#87: “Quarter Cousins” Both Exist and Don’t Exist…Woo Hoo!

87.1  There is an eternal struggle…in genealogy and in life generally…between Accurate and Picky. Accurate will say: “Well, actually so-and-so is thus-and-such.” Picky will respond: “Yeah, OK, technically.” And Accurate will say: “No, not technically…really.”  My take is that there is no need for this conflict…we are dealing with 2 different things…2 different ways in which kinship terms are used. Call one “Geni” for Genealogical…call the other “Pop” for Popular…or colloquial…common-place…every-day.

87.2  Geni exists so that speakers of English can communicate with one another and understand what they’re talking about. Each Geni term has a precise meaning and that’s that. What would be the point otherwise? Pop is what people say in their day-to-day-lives…talking about real families and real relationships. Pop can hue exactly to Geni…or it can diverge widely…here are 2 examples…

87.3  Quite a while ago, while researching the use of “Ascending/Descending” to distinguish the 2 “ends” of a 1st cousin once removed relationship, I came across a blogger who said that in their family, they always used the terms “Augmented” and “Diminished”…taken from types of musical chords. And over the years, the term “Diminished” had jokingly devolved into “Demented.” Now that’s one fun family, I don’t care who you are…

87.4  And just recently, I read of a person “Abe” whose father “Zeke” had 2 families…Zeke had a bunch of siblings thru his father and mother…but Zeke’s father also had a second wife, and a lot a children with her as well. Now Zeke was always very precise about this…his full siblings were his son Abe’s uncles and aunts…whereas his half-siblings were Abe’s half-uncles and half-aunts. He considered his half-relations “not my real family”…and with respect to Abe, Zeke’s point was: “They are not your real family either…which is why we call them half-‘s.” And indeed, while begrudgingly acknowledged as relatives, there was not a lot of connection between these 2 groups of Zeke’s father’s children. Abe concluded by saying that Zeke would have made a great family historian, because of his attention to these kind of details.

87.5   Well, sure…for Zeke, there was no difference between Geni and Pop usage…relationships are what they are…and he valued the closer relationships more than the more distant ones. You might not agree, were you in his situation, but that is the essence of Pop…each family, and each person within that family, is free to describe …and value…relationships as they choose.

302 rev

87.6  In Chart 302 I have listed the most common “translations” between Genealogical and Popular usage. Bear in mind, these are not errors…they are simply abbreviations (as grand uncle is shortened to just uncle)…approximations (as your father’s 1st cousin being your “uncle” is similar to your father’s brother being your actual uncle, just one step “sideways” along the family tree)…or matters of curtesy or affection (as calling your wife’s  mother “Mom.”) One I’ve not included on this list is calling your 1st cousin’s son your “2nd cousin” instead of 1st cousin once removed. This is indeed an error…it is certainly not an abbreviation or a curtesy…and it fails also as an approximation since a true 2nd cousin is of your generation and a 1C1R descending is not.

87.7  Looking at Chart 303, you might say that all 3 “shapes” look about the same…all triangular, after all. But they are not, owing to the differences in generations between the 2 related individuals. This is why in Spanish, 1C1R (middle diagram) is called “2nd nephew”…and no one would claim that your nephew and your 1st cousin are “approximately the same thing”…no more than you would say that of your son and your brother…that difference in generations makes all the difference.

87.8  Now there are 2 groups of querulous people running loose. There are the snooty genealogists who think, again from The Andy Griffith Show, that Aunt Bee is nuts for calling both a father and his son her nephews. Then there are the indignant “normal folk” who think that 2nd cousin once removed ascending is a lot of fussy nonsense…cousins are cousins, that’s all, case closed. Thank goodness most people don’t fall into these 2 categories. Most people, if they had a half-brother, would probably introduce them, completely unselfconsciously, as their brother…while on the other hand, they would fascinated, as I was, to discover that their grandmother had a half-brother they knew nothing about. Not a brother, but a half-brother…because in my case, after her mother died in childbirth, her father remarried…that much I knew…but then had a son with my grandmother’s step-mother…that I didn’t know…but it’s all part of the family story, you see?

87.9  Thus we come to this cranky individual I found on the net…who wants it known that there simply is no such thing as a half-relative. And as you might expect, this erroneous conclusion is based upon a series of premises that are themselves completely wrong at every turn. The full screed is available here…as is the large number of replies he got, most con, but a few pro. And I must say it’s a wonderful thing we can all express our opinions, in public…and not be hit by a volley of stones the next time we walk out of our door, as can happen in some uncivilized parts of the world. The comments range from sublime to ridiculous…I’m not sure anyone went so far as to call this fellow a buffoon…justified as it might be…since I honestly didn’t read every one all the way thru. Perhaps you’d like to….um, buffoon him, I mean.

87.10  But let’s take him on…my standard bicolor “typewriter ribbon” format…he’s black italics, I’m red…and remember, I’m always right 😉 😉 …BTW, emphasis (in bold) is his, unless I state otherwise…

87.11  There is No Such Thing as a Half-Cousin! One of my pet peeves is a term that I see online over and over: someone claiming to be a “half first cousin” or a “half second cousin once removed” or something similar. Sorry folks, but there is no such thing as a “half first cousin.” This is a startling proclamation, when you think abut it…you might as well say there is no such thing as tomatoes, Buicks, or tranquilizers. Oh really now? Hmmmm…interesting. No Buicks, eh? Except there’s one parked just outside actually…

87.12  I know that lots of families use that term to refer to various relatives, but there simply is no such thing in the U.S. NOTE: I will describe references used in the U.S. It is possible that relations are described differently in other countries and especially in languages other than English. Am I understanding this right? There could  be half-1st cousins elsewhere, just not here? They can have them, but we can’t? You don’t mean to say “I Hate America” is behind all this? Naaah, that’s just too weird.

