#44: Mailbagapalooza

44.1  Dear Stolf: My father is an identical twin…how does that make me related to his brother?  …from Prudence in Plunketville

44.2  Dear Prudence: I wouldn’t go so far as to call this  the “best kept secret in genealogy,” because it’s a true fact beyond any dispute. But it is startling when you first hear it, and not something that gets bandied about all that much… but then identical twins really aren’t that common, as much as they tend to “stand out.” So here’s the answer: Your genetic relationship to your uncle is exactly the same as it is to your father.

44.3  This is because your father and your uncle are genetically identical…every gene one has, the other has. They developed from a single set of genes from their father and a single set from their mother, combined in a fertilized egg, that for whatever reason split into 2 early enough so that 2 distinct individuals were able to develop from the 2 “halves.” But apart from very minor mutations that effect all of us, identical twins are from a genetic standpoint the same person. 

44.4  Now the dynamics of human nuclear and extended families being what they are, your father is your father and your uncle is your uncle, obviously. There was a time, and Baby Boomers remember it well, when children respected, listened to, learned from, and yes even obeyed all the responsible adults in their life, related or not. Today, as they say, not so much. So in terms of the way your family “operates,” this revelation won’t change anything, nor should it.

44.5  But the fact remains…biologically, genetically, medically…you are as related to your uncle as you are to your father. So how does that effect your relationship to your 1st cousins, that uncle’s children? Siblings? No…they are as closely related to you as half-siblings…which is to say, it is as if you had the same father but different mothers. And if their mother is your mother’s identical twinyes, then indeed you and your 1st cousins are as closely related as true full siblings, strange as it sounds.

44.6  I can’t imagine what that would be like…I would assume that on a day-to-day basis, again, your siblings are your siblings and your cousins are your cousins. But one thing I’ve learned thru studying genealogy, families who have unusual kinship connections are usually very much aware of them…how much of an actual difference it makes in the “family dynamics” of their particular case varies across a wide spectrum…from nothing at all to a lot.

44.7  But there certainly is a very real difference between how people are related genetically and genealogically. Take what is known as “enhanced half-siblings.” Remember, half-sibs share say the same father but different mothers. Normally those mothers are not related to each other…but that can be…sisters or half-sisters or 1st cousins…in which case the resulting half-sibs really are more closely related than “normal” half-sibs. That’s what makes the art and craft of genealogy so fascinating…and why I’m doing “this” for the 44th time! 😉 😉

44.8  And to “translate” Charts 150 and 151…a CR of 3/8 puts you half-way between Full Siblings and Half-Siblings…5/16 is half as close to Half-Siblings as 3/8…and 9/32 is half as close again…

44.9  Dear Stolf: I saw another new posting over at wiseGeek…or as you call it dumbGeek…and I thought: Oh brother, he’s going to bust a blood vessel! What do you think?  …from Leopold, in Palookaville Heights

44.10  Dear Leopold: That’s a nice old-fashioned phrase…I like it…my Mom used to say that: Don’t bust a blood vessel! She’d also say: Don’t get your bowels in an uproar! and both are things I try not to do to this day. So yeah, I’ll try to address this calmly and rationally…but some people, eh? Talk about “bad information.” I count at least 4 glaring mistakes in Post 42’s helpful answer. At least I get to reuse a chart from way back in G4BB 20.

44.11  Altho to start with, Post 42 is correct that Double First Cousins are as closely related as Half-Siblings. That’s fine, but segues into another old saying: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Because they go on to add “or step-brothers and sisters,” which are of no relation to you, being the children of your biological parent’s spouse, due to a remarriage after death or divorce…and of course this spouse is not your biological parent. I advise that whenever you encounter someone who thinks halfs are the same as steps, you let go of your mouse and step slowly away from your computer…this person clearly has no idea what they’re talking about. (Altho parenthetically, a step-sibling could be related to you if your parent’s new spouse is related to you…for example, if your father were to marry your mother’s 2nd Cousin, or something like that…but they are generally assumed to not be, unless we hear otherwise.)

