#108: Can’t Believe It’s That Simple


108.1  I was recently reading a description of that goofy 1959 monster movie Beast from Haunted Cave, and it mentioned one of the stars was Richard Sinatra, “Frank’s cousin.” Now the simple word “cousin”…without a number in front of it or “removeds” after it…can cover a lot of ground. It commonly means 1st cousins…2 people whose parents are siblings. In this case, it doesn’t…Frank and Dick are 2nd cousins once removed. Now perhaps you’re glad they left it at just “cousins,” since “2nd cousins once removed” is just too complicated to figure out, right?

108.2  Well, let me say 2 things about that. First, the fact that it said “Frank’s cousin” wasn’t all that helpful…all it tells you is that they are related…but jeepers, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate that in show business anyone with the last name Sinatra had better be related to ole Blue Eyes, cabeesh? So at best, it told you that Frank and Dick are somehow related…at worst, since the last names are the same, it told you that Frank’s father and Dick’s father are brothers…which they most definitely are not.

108.3  And second, “X cousins Y times removed” really isn’t complicated at all…it’s just that nobody ever explained it to you. That’s where Related How Again? comes in…and here’s the secret: it’s all in the NUMBERS…whether it’s a numbered cousin, a removed cousin, or both…the NUMBERS tell you everything you need to know. But even that isn’t difficult because the numbers are quite logical…1 = father2 = grandfather3 = great grandfather4 = great great grandfather…and so forth. And you can even count it out from the words themselves, if you separate “grand” from “father,” as seen in Chart 381.

chart 381

108.4  Let’s suppose all you know about “cousins” is what 1st cousins are…that is, you and your 1st cousin have parents who are siblings…and for simplicity’s sake, we’ll assumed those siblings are your fathers. Now the number 1 is associated with fathers…what could that mean with respect to 1st cousins? Well, their fathers are brothers…there simply isn’t anything more that’s involved. And for numbered cousins in general, that’s exactly what the number means…so for 2nd cousins the number is 2…and 2 means grandfathers…so 2nd cousins have grandfathers who are brothers. And so on for 3rd cousins (great grandfathers are brothers)…4th cousins (great great grandfathers are brothers)…and on down the line.

chart 382

108.5  Just that simple? Yupper. So now you have numbered cousins locked up solid. In Chart 382, the individuals marked 1C, 2C, and 3C are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins to the individual marked YOU. If you were to study this diagram, some other interesting facts might occur to you. For example, how are your father and your 2nd cousin’s father related to each other? Well, their fathers are brothers, so they are 1st cousins…thus 2nd cousins not only have grandfathers who are brothers, but fathers who are 1st cousins. Try it with the next along, with 3rd cousins…and you’ll see that 3rd cousins have great grandfathers who are brothers…but also grandfathers who are 1st cousins, and fathers who are 2nd cousins. And this pattern continues all the way up and across the family tree.

108.6  Another thing you might notice is how your 1st cousin is related to your 2nd cousin. Now from your point of view, the 2 sons (in green) of your grandfather (in red) are very different people…one is your father, the other is your uncle, obviously. But from the point of view of your 2nd cousin, these 2 men are interchangeable…they are both his father’s 1st cousins. There is no genealogical different between them…nor is their any difference between their sons, you and your 1st cousin. So you and your 1st cousin are both 2nd cousins to your 2nd cousin…and again, continuing along…your 1st and 2nd cousins are both just 3rd cousins to your 3rd cousin…and this pattern never changes as well.

chart 383

108.7   In Chart 382, we left several individuals blank…Chart 383 fills them in, extending the tree out to your 4th cousin (in orange.) And here is the key to understanding how cousinship works…the solid circles along the bottom are YOUR 1st thru 4th cousins…they are your GENERATION…each is descended from a closest common ancestor by the same number of steps as you are. See the individuals marked 1C, 2C, 3C written in green? They are NOT your cousins, but your father’s cousins. The 1C and 2C in red are your grandfather’s cousins…and the 1C in blue is your great grandfather’s cousin.