87.13  Many people think that a “half first cousin” is someone who shares one grandparent with you but not both of them. For instance, my great-grandfather was married twice. He had several children by his first wife. The wife then died in childbirth and great-grandfather later remarried and had more children by his second wife. Sounds familiar…I am descended from great-grandfather and his first wife. I recently met a man who is descended from great-grandfather and his second wife. Some people would think that this other man and I are half-second cousins. “Half” apparently refers to a mistaken belief that we only share half the relationship because of our different great-grandmothers. In fact, we are second cousins. Period.  Emphasis mine…so let’s take a look at this so far…

87.14  “…that we only share half the relationship…” He calls this a “mistaken belief” when it is a simple genetic fact. Same 2 great-grandparents, we share 1/32 of our genes as 2nd cousins…same great grandfather, different great grandmothers, we share 1/64 of our genes…as…well, call it what you will…but the relationship is halved. In the first case, the 2 descedants both got their genetic heritage from families A and B…in the second, one from families A and B, the other from families A and C. Not the same thing. Period and double-period.

87.15  In the United States, the standard reference for defining family relationships is Black’s Law Dictionary. It is primarily a legal reference and is used by courts, lawyers, genealogical organizations, and many others. Completely wrong…in courts of law, case law determines the outcome. In determining what terms mean in a legal sense, Black’s is a general starting point, not the deciding factor. And genealogical organizations all follow the accepted conventions, of which half-relatives is one.

87.16  Black’s Law Dictionary defines first cousins as:“The children of one’s aunt or uncle.” Note that it says “aunt OR uncle,” not both. All that is required is to share one aunt or one uncle, not both. OK, in the first place, he is misreading the use of the word “or”…that is, “aunt or uncle” here means “parent’s siblings,” which of course could be your parent’s brother or your parent’s sister. It certainly doesn’t mean you don’t have to be the child of the same uncle and aunt union to be 1st cousins…for in fact, only one of those is presumed to be your blood relative anyway. Your father’s brother could have children with many women…all the offspring are your 1st cousins, regardless of whom the mothers are, simply because that uncle is your father’s brother.

87.17  But in the second place, he is begging the question big-time. Now these days the phrase “begging the question” is commonly misused, intended to mean “raises the question” or “causes a person to ask.” What it actually means is to pre-suppose your conclusion as part of your argument. The classic case…and I mean no disrespect, but it is what it is, folks…is when some one says that everything in a religious text is true…and how do we know this? Because the text itself says so! Or when a parent says: I’m the boss in this house and everything I say goes. The child asks why…and the parent responds: Because I said so, and I’m the boss in this house! “Begging the question” is akin to “circular reasoning,” and while the examples I gave are pretty transparent, it can sometimes be very subtle and tough to tease out precisely where this mistake is occurring in a complicated argument. Which is why it’s such a crucial logical concept…and one we ought not to blur with an alternate colloquial meaning…keeping in mind what I said before, that I’m always right… 😉 😉

87.18   Here however, his begging the question is pretty obvious…he wishes to ultimately prove there is no such thing as, say, a half-uncle…therefore, in his mind, “uncle” in Black’s must mean both uncle and half-uncle, since he claims there is no distinction. But he hasn’t proven that yet! At this stage of his argument, “uncle” simply means brother of your parent, leading to a 1st cousin…half-uncles and half-1st cousins aren’t addressed. Presumably, if such things as half-‘s truly exist, your father’s half-brother’s son is going to turn out to be your half-1st cousin…but this particular definition in Black’s says nothing about that one way or another. If there were no half-uncles, he’d be on solid ground…but as I said, that is precisely what remains to be proven…he is assuming to be true what he is trying to prove…he is begging the question.

87.19  Black’s Law Dictionary defines second cousins as: “Persons who are related to each other by descending from the same great-grandfather or great-grandmother.” Note that it says “the same great-grandfather OR great-grandmother,” it does not say BOTH great-grandparents. Second cousins need to share only one great-grandparent. If they do share both great-grandparents, the relationship doesn’t change; they are still second cousins. More faulty reasoning…this time it’s apples & oranges. The difference in these 2 definitions being, one applies to direct ancestors (grandparents of whatever degree) while the other refers to collateral ancestors (father’s brother, or taking it further back, grandfather’s brother, etc.) Isn’t it obvious that between your uncle and aunt, you’re only a blood relative to one…but between your great grandfather and great grandmother, you’re related to both? Yes, Black’s is getting a little fuzzy between these 2 definitions, but then…big surprise!…that’s why it isn’t definitive, as anyone involved in jurisprudence will tell you.

87.20  And the reason Black’s is losing focus here is because of something I’ve written about many times: our laws are derived from British Common Law, which goes back far enough in time that relations were reckoned unilineally…in our case, thru the lines of the fathers only…that’s patrilineally…and further back than that in European antiquity, matrilineally. You and your brother were brothers because you shared the same father…your mothers were irrelevant…and in fact, if you shared the same mother and different fathers, you were not legally blood relatives! As our system of kinship evolved into a bilineal system, you were related, for legal purposes, to both your father’s  family and your mother’s. Thus came into being the legal concept of “half-blood”…and as several posters pointed out, laws in Western society do address this, sometimes making distinctions between full and half-blood, but more frequently declaring that there shall be no distinction between them, for the purposes of the specific law in question.