44.12  Mistake #2 is “You and your brother’s children are Double 2nd Cousins.” Wrong. You and your brother’s children are Single 1st Cousins….duh! You and your brother’s children are Double 2d Cousins to the children of your Double 1st Cousins, because collectively, their parents are all Double 1st Cousins. The Coefficient of Relationship for Single 2nd Cousins is 1/32, so for Double 2nd Cousins it’s 1/16…the same as 1st Cousins Once Removed…and also the same as Half-First Cousins, which are the chidden of Half-Siblings.

44.13  Mistake #3 is the assertion that great-grandparents are “2 generations apart from” their great-grandchildren, which in this case are the Double 2nd Cousins at the bottom of Chart 69. True, there are 2 generations between great-grandparents and their great-grandchildren, but that’s not the way genealogy looks at it…your great-grandparents are 3 generations “removed” from you, not 2, and that’s a fact, period. You might have thought that Chart 69 was overly complicated for putting in all of the great-grandparents, but you can see now why it was worthwhile to do so.

44.14  And finally, Mistake #4 parrots the weird thesis of this entire dumbGeek article…“Remember, their relationship isn’t based upon their relationship to you and your brother…it’s based on their relationship to the common ancestor.” Whatever you do, dear friends, don’t remember this, because it’s nonsense….it’s the “revelation” that’s the thrust of the essay, and it’s simply wrong. The 2 alternatives in fact both correctly describe or explain the relationship. To take it down a level, it’s like saying someone is not your 1st Cousin because they are your parent’s sibling’s child, but because you have a common grandparent, while not having a common parent. Both are true, obviously.

44.15  And depending on what you’re looking at, one description or the other can be more convenient to use…for example, in real life, you are more likely to personally know your own 2nd Cousin than your own great-grandparent, simply because of the ages involved. And in this case, knowing 2nd Cousins are the children of 1st Cousins will perhaps be more the more meaningful way to connect the relatives you know (like your parent and your parent’s 1st Cousin), altho again, both descriptions are completely correct. So…everybody’s wants to be an expert, everybody’s a big shot…Lord help us!

44.16  Dear Stolf: When I was a kid, my Grandpa used to joke about how he once worked in a corner grocery owned by a Mormon family…he called it a “Ma & Ma & Ma & Ma & Pa store.” Once I understood what he meant, I thought it was funny…but is it disrespectful to Mormons? …from Sonny in West Dullsville

44.17  Dear Sonny: Well, with both Romney and Huntsman vying for a spot on the Republican ticket in 2012, the LDS Church certainly is in the news these days. A couple of interesting facts: “Mormon” was once considered a derogatory term, but no longer…it’s like “Canuck” in Canada…after all, there’s a hockey team named that…and most Canadians are not offended…but then you can’t please everyone. The other interesting thing is that over half the Mormons in the world live outside the US…about about 8 million versus 6 million…a testament to their tireless missionary efforts.

44.18  They are also tireless in their genealogical research, and have the largest data base in the world…which they freely share with the rest of us at FamilySearch.org, which is an extraordinarily generous thing to do. Of course, the reason for these family histories is Proxy Baptism…essentially, baptizing dead relatives so they too can enter Heaven…a doctrine strange to most of us, but I’ll respect another’s beliefs if they respect mine…trouble is, that’s a mighty big IF for some people…

44.19  As for polygamy, it was repudiated as a doctrine in 1890, and phased out gradually over the next 15 years…so it is no longer relevant to the mainstream LDS Church. It is of course still practiced today by fundamentalist Mormons, both in Utah and elsewhere, where the policy is generally, but certainly not universally, to turn a blind eye. And thus, as you would expect in the course of human events, there is some dispute among the parties concerned about who the “real” Mormons are.

44.20  All that having been said, I’ve always felt that the ability to laugh at oneself is a sure indicator of mental health, even if the joke in question doesn’t accurately reflect reality. It’s just a joke…life is such that if you don’t laugh, you cry…guess which I prefer to do! There are some people who’s main interest in life is to interpret everything said to or about them as an insult…that’s just the way it is, and there’s no helping them, so I wouldn’t worry about it. More mail to open and answer next week…chow!


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved



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