#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… 

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Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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