#101: Pencils Down!!

101.1  First, the answers to last week warm-up quiz…they are below, boxed in green…

quiz warmup answers

101.2  Your father’s uncle is your grand uncle. Now if you said great uncle, you’re not wrong per se. In fact, legal decisions exist to the effect that the 2 phrases refer to the same thing…your parent’s uncle or your grandparent’s brother. Genealogy prefers “grand uncle” for this reason: once you start layering on “greats,” your direct ancestor and his brother will always have the same number of them. For example, your great great great great great grandfather’s brother is your great great great great great grand uncle. Each of them has 5 “greats,” commonly abbreviated as 5G. If you used “great uncle” rather than “grand uncle,” then the brother would be your great great great great great great uncle…6 greats…the same number of greats as his father, your 6G grandfather. Thus, the number of greats and the generations are off by one.

101.3   Using “grand uncle” keeps the number of greats in line with the generation. The way to best explain it is, you have no “great uncle” because you have no “great father.” What makes it even more confusing is the tendency of people who say “great uncle” to also say “grand nephew”…whoops!

101.4  Next…Your father’s 1st cousin is your 1st cousin once removed. Here “once removed” refers to your father’s generation…”twice removed” to your grandfather’s generation…”3 times removed” to your great grandfather’s generation, etc. We could very well be living in a culture where people understood “removed” as naturally as they understand “aunt/niece” or “brother/sister”…but we aren’t. And nobody but cousins are referred to as “removed”…for uncles and direct ancestors, the generations are indicated by “grand,” “great grand,” “great great grand” etc. We do it 2 different ways…it is what it is.

101.5  And while it wasn’t part of the quiz, the son of your 1st cousin Walt would also be your 1st cousin once removed. The reason these 2 seemingly different relatives of yours are called the same thing is that they are the same thing: 2 people are 1st cousins once removed to each other if the 1st cousin of one of them is the father of the other. This sounds complicated until you realize that it’s the same with uncle/nephew…the brother of one of them is the father of the other. It’s just that now, we have 2 different terms…”uncle” for the older generation, the one with the brother…and “nephew” for the younger generation, the one with the father

101.6  Wouldn’t it be better if we had something simpler to call your parent’s 1st cousin…like we do for your parents’ sibling, uncle/aunt? Of course. Instead we have the awkward “1st cousin once removed”…and as we’ve seen, this doesn’t indicate older or younger generation the way uncle/nephew does. This is a gaping hole in our system, plugged by genealogists by using “1st cousin once removed ascending,” what in Spanish is called “2nd uncle,” for the older…and “1st cousin once removed descending,” in Spanish “2nd nephew,” for the younger. Needless to say, it makes more sense in Spanish…but you know what? We soldier on in English, inconvenient terminology be damned. Yay for us.

101.7  Granted, you may have always called your 1st cousin’s son your 2nd cousin, but you were always wrong. It doesn’t do any good to argue about it…it’s a mistake, and if you want to play with the genealogical big boys, you have to stop making it. Forget about dictionaries…they report common usage even when it’s wrong….you must always take the dictionary with a smidgen of sodium chloride, unfortunately.

101.8  So who is a 2nd cousin? That’s the next answer…The son of your father’s 1st cousin is your 2nd cousin. And what I call “numbered cousins” go on the same way: the son of your father’s 2nd cousin is your 3rd cousin…which is to say, when a pair of 2nd cousins have kids, those kids are 3rd cousins to each other…the 2 kids being you, son of your father, and your 3rd cousin, son of your father’s 2nd cousin. The key here is that all-important concept of reciprocity: to your father’s 2nd cousin, your father is his 2nd cousin. Reciprocity is vital to keep from getting lost among the branches of the family tree. Trust me on this.

101.9  And thus the final answer is: The son of your father’s 1st cousin is your father’s 1st cousin once removed. According to the diagram, Wes has the same relation to Adam…thru Andy…as Walt’s son would have to you…thru Walt.

answer 1

101.10  quiz 1…The only way X and Y can be related is if they have parents that are related. X‘s mother 1 is not related to the others in the parents’ generation, so she and her parents A and B do not factor in. Now 2 and 3 are half-siblings, so X and Y are half-1st cousins, CR = 1/16. Same thing with 3 and 4 for another 1/16. So X and Y are double half-1st cousins, CR = 1/8. (Amongst the “tag-team” half-siblings, 2 and 4 are not related, altho they do share 3 as a half-sibling…they are, in relatively recent terminology, “quarter siblings.”)

answer 2

101.11  quiz 2…Sneaky me…I took the fact that 1 wasn’t related to the other parents and changed it…making B and C the same person, namely Z. Now 1 and 2 are also half-siblings, along with 2+3 and 3+4….so X and Y are triple half-1st cousins, CR = 1/16 + 1/16 + 1/16 = 3/16.

answer 3

101.12  quiz 3…This is the same diagram as quiz 1, but with 5 and 6 added to the great grandparents’ generation. As before, X and Y are double half-1st cousins (combined CR = 1/8) thru grandparents D, E, and F. Let’s look at what’s changed between A, B, and C. And you should notice another sneaky thing, altho I really didn’t mean it to be: A‘s mother and B‘s father are not shown, so we may assume they are “somebody else” and do not figure into the tag-team half-sibling arrangement.

101.13   So…simply take them one by each…A and C now have the same father 5 so they are half-siblings…1 and 2 are thus half-1st cousins. B and C have the same mother 6 so they are also half-siblings, thus 1 and 2 are half-1st cousins another way…making them double half-1st cousins. Their children X and Y are double half-2nd cousins, CR = 1/32…added to the 1/8 from double half-1st cousins = 5/32.

answe r4

101.14  quiz 4Look at this diagram carefully…then rub your eyes and look at quiz 2… keep rubbing as necessary. All that’s happened is that X and Y have traded parents and been moved around to keep you guessing…a shell-game added to the tag-team.  2 and 4 were the parents of Y, now they’re the parents of X and vice versa. But it’s the same relationship, triple half-1st cousins…and the same CR = 3/16.

answer 5

101.15  quiz 5Finally, this takes quiz 2…where B and C morphed into Z…and also adds great grandparents. But careful now! There aren’t any more half-siblings pairs added into the parents’ generation…that’s because A and F are full siblings thru 5 and 6. Thus 1 and 4 are full 1st cousins, and X and Y are full 2nd cousins…CR = 1/32…plus the 3/16 = 6/32 they got as triple half-1st cousins in quiz 2…grand total CR = 7/32. This BTW demonstrates that 2 individuals can be half-cousins one way and full cousins another…you just have to keep it all straight…yup, that’s all!  Back to the mail-bag next week…ciao 4 nao…

Wicked Ballsy


The answer to last week’s Muppet question is Lew Zealand, that old chum-chucker. But we were talking a while back about people who weren’t identical twins but looked like they were…and I was reminded of actor Rex Reason and his younger brother by 2 years Rhodes Reason. They were often mistakenly thought to be twins.  In fact, the photo above, lower right, is identified on the net as Rex some places, Rhodes other places.  I’m gonna guess it’s Rex, but don’t quote me…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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