87.21  As you might expect, Black’s defines “half-blood” too, altho this fellow didn’t read that far. Not being a legal historian, I don’t know what the legal theory is behind the often found stipulation that a law be applied to full and half-blood relations equally. Is it thought of as fairness in some respect? Is it simply to avoid kinship entanglements becoming too complicated, which can easily happen? Or is it harkening back to a tradition of kinship reckoning that is no longer current? I honestly can’t say…but I can unequivocally say that Mr. Pet Peeve doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

87.22  Sadly, even some genealogy software perpetuates this myth concerning half-cousins. I have seen programs that automatically calculate family relationships and provide an answer of “half-cousins” or “half second cousins” or something similar. However, the standard references used in genealogy all disagree. No, my friend, what they all disagree with is YOU. To be blunt, such programs are wrong. What’s in your database? And that’s it? The entire argument? Pretty thin. And those responding take him apart, every which way to Sunday. As I said, most are con, a few are pro…but even then…might I quote just one of them…

87.23  Linda said…Reunion software for Mac uses the “half-cousin” designation. I’m glad you set us straight on this.  First, Linda, who are you calling “us”? Second, Linda, be careful not to be “set straight” too easily, or you’ll find yourself ping-ponging between rival “experts” until you literally don’t know which way is up. Strange that we can have half-sisters or half-brothers, but no half-cousins.  Yes, it certainly is strange, isn’t it?…chuckle, chuckle…even his “friends” make the argument against him. Thank you!  No, thank YOU, Linda…and I’d be proud to call you a half-3rd cousin twice removed-in law…

87.24  Right about now tho, perhaps you’re wondering what happened to the “quarter cousins” I promised. Well, see, there’s the trouble….they exist…and they don’t! LOL

87.25  Sorry…here’s the connection. One of the posters to the above quoted the definition of “half-cousin” from  the Oxford English Dictionary. Now bear in mind, the OED is concerned more with British English than American English…and the older the edition, the more this is true. It is an awesome work of scholarship, but must, at this time and in this place, be taken with a grain of salt. Thus is it not surprising to find “half-cousin” defined as a 2nd cousin…and also, as it says, “sometimes as a 1st cousin once removed.” And true enough, while genealogists in the UK sensibly use the standard definitions, in popular parlance “half-cousin” can still refer to your 2nd cousin, but this is not universal over there…

87.26  How far does this informal system of fractional cousins extend? Dunno…I’ve found relatively few examples of the use of quarter cousin on the internet, but they do exist…some in old books, others from contemporary bloggers talking about real relatives.  But so far, no definitive explanation has surfaced as to which relationship it’s supposed to refer to. So we’ll pick this up next week…hope to be with you then…cuz’…

Wicked Ballsy

I do miss those old bicolor typewriter ribbons…and here’s a belated shout-out to whoever it was who came up with the idea of replacing the red half with a white erasure ribbon…pure genius, sez me…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#86: More Stuff and Things…and Stuff…

86.1  Last week we were looking at double cousin arrangements, specifically Chart 296…a “cleaned up” version of which appears below. Now W, X, Y, and Z are all Adams 1st cousins, since their respective fathers A, B, C, and D are Adams brothers. Typically (altho not universally) 4 such cousins would have 4 unrelated mothers…their last names might be Allen, Benson, Clark, and Dodds…altho obviously different last names doesn’t ensure they aren’t related…their mothers could all be sisters…and married those 4 gentlemen. Which is a good reminder that you should be aware of all the possibilities…I always return to The Andy Griffith Show because everybody knows it. “Cousins” Gomer and Goober both have the last name Pyle (altho the first time Goober’s full name is spoken, by Andy, it’s Goober Beasley…that’s one for the Fan Logic Game.) It is thus assumed they are 1st cousins because their fathers are Pyle brothers…but it could be that their mothers are sisters, and the 2 Pyle men they married were unrelated to each other. Unusual, but not impossible.

86.2  At any rate, in Chart 296a, the mothers of the 4 cousins are not completely unrelated…W’s and X’s mothers are sisters, as are Y’s and Z’s. Thus W and X are double cousins…Adams and Baker…while Y and Z are also double cousins…Collins and Adams. And the important point here is that, to take W and Y for example, their relationship as Adams cousins is the only relationship they share. What’s going on on the “other side” of W’s family does not effect his relationship with Y and vice versa…which is to say, your cousin being a double cousin does not effect you…between 2 cousins, there will always be 3 groups of cousins…one group that they share, and 2 that they don’t….in this case W and Y share the Adams cousins, but not the Baker cousins (W only) or the Collins cousins (Y only.) Unless

86.3  …as I said last week…there is some connection between the Baker and Collins families. So let’s check out 3 such possibilities. In Chart 298, the maternal grandmothers of W and Z are Smythe sisters…one married a Baker, one a Collins. How does this change things? And the key is this: something new is added, but nothing old is taken way…thus W, X, Y, and Z are still Adams 1st cousins…W and X are still Baker 1st cousins, hence double cousins…same with Y and Z on the Collins side.

