#56: Still More Mail…

Dear Stolf: Week before last, you showed how a baby born next year could be older than one born this year. This sounds like something that ties in with what my accountant calls the “kiddie tax”…what say you?  …from John in Waynestown

56.1  Dear John: I say that’s probably a very nice catch…and I say “probably” because tax laws are written to be intentionally incomprehensible, so it’s not surprising that I can find no explanation of the theory behind the particular law in question. But in general, the term “kiddie tax” refers to the fact that income earned by minors is subject to some degree of government plunder….you mean even lemonade stands? If they’re successful enough, yeah.

56.2  There are various cutoff points at various ages, treating such income differently. And in federal law, the way you determine how old a child is for a tax year is the age they are on December 31 of that year. The  exception is that a child born on January 1st is considered to be that age on the preceding December 31st…in effect, his birthday is moved up one day.

56.3  As I said, I have no definite reason why it’s done that way, but in examining the Time Zone discrepancies that occur at the end of one year and the beginning of another, it certainly makes sense. Take for example 2 babies, Abe and Zack, born at the same exact moment, but on opposite sides of the country. For tax purposes, Abe is considered to be 1 year old for the year 2013, since he turns 1 on 12/31/2013. On the other hand, Zack is not considered 1 year old until the year 2014…but they are the same “age”!

56.4  Thus Zack would be, for example, “under 18” for an one year more than Abe, even thought they are the exact same “age,” having been born at the exact same moment.

56.5  So to compensate, Zack is pushed back one day…he is now treated exactly the same as someone who is exactly the same age, which seems logical, wonder of wonders. On the other hand, this ruling applies to all children born on January 1st, not just to those born in the wee hours of the morning. Thus a child born at 12:01am on January 2nd on the East Coast will be older than someone born at the same moment on the West Coast, yet will indeed stay “under 18” a year longer.

56.6  But this is going  to happen no matter where you draw the dividing line…it can’t be helped. No matter what day it is, there will always be children born the “next” day who are older than some born the “previous” day. If taxes were figured by the day, this would cause at worst a discrepancy of 1/365th. But once a year, the years, not just the days, are out of sync…and if this isn’t in fact the rationale for the law, it still works out that way, so there you go…

Dear Stolf: Heads up! Incoming from the wiseGEEK cousins page!…from Chance, in Chelmsford, Mass.

56.7  Dear Chance: Thanx, man…for those who don’t know what Chance is talking about, wiseGEEK is a website that promises “clear answers to common questions.” Well, it’s a goal to shoot for, anyway. Their article on the degrees of cousinship is particularly chuckleheaded, so much so that I critiqued and corrected it line by line back in #24.

56.8  The odd thing is, over 30 people have posted “how are we related?” questions, and altho only a couple have been subsequently answered, they keep posting. I thought it would be a nice gesture to answer each and every question here, but guess what? They don’t allow comments that include links, so I am unable to tell those folks about it. Pretty “wise,” huh? At any event, and for the record, the bulk of the questions got answered, in full detail and will a chart for each, in #20-24, and later ones as they dribbled in.

56.9  “Cousins” are those individuals, beyond siblings and half-siblings, who are of your generation…that is, related to your nearest common ancestor by the same number of steps as you are. The “degree” refers to 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, etc. I call them collectively “numbered cousins,” to distinguish them from “cousins removed”…a misnomer if ever there was one, since they are cousins to someone in your direct line of ancestry, but not to you! For example, your “1st cousin once removed” is your father’s 1st cousin, not yours.

56.10  Most of us grow up with 1st cousins on our father’s side, the children of his siblings…and 1st cousins on our mother’s side, the children of her siblings. The spouses of our parents’ siblings are usually not related to each other…but if they are, we have individual cousins who are related to us thru both sides of the family, generically called “double cousins.”

56.11  The most typical case is shown in Chart 191…double 1st cousins…where 2 brothers marry 2 sisters (or it could be 2 mixed pairs, obviously.) If the parents were 1st cousins, each to each, the children would be double 2nd cousins, and etc. If the 2 sets of parents are related in different ways, there is no simple name for it…”irregular double cousins” is pretty much the best we can do…and that’s the situation here.

56.12   You’ll notice that in Chart 192, I’ve included all your mother’s cousins…you took the time to mention them all, so I figured what the heck? But as to the meat of the matter…your mothers are 1st cousins because their fathers were brothers. The children of 1st cousins are 2nd cousins to each other. You and your “double cousin” are thus 2nd cousins on your mothers’ side, 1st cousins on your fathers’ side.

56.13  Your Coefficient of Relationship is just a bit closer than if you were “single” 1st cousins…1/8 + 1/32 = 5/32…along the “32th’s” scale, you are a 5…1st cousins are 4, half-sibs are 8, siblings are 16. Double 1st cousins are as closely related as half-siblings…but beyond that, other mixes of “double cousins” make you more closely related for sure, but not by very much. The real bump-up occurs when siblings marry identical twins…the resulting 1st cousins are half-way between full and half-siblings…so-called “3/4 siblings.” But keep in mind, when we say 1st cousins are 1/8th related, that means they are 7/8th not related! In other words, with R for related, this is a sib: RRRR0000…and this is a 1st cousin: R0000000. Till next week, take it tizzy…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#55: Whatchamacallits…

Dear Stolf: I saw this in a recent Dear Abby column…her answer was OK, but I figured I’d submit it to you in case “Mixed Up in Wisconsin” could use a second opinion!  …from Roger, in Racine

55.1  Dear Roger: Yeah, I saw it too…and don’t mind if I do! Altho the specific question Mixed Up asks…how to introduce the boyfriend to others…reminded me of a cartoon from the early 1970s, when the idea of 2 people “living together” was becoming more socially acceptable…but before we had settled on the politically correct but nonetheless goofy term “significant other.”  An older woman is introducing a younger couple to another older woman, and she says: “And this is Sharon’s whatchamacallit.”  😉 😉

55.2  And yes, Abby Jr.’s answer is just common sense…this is my friend, my boyfriend, my fiancé… however along they are in the relationship. People today have been cowered (by that drat Media again?) into thinking you need “full disclosure” for every nook and cranny of your existence…and it simply isn’t so…too much information!, right?

55.3  On the other hand, the real point of the question…which Abby Jr. ignores, due no doubt to space limitations…is when Mixed Up’s sister says: This is my sister and her boyfriend, my nephew. After all, in the normal course of events, your sister’s nephew is also your nephew…or worse, your son…so yeah, eyebrows are raised, looks trend towards askance.

55.4  The topic of how one should act towards one’s affines…those one is related to by marriage…is a broad one, and a thoroughgoing examination of it is more than I have time for these days…yes, it’s certainly on my bucket list!  Across time and space as I like to say, there are innumerable sets of rules and restrictions, customs and interpretations.  And altho this really isn’t relevant, I might mention something I was reading about recently…in many kinship systems, the practice of a marriage “exchange” has been and still is followed…that is, the bride’s family gets something from the groom’s family in exchange for losing their daughter. For one tribe in Papua New Guinea, it’s traditionally a pig, called the “bride’s fat.” The parents can’t eat it, because they’d be eating their own “daughter,” but others in the family can…so it goes, nez pah?

55.5  Now strictly speaking, “-in-law” is seldom tacked onto anything beyond brother, sister, mother, father, son, and daughter. Certainly, we all understand what an “uncle-in-law” or a “cousin-in-law” would be, but you seldom hear it said that way…usually it’s just “my husband’s uncle” or “my wife’s cousin.” What’s more complicated is how a spouse thinks of his spouse’s blood relatives…cultures differ, families, differ, and even couples differ…you might consider your husband’s cousins as “your cousins,” but he might not feel the same about yours.

