interesting question, that of relatives by marriage. Western tradition is for fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters to be called In-laws. Anything beyond that is generally “my wife’s” or “by marriage”…for uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandparents, and others. But families have different customs…I’ve even seen disagreements within the same family…the wife says to the husband: I consider your cousins my cousins…and he replies: Well, your cousins aren’t mine, that’s just the way I look at it.


   22.4  Thus we get tangles like <18>, as diagramed in Chart 79. I have assumed that by “my uncle” you mean your blood relative, and the “1st cousin’s mom who is aunt to another person” is only your aunt by marriage. I don’t know which nephew’s cousinship you’re asking about, but here’s the scoop: you and your 1C are 1stcousins no matter who divorces who…likewise, your 1C and “another person” will always be 1st cousins.

chart 79

22.5 The tricky part is what happens to your aunt and cousin by marriage if that marriage no longer exists…and again, different families do it different ways. My personal preference is to continue calling my blood uncle’s ex-wife my aunt,  because I always did, and because she is my cousin’s mother. Likewise, my cousin’s cousins, those not related to me, remain the cousins of my cousin, as they were before the divorce.

  22.6 Similar situations might involve your blood relative’s spontaneous molecular disintegration, or waking up to discover it was all a dream. More commonly, death takes the place of divorce, as in <19> and Chart 80.

chart 80

Are you and this guy related in some way? You were related by marriage, not by blood…and the marriage is gone now that your uncle is dead. As I said, if the mother of your 1st cousin means something to you, call her your aunt…in the absence of cousins, it’s up to you. Or what if there were cousins, but never a marriage? There’s no hard and fast rule, except that blood is blood and marriage is water, if you get my drift, and I think you do…

22.7  Check Chart 81 and you can confirm that in the broader sense you are cousins…

chart 81

…specifically your great grandmother’s half-nephew is your grandmother’s half-1st cousin, and your half-1st cousin twice removed. That’s a CR of 1/64, or the equivalent of half-way between 2nd and 3rd cousins, and that’s true despite your relative’s apparent change of heart. Don’t be so confused…I helped you.


22.8  In Chart 82A I have charted out the 2 relationships you mention, with the green asterisk marking the common relative.

chart 82a

There are 2 from your end, since 1st cousin once removed is ambiguous, it could mean either ascending (you are the younger of the 2) or descending (you are the older). And I will make a leap of faith and assume that you meant “great grand Uncle” instead of the 2 great’s, and your spell-checked tripped you up.

chart 82 b

 22.9  Then it’s the now familiar procedure: shortest list determines the degree of cousinship, levels beyond that the removeds.  So you and your friend are 2nd cousins twice removed if it was ascending, 1st cousins 4 times removed if descending.

22.10  I have followed my general rule and assumed only the relationships you’ve mentioned in your query. But the way you put it leads into another fascinating area, what I mysteriously call “relatives that don’t exist”…the prime example being “your uncle’s cousin.” What, my Uncle can’t have a Cousin?  Sure he can, except that your uncle’s cousin is also your father’s cousin. So to specify “uncle’s” instead of “father’s” suggests one of several possibilities: your father is no longer living (altho the relationship still holds whether the parties are alive or dead)…or this is a cousin of your uncle’s thru marriage, hence not also your father’s cousin…or this uncle is really a half-sibling of your parent, thus a half-uncle, and the cousin is someone on the parent’s side who isn’t your parent.

chart 83

22.12  Taking the 3rd case as perhaps most likely, you can throw Chart 82B out the window and substitute Chart 83. …and thanks so much for making my life difficult…at least I’ve got a week to rest up…see ya in 7…


wicked ballsy


Ducks up a tree…there are many mysteries and inconsistancies in Donald Duck’s pedigree, and many versions of his family tree floating around the Internet and elsewhere. If you’re interested, a good place to start is this brief outline by famed Disney comic book artist Carl Barks, intended for private use, reportedly given to a fan and eventually published. Here the name of Donald’s sister is reinvented as Thelma…in the 1938 cartoon Donald’s Nephews, it’s Dumbella…and it’s also been given as Della and Donna…quacks me up. And don’t forget the “4th nephew”…Phooie…more on him next week…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#21: More Answers…

 21.1 Today we’ll continue answering relationship questions posed at this website: *%$ .  I’m guessing most of those asking the questions checked back a few times, noticed no answer, then forgot about it. And since the monitors of this not-so-wiseGEEK page don’t allow links or even references to other sites, those still checking back aren’t able to see their answer, unless they do some netvestigating…and I hope some do…

geek 6

21.2  …especially Jedi Master Jordan, who is a lot more diplomatic than me. See, he praises the author of this Cousins article before pointing out 2 errors. I would instead bluntly note that given how badly written and poorly explained it is, mistakes like that are to be expected. But that’s just grouchy old me for you. Good news is, JMJ gets the 2 corrections exactly right (are there any more?)

chart 72

 21.3 (1) is illustrated by Chart 72. After a while, you can do stuff like this in your head,  but it’s nice to verify it by diagram. Of the 2 relationships, G GP and 3G GP, the shorter list determines the degree of cousins…that would be great grandparent = 2nd cousins. The longer list goes down 2 more, so that’s 2nd cousins twice removed.

chart 73

21.4  Chart 73 shows (2)…again, shorter list between 3G GP and 4G GP determines the cousinship…that’s 3G grandfather = 4th cousins. The longer list is down one more, making it 4th cousins once removed. Done and done, and good work JMJ.

geek 4 10

21.5  Well, cjh, I’d say that makes you 2 of the luckiest sons-of— OK seriously, examine Chart 74 and verify that you are indeed 2nd cousins. This is one of the few postings that got a reply, and the basic answer is of course correct. However, “in several countries it is legal” is misleading, since marriage between 2nd cousins is legal in virtually ALL countries, including every state in the US…altho some religions do ban it…check with yours to see what’s kosher, you should pardon the expression.

chart 74

21.6  This would however be a good time to remind you that all answers given here are true all things being equal, which is to say, assuming the relationships mentioned are the only ones that exist between the relevant parties. For example, there is one case where 2nd cousins are expressly forbidden to marry, and that is if they are also siblings, the result of a marriage between 1st cousins….didja see that one coming?

21.7  At least in Western culture, comprehension of kinship is quite meager these days, and the case of direct ancestors who are 1st cousins is obscure enough to be a real stumper for many people. I hope it’s a little less mysterious for those who follow this blogbut listen, I said everybody gets an answer and at least one chart, and I meant it, so here yez go…

chart 75 76

21.8   And finally for this week…

21.9   Yes and Yes. Sass is the best…if you don’t believe my answers, take your questions to Sass…altho again, here’s a good place for me to repeat an important caveat. While 2nd cousins do indeed share a great grandparent, this is an inadequate definition for 2nd cousinship, since 1st cousins and even siblings also share a great grandparent, nez pah? A better definition is this: 2nd Cousins are the children of 1st Cousins…and in general, the children of Xth cousins are (X+1)th cousins…with siblings counted as 0th (zero-th) cousins.

chart 77

21.10  And it goes without saying, but as the saying goes, I’ll say it anyway…since <17> mentioned just one grandparent, not a pair, technically we’d be talking about half-2nd ousins, but I assumed they meant Poppy and Nana, and let it go at that…

 wicked ballsy

chart 77 and half

…laff, darn ya…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved