#58: Hey LQQk…Mail!

Dear Stolf: Can you go to school for this stuff?  …from Wendy, in Woonsocket, RI

58.1  Dear Wendy: Absolutely you can, altho your choices are few and far between. In terms of 4-year genealogy programs, Heritage Genealogy College in Salt Lake City appears to be the pick of the litter…with online classes leading to Bachelor’s and Associate’s degrees, as well as a Certificate program. Courses may also be taken a la carte, and they are especially geared toward becoming a professional genealogist.

58.2  Brigham Young University offers a major and minor in “family history studies” thru its history department, the majority of the classes on campus. They also offer an independent studies program in family history that will not result in a degree, but credits can be applied towards one.

58.3  Akamai University…an internet only college, for what it calls “mid-career” adult learners… has a 2-year Associate’s degree in genealogy. Non-degree certificates are available from Boston University, the University of Washington and the University of Toronto. Continuing education classes are offered on-line by the National Genealogical Society, probably the premiere among such enterprises.

58.4  These are just the ones I’m aware of, and I’m sure there are others…interest in such formal education is certainly on the rise.  In terms of old-fashioned brick-and-mortar evening classes, your best bet would be to check with the history department of a school near you, or perhaps anthropology if they have it.

Dear Stolf:  I happened upon this at a website dispensing advice on writing wills, and thought of you. After all, you don’t won’t to inadvertently leave your vast fortune to the wrong relative, right?  …from Tammy in Tallahassee

58.5   Dear Tammy: Absolutely you don’t.  Say for example you intended to leave your considerable wealth to Joe Blow, your 1st cousin’s son. Writing “2nd cousin Joe Blow” could be a problem if your father’s 1st cousin has a son also named Joe Blow…he’s your real 2nd cousin, as opposed to the intended recipient, who is your 1st cousin once removed. Got any attorneys in the family?

58.6  Now in everyday conversation, it doesn’t make much sense to expend a lot of time or energy correcting someone who is confused about numbered cousins and cousins removed. If they seem receptive…fine, explore it further. But most will think you’re just wrong, and fight you on it.  If they subsequently get it into their heads to prove you’re wrong…by consulting some sort of authoritative source, be it legal, genealogical, religious, or even anthropological…they’ll discover soon enough that you were right after all. But making a mistake on a legal document can have dire consequences, obviously.

58.7  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: just about the only place you’re going to find the “wrong” information with any sort of official “cachet” is in a dictionary*…where they tend to report what’s common usage, without bothering to point out when that usage happens to be incorrect. But consider the internet: there is certainly no lack of individuals “volunteering” the information that your 1st cousin’s son is your 2nd cousin…“Hope this helps!”  Yeah, right. But I’ve yet to find a website with even the remotest whiff of authenticity that repeats that common mistake…doesn’t mean they aren’t out there…but that’s the beauty of the internet: compare and contrast and you’ll likely get an accurate consensus. BTW, I love those sites where someone asks a question, then gets to choose which answer they think is the best or “most correct”…duh!

*Altho certainly not all dictionaries are so delinquent…for example, this entry from the online Oxford Dictionary is exactly right in all particulars. Woo hoo!

58.8  The explanation you sited is correct as far as it goes. The second definition is a bit confusing…it’s just a roundabout way of saying “your parent’s 1st cousin”…which certainly would have been more helpful…and I would prefer the terms “grand uncle” and “grand aunt.” But where it does make a mistake is in the overall premise that “1st cousin once removed” constitutes 2 different relationships…the truth is, it constitutes only one relationship, that of somebody’s parent having a 1st cousin.

58.9  The trouble is that relationships that cross generations are rightfully non-reciprocal…which is to say, if I am your X, then you are not my X….if you are my father, I am not your father…the 2 “ends” of the relationship have different names, indicating which is of the older generation and which is of the younger. (Bear in mind, it’s generations, not chronological ages that counts, since for example an uncle may be younger than his nephew.) This is so commonplace we hardly think of it: father/son, uncle/nephew, grandfather/grandson.

58.10  Where our system breaks down is when referring to your father’s numbered cousins…his 1st cousin is your 1st cousin once removed, and you are his, with no indication as to which is of the older and younger generation. The best we can do is something like: you are his 1C 1R descending, and he is your 1C 1R ascending. Clumsy, but it gets the job done. Why isn’t there a better way? Well, as I outlined in #11, in Hispanic cultures there is…your father’s 1st cousin is your 2nd uncle, and you are his 2nd nephew…(see Chart 34 reprised below.) Not only are the older and younger generations indicated, but your father’s 1st cousin being your 2nd uncle parallels your father’s brother being your uncle, or in this sense your “1st” uncle. And indeed, you would likely call your father’s 1st cousin “uncle,” as much as your father’s brother….since “uncle” is approximately what he is, just one “step” beyond collaterally, or as we might say, “horizontally” on the family tree.

58.11   But as I said, the relationship of 1C 1R results from someone’s father having a first cousin…if you are the one with the father, you are of the younger generation, and 1C 1R descending to the other. If on the other hand you are the 1st cousin, you are of the older generation, and 1C 1R ascending to the other. As you can see in Chart 195, the 2 “different” relationships are in fact the same….simply defined differently depending on which “end” you’re on. Still, when you think about it, the terms “father” and “son” are defined differently too, and define 2 different “groups,” altho again it’s only one relationship…and you are a son to your father, and a father to your son, without the slightest bit of confusion.

58.12  And for the umpteenth time…if you hear of your 1C 1R…do not think of that person as your 1st cousin, because they are not…they are someone else’s 1st cousin…in this case your father’s. Or going the other way, if you are somebody’s father’s 1st cousin, then that father’s son is your 1C 1R…from his point of view, you are his father’s 1st cousin.

58.13  But the burning question is, how is it that one language or culture has a convenient word or phrase like “2nd uncle,” while another is saddled with “first cousin once removed ascending.” Further…linguistically, a specific word or phrase is intended to be a “shorthand” for a description…in this case, the description itself…”father’s 1st cousin” is shorter than the shorthand. Where did English get out of whack? I’ll make a tentative stab at answering that question next week…till then, don’t forget this is “spring ahead fall back” weekend.

This is an English translation of how the Spanish system would work in our system, as it pertains to removed cousins. The Spanish system itself has other conventions not reflected here. All the relations in the boxes are from the point of view of of the box labeled “You“…the only exceptions are the red abbreviations in the upper left corner…these indicate how that person is related to your direct ancestor in that generation…yellow for Father’s generation, pink for Grandfather’s, blue for Great Grandfather’s…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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