#69: Les Bérubé, s’il vous plaît

69.1  After 68 posts on genealogy, I still enjoy it enormously…wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t. But today’s will be especially fun, since it’ll be pure analysis, as we examine the following family tree…

69.2  This originated from page 157 of Les Bérubé d’Hier et d’Aujourd’hui, Tome I, published in 1988 by L’Association des Familles Bérubé. What you see in Chart 227 has been modified by me…I removed several generations from the bottom, along with identifying numbers and other information. At the top is “DB”…Damien Berube, the “father” of all North American Berubes (to use the American spelling), along with thousands of other descendants with other last names…like me…my mother is a Berube…I am Damien’s 7G grandson. Damien came to Quebec from Normandy, France in 1671 and just below him are the 2 male lines he originated, Mathurin Berube on the left and Pierre Berube on the right. All Berubes living in the US and Canada today are said to belong to one or the other…or both!…of these lines. For the record, I’m a Mathurin.

69.3  And there are several things I’d like to call your attention to regarding the construction of this family tree. Since it is from a book that had no color printing, males are represented by squares, females by circles. Also, since the connections get rather tangled rather quickly, an interesting devise is used, as shown at left…when one connection crosses another, it jogs up then down in a triangular fashion…this means keep following this line, don’t veer downward.

69.4  Another convention is the use of a double horizontal line to connect 2 married individuals who are related to each otherand a single horizontal line when the are not. In fact, that will be our task today, to examine the 8 such marriages between relatives, and determine how the bride and groom are related to each other in each case.

69.5  Also interesting is how one man with 2 wives is diagramed…you’ll notice that this gentleman is not actually connected by a line to his first wife…the line arcs over and continues on to the second wife…but is assumed to be connecting the husband to both. I believe it was done this way because they wished to maintain the chronological order of the offspring and in this one case the wives…earlier to the left, later to the right.

69.6  But to start out, I re-drew Chart 227 as Chart 228, eliminating all non-related spouses…smoothing out the rough spots…and giving each individual a number…the red numbers show where the surname Berube was passed down along a male line. If you examine Chart 228 for a moment, you will see that the couple at the bottom, 51-52, are descended from the 7 1st cousins in the 3rd generation…5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11. Mathurin and Pierre had other children, of both sexes, as did most of the others in succeeding generations…what this chart shows is basically the Berube pedigree of 51 and 52…that is, their direct lines, fathers and mothers who are descended from Damien. There are literally hundreds of collateral relatives that are omitted…the only collaterals that are included are 45 and his wife 46, plus her line back to 11’s second wife…these are there because, as I mentioned, the tree goes down several more generations…I just thought it would be fun for the sake of analysis to leave them in.

69.7  Chart 229 shows 4 of the 8 cousin-to-cousin unions, starting with 15-16. This couple are 1st cousins…which in those days was not as common as it once was, but hardly unusual…the Catholic Church had a long list of dispensations to allow such a match. I might mention that this union is not found in the charts I included the last time I wrote about my French Canadian forebears, in #28 and #29those were marriages between a Berube and a Berube…here it’s Damien’s great grandson Jean-Baptiste Berube (4th son of Louis, who in turn was the 3rd son of Mathurin) marrying Marie Josephte Rousell, daughter of Louis’ younger sister Marie Genevieve Berube Rousell.

69.8  There are 2 interesting things about the next union, 31-32. Between 31 and his 2 ancestors among the “7 cousins” there are 3 steps, 15-23-31 as well as 16-23-31…but between 32 and her ancestor cousin there are 4 steps, 17-24-33-32. The uneven number of steps tells you right away what?…cousins removed! Thus 31 and 32 are 3rd cousins once removed…and that’s 2 ways, thru 5 & 7 and thru 6 & 7. It would be perfectly correct to call 31 and 32 double 3rd cousins once removed…31 is in fact a double 3rd cousin to 32’s mother 33. But that’s the second interesting thing: we generally think of double cousins as the result of a pair of siblings from one family marrying a pair of siblings from another…that’s doing it without interbreeding. But double cousins also result when previous relatives marry…in this case, 23 and 25 are brothers but also double 2nd cousins…23’s father is married to the 1st cousin of 25’s father…same with their mothers. For the purposes of this specific family tree, nobody is descended from just 5 or just 6…it’s always both, and that double relationship is passed down generation to generation. And of course, as double 3C1R, 31 and 32 are as closely related as 3rd cousins.

69.9   Next, something new is added with 40-41. 31 and 32, and thus 40, are descended from 3 siblings, the offspring of Mathurin. 41 is descended from those 3 siblings’ 1st cousin 9, daughter of Pierre. So altho we’re going down just one generation, we’re not going from 3rd to 4th cousins, but to 5th cousins…a generation is “added” at the bottom, but also at the top, since the common ancestor is not Mathurin, father of siblings, but Damien, grandfather of 1st cousins. Thus 40 and 41 are double 5th cousins thru 5 & 9 and thru 6 & 9, and also 5th cousins once removed thru 7 & 9….remember, the line thru 7 has that extra step.

69.10  This is a good time to reiterate that these relationships are cumulative, which is to say, they are all added together for a total Coefficient of Relationship. If only one relationship existed, thru 5/9, 6/9, or 7/9,  that one CR would be the sole CR, obviously…but that one relationship is in no way effected or diminished by the existence of 2 others…as I said, all 3 count, just as much as if any one of them actually were the only relationship. 40 and 41 have a CR of 5/4096, making them slightly more closely related than 4C1R (4/4096).

69.11  And now there’s a new twist the other way with 47-48…the steps from 48 to her ancestor in the “7 cousins” generations, 10,  is one step fewer than from 5 and 6…whereas the steps from 7 are one step more. The 4 relationships between 47 and 48 are based on ancestors that are siblings with one step difference (9 & 10)…1st cousins with one step difference (10 & 5, and also 10 & 6)…and 1st cousins with 2 steps difference (10 & 7). Thus, respectively, 47 and 48 are 4C1R…double 5C1R…and 5C2R. Total CR 13/8192, almost half way between 4C (16/8192) and and 4C1R (8/8192)…actuality, just a tad closer to 4C, since half way between 16 and 8 is 12.

69.12  Having done all that work, we find we needn’t reinvent the wheel with 45-46. We simply notice that 45 and 47 being brothers, everything that was true of 47-48 is true of 45-46, with one exception…there is one more step back to the “7 cousins” for 45’s wife 46 than there was for 46’s wife 48. And the presence of that extra step makes 45 and 46 only half as related to each other as 47 and 48 were…13/16,384. Which in real terms is practically nothing, but that’s genealogy, nez pah?  😉 😉

69.13   Over on the right side, 43-44 are, if you count it down, double 5th cousins, no muss, no fuss. And for 49-50, 8 enters the mix, the last of the “7 cousins” for us to consider.  Just as 43 and 44 were double 5th cousins, so are 49 and 50…true, they are one generation down, but their ancestors were siblings (5, 6, and 8)…while those of 43 and 44 were 1st cousins (5, 6 and 11). And of course 8 is also 1st cousin to 11, making 49 and 50 6th cousins…total CR 9/8192, just a smidge closer than 4C1R (8/8192).

69.14  Which brings us to the grand finale, 51-52…but once again, all the work has been done…it’s just a matter of matching up 51’s 4 ancestors (5, 6, 7, and 8) one by each with 52’s 5 ancestors (5, 6, 9, 10, and 11). That’s 4 x 5 = 20 different relationships, and I found it helpful to summarize the steps back to those “7 cousins” in Chart 233.

69.15  I’ve also reproduced my “work-sheet” in grid form, and if you refer back between it and Chart 233, I think you might notice some patterns emerging. If I’ve done the math right, I get 51 and 52 as double 4C…quintuple 6C…quintuple 7C… 5C1R…sextuple 6C1R… and 7C1R…for a total CR of 347/65,536…what that is precisely I leave to you as an exercise…no, it won’t be on the final exam. But if I might leave you with this one thought: these are real people, with real tangles in a real family tree…so get out of the hobby while you can!!  Back in a week…

wicked ballsy SHOUT OUT to berube grandchildren

As I mentioned, I am of the Mathurin line…I actually knew my great grandfather Joseph…called by the family “Papere” in the best of French Canadian tradition. I remember him as very quiet and very dignified…and very, very old…dunno if he ever said word one to me, but perhaps at age 80 (above) he had said all he cared to. His first son Henry was my maternal grandfather, and Henry had many 1st cousins on his father’s side…at least 40 that I know of…since Joseph and his twin brother Thomas (identical? fraternal?) were the youngest of 14 siblings.

Do you recognize any of the Berubes or others in the red boxes as a grandparent of yours? If so, your parent was my mother’s 2nd cousin, and you are my third cousin…and I’d love to hear from you!


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#68: Smokin’ O.P.’s

68.1  Today, something a little different. As much as I like cooking up my own charts, I’d like to share with you some nice diagrams made by other people…hence O.P.’s, as in Bob Seger’s great LP pictured at left. Yup, smokin’ other people’s…your Uncle Louie’s favorite brand, right? Altho fans of punctuation will wonder how the apostrophe got above the N instead of after it…I guess it was an arbitrary decision made by someone in the art department. This LP came out in 1972 on Reprise…I have a copy re-issued on Capitol…and it represents the smokin’ hot, lean & clean rock style Bob employed before he hit the big time…and as good as his hit singles were, they sounded fat and lazy by comparison…compare “Let It Rock” with “Old Time Rock & Roll” and see what I mean…

68.2  The website is called “Thompson-Hayward-Snypes-Moore…Bringing the Family Together.”  (I’m feeling lazy, so I’m not linking…but if you’re interested, they’re all easily found, and I encourage you to check ’em out…) It deals with the families of the 4 grandfathers united when Edward Alan Thompson married Rebecca Ann Snipes in 1988. Almost all of it deals with the genealogies of these 4 lines, but one section explains kinship terms for those needing a refresher course…and the diagrams I think are especially well done.

68.3   How much clearer could it be? Then they tackle cousins removed, and again, it’s right on…excellent use of color to sort out the connections. There were 2 separate charts for once removed & twice removed…I have combined them below…

68.4  Next site is called “Kinship & Social Organization…an Interactive Tutorial”…designed by Brian Schwimmer, professor of Anthropology at the University of Manitoba. Basic introduction to the academic end of it, with an especially good glossary, for those who need to know their cognates from their agnates. Nice to see it’s still on the web, since it apparently hasn’t been updated since 2003. The charts below I thought give an especially clear explanation of matri- and patri-lineal descent, and altho color is used to illustrate this, these diagrams also serve as a reference to how charts can be done when color isn’t available….(the inset I got from somewhere else, not sure where, sorry…) Females are always portrayed as circles…males here are triangles…they are also sometimes squares…there’s an obvious mnemonic devise for remembering which is which, or am I being too obtuse?

68.5  Onward…and the title “Cousins, Removes, and Other Such Stuff” alerts you that this next site is going to be on the “breezy” side…so much so that the author does get blown off track a wee bit from time to time. You will find such delightfully inept phrases as “excess generations” and “almost unique.” And he makes some decidedly odd assertions…one of which I will examine in detail below. But despite it all, the basic information is completely sound and the charts are accurate. I almost get the feeling that he is perfectly willing to make a howling mistake, yet some internal intellectual governor keeps preventing it from happening. In fact, some of the topics covered are rather advanced, yet he doesn’t fumble. For example, while I’ve never heard of anyone thinking that being double 3rd cousins makes you 2nd cousins, I’m sure somebody thinks that, and it’s certainly laudable that he tries to head them off at that pass. (Double 3C, for the record, are as closely related as ½ 2C.)

68.6  These 2 charts, spider-webs and all, are correct…with the tiny exception that on the left, “great uncle” should be “grand uncle,” since for the succeeding generations he does use “grand.” What I find interesting is the use of the term “0th cousin” for sibling. In a purely mathematical context, this is fine…I’ve done it myself, with no apologies.  And those who aren’t afraid of numbers will no doubt find the resulting connections fascinating for both their symmetry and…yes…their beauty. But here’s what he says: “Every society has special names for certain close relationships and resorts to numbers only for the rarer or less important relationships. For some reason our society abhors the term “zero cousin” and, accordingly, goes to great lengths to avoid it; hence “great aunts,” “great grand uncles, ” etc.” 

68.7  Squirrelly, no? The use of “names” when “words” or “terms” would be more appropriate…the idea that “every society has…” when “some societies…” would be more accurate…the silly suggestion that “less important” relationships are somehow “rarer”…indeed, the average person’s family tree has far more 3rd cousins, say, than 1st cousins…and again the great/grand inconsistency.  But I must emphasize that despite such sloppy thinking, the basic kinship connections outlined in this article are correct, and thus I would rate this site useful and worth reading.

68.8  The part that really caught my eye I put in bold type…in the first place, the reason our society “abhors” the term “zero[th] cousin” was just stated by the author in his preceding sentence…siblings are “close relationships” and thus have terms to distinguish them from numbered cousins…altho, again, not in all cases…in Hawaiian for example, the same word applies to siblings and cousins. But in the 2nd place, society doesn’t really “abhor” 0th cousins, for the obvious reason that society has never heard of them…the simple act of counting universally starts with 1, not 0, and with good reason. And besides, the world is sinking deeper and deeper into a state of…what would the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy be?…innumeracy? And for some cock-eyed reason, is damned proud of it.

68.9  For example, people seem to take great joy in erroneously thinking that a million is a big number, when you’re talking in terms of trillions…or that a sports team’s 50th season is its 50th anniversary (was its 1st season its 1st anniversary?)…or one of my favorites, that an interest rate of say 7.99% is better than 8%…on a $20,000 purchase, the former saves you a measly $2 over the latter…do the math…$1598 versus $1600 in interest. Personally, I think this anti-math fad really heated up when everyone got the year wrong for the turn of the century…it was 2001, not 2000…and I must point out that they had it right in 1901…check old newspapers if you don’t believe me. Perhaps it’s a backlash against the way the world has been transformed by that ultimate mathematical contraption, the computer…who knows?

68.10  But please don’t get me wrong…anyone who’s interested in 0th cousins is OK in my book…I’d just as soon they took a more realistic view of the whole affair, that’s all. Displaying consternation that the whole world doesn’t think 0th anything is cool…is, well, as I said, odd.

68.11  Finally, from a website dealing with wills and estate planning, “Degrees of Kinship By the Rules of Civil Law.” A very concise diagram, and unlike the preceding site, it uses the “greats” with respect to uncles/aunts consistently…altho I prefer the “great grand” terminology to “great great.”

68.12  This is a good opportunity to once again untangle the ambiguity of the word “degree.” As used with cousins…1st cousins being 1st degree, 2nd cousins being 2nd degree, etc. …it’s one thing. But when applied to relatives in general, it means something else, as you can see…1st cousins are 4th degree, 2nd cousins are 6th degree, 3rd cousins are 8th degree, and so forth. This civil degree system is a way to compare all relatives, both direct and collateral, both forward and backward, in one neat and tidy ranking….you simply count the steps from YOU to the relative in question. You might, for example, have a local law that says you cannot serve as a juror if the defendant is related to you within the 6th degree…this chart shows you what that encompasses…it certainly doesn’t mean 6th cousins, for that would exclude far too many people to be practical…even if it were known who those relatives were, which is highly unlikely.   

68.13  But while this chart is completely correct, one curious thing emerges: it deviates in spots from the fractional Coefficient of Relationship, which is mathematically derived from the fact that everyone has 2 parents. For example, between you and your parent, as well as between you and your sibling, the CR is ½…yet here, parent is of degree 1, and sibling is degree 2. And while the CR between you and a grandparent is 1/4, here a grandparent is of the same degree as a sibling, which has a CR of ½. Would you like to know why this is? If not, skip ahead please to 68.15.

68.14  The reason for this discrepancy is that this basic chart is of a very old origin…back far enough that relationships were reckoned unilineally…that is thru one parent only…and not bilinealy as we do today, thru both parents. Thus, what is called a “sibling” in this chart is in fact a half-sibling…a person who has the same father as you, regardless of your mothers….whether they are the same or different isn’t relevant.  And as I’ve said before, full siblings are really “double half-siblings”…2 individuals with the same father and the same mother. Here, every relation in a red box is actually a half-relation…thru a father’s line only, not thru a mother’s…and seen this way, the degrees jibe with the CR…for instance, your half-sibling and your grandparent both share with you a CR of 1/4, and indeed by this chart both are of degree 2. But for the purposes such a chart was constructed, blurring fulls and halfs does no real harm…and thanks so much for your interest!

68.15  Next week, some really hard-core chart-work…which I hope you will nonetheless find of practical and instructive value…and a special shout-out to my Mom’s side of the family…till then, I’ll make like a tree and go… 


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#67: Maildrop R.F.D.

Dear Stolf: You always say “2nd cousins are the children of 1st cousins”…well, everybody says that. But then why isn’t the child of your 1st cousin your 2nd cousin? You…and they… say it is not, but instead it is your 1st cousin once removed. This seems like a contradiction to me…care to disentangle? …from Wooly, in Bullyburg

67.1  Dear Wooly: My privilege and pleasure. But here’s the thing: it’s all well and good to correct a mistake…but understanding why the mistake was made in the first place is better. Heck, I do that all the time…I seldom make a mistake without going back and trying to see how and why I did that. And it helps, believe me…it’s how a person learns.

67.2  Thus I have wondered long and hard about the origin of the common mistake, thinking your 1st cousin’s child is called your 2nd cousin. My explanation is I think pretty reasonable. But your question raises another possibility, one that simply hadn’t occurred to me…which I will get to in a moment.

67.3  I believe 3 simple ideas simultaneously, altho certainly not consciously, lead to to the 2nd cousin mistake…

               idea 1: there is such a thing as a 2nd cousin
               idea 2: the number 2 comes after the number 1
               idea 3: the child of a 1st cousin has to be called

And that something must “logically” be a 2nd cousin…what else could it be? Well, if you don’t know how the “removed” terminology works, then indeed there doesn’t seem to be anything else it could be. But if I might digress slightly, “idea 3” needs some explanation…after all, there is something else you could call your 1st cousin’s son…and that is “the son of my 1st cousin”…just that simple. In English, there may not be a specific word for such a relationship…the best we can do are phrases with numbers and the word “cousin.” But this doesn’t mean we can’t refer to or talk about such a person…we obviously can, and quite clearly and unambiguously. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the idea that English “lacks words” for various relatives is true only in a very narrow sense…specific words, yes…ways to communicate the relationship and indicate to whom they apply, no…we don’t lack those in the least. In fact, a language that has specific words for “maternal grandfather” and “paternal grandfather” may not have a word that means just “grandfather” at all! It’s then a matter of opinion which language is the “poorer.”

67.4  Thus this “what else could it be?” way of thinking results in the 2nd cousin mistake. It is an “educated guess,” and when you ask a person who makes this guess about what other relatives would be called, especially a real 2nd cousin, your parent’s 1st cousin’s child, you generally find they are guessing about those as well, and will eventually run out of guesses…there is no coherent system involved, because this isn’t something they think about or care about very much. And those do who decide to care about it very soon come to understand how our kinship terminology is arranged, which is my whole point.

67.5  But now let’s examine the simple statement: The children of 1st cousins are 2nd cousins. One thing I have learned in life, never underestimate people’s ability to misunderstand even the simplest declarative sentence. You do it, I do it, we all do it. So this definition of 2nd cousin could mean one of 2 things…

                (A)  The child of my 1st cousin is a 2nd cousin to me.

                (B)  The child of my 1st cousin is a 2nd cousin to my child.

And there’s the problem: …is 2nd cousin TO WHOM? I have always, correctly, taken the definition to mean: if a pair of 1st cousins each have a child, those children are 2nd cousins to each other…paralleling the case where a pair of siblings each have a child, and those children are 1st cousins to each other. But now that I really look it at it, the definition surely could be interpreted as “The child of my 1st cousin is a 2nd cousin…to me”…since those are the only people explicitly mentioned in the definition: me, my 1st cousin, and my 1st cousin’s child. Yes, my child is implied….implicitly mentioned, if you will… but if you don’t see that, you get it wrong.

67.6  Thus, in the definition: The children of 1st cousins are 2nd cousins, it’s the word “children” that causes the problem…it’s meant to mean the children of me and my first cousin, our children…in other words, the children of each of a pair of 1st cousinsbut it could be taken to mean just the children of my 1st cousin…and in that case, who else could they be 2nd cousins to but to me? As Travis Bickle might say, there’s nobody else here! Yes, we’re getting pretty involved with this…but explaining to someone what this particular wording of the 2nd cousin definition really means, might in fact be their eureka! moment…oh, so that’s how it works…now I get it!…I was reading it all wrong…

67.7  Here’s what to remember:  a cousin is your generation…a cousin removed is somebody else’s generation…in other words:  a cousin is your cousin…a cousin removed is somebody else’s cousin…

67.8  And certainly much of the confusion people have in understanding what removed cousins are stems from the fact that what we call them is based on how they are related to someone else, not you. They aren’t really cousins, in the sense of them being your cousins. Depending on the generation, they are more like uncles/nephews if once removed…grand uncles/grand nephews if twice removed…great grand uncles/grand grand nephews if 3 times removed, etc. And in practice, a parent’s first cousin may be called “Uncle Bill” or “Aunt Zenobia,” since they are of the same generation as a parent’s siblings.  

67.9  Also keep  in mind that one person by themselves cannot be a relative….you can’t have a father without a son, or an uncle without a nephew…and if both your parents were an only child, you don’t have any 1st cousins, and can’t be a 1st cousin to anyone. So for you to be a 1C1R, you have to have a 1C1R “on the other end”…in this case, one of you is the 1st cousin of the other’s parent….using the terms ascending and descending tells which is which, just as father/son and uncle/nephew distinguishes the generations.  It’s a cumbersome system…and the Spanish system of 2nd uncle/2nd nephew…instead of 1C1R ascending/1C1R descending…does it more simply and logically…occasionally you’ll see this terminology used in English…too bad we can’t all get on board that train. [But see today’s Wicked Ballsy…]

Dear Stolf: dopeGEEK got another one…  from Shontelle, in Sebastopol CA

67.10  Dear Shontelle…I see it, yeah…and just for the sake of argument, let’s build it up
step by step…starting with his dad’s brother…which isn’t really a “Conan relation” since the questioner obviously wishes to distinguish said gentleman from his mom’s brother…and they have the right. The fact that he’s married to somebody in your family kind of gives it all away in terms of potential blood relatives, but let’s see it thru…

Now here’s the other half, my grandfather’s sister’s husbandthat being your parent’s aunt and your grand aunt. Putting these 2 halves together, Chart 223a, it seems natural for you and your boyfriend to be on the same generational level…except that leaves your grand aunt and his paternal uncle on the wrong levels. Hooking them up, Chart 223b, reveals you and your boyfriend to be of different generations…or you would be if you were blood relations, which you aren’t…your families are linked only thru marriage. If you must, you can call your boyfriend your parent’s 1st cousin-in-law, making you his 1st cousin once removed-in-law….maybe  better to say 1st cousin once removed by marriage, altho that’s a tad confusing…still, you asked.


Dear Stolf: My husband and I are having an argument…we understand that if male identical cousins married female identical cousins, their respective children, altho 1st cousins, would be as closely related as full siblings. But my husband says they’d be even closer related than that, since they’d also be double 1st cousins…being the offspring of 2 brothers marrying 2 sisters. I think he’s gone too far on this. Please settle!  …from Beanie, in Cecilville

67.12  Dear Beanie: It’s certainly true that with identical twins, genetic and genealogical relationships no longer jibe. And as I suspect you appreciate, this is because the twins are genetically identical, and thus can be considered as one single person. If each of 2 female identical twins has a child with a different husband, these kids are genealogically 1st cousins, but genetically half-siblings, since from a genetic point of view, it is the same as if the 2 different husbands had each procreated with the same woman.

67.13  Thus in Chart 224, X and Y are 1st cousins…but unlike normal 1st cousins, their Coefficient of Relationship is 1/4, not 1/8. Genealogically and genetically derived CRs usually match…but when they don’t, genetics wins out, since that’s what we’re talking about in the first place. Now let’s see what happens when the female identical twins marry male identical twins.

67.14  Your husband is right that, as seen in Chart 225, X and Y are genealogically double 1st cousins, since their parents are 2 brothers who married 2 sisters. But once again, the presence of identical twins bumps up the CR, in this case to the equivalent of full siblings. Genetically, it as if we are dealing with just 2 individuals, not 4…see Chart 226.  Seen this way, there is no increase for double 1st cousins since there are no uncles or aunts, hence no cousins at all…genetically, the offspring of both couples are siblings. The bump-up from double 1st cousins to full siblings has already taken the increase due to double 1st cousins into consideration…and indeed gone beyond it. Next week, a change-o-pace…smokin’ o.p.’s…chow till then…

Wicked Ballsy

Props to 2nd Uncle Kalen…he’s got it…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#66: Auntie dumbGEEK’s Cousins

66.1  Dear Friends: Yes, the mailbag is bulging, and we will take a stab at de-bulging it some next week, I promise. Today tho I want to look back to #24: All Answered Up, from June of last year. That was a line-by-line critique of an article trying to explain “cousins” on a website called wiseGEEK. This enterprise was started in 2003, 2 years after Wikipedia, designed to be organized not around topics but around specific questions. The piece on cousins is here…and as I did last week with Uncle Wiki, I did a “typewriter ribbon” review…black and red…both to correct the misconceptions, and as an example of the kind of muddle-headed nonsense you’re likely to encounter on the web when researching basic genealogical concepts.

66.2  I recently looked back on it to see if anything had changed…nope, altho I noted a section of examples I left out, plus a  final paragraph that is so awful, I must have omitted it thru sheer traumatic amnesia. In all fairness, and for the record, I’ll include those parts now…wiseGEEK in italics…

66.3  Here are some examples of levels of cousins with removals:

  • Jane has a grandparent who is the great grandparent of Joey.
  • Jane and Joey are first cousins once removed.  [1]
  • Jane has a grandparent who is the great, great grandparent of Jim.
  • They are first cousins twice removed.  [2]
  • Jane has a grandparent who is the great, great, great grandparent of John.
  • They are first cousins three times removed.  [3] …and Holy Guacamole! All correct, as per my Chart 218.

66.4  Levels of cousins without removals always mean the common ancestor has the same relationship to each cousin. Examples include:

  • First cousins—two people share a grandparent
  • Second cousins—two people share a great grandparent
  • Third cousins—two people share a great, great, grand parent. 
  • Fine, as far as it goes…yes, 1st cousins certainly do share a grandparent…trouble is, so do siblings, half-siblings, and half-1st cousins. So it doesn’t work in the other direction…2 people who share a grandparent may not be 1st cousins, but something else. Duh, double-duh, and triple-duh.

66.5  And finally…Cousinship here is determined from European and American standards.  Not so…in Spanish for example, 1C1R are called 2nd uncles/2nd nephews…2C1R are 3rd uncles/3rd nephews…1C2R are grand 2nd uncles/grand 2nd nephews, etc. Levels of cousins may be different in other cultures, no they are not something different, altho they can be called something which is not directly translatable into Englishand the term cousin may not even exist in certain world cultures. Um, there is no world culture, certain or otherwise. It can get a little murky figuring out these relationships, well, this is murky for sure…I think they’ve gone from talking about that imaginary “world culture” back to how we do it in English…and figuring kinship in English is murky only if your brain is murky…and some people essentially avoid the issue and just call any relatives they know of as cousins or second cousins. I think this means either everyone from 1st cousins on is a “cousin”…or anyone beyond 1st cousin is a “2nd cousin”…they’re thinking of “distant cousins,” a term for which there is no specific definition…it’s true, we do this in casual conversation…but then genealogy isn’t meant to be casual. From a genealogical standpoint, this isn’t quite correct, in other words, it might be accidentally correct, but then you wouldn’t know that anyway, so what’s the point?…but still implies family and relationship. The implication being you’re related to your relatives…good old implications, you can’t beat ’em for shucks.

66.5  This truly is a dumbGEEK article…dead wrong in spots, and awkwardly written…no GEEK worthy of the name would be associated with such a jumble. Then comes postings from readers, mostly asking questions about how people are related. In past G4BB blogs I have answered each and every one, with an explanation and a chart, altho when I tried to tell the folks posing the questions at wiseGEEK, I was not allowed to link to or even refer to another website. Why they keep asking questions without getting answers is beyond me…but 3 more cropped up…so here we blindly go…

66.6  I am going to make an enormous leap of faith…perhaps unwarranted, but there ya go…and assume that you, your boyfriend, and the cousin who is both yours and his…are not all cousins on the same side of the family. I mean, in that case, for all I know your boyfriend is your brother…hoo hah! So what you’re describing here, as in Chart 219, is 2 people, your boyfriend and you, who have a common cousin thru different sides of that cousin’s family…you thru that cousin’s father (which is how I interpret your comment about your uncle) and your boyfriend thru that cousin’s mother. If this is indeed the case, you and your boyfriend have no blood relation whatsoever. You call your boyfriend’s blood aunt “aunt” because she is married to your blood uncle…and the reverse is true of your boyfriend. But between the 2 of you sweethearts: nada…and congratulations.

66.7  This one is very similar to the last one. The key term here is “married”…once your aunt married that guy, all bets are off…you may call him “uncle” because he is married to your aunt, but neither he nor any members of his family is a blood relative of yours. To emphasize this point, I have imagined that they have a daughter “Daisy.” Daisy is your 1st cousin on one side of her family, her mother’s…Daisy is also 2nd cousin to “mystery daughter” on the other side of her family, her father’s, the guy your aunt married. But needless to say, despite sharing a 1st/2nd cousin, you and “mystery daughter” are not related.

66.8  Not knowing your sister, who can say? Sorry, just kidding…seriously, I love this question, because it raises once again the issue of what I have called “phantom relatives.” Isn’t “my cousin’s brother” also your cousin? Isn’t “my uncle’s brother” also your uncle, if it’s not your father? Isn’t “my wife’s husband”…you? Coincidentally, this topic is covered in that same #24 I cited above…where I call them “relatives that don’t exist.”

66.9  But I have an even better name for them: “Conan relatives.” This is thanks to a cameo-like lady, user-named Maximum20Characters (which is actually 19…) who supplied the following witty…and completely correct…response to a question on the net:

OK, 99.99% correctin the normal course of events, your cousin’s sister is your cousin. I might simply and humbly point out that some cultures have different words for a male 1st cousin and a female 1st cousin…and when translated into English, these may come out as “cousin sister” and “cousin brother.” Or these terms could have an even narrower meaning, that of “parallel cousins,” the children of one’s father’s brothers and mother’s sisters…the idea being they are 1st cousins you can’t marry…they are thus in the same category as actual siblings…whereas you can marry “cross cousins,” the children of one’s father’s sisters and mother’s brothers.  And the questioner did say “cousin sister” not “cousin’s sister.” But it amounts to the same thing…in-laws aren’t related by virtue of someone marrying someone…if they are related, it’s something prior to becoming in-laws. (Bear in mind, there are the terms “brother cousin” and “sister cousin,” which apply to siblings whose parents are themselves cousins, such siblings thus being some manner to cousin to each other.)

66.10  The important point here is that there are other explanations for a Conan relation, beyond it being merely the product of sloppy writing or thinking. For example, “my uncle’s cousin” might make sense if this uncle was your father’s brother, but your father was dead. True, dead relatives are still your relatives, but it might be said that way when talking about real people in a real-life situation. Or if you have an especially close relation to cousin Fred, and not with another cousin, that being Fred’s sister, then saying “my cousin Fred’s sister” would be understood by people who know you. And this is especially true if “cousin” is being used in an imprecise way…it could be a half-cousin, a cousin removed, or maybe even just a close friend of the family that is not blood relation at all…what’s called a “fictive” relation.

66.11  And as a pertinent example of this…on The Andy Griffith Show, Andy’s habit of referring to any sister of Aunt Bee as “her sister” rather than “my aunt” got me started on the track of their true relationship, which turns out to be 1C1R…Bee is Andy’s father’s 1st cousin, not brother, as is universally, and erroneously as it turns out, supposed…see here.

66.12  But further, what I wonder about is whether, taken literally, such a phrase as Malek’s “my brother’s sister” might be referring to his half-brother’s full sister (which of course would still be his half-sister, or just “sister”) or even more logically to his half-brother’s half-sister on the other side of the half-brother’s family, the same way that a person can have 2 sets of cousins on the 2 sides of his family, cousins that thus aren’t related to each other. Malek’s case could be that shown in Chart 221. You can verify that the “sister” is not a blood relative to Malek…and that the “cousin” is not a blood relative to either Malek or his “brother.” Maybe it wasn’t as crazy as it sounded after all!

66.13  Which brings us to wiseGEEK post #49…there are a myriad of possibilities because there are so many variables…cousins on the same side or different sides…full brother, full sister, or half-siblings on the same or different sides as each other and/or as the cousins…or something. I will diagram only the 2 extreme cases…everybody on the same side, and everybody on different sides. Done thus, your answer is: by Chart 222a, yes, 5 happy cousins…by Chart 222b, no, everyone is related only to those on their immediate right or left, and to none of the others. See yez in 7…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved