#91: Time Again For Mail Time

Dear Stolf: I am in almost daily contact with the planet Xenobulax…and the inhabitants there thought you might be interested in what their genealogical charts look like.  …from Col. Bleep, Zero-Zero Island

91.0  My Dear Colonel: …and you’re right…I might be interested. Thanx, pal…out of this world. Seriously…I mean that…I’m touched you thought of me…cosmic…

Dear Stolf:  Re last week’s discussion of cousins sharing
grandparents…it occurred to me that not only could 2 people share both a grandfather and a grandmother, and still not be 1st cousins…but one of them could even have those grandparents as a married pair, and it still wouldn’t guarantee 1st cousins, as I have sketched out. Right?  …from Hominie, in Gritsburg

91.1  Dear Hominie: Of course right! Funny coincidence…I was using the smallest room in the house when that same idea popped into my head (no pun intended, but whatcha gonna do?) To recap, last week we were reviewing the inadequacies of trying to define cousinhood thru shared grandparents. On the left side of Chart 314, we see the typical 1st cousin arrangement…2 full brothers marry unrelated sisters and have sons X and Y. On the right side, X and Y also have a CR of 1/8, equivalent to that of 1st cousins, yet they are not 1st cousins, but double half-1st cousins…despite sharing a grandfather A and a grandmother B.

91.2  I have redrawn your diagram at the top of Chart 315…and you might wonder, does the fact that X has the shared grandparents thru just one of his parents make his relationship to Y more than just the double half-cousins illustrated in Chart 314? No, it does not…there are only 2 pairs of paths involved…from X and Y to B thru their fathers…and from X and Y to A thru X‘s father and Y‘s mother…so that’s of CR of 1/16 + 1/16 = 1/8.

91.3  By way of comparison, at the bottom of Chart 315 is the previous double half-1st cousins chart, on the left, and a re-drawn version on the right. It’s a matter of personal taste whether lines of descent crossing one another on such a chart makes it less clear…there’s certainly an argument that way. On the other hand, cross-overs do allow all those individuals of the same generation to appear on the same horizontal level, which you can’t do with non-cross-overs…unless you go “up and over,” which I’d just as soon not. Another thing that crossed lines allow for is shown in Chart 316…

91.4  …and I’d like to thank F. M Lancaster for the “trick” of connecting A to 4. Now X and Y are quadruple half-1st cousins, with a CR of 1/16  x  4 = 1/4, the equivalent of half-siblings, or double 1st cousins. X‘s grandparents are A/B and C/D, while Y‘s grandparents are B/C and A/D…no 2 pairs are the same. Yes, quadruple, because X and Y share all 4 grandparents…and yet they are not double 1st cousins nor even single 1st cousins, due to this unique “tag-team” arrangement. See what you started, Hominie? Hope you’re happy… 😉 😉


Dear Stolf: I’m confused…sometimes when you go down a generation, the degree of relationship is cut in half…like from your father to you it’s ½…then from your father to your son it’s half that, or 1/4. But other times it’s reduced by a quarter…like you and your 1st cousin  are related by 1/8, which is a quarter of the relationship between you and your father (or between your cousin and your uncle) not half. Why is it different?  …from Sonny in Business City

91.5  Dear Sonny: Actually, going down one generation is never “different”…it’s always one half, owing to the nature of sexual reproduction on our planet…i.e. 2 parents…could be different on Xenobulax, obviously. Thus, you as the offspring get half your genetic heritage from your father, half from your mother. You are related to everyone your father is related to, but only by half as much as he is.

91.6  Chart 317 is your father and a bunch of his relatives…then in Chart 318,  you come on the scene and your relation to all your father’s relatives is in each case half what his is. One peculiarity you’ll notice is that in doing this, your relation to your brother is 1/4, not ½…and that’s correct…thru your father, anyone who is his son has a Coefficient of Relationship with you of 1/4. The reason you and your brother have a  CR of ½ is that you also get 1/4 from your mother…so 1/4 + 1/4 = ½. Remember, full siblings are “double half-siblings.” And that’s why, when kinship was reckoned unilineally, or thru just one line, there was no difference between brothers and half-brothers…in each case, you had the same father and that was enough.

91.7  But the part of Chart 318 we must zero in on is between you and your 1st cousin…sure enough, the CR between your father and his father is ½…but between you and your 1st cousin, it’s 1/8…like you said, it looks like in this case going down a generation divides it by 4, not by 2. But you can now see what’s happening…between your father and your 1st cousin (his nephew), it’s half what it is between your father and your 1st cousin’s father (your father’s brother, your uncle)…1/4. And how could your 1st cousin be related to you by the same degree that he’s related to your father? Well, he can’t…which is why the half “doubles” when you are comparing 2 individuals, who are descended from 2 other individuals who are related to each other.

91.8  Thus we see on the right of Chart 319, A and B are half-1st cousins…a CR of 1/16. From A to B‘s son Y is half that, or 1/32…but between son Y and son X, it’s half again, or 1/64. You could look at it this way: between A and X, you go “go down once”…that’s A to X…and divide by 2. But between X and Y, you “go down twice”…A to X…and B to Y…so you divide by 2 twice, or 4. And this principle will come into play in a big way next week, when I tackle a seemingly innocuous task.

Dear Stolf: In my family, my parents had me when they were very young. They divorced, married other poeple and had separate families…then years later ended up remarried to each other and had my brother. I know he’s my full brother, but he doesn’t feel like it, since I was raised with one group of my half-siblings. Have you ever heard of such a thing?  Is there a name for it?  …Cindy Lou, from Ogdensvilleburg

91.8  Dear CL: No, I have to admit I haven’t….and I’m guessing this all happened a while back, since you say it was accomplished thru marriages and divorces. That’s old school for sure…today, lots of folks just don’t take the time or effort to bother with that sort of stuff. Name for it? How about “non-serial full siblings” or something along those lines.

91.9  But to review…chronologically…there’s you…then a group of your half-siblings thru your father, and another group thru your mother, one of which you were raised with…then a full brother. Unusual, certainly, but as your case demonstrates, not impossible. Charting it all out is another matter. Detailed genealogical information is best written out as text, as a list. For your father for example, you’d list his first marriage to your mother and the children that resulted (i.e. you)…then his second marriage to your step- mother…then his remarriage to your mother…with your mother’s second marriage in there too, so all your step-siblings are accounted for, as well as your Johnny-come-lately full brother.

91.10  Drawing a chart or diagram for an entire family seldom works…there’s just too much information and too many individuals to account for. To illustrate some small portion of your family, yes, a chart can work. One other factor is this: with a sequential list, you are able to indicate chronological order…which siblings were born first, which marriage came first, etc. You can try to do that with charts as well…first is on the far left, last is on the far right. But how in the world can we do that in your case, with the multiple marriages, remarriages, and sets of half-siblings?

91.11  One approach goes back to one of my earliest charts…and the idea that all individuals don’t have to represented by the same size or shape. In Chart 19, each of your successive ancestors gets “bigger”…which does 2 things: it keeps all the “Cousin Lines” in line…and it also shows how many of those descendants belong to each ancestor’s own individual line: simply those “below” him. But you know what? Maybe that goofy Xenobulaxian chart might come in handy…

91.12  Yeah, it looks pretty weird…and while the descendants of your full sibling and your half-sibling thru your father could just be placed underneath…there’s no room for the descendants of you or your half-sibling thru your mother…they would have to go on the right somewhere, with long lines connecting the generations…very messy. But Chart 320 does do 2 important things…first, all the siblings, half or whole, are connected to their respective parents…and second, the chronological sequence is maintained, left to right…first came you, then 2 groups of your half-siblings, then your parents reconnected for your full sibling. If you’ve got an eye for geometry, perhaps you could do better…I’d be pleased to see it! Till next time, aloha…

Wicked Ballsy

Classic humor is funny because everyone can relate to it…and everybody has family, right? Time and again, the great Groucho Marx would turn to family dynamics, with all its twists and turns. Take this exchange from You Bet Your Lifeit was deemed too “racy” to be broadcast in the early 1950s, but the moment was saved for the “gag reel” shown to salesmen at sponsor’s conventions…

Groucho:  So you had 5 children and 2 pigs…
Woman:  But then we had 3 more…
Groucho:  3 more pigs?
Woman:  No, children.
Groucho:  And what about your husband?
Woman:  Oh, he’s dead.
Grouch0:  Really? Maybe he’s just hiding…

Pretty innocent, no? By the late 1960s, things had loosened up, and so we have this bit from a Kraft Music Hall TV roast of Johnny Carson, where Groucho says…

I  went to Johnny’s hometown in Nebraska and  I spoke with Johnny’s mother. Fortunately, she remembers him. She doesn’t remember his father, but she remembers Johnny. Then I spoke with Johnny’s first grade teacher. She doesn’t remember him…altho she does remember his father.

Of course Johnny took the ribbing in good humor…could I have been so gracious? I’m not sure I wouldn’t have asked Groucho: By the way, whose hair is that?  But finally, please enjoy this endearing ditty


Copyright © 2012 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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