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…
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.
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.
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…
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