#38: Keeping Cousins in Line

38.1  Dear Stolf: Keeping who in what? Please elaborate! …from Hollis, in Honolulu

38.2  Dear Hollis: How’s that for pithy? Wow, I’m impressed. I assume you are referring to what I left you with last time, Chart 133…which honestly did appear to me in a dream.

38.3  Dunno what you’d call Chart 133…each diagram is a Cousin Line…I wanna call it a Double Cousin Line, as contrasted with the other “single” Cousin Line…but that might confuse it with Double Cousins, which it really has nothing to do with…sooooo…maybe that’s why I give these charts numbers, right? But the point it, Chart 133 is pretty much all you need to understand our kinship system…in fact you could do it with just the “2nd cousins” maroon diagram…everything flows from something just that simple.

38.4  And I should mention that what I’ll be covering today, we’ve covered before, probably several times. I’m purposely not going back to look it up…because it’s good to rehash this stuff and go over it in your mind…it helps to get a deeper understanding of it. At least it works that way for me…something that I had to always “re-think” every time I encountered it, becomes second nature thru sheer repetition.

38.5  So this is going to sound like a broken record, but understanding 2nd Cousins…just that…is the key to everything. With that knowledge, the whole of our kinship system unfolds itself before you. Of course, the sad thing is, 2nd Cousins is exactly what so many people don’t understand…and consequently, the total picture is lost to them. You get 2nd Cousins wrong, and the whole structure, the whole system is wrong, as we saw back in #36 with the “cousiners.”

38.6  Because 2C is really the first step beyond the everyday, “normal” family relations we’re so familiar with…parents and offspring, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins…which is to say, 1st Cousins, the offspring of our parents’ siblings. That stuff is easy…we live practically our whole lives with that knowledge of “who’s who.” Next common would be relations by marriage, and here differences start to emerge…mother-in-law, brother-in-law, etc…those are fine…but then you get husbands and wives, one will say: I consider your cousins my cousins. And the other says: Well, no offense, but I just don’t look at it that way….to me, yours aren’t mine, sorry.

38.9  Next, step-relations…and of course half-relations. Again, it’s interesting to note the difference between what you might call genealogical relatives and “real life” relatives. For example, I’ve seldom heard anyone refer to their half-brother as literally that…it’s almost always just “my brother.” Step-brothers, ditto. Heck, you don’t even have to be related at all. Remember from The Godfather? The back-story on Tom Hagen, Robert Duvall’s character, was that his father was an alcoholic, and young Tom roamed the streets until Don Corleone took him in and added him to his family. He never adopted Tom…and that was intentional, out of respect for Tom’s real father.

38.10  But that wonderful scene when the Don is in the hospital, shot, and they’re discussing what to do if he dies…Tom suggests they should then make peace with the other Families. Sonny says: That’s easy for you to say, Tom, he’s not your father.  And Tom replies: I’m as much a son to him as you or Mike.  And what does Sonny do? He gives a very telling shrug, that says: Yes, of course you’re right, I’m sorry. Genealogy may call such a relationship as Tom has with the Corleones “fictive,” but that’s just a label to keep things straight. It can be as real as any by blood or marriage.

38.11  I might also mention that when an old family account mentions a “half-cousin,” and you wonder why they’re nit-picking…well that is always in season after all… 😉 😉 But the point is, it alerts you to the fact that the fathers of the half-cousins are half-brothers, thus you’re looking at 3 grandparents, not the usual 2, and you have to make sure you follow up on that part of your tree as it branches, capeesh?

38.12  But back to 2nd Cousins. Time and time again, you will see this daffynition: 2 people are 2nd Cousins if they have a Great Grandparent in common. Now one of the fundamental truisms of genealogy is there is always more than one way to describe or characterize a relationship. So what I’ll call the GGP rule…for great grandparent…is completely correct. Well, not completely…strictly speaking, it should be…have a pair of grandparents in common…otherwise we’re dealing with half-cousins, as I mentioned…and yes, there is such a thing as half-2nd Cousins, if you’re a newbie here. But my major beef is that you’re leaving something out, because your Siblings and your 1st Cousins also share with you a Great Grandparent!

38.13  So to be foolproof, the GGP should say it as: …have a Great Grandparent as their nearest direct ancestor. Or something like: …have a Great Grandparent, but not a Grandparent, in common.  It’s starting to get a little confusing, and even then…what does having that common Great Grandparent really mean? Without the key knowledge that, as seen in Chart 134, 2nd Cousins are the sons of 1st cousins…that is to say, the grandsons of brothers…the link to that direct ancestor is of no help, nez pah?

38.14  That’s why I prefer to simply say: 2nd Cousins are the sons of 1st Cousins. So what then are 3rd Cousins? “Removed” somehow, maybe? This is important: reason it out only from what you already know. You don’t know what the heck removed cousins are, so leave them out for the moment…otherwise, you’re only “making things up,” as people who don’t understand it tend to do…and the trouble is, the next time they “make it up,” will it be the same or different?

38.15  But now comes your intuitive leap of faith…well, if 2nd Cousins come from 1st Cousins, then maybe 3rd Cousins….say it! SAY IT!…come from 2nd Cousins? Yes!!!  And you’re home free…3rd Cousins have parents who are 2nd Cousins, grandparents who are 1st Cousins, great grandparents who are siblings…and siblings have the same parents…so in this case, you and your 3rd Cousin have the same Great Great Grandparent…and that’s where that “nearest common ancestor” stuff comes in…all starting to tie together, no?

38.16  And this leads us to another great Law of Genealogy…that of Interchangeablity. If you’re not in the habit of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes,” this is a great place to start! Simply put: take your father and all his relatives…and how you are related to those relatives…in every case, each of those relationships is exactly the way your son is related to your relatives….and your father is related to your grandfather’s relatives. And all up, down, and across the family tree, it works the same way.

38.17  Now as we look at Chart 133, we see so-called “numbered” Cousins are on the same level as each other, that is, of the same generation. What would be the relationship between relatives on different levels, of different generations? What else could “removed” mean?!  Removed once = up or down one…removed twice = up or down 2…and now we’re really cooking with gas!

38.18  From this we derive what I call the Cousin Line…how each member of your cousin’s direct line is related to you…going back to that nearest common ancestor you both share.  Chart 135. shows how the Cousin Line for 4th Cousins is derived, using the orange 4th Cousin diagram from Chart 133  and what we know about “removed” moving you up  the tree. As I like to say, done and done! More from the mailbag next week, you betcha…


Wicked Ballsy

The guy at the above address runs an incredible website on Football Helmets, college and pro…very complete. Here’s his story: He had a dream, yes, a dream…not like mine, that include Phoebe Cates and a tub of Cool Whip…no, this was a dream about watching gigantic holographic football games 25 years in the future…and this guy says he remembers all the helmets they were wearing! Actually, I tend to believe him, since I too will have dreams about stuff I get heavily involved in. Gosh, in high school I was big into Super Hero comics, and dreamt some crazy creations myself. The number and detail here is rather extensive, but I’m taking the guy at his word…cuz they’re pretty cool.



Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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