108.8  Again, your father’s, grandfather’s, and great grandfather’s cousins are NOT your cousins…they are your cousins removed. How many times removed? The numbers work exactly the same as for numbered cousins, as per Chart 381. Your father’s cousins are your cousins once removed…because 1 = father…your grandfather’s cousins are your cousins twice removed…your great grandfather’s cousins are your cousins 3 times removed, etc.

108.9  Thus, whether it’s numbered cousins (YOUR cousins) or cousins removed (SOMEBODY ELSE’S cousins) the numerical correspondence as outlined in Chart 381 holds true…it’s the only numerical system for cousins you need to know. For example, 2nd cousin…that’s 2 = grandfatheryour grandfathers are brothers. Or take 1st cousin twice removed…the removed is again 2 = grandfatheryour grandfather’s 1st cousin. And that’s all there is to it…apply Chart 381 to numbered cousins, cousins removed, or both…and you can’t go wrong.


108.10  When we began, you weren’t exactly sure what the “types” of cousins represented…now, armed with that knowledge, you let’s look again at the Sinatras. Frank and Richard Sinatra are 2nd cousins once removed.  Taking the removed part first, we see from Chart 381 that the 1 in “once removed” refers to “father.” Either Frank is Richard’s father’s 2nd cousin…or Richard is Frank’s father’s 2nd cousin. …unfortunately, we can’t tell which. This is a flaw in our system of kinship terminology. Suppose for example that we had just one word to refer to either end of the uncle/nephew relationship…say “nuncle.”

108.11  So if we said that Frank and Richard were nuncles, it would either mean Frank is the brother of Richard’s father…(Frank is the uncle, Richard is the nephew)…or Richard is the brother of Frank’s father (Richard is the uncle, Frank is the nephew.) Again, we couldn’t tell which was which. But since in the development of the English language people found it useful to know which was which, 2 different words evolved…uncle and nephew…actually, they’re derived from the French. I hope you can see that “cousin once removed”…that is, one of you is the cousin of the other’s father…is a parallel case to “uncle/nephew”…one of you is the brother of the other’s father. The difference again is that for removeds we don’t have 2 different words or phrases.

108.12  The best we can do in genealogy is to call the younger one (equivalent to the nephew) “cousin once removed descending“…and the older one (equivalent to the uncle) “cousin once removed ascending.” And here “younger/older” does not refer to chronological age but instead to generations…you can in fact be older than your uncle, if your grandparents have a son after your father has you.

ray108.13  With the Sinatras then, I’ll have to tell you…Frank is the older generation… Richard is the son of Frank’s 2nd cousin…and  that 2nd cousin would be Raymond Patrick “Ray” Sinatra, 11 years older than Frank, and an accomplished bandleader in his own right, having worked with Mario Lazna primarily, and also with singer Tony Martin, among others…and yes, even occasionally with Frank. And since Frank and Ray are 2nd cousins…and from Chart 381, 2 = grandfather…Frank and Ray’s grandfathers were brothers.

108.14  Of course, the relationship between Frank and Ray is variously described by what I call the “4 usual suspects”…they are either 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, distant cousins, or just plain cousins. I am confident that 2nd cousins is right…altho I have yet to identify the brother of Frank’s grandfather Francesco from whom Ray is descended. An inquiry to the Sinatra Family Forum run by Nancy Sinatra has gone unanswered so far…was I being too nosey? She, BTW, calls Dick her “cousin”…precisely, it would be what? If you said 3rd cousin, gold star for you. Also, I scoped him out in that monster movie, and he’s playing…in 1959, mind you… the original version of Joe Pesci…it’s uncanny! A more extensive look at Frank Sinatra’s fascinating family tree is in the works…watch for it…and join us again next week, wontcha?


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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