86.4  It might be good at this point to review what “family connection” really means. It simply means there is someone who is a member of both families thru parental descent. Thus families are combined by blood…and that doesn’t happen thru marriage, but thru procreation. In Chart 298, J is both a Baker and a Smythe, but her father 3 is only a Baker and her mother 4 is only a Smythe. Another way we could have done this is to have made the mothers of 3 Baker and 7 Collins be Smythe sisters…the combinations are really unlimited.

86.5   So in Chart 298, the relationships from Chart 296a still hold…what’s been added is a relationship between W and Z. They are 2nd cousins, since their mothers J and M are 1st cousins, and their grandmothers 4 and 8 are sisters. Likewise, W and Y and 2nd cousins, as are X and Z. So all 4 are collectively 2nd cousins? NO, and that’s where it gets tricky. W and X are not 2nd cousins, nor are Y and Z.

86.6  Taking W as an example, the closest common ancestor between W and X is their maternal grandmother 4…thus W and X are 1st cousins. Yes, they are both related to their great grandmother 2, but she is not the closest common ancestor. Without “closest” in the definition, any pair of 1st cousins would also, by definition, be 2nd cousins (sharing a common great grandparent)…3rd cousins (sharing a common great great grandparent…4th cousins, etc. The whole concept of numbered cousins would lose all meaning.

86.7   But between X and Z…and X and Y as well…their closest common ancestor is a Smythe great grandparent, thus they are 2nd cousins…technically of course, 1 Smythe great grandparent would make them half-2nd cousins…both makes them full 2nd cousins. This is clearer to see in Chart 299…I have removed the connection between K and 4, because from Z’s point of view, with respect to his relationship with W, this connection is irrelevant. And that’s because tracing the connection between W and Z, you do not “go thru” K…there is no direct descent relationship between Z and K…or between W and K for that matter. To Z, K (as well as J) is a collateral relative, his 1st cousin once removed, that is, his mother M’s 1st cousin.

86.8  And since our starting point was looking for double cousin relationships, we do have new ones…W is a double cousin with Y and also with Z…likewise, X is a double cousin with Y and also with Z. But this “new” double cousin relationship is what’s called “irregular double cousins”…different on each side…in this case, 1st cousins on one side, 2nd cousins on the other side. But as we have seen, the “regular double cousin” relationship between W and X…and between Y and Z…that being 1st cousins on both sides…has not changed.

86.9  Deep waters? Yes, but that’s kinship for you…and they’re about to get a lot deeper, with Chart 300. So what have we here? W, X, Y, and Z are still Adams 1st cousins…W and X are still double 1st cousins thru the Baker side and the Adams side…Y and Z are still double 1st cousins thru the Adams side and the Collins side. Also, W and X are still 2nd cousins to Y and Z thru the Smythe family, just as they were in Chart 298. 

86.10  What has changed is that…ahem…W’s parents and X’s parents are, by pairs, 1st cousins, unless they’re siblings…which is to say, K is 1st cousin to her husband B as well as well to her sister J’s husband A….ditto the other way for J. This makes W and X double 2nd cousins as well as double 1st cousins. Can you see how? 1st cousins thru A and B (who are siblings)…1st cousins thru J and K (who are siblings)…2nd cousins thru A and K (who are 1st cousins)…and 2nd cousins thru J and B (who are 1st cousins.) And again, this added relationship doesn’t effect Y and Z, since they are related to W and X thru the Adams and Smythe families only, and those relationships have been accounted for…1st cousins thru Adams, 2nd cousins thru Smythe.

86.11  Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway…if W had a sibling S, they would also be double 2nd cousins to each other, since W’s mother is S’s father’s 1st cousin…and W’s father is S’s mother’s 1st cousin. This of course wouldn’t effect X…his relationship to S would be the same as to W…based on the principal that, for example, if 2 of your 1st cousins are siblings to each other, this has no bearing on your 1st cousin relationship to either.

86.12 And at this point, I’ll just say that Chart 301 is purely optional…extra credit if you want it, but it’s up to you… 😉 😉


86.13  Couple other bits…the cartoon on the left recently caught my eye…but it reminded me that there’s nothing really new under the sun. You know the red and white checkerboard logo of the Ralston Purina company? It was introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, intended to make their burlap bags of feed stand out from the rest. Company founder William Danforth is said to have been inspired by the Brown family he remembered in his childhood home of Charleston, Missouri. When folks brought their produce to town on Saturdays, this clan was clad in clothing the mother made from bolts of checkerboard-patterned cloth…as cheerfully romanticized in the illustration below. Funny, I imagined everything would have been…you know, pants, hats…heck, maybe even underwear…but there you go. That’s the story from the Ralston Purina’s website, and they’re sticking to it…no harm there, sez me…as long as you take childhood memories with a grain of salt…

And we have another post on the wiseGeek “Cousins” page…again, needing not so much an analytical diagram as a dollop of Dear Flabby counsel…which I’m pleased as punch to provide. Next week…OMG!…quarter cousins???…I can’t wait…can you?

Wicked Ballsy

This is pretty cool…a while back I wondered why my charts had such funky “extra” colors splashed in…a kind reader told me why, and guess what? I now save everything as PNG’s instead of JPEG’s…problem solved. Thanx, pal…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#85: Accidents Will Happen…

85.1  …in the best regulated families…or so the old saying goes. Last week, I went thru 54 older blogs, starting with #30…correcting typos and making other small changes. In only a few cases was anything substantial modified, and none of these concerned errors of fact. The only blog that I felt needed an update was also the one that has turned out to be the most popular, #31: Kate and Pearl…concerning the kinship between characters on The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction. I have indeed begun collecting material for an update installment…most importantly, I dashed off some questions to a blogger who claims to be a humungous PJ expert…have yet to hear back, tho.

85.2  So this week, I did the same thing…to ONE blog, #29: Baque 2 Quebec. As I mentioned last time, I suspected that earlier blogs would be “messier”…both in terms of how clearly information was presented, and perhaps even in those pesky little matters of fact. Didn’t take much time to find one of those, boy…it was in the answer to a quiz I posed in #28…asking how 2 members of my own French Canadian family tree were related to each other. Here’s what was there…can you spot the mistake?

85.3  Chart 293  below gives you a closer look, removing some individuals not relevant to the question of how Clement Berube on the left and Clovis Berube on the right are related. You’ll notice that 2 groups of relatives are surrounded by yellow, on the far left and far right…this is the convention I use to indicate that one section of the tree has been repeated somewhere else in the tree, due to the logistics of trying to fit everyone together and connect those that should be connected. And it is just because of this duplication that we can see that Clement’s father Pierre Berube and Clovis’ father Charles Berube are brothers, the sons of the 2nd Louis Berube. Thus Clement and Clovis are 1st cousins on their fathers’ side. 

85.4  That much I had right. They are also 4th cousins on their mothers’ side, since Elizabeth Lizotte and Celeste Roy are 3rd cousins, both the great great granddaughters of Pierre Roy at the top. Also correct. It’s when I got to the relation between Clement and Clovis thru marriage that the boo-boo occurred.

85.5   As you can see in Chart 294, Clement Berube is also 4th cousin to Clovis’ wife Marie Roy since Clement’s mother Elizabeth Lizotte and Marie’s father Augustin Roy are 3rd cousins. Thus it is correct to say, and I did say it, that to the extent that all of Clovis’ wife’s relatives are his relatives-in-law, that includes Clement, who would then be a 4th cousin-in-law, while being a 4th cousin by blood as well. Again, no problem there…from Clement’s point of view, 2 of his 4th cousins on his mother’s side got married, that’s all.

85.6  Where I slipped up was in saying Marie Roy is 4th cousin not only to Clement (correct) but also to her husband Clovis (incorrect.) Truthfully, I got lost in the clutter of the tree, and it’s a lot plainer to see redrawn as Chart 295. I’ve generally found that duplicate portions of a tree, especially if they’re at opposite ends, can be successfully moved into the center, which is what I did with Louis Berube and his 2 sons, still colored yellow for comparison. And again, leaving out non-relevant individuals, we can see that Clovis and his wife Marie Roy are in fact 2nd cousins not 4th…his mother and her father are 1st cousins, the sons of brothers.

85.7  Yes, I was blinded by the fact that both Clovis and his wife were 4th cousins to someone else…but that doesn’t make them necessarily 4th cousins to each other. If Clement had 2 4th cousins on the same side of the family, they could be siblings, 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, or 4th cousins to each other. As you can trace in Chart 295, everyone 4 generations down from Pierre Roy’s daughter Marie-Anne Roy is a 4th cousin to everyone descended from her brother the first Augustin Roy. Between these 2 lines, all are 4th cousins…within each line, they are of course anywhere from siblings to 3rd cousins to each other. In addition, someone who is 4th cousin to Clement could also be 4th cousin to Clovis (and to his wife) if they were 4 generations removed from another sibling of Marie-Anne and Augustin Roy…a third line leading down from Pierre Roy.

85.8  So I blew it…it happens…it’s fixed. But it’s certainly a testament to my growing understanding of these issues that the mistake popped out at me as it did, and for that I’m grateful. But further along in #29, I got to discussing double cousins, and posed 2 scenarios where they may or may not exist. I left that as an “exercise,” but never addressed the answers…so I thought it would be worthwhile to do so now. There were 2 trees presented as Chart 102, in a goofy sort of “hanging tinker-toy” style…I’ve redrawn them and added names to the different groups of cousins…so let’s have a go at it.

85.9  The first thing to notice in Chart 296 is that W, X, Y, and Z are all Adams 1st cousins, since their respective fathers A, B, C, and D are Adams brothers. Then each of these 4 Adams cousins will have cousins on their mothers’ side…and we see that A and B married 2 Baker sisters…while C and D married 2 Collins sisters. Thus W and X are double cousins on the Adams and Baker sides…while Y and Z are double cousins on the Adams and Collins sides.

85.10  I hope you resisted the urge to blurt out Aha, DOUBLE DOUBLE cousins! True, in the Adams clan, there are 2 instances of double cousins…W and X are…and Y and Z are. But the important point is that the fact that W and X are also cousins on the non-Adams side…has no effect whatsoever on their relationship to Y and Z, who are in a similar situation with each other. It would have an effect if there were some kinship tie further back between the Baker and Collins families…but we are here assuming there is not. Bottom line, W is a double 1st cousin to X, as closely related as half-siblings, with a Coefficient of Relationship of 1/4…and W is a “single” 1st cousin to Y and to Z, with the normal 1st cousin CR of 1/8 to each.