55.6  With respect to who can marry whom, legal limitations have usually followed religious ones. An illuminating example comes from England. In 1842, a bill was introduced in Parliament to allow a man to marry his dead wife’s sister. The the idea was that it would be beneficial for the aunt to raise the man’s children. The bill was soundly defeated, but it touched off over 60 years of social debate…needless to say, religion and morality entered into it, and there were strong opinions on both sides.

55.7  If you’re a Gilbert and Sullivan fan, you might recall in Iolanthe when the Fairy Queen sings “He shall prick that annual blister, marriage with deceased wife’s sister.” Finally, the “Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act” was passed in 1907, altho it was strictly stated that a clergyman could as we say today “opt out” from marrying a couple, if his religious beliefs prohibited it. But still, this law was very specific, and was not a blanket approval for all siblings and siblings-in-law. The “Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act” had to wait until 1921, and it was another 10 years until you could marry your dead spouse’s niece or nephew…which brings us back around to Mixed up in Wisconsin, altho that isn’t really her case…

55.8  …because strictly speaking, Jared the “nephew” isn’t Mixed Up’s in-law…your in-laws are the blood relatives of your spouse (but not your spouse’s affines…say your spouse’s sister’s husband…otherwise, it could conceivably spread to everyone!) The reason the unmarried Mixed Up has a brother-in-law at all is because her sister is married…and from her sister’s husband’s point of view, Mixed Up is his sibling-in-law, thus he is also hers. But for example, his parents are not parents-in-law to Mixed Up, only to her sister. Granted, when and if Mixed Up marries the nephew, her father-in-law will indeed be her sister’s brother-in-law, but let’s not jump the gun.

55.9  But to be honest here…Mixed Up apparently likes the drama, otherwise she wouldn’t be worrying about the whiff of “i-word.” Anyone in the family…or close to them…knows they aren’t related, and anyone else will understand that quickly enough. Which is not to say that some…her sister perhaps?…might extend the definition of “i-word” beyond what it actually is, but that’s family for you. Remember the old saying…you can’t trim the wind, you can only trim your sails.

55.10  And regardless of whether anybody actually cares who’s what, the sister is perfectly within her rights to abbreviate “my husband’s nephew” to “my nephew” for the sake of simplicity. This is the way we do things…for example, on The Andy Griffith Show, “Aunt” Bee refers to both Andy (her 1st cousin once removed) and Andy’s son Opie (her 1st cousin twice removed) as her “nephew.” That’s fine…until you start constructing a family tree, then precision is key, obviously.


55.11  In fact, this whole discussion reminds me of a puzzle I posed back in #3…and solved in #4that of Tony Soprano’s “nephew” Christopher. (The chart below is not my work so is thus un-numbered, altho I did add in the identifying photos…can it really be only 5 years this June since The Sopranos series ended? Seems longer somehow…)

55.12  When the show took place, Tony’s wife Carmela’s 1st cousin on her father’s side, “Cousin Dickie,” was dead…and his son Christopher had been “adopted” as Tony’s right-hand man and heir apparent…altho if you recall, that’s not exactly how things turned out. She called Chris her “cousin”…as opposed to “1st cousin once removed”…fair enough. She also referred to Chris and her daughter Meadow as “the cousins”…and Chris and Meadow called each other “cousin”…altho of course here it’s 2nd cousin, not 1st.

55.13  But at the same time, Tony called Chris his “nephew”…a double “mistake” if you will, since the relationship was his wife’s, not his…and also it’s not nephew but 1st cousin once removed, since Chris’ father was Carmela’s 1st cousin, not her brother…altho remember, some cultures call that a “2nd nephew” which makes eminent sense, sez me. My challenge was to find a way, without interbreeding if you please, that one and the same person could be your nephew and your wife’s 1st cousin.

55.14  The answer hinges on the fact…and by now I hope this sprung instantly to your mind!!…that we all have 2 sides to our family, owing to the fact that we have 2 parents…and normally those 2 sides aren’t related. But what’s instructive to note is that the solution diagrammed in Chart 189 could come about via 2 different chain of events.

55.15  The way I did it was: your brother marries and has a son, your nephew. That nephew has a 1st cousin Zelda on his mother’s side…and you marry Zelda…badda-bing, badda-boom. But you could do the same thing “backwards” as follows: you marry Zelda, then your brother marries Zelda’s aunt (Zelda’s mother Alice’s sister) and has a son…again, your nephew and your wife’s 1st cousin. Next time, the mailbag still giveth…till then, peace out…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#54: Mail-o-Rama-o-Jama

Dear Stolf: So what’s the dang deal with Romney saying he’d deport the President’s uncle? I wish the Sunday paper had a special section every week on genealogy and kinship topics.  …from Natalie, in Natal, South Africa

54.1  Dear Natalie: I hear ya! Well for now, it’s us or nothing, huh? But, yeah, “Unclegate” anyone? Altho I must tell you quite frankly, this is not a subject I have the heart to delve into very deeply. As someone once said, “Where the Sun is worshiped as a God, it is not a good idea to investigate the laws of heat”…if I ain’t being too oblique on the subject, and I don’t think I am. What’s that? The Secret Service at the door? Tell them I’m not home. 

54.2  But since you asked, the “uncle” in question is actually the POTUS’ half-uncle, being the half-brother of his late father, Barrack Obama Sr. He was born in Kenya as Omar Okech Obama, and came to live in the US in 1963. He is currently 67 years old, and calls himself Onyango Obama, after his father.  He was in the news due to a drunk driving arrest in August of last year, when it came to light that he had been ordered deported back in 1992. If you care to investigate the details of how and why he’s still here (as I said, I simply don’t), they are readily available all over the net.

54.3  Of course, it was a typically snarky “gotcha” question to pose to Mitt Romney back in December, and his answer…that our nation’s immigration laws ought to be enforced… was essentially sound. It’s not unreasonable on the surface of it to think that someone ordered deported ought to pretty much just go…allowing that the specific details of the case might be more complicated, and ultimately result in a different resolution. But in answer to the question: “If somebody is ordered deported, should they be deported, yes or no?” I’d say “yes,” if those were the only 2 answers allowed, wouldn’t you? Hence, there’s really no story here, from the point of view of Romney anyway.

54.4  For the record, the above is a chart of BHO’s family…it is not my work, except that for your benefit I have colored his father red, his half-uncle green, and his grandfather blue. It is fully explained at this website. I gratefully thank Doctor Zebra, and hope you will find it enlightening.

54.5  But I must say, if Romney is indeed the candidate, and his polygamous forebears are reported in the Media like it’s the end of the world, it will indeed be a case of the pot calling the kettle black (sorry…couldn’t resist.) Strange days ahead, it seems…

54.6  And as an interesting side note to last week’s look at Romney’s plural marriage heritage, I was gratified to open the paper last Sunday to this story, cosmic coincidences notwithstanding… 😉 😉 But next, a couple of queries left over from the holidays.

Dear Stolf: Why doesn’t my 2nd cousin Fred ever come to my Christmas party?  …from Bewildered in Bermuda

54.7  Dear Bewildered: Because you’re a dope and nobody goes to your parties. Haven’t you noticed that you’re eating hors d’oeuvres for lunch for 3 days, year in and year out?  OK, just kidding wichoo…sorry…serious answer…

54.8  It’s probably because, if you’re the type of family that goes so far as to invite 2nd cousins…in addition to presumably 1st cousins and siblings…to your Yuletide wingdings, there are simply too many parties for anyone to attend all of them.

54.9  As indicated by the green arrows in Chart 185, you have 4 distinct sets of 2nd cousins, each set consisting of descendants of the siblings of your 4 grandparents…which is to say, each consisting of the great grandchildren of your 4 sets of great grandparents.  Fred has the same…and this amounts to 7 sets of relatives, since by virtue of you’re being 2nd cousins, one of yours and one of Fred’s are the same. So even if Christmas parties were limited to 2nd cousin reunions, there would be 7 parties, 3 you’d go to, 3 Fred would go to, and one you’d both go to.

54.10  And it would build up fast…for 3rd cousins, 15 parties…4th cousins, 31 parties…5th cousins, 63 parties…altho at that level, you could have Christmas every weekend of the year, with parties to spare…so I guess we have a happy ending after all, nez pah?

Dear Stolf: I am 11 years old. On New Years Day, my uncle told me that somebody born in 2012 can be older than someone born in 2011. I think he has it backwards, but all he says to me is to keep thinking about it some more. I’m tired of thinking about it some more. Can you help me with the answer?  …from Freedom Ann in Fresno

54.11  Dear F.A.: Don’t be mad at your uncle, he’s just being his old avuncular self, I suspect. But what he’s driving at is the generally overlooked fact that the day and year of one’s birth is always recorded according to local time. So what? So things can get a little tangled up right around the time when the year changes, the night of Dec. 31st/Jan. 1st.

54.12  In Chart 186, we see that a little girl named Amy is born in Nags Head, North Carolina at one minute past midnight, the morning of January 1, 2012. At that very moment, where you live in Fresno, California, it is 3 hours earlier, right? Now let’s move ahead 1 hour…

chart 187 copy

54.13  It’s now 1 hour later, and a little girl named Zoë is born where you are, in Fresno. As you can see Amy is 1 hour older than Zoë, even tho Amy was born in the next year. So if you have a list of people born in 2011 and a list of people born in 2012, most of the people on the 2011 list will be older than everybody on the 2012 list…but a few won’t be! A few on the 2011 list will be younger than a few on the 2012 list. And if you find someone born on Dec 31st, and someone else on Jan 1st of the next year, you can’t assume the first one is older! It’s all thanks to Time Zones.

54.14  Also, Zoë will celebrate her 1st birthday one day before Amy does..12/31/2012 for Zoë, 1/1/2013 for Amy…even tho Amy was born first and is thus older, if only by an hour.

54.15  But the most interesting thing is, in another 18 years, Amy and Zoë will be college roommates at Tufts University…tell your uncle that! Next week, we’re still nowhere near the bottom of that bottomless mailbag…adios…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#53: Can-o-Worms!

Dear Stolf: I read in the paper that Mitt Romney is related to the Bushes…10C 1R to 41 and 10C 2R to 43…did they get that right?   …Greenie, in Stickemsville

Dear Stolf: Now that it’s looking like Romney vs Obama this November, I’m wondering about the talk of polygamy in his family tree…is it for real? And if so, just a footnote, or significant?  …Lola, in Damnyankeesburg

53.1  It seemed natural to lump these 2 questions together. In answer to the first, the Bush-Romney connection comes from the folks at Ancestry.com…and as far as I can tell, it checks out. Trouble is, this once again highlights a major flaw in our kinship terminology.  If I were to say Abe is Zack’s uncle, this positions them precisely in their family tree: they have a common ancestor…Abe’s father and Zack’s grandfather, who of course is also the father of Zack’s father. Abe is “closer” to this common ancestor than Zack is…1 generation for Abe, 2 generations for Zack. All neat and tidy, nez pah?

53.2  Sadly, not so if Abe and Zack were 1st cousins once removed…again, they have a common ancestor, and because of the “removed,” one is closer to that ancestor than the other. But there is no way to know which! Genealogists solve this problem by calling the closer one “ascending,” and the other one “descending,” but it’s a cumbersome system, not used in general parlance.

53.3  Now considering the Bushes and Romneys…suppose all we knew was that Mitt and 41 were 10C 1R…there would be 2 possibilities, depending on which was ascending and which descending. In other words, given 2 individuals who are 10C 1R, we know that one is the 10th cousin of the other’s father, we just don’t know which.

53.4  Fortunately, in this case people who understand kinship do know which, because 41’s son 43 is Mitt’s 10C 2R, so Mitt must be ascending…if he were descending, he and 43 would be 11th cousins, the sons of 10th cousins. Mind you, this is just a “serving suggestion” to demonstrate how it works…the common ancestor is religious rights crusader Ann Marbury Hutchinson, but her line could be thru one or both of the mothers, not fathers…which it actually is I leave to you as an exercise, as they used to say to school.

53.5  But God bless computers in general and the internet in particular…the profusion of genealogical data has made such discoveries a thousand times more accessible. Remember when Bush 43 and John Kerry were announced as 9C 2R*? And in this case, we did know the lines…Kerry was indeed the 9th cousin of 43’s grandfather Prescott. And Obama and McCain were, at the very least, both 22C 2R and 24C 6 R…but recall, everybody alive today is at least 50th cousin to everybody else, so that’s midway 😉 😉

* I hate to show off, but what can you do…they were also 10C 1R 2 ways…10C 2R…11C 1R…12C 1R…12C 2R…14C…and who knows what else. BTW, this is said to be typical for any 2 living individuals with colonial New England forebears. 


53.6  As to the issue of polygamy, it’s worm-time, folks! For the brainless Media, the rule is “If it bleeds, it leads.” And they also operate on the nonsensical principle that if a relative of yours does something gnarly, well, you must be guilty too…they won’t come out and say it, but wink wink, nudge nudge. It could be a parent, a sibling, a niece or cousin, or even a long distant ancestor…doesn’t matter…gotcha!!!!

53.7  I saw this one commentary…well, I have to admit it was good to see an old-fashioned word like “rife” being utilized…but what can one make of this: “Polygamy has been absent in his family background for more than two generations.” Does that mean “3 generations” or something else? And where do you start counting generations, with Mitt or with his father? What an utterly useless statement…and shabby journalism to boot.

53.8  Here’s what they should have said: “The last occurrence of polygamy was in Mitt Romney’s great grandfather’s generation.”  See there, now you know something!

53.9  But in answer to the question, it is far from a footnote in the family history, but central to the whole story of Mitt’s line. Why was Mitt’s father George born in Chihuahua, Mexico? Because George’s father Gaskell Romney had resettled there with his polygamous parents in 1884, to escape religious persecution in the US…one of 9 Mormon sanctuaries or “colonies” established across the border. (2 still exist today.)  You may recall that the LDS Church elders ultimately issued their anti-polygamy “Manifesto” in 1890, the price they were willing to pay for Utah statehood. Mitt’s family returned to Utah in 1912.

53.10  What’s really wormy is that polygamous relationships still exist in the US, flying at various levels under the radar, depending on the place…and in a time when there is such a push to redefine marriage as something beyond the traditional one man/one woman, they must wonder what sort of social justice allows their honest beliefs to be ignored, if not outright condemned. At any rate, should Romney become the candidate, all this will be dissected in salacious detail, you betcha. Still, history is history, and I find it fascinating…while oddly enough feeling not the slightest urge to be judgmental…but that’s just me.

53.11  So Chart 184 gives you a simplified overview. Mitt’s 2G grandfather Miles Romney was born in England, and interestingly converted to Mormonism 2 years before emigrating to the US. His wives and children are marked with an asterisk because there is some dispute. Church records list 12 wives, but uncharacteristically there are no further details as to wives or children, leading some researchers to believe this is an error. The Salt Lake Tribune reports there were 6 polygamists in Mitt’s family, and they counted 41 wives. I found all 6, and granting Miles 12, I count 39 wives. It should also be mentioned that engaging in plural marriages was not an individual’s choice, but decided for you by LDS Church elders.

53.12  Other notes: I’m guessing Mitt’s Uncle Lawrence had a middle name, but I didn’t find it. His sister Jane’s middle name appears to be a re-spelling of their mother’s maiden name. Mitt and Jon Huntsman’s father are 3rd cousins, making the 2 candidates 3C 1R. And yeah, I’m sure Obama comes in there somewhere…we’ll see, won’t we? Next week, more from the bottomless mailbag…peace and love.


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved