#63: No Grandparents For You!

63.1  Gosh, I hate to blow my own horn, but if I asked someone else to, that might be considered somewhat unsanitary. Point is, as I survey the various genealogical resources on the net, I have to conclude that Related How Again? goes some ways toward “taking it to the next level,” as they say today. For example, in the area of precision. Does it seem to you that sometimes I get too “picky”? Well, the correct relationship between 2 people is what it is…there are no almosts or maybes. Even when that relationship is complicated, like several things on one side of the family, several things on the other, these people are still related in exactly and precisely those ways.

63.2  And what I have specifically in mind is…the definition of numbered cousins…let’s do it with 1st cousins. As we have seen, “have a grandparent in common” is not sufficient, since that is true of you and your siblings. “Have a grandparent in common, but not a parent” looks like it might work, except that this is true of you and your half-1st cousins. “Have 2 grandparents in common, but not a parent” seems to nail it…trouble is, double half-1st cousins have 2 grandparents in common, yet they are not 1st cousins.

63.3  One obvious solution is to forget grandparents altogether when defining 1st cousins. 1st cousins are the children of siblings, and that is understood to mean full siblings…please do specify “full” if the context demands it. 2nd cousins are then children of 1st cousins…3rd cousins are the children of 2nd cousins…etc. This way, the definition of each successive degree of numbered cousin depends only on the definition before it…but the question of grandparents…how far back and how many…never comes up.

63.4   Now as a consequence of this definition, for example, 2nd cousins will have grandparents who are siblings…full siblings…and those sibling grandparents will share a common father and mother…these being the common great grandparents of the 2nd cousins. It all follows automatically from the simple stipulation that (X+1)th cousins are the children of Xth cousins. In effect, we are defining numbered cousins “bottom up” as opposed to “top down.” And this makes perfect sense, since “top down” can mean different alternate paths down to the cousins, and complications can arise. Start with the numbered cousins at the bottom and work your way up, and all the relationships fall neatly into place, as shown in Chart 209.

63.5  But suppose your grandparents are lovely people, and you hate to exclude them unilaterally. Instead of relating numbered cousins back to a common ancestor, you can instead go back to some degree of grandparents who were siblings…and again, we are assuming full siblings. Thus for example, in Chart 209, 2nd cousins would be defined as having grandparents who are siblings…and again, the rest of the relationships, up and down the tree, fall into line. In short, defining numbered cousins in terms of common ancestors is imprecise at best, and can lead to the wrong conclusions…I strongly recommend against it. And it’s my blog, nez pah? …even tho…to save time, sometimes I will do it myself…sue me…

63.6   Anyway, I pointed out this discrepancy…how sharing 2 grandparents doesn’t guarantee being 1st cousins…at the Genealogy.com general discussion forum, but so far have provoked no reaction…well, jeepers, it was Easter week, everybody’s busy. Now here are 4 ways you could have 2 common grandparents but not be 1st cousins…

63.7   But of course Chart 210  assumes X and Y’s parents are a pair of brothers and a pair of sisters…they could be 2 pairs of “one-of-each,” in which case there are 4 more possibilities, right? Wrong…actually there are only 3 more, since the parents being mixed pairs, and the shared grandparents also being a mixed pair, results in only 1 case, not 2.

63.8   To summarize:

case 1….X & Y share grandfather thru fathers, grandfather thru mothers
case 2….X & Y share grandfather thru fathers, grandmother thru mothers
case 3….X & Y share grandmother thru fathers, grandfather thru mothers
case 4…..X & Y share grandmother thru fathers, grandmother thru mothers
case 5….X & Y share 2 grandfathers thru their fathers/mothers
case 6….X & Y share 2 grandmothers thru their fathers/mothers
case 7….X & Y share a grandmother and a grandfather thru their fathers/mothers

As far as individuals are concerned, case 7 is different from X’s point of view than from Y’s…but genealogically, their positions are interchangeable…so its just one self same arrangement.

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Dear Stolf:  Is it my imagination, or is the Media really hurting for scandals…the latest is Whitney Houston’s daughter apparently dating her “god-brother”…that sounds like a stretch, considering I’ve  never heard of such a thing…any thoughts?  …from Gomer, in Goobertown

63.9  I’m with you. In the old days, a child out of wedlock…the euphemistically cheerful “love child”…was enough to cause quite a splash…today, it’s practically routine among celebrities, not to mention everyone else. So yeah, they have to really scramble to come up with the Next Big Horrible Thing. We saw that last week with Jerry Lee Lewis and wife #7. And in the context of Forbidden Love, god-siblings haven’t existed for 500 years…but here’s the story…

63.10  The idea behind godparents…which is to say, baptismal sponsors…was originally to ensure the child would be raised in the Catholic faith, should anything happen to its natural parents. Strictly speaking, this tradition persists to the present day. By way of solemnizing the relationship, canon law originally forbid godparents and godchildren to marry…but over the centuries, this restriction spread to other members of both families…so if Joe Blow was your sister’s godfather, you couldn’t marry Joe Blow’s daughter, that sort of thing. And it got to the point where this was causing a problem with people finding mates.

63.11  After all, besides the religious component, there was also an important social one…a way of linking families not otherwise related by blood or marriage, and thus strengthening community ties. But by the 16th century, these 2 aspects were operating at cross purposes…the family from which you’d want to pick a godparent was also the family you’d want as in-laws. Accordingly, at the Council of Trent, 1545-1563, these restrictions were cut back to just the parents, godparents, and godchildren. Hence your godmother’s son, your god-brother as it were, was no longer off limits.

63.12  In the Catholic Church today, there is no restriction in this regard at all. And indeed, it sometimes happens that a godparent marries a godchild, altho it’s not what you think. Say Catholic Clara is marrying non-Catholic Ned. Before the wedding, Ned converts and is baptized…his sponsor is his fiancee Clara…so technically he will be marrying his godmother, but today there’s nothing against that. Other Christian denominations have other rules and customs, and we’ll get to that in a moment…

63.13  Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown is the only child of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Nicholas “Nick” Gordon came to live with them in Atlanta 10 years ago, when he was 12 and Bobbi Kris was 9. I can’t find the complete story, but “his parents abandoned him” or “his father went to jail and his mother couldn’t feed him,” that’s the gist of it…apparently he was originally just a friend of Bobbi Kris. He was never formally adopted by Whitney, and his parents are still alive. The Media simply doesn’t know how to describe this relationship, so you will see “god-brother,” “foster brother,” and incorrectly “adopted brother.”

63.14  It is true that he has been quoted as saying Whitney called him her “god-son”…but for the record, they are Baptists, and the Baptist Church has no such thing as godparenting or baptismal sponsors. There is an informal infant dedication custom, which typically calls for a godparent…this could entail a ceremony, or something as simple as asking if they will be  and their accepting. Thus CeCe Winans is Bobbi Kris’ godmother, and Darlene Love was Whitney’s. The common misconception that Aretha Franklin was Whitney’s godmother was corrected by Aretha herself in an interview with Al Roker on the Today Show in February of this year. She said she was just an “honorary aunt,” and Whitney called her “Aunt Ree.”

63.15  Legally, a godparent and godchild…let alone their other family members…have no relationship at all, and thus marriage laws do not apply. Bobbi Kristina and Nick are not related by blood, and other relatives can say what they will about the “i-word”…as far as I’m concerned, that’s where the matter stands…another case of MYOB…for them and for us. Come back next week for more mailbaggage…


Wicked Ballsy

A while back, I noticed this comic strip and wondered if Alex got it right…since it’s so common these says to mistakenly call a step-relative a half-. It hinged on whether Jeff was Joanie’s natural son or step-son…turns out it’s natural…Alex’ mother and Jeff are half-siblings…so Alex is 100% correct…and as graduates of MIT, both me and her, I’d expect nothing less… 😉 😉

But talk about You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby…when Joanie Caucus debuted in the strip on 9/10/1972, she was running away from her husband (never seen, hence no picture)…

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Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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