85.11  But in Chart 297,  the Smith family barges in, and shoots the whole deal to hell. The 4 “cousins” seem to be connected in a “tag-team” sort of way, yet try as you might, you will not find any double cousins. Recall in Chart 296, W’s 2 sets of cousins were Adams/Baker, as was X’s. Y’s and Z’s sets were Adams/Collins. But here in Chart 297, W is Adams/Baker…X is Baker/Smith…Y is Smith/Collins…and Z is Collins/Adams. The fact that all 4 families are linked together this way is indeed unusual, but it has no kinship effect beyond the curiosity factor. Yes, amongst W, X, Y, and Z, each is 1st cousin to 2 of the others and no relation to the 3rd…but that’s as far as it goes. It sure seems like there should be some sort of “mutual” relationship between the 4, but there is not, at least not as far as their blood kinship is concerned.

85.12   Now going back one generation from the 4 cousins, it is true that the Adams brothers A and D did marry 2  unrelated women, whose respective sisters married the Smith brothers B and C. Depending on how widely you cast your in-law net, that could mean something to you…are A, B, C, and D collectively some manner of brothers-in-law? Not to me*, but it’s a free country, knock wood…

* OK, geez, you want me to spell it out, huh? A’s wife’s sister married the brother of the man who married A’s brother’s wife’s sister…bupkis in my book, but there you go…

85.13  But look here…back in 85.10 I mentioned that 2 pairs of the 4 Adams cousins being double cousin pairs had no additional effect on their kinship…unless the Baker and Collins families were somehow related. I almost added, or the Adams family was related to either or both. Exactly what kinship “bump up” would any or all of these scenarios add? That’s what we’ll look at next week, plus some other odds and ends…they’re starting to accumulate…aloha…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#84: Things and Stuff…and Stuff…

84.1 Things and stuff…and stuff and things…and stuff…” That’s from one of the funkiest tunes Ike and Tina Turner ever recorded…listen to it here. So here’s latest posting at the wiseGEEK Cousin page…didn’t really need a chart…it was more in the nature of a Dear Flabby letter, which I was pleased to answer as best I could…

84.2  And as with so many of Dear Flabby’s real letters, there isn’t much to say except: You CAN’T change other people or how think act or think…you can only change yourself. See, Poster 71 doesn’t want to go out with her “cousin in marriage.” Or marry him either, I would guess. Well, since he isn’t that yet, she could marry him first, as I suggested. Trouble is, the gist of her letter suggests that doing so wouldn’t stop her uncle and his mother from getting hitched, in which case now she’d now be married to her “cousin in marriage.” But she can’t trim the wind, she can only trim her sail…so I suggested a way she could think about the relationship that would help her realize she isn’t related to this guy, and nothing can change that…it’s all in how she approaches it…and that she CAN change.

84.3  Next…back in #50: We Got Mail! I touched upon the subject of namesakes, specifically the Joseph P. Kennedys, and I reprise Chart 175 here. Notice there are 4…the original, the Jr., a II, and a III. I noticed recently in our local paper a sad item in the obits…the death of an infant, which is of course a terrible thing, and nothing to trivialize. But what interested me was the fact that this was “John Q. Public VI“…I’ll respect their privacy and not use real names.

84.4  There are no hard and fast rules for using such numbers…each family is free to follow its own custom or inclination. And where the broadest range of different practices occurs is in dealing with the living versus the dead. Here, I wondered if all 6 John Q. Publics were still alive…turns out they are not…only the father V, the grandfather IV, and the great grandfather III. Still, this was an interesting example of how it can be done…and is.

84.5  Finally, in last week’s examination of F.M. Lancaster’s take on 2nd cousins, we had this…he in italics, my comment in red

I did a little web-surfing, and sure enough, 1½ cousins are few and far between…but I did find one reference, on a very long and somewhat disorganized family genealogy page…here I’ve summarized the relevant bits of information…

84.6  What we have is twin sisters marrying 1st cousins…the green circles in Chart 292 are folks of unkonwn gender. If identical twins, their offspring would be the equivalent of Enhanced Half-Siblings…if fraternal, they’re 1st cousins on the mothers’ side, 2nd cousins on the fathers’ side. In in either case, we’re taking about the relationship between ME’s parent and the 10 children of Peter and Minnie Hiebert.

84.7  Now whichever is actually the case, something is compelling ME to consider those 10 children, in relation to himself, not to his mother, his 1½ cousins…well, at the very least…“plus other ties.” Is this indeed a case of 1C1R being given that unusual fractional cousin name? Does there being twins involved have anything to do with it, to his way of thinking? Can’t be sure…further digging might help…someday…just not today. Back next week…take care…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#83: Meet The Perfessor

83.1  My knowledge and enjoyment of kinship relationships…and the genetics behind them…got a massive kick-start when I found this website a couple of years ago…Genetic and Quantitative Aspects of Genealogy. Despite the stuffy title, it is loaded with sound information…an introductory course to this stuff. Written in 2005, and last updated in 2007, by a Brit named F.M. Lancaster…a professor of animal genetics and breeding at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire, retired since 1993. His specialty was waterfowl and poultry…ducks and chickens to us. Applying his expertise to human genealogy was inspired by his daughter, who was researching their family tree.

83.2  And based on the daughter’s genealogy site, I believe F.M. is the gentleman on the left…if it is not, I will stand corrected and….well, correct it. But it is from this source that I learned so much beyond the basics…including what I call the Parental Tree…he calls it a Path Diagram…where the only connection between individuals is parentship. This method is not useful for mapping out actual family histories, but is ideal for figuring the connections and degrees of relationship between relatives. And it’s not surprising that an expert in animal husbandry would prefer it, since let’s face it…ducks don’t have weddings.

83.3  Here are 3 typical examples from G&Q, along with my “tinker-toy” translations.

As you can see, he uses a downward arrow to connect parent and child. And you should recognize the familiar X pattern for full siblings in G&Q 2…and the W pattern for half-siblings in G&Q 1, 3. Here he is figuring the Coefficient of Relationship between the 2 individuals indicated in red. In the caption for G&Q 1, what does “non-reciprocal” mean? To be honest, I don’t really care. In this case, my normally “enquiring mind” prefers not to know why you’d label relationships that way…or symmetric/asymmetric either…after all the wrangling we went thru with the Wikipedians last week… 😉 😉 Such formal categorization is typical of academicians…”eggheads”…and fully appropriate to what they’re used to, so we’ll let it go.

83.4  What we’re looking at here are types of “Enhanced Half-Siblings.” The individuals in red share the same father…I’ve colored his circle blue in each case…but unlike typical half-siblings whose unshared parents would not be related to each other, these are. In G&Q 1, the mothers B and D are themselves mother and daughter…in G&Q 2, the mothers are aunt and niece…in G&Q 3, half-aunt and half-niece. Granted…as in G&Q 1 for example…people would tend to look askance at a man having a child with a woman, then a child with that woman’s daughter…but still, the father in all 3 cases is not related by blood to any of the women he procreates with.

83.5   And since the author comes from an animal husbandry background, the father very likely could have been! In fact, at one point F.M. gives an example of “line breeding”…a sire mated to his daughter, then granddaughter, then great granddaughter, etc. Thus he does not shy away from what we gently call “interbreeding”…it’s going to turn up in your own family tree sooner or later…the further back you go, the less likely it is that any of your “great ancestor” pairs were completely unrelated to each other…it’s simply a fact of mathematics. He will also unabashedly use the word “pedigree” as applied to humans…as should you.

83.6  At any rate, today I’d like to comment on…”annotate” if you will…a section of G&Q dealing with removed cousins, since that is a major sticking point to popular understanding of our kinship system. And I must say, after having done this with the cockamamie explanations of “cousins” at wiseGEEK and Wikipedia, it is a pleasure to be dealing with someone who knows what they’re talking about. Still, I wondered at first if he really had it right…in a roundabout fashion, he does…but I think it’s instructive to see how even an expert can wobble a bit…

83.7  His commentary is in italics…my notes are in red…and I have redrawn his Figures 1 & 2 as Charts 290 and 291.

83.8   Removed cousinships probably cause more misunderstanding than any other relationship. Although the subject is well covered in the main text, a further look would seem appropriate to identify any potentially difficult areas. How very true this is…specifically, the misunderstanding of, and hence confusion between (A) your true cousins…that is, the cousins of your generation, what are sometimes called “contemporary cousins” or what I call “numbered cousins”…1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, etc…and (B) your removed cousins, who aren’t your cousins at all, but are the either the numbered cousins of your direct ancestors…your father’s cousins, your grandfather’s cousins, etc…or the descendants of your numbered cousins…for example, your 1st cousin’s grandson, your 2nd cousin’s son, etc.

83.9  And notice that in the (B) category, what looks like 2 different groups of relations are simply the 2 “ends” of the same relation, no different in principal than uncle/nephew or even father/son. The awkward “removed” terminology we use makes it seem more difficult than it is. Also important to understand is that in the (B) category, these 2 groups are essentially the X’s of your Y’s…and the Y’s of your X’s…your generation is the turning point…above, it’s figured one way…below, another way. The notion that relations are reckoned differently going up or down from you is also true of uncle/nephew and father/son. This is because the 2 ends of those relationships differ in a very important way: You are related to everyone your father or your uncle is related to…but you are not related to everyone your son or your nephew is related to…that is, you aren’t related to your son’s mother (your wife) or your nephew’s mother (your sister-in-law)…nor to those mothers’ families, obviously. Going forward from you, new family lines are introduced…starting with your wife and her family. Going backward, there are no “new” family lines…they all lead to you!

83.10  By definition, all relationships are a two-way affair and removed cousins are no exception. To rationalise their relationship, one of the two cousins should be regarded as the primary focus of attention and referred to as the nominee or proband. The other cousin being considered as dependant or secondary.  But my goodness, perfessors love their jargon, God bless ’em, as here. Proband? Isn’t that a kind of men’s trousers with an elastic waist? 😉 😉 I agree that to understand the 1C1R relationship, you should focus on one individual. I would not have chosen as he has…why he chose how he did will be germane to the issue of whom you should not choose, as we shall see. I would chose the father…in Chart 290 he is H. It is because of him that there are 1C1R’s at all…one is his son, the other is his 1st cousin, the son’s 1C1R. Our clumsy “removed” terminology obscures the fact that this is exactly the way it works with uncle/nephew…a parallel which the Spanish system makes crystal clear using 2nd uncle/2nd nephew instead of 1C1R ascending/descending. There simply are no uncles or nephews if the father doesn’t have a son (the nephew) and a brother (the uncle.)

83.11  The general term “cousins once removed”, does not indicate who is the nominee, so it is not possible to determine which cousin is the senior one in terms of generations. My proposal to resolve this difficulty is to use the terms, “removed forwards” or “removed backwards” to identify the senior partner.   A little of the “ivory tower” syndrome here? This terminology has long been in place, either backwards/forwards, or what I’m more familiar with, ascending/descending…but he’s right to reiterate the necessity of it.

83.12   In the above diagram, if G is chosen as the proband; then J‘s relationship to G (i.e. looking at the relationship from G‘s point of view) is: First cousin, female, once removed (forwards). But if J is the proband, then G‘s relationship to J is: First cousin, male, once removed (backwards).

83.13  I think one of the major causes of confusion is when the “forwards and backwards” terminology is applied, quite correctly, to a single nominated individual, as opposed to using it reciprocally in a mutual relationship between the same two individuals, as shown between G and J above. Not sure what he means by this…no kinship relation can exist unless it’s between 2 people. It would be very odd to hear someone referred to as “a 2nd cousin” without it being specified to whom. 

83.14  In the second diagram (Figure 2) Where Kis the only nominated person, N‘s relationship to K is: Second cousin, male, once removed (forwards). But, I‘s relationship to K is: First cousin, female, once removed (backwards). Thus, the level of cousin relationship is different depending on whether you are looking forwards or backwards through the generations from the same person. OK, he’s starting to get off track here…his conclusions are correct, but he is close to making a very serious mistake. The cousin removed relationship between K and N derives from the existence of L…he is the 2nd cousin of K and the father of N. On the other hand, the cousin removed relation between K and I does not depend on L, but instead on H…because it is H who is the one who has a first cousin and a son. Indeed, trying to derive the relationship between K and I by going thru L leads to the common mistake that the father of your 2nd cousin is  your 2nd cousin once removed.

83.15  Furthermore, the ability to look both ways, from the same nominee, is not always possible. e.g. Returning to Figure 1; if the nominated person is G, as before, then J‘s relationship to G will remain: First cousin, female, once removed (forwards). However, when looking back to E from G, E is not G‘s removed cousin, he is his Uncle. There is no backward removed cousin relationship between E and G because D and E are full sibs, not cousins. Similarly, in Figure 2, E‘s relationship to the proband K is Great UncleI don’t understand what he means by saying it might be impossible to look forward or back…you always can…which is why at Related How Again?  I stress the importance of knowing how to determine a Cousin Line…that is, how each of the the direct ancestors of your numbered cousin is related to you…and this is all the more easy to understand since a pattern emerges based on the number of that numbered cousin. For example, going up from your 4th cousin, you have 3+1…2+2…1+3…x x x uncle…and finally x x x grandfather….those last 2 being phrases that consist of 4 words…4 being the key to the entire ancestor cousin line.  Spelled out, 3C1R…2C2R…1C3R…great great grand uncle…and great great great grandfather.

83.16  In fact, now that I think about it, he is dangerously close to making another error…that is, in thinking that “uncles” and “cousins removed” are 2 fundamentally different kinds of relationships. Sure, they sound different…an uncle is not a cousin after all. But as the Cousin Line demonstrates, none of these relatives are your cousins…they are all your collateral ancestors, and the 2 brothers…the sons of the common ancestor shared by you and your numbered cousin…get a special name…something something uncle. The only difference is in the nomenclature….but yes, it certainly adds to the confusion.

83.17  The fundamental rule for determining the level of cousin relationship when looking backwards or forwards in a “removed” situation is as follows: There are three relevant individuals in each removed relationship, two are contemporary cousins and the third, who is always positioned in a later generation, is the child, grandchild or other descendant of one of the two cousins. e.g. In Figure 2, where K is the same proband in two different relationships, when looking backwards: H and I are the two cousins (first) and K is the third member. But, when looking forwards: K and L are the two cousins (second) and N is the third member. Therefore, it is the relationship between the two contemporary cousins in each case, which determines the title, and the third person must be located at least a generation later than the two cousins. After much fumbling and bumbling, he finally states it right…all cousin removed relationships involve 2 cousins and the descendent of one of them. Wish he would have started with that at the beginning instead of probanding around like a nominee with its head cut off.

83.18  A common error is to select the third person from an earlier generation. e.g. In Figure 2, when considering the relationship between K and I, the mistake is to choose K and L as the cousins (instead of H and I) and I as the third person (instead of K), which would, incorrectly, give the relationship as: Second cousins once removed instead of the true title of: First cousins once removed.  See, just what I said…he really does get it, but he had us wondering for a while. Better to say: Just as uncle/nephew describes the relationship between a father’s son and that father’s brother, so too 1C1R is a relationship between a father’s son and that father’s 1st cousin. And not to sound like a broken record, but this so much clearer in Spanish, with 2nd uncle/2nd nephew.

83.19  The direction, forwards or backwards, simply depends on who is the proband; the relevant cousin or the third person. The relevant cousin being the one who is not the parent or grandparent of the third member. First cousins once removed are sometimes referred to as 1½ cousins and second cousins once removed as 2½ cousins. Never heard of this, and count myself fortunate. However, this terminology is not very satisfactory as it breaks down when applied to cousins two or three times removed, and should be avoided. 

83.20  Finally, the number of times removed, i.e. once, twice or three times, depends on how many generations separate the two individuals. e.g. See Figure 3 and Table 5. In Table 5, the probands are printed in red.  I have omitted the figure and the table…it simply expands what we’ve been talking about out to 3rd cousins then reviews all the cousin, uncle/aunt, and niece/nephew relationships that result. I checked them and they are correct…this final part, and indeed the entire article, may be reviewed here.

83.21  So there you have it…a bit creaky in spots perhaps, but the information is accurate enough. All I’ve tried to do is suggest a better way…hopefully a clearer and more intuitive way…to understand cousins removed. But again, nice to “banter” with someone who knows which end is up! Next week, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time…a lot of fun for me, altho probably not for you so much…plus a couple of recent odds and ends…see yez…


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved