#111: Up the Ladder

111.1  There is a procedure I use virtually every time I’m evaluating a kinship relationship, so I thought it was time I give it a formal name: “Cousin Ladder.”  It starts with the “Cousin Line,” which Chart 395 demonstrates for your 3rd cousin and your 4th cousin.

chart 395

111.2  A Cousin Line is simply how the direct ancestors of your cousin are related to you, step by step, back to your mutual common ancestor. At first you might memorize it by rote, as I did…but you’ll deal with it so often, it’ll become second nature, and it really is one of the keys to fully understanding the workings and connections of a family tree. As you can see, whichever numbered cousin you start with, that number guides you all the way up. For 4th cousins for example, the key number is 4…quite logically, wouldn’t you say? Numbered cousins removed must add up to 4…when you run out of numbered cousins, you have an uncle with 4 words…then a grandfather with 4 words…and that’s all there is to it.

111.3  And one thing you’ll notice about the Cousin Line…it puts the concept of “cousin removed” in it’s proper perspective. What I mean is, a cousin once removed…be it 2nd cousin, father of your 3rd cousin…or 3rd cousin, father of your 4th cousin…is of your father’s generation, so is to you more like an uncle. Twice removed, more like a grand uncle…3 times removed, great grand uncle, etc. Saying “1st cousin twice removed” sounds like you’re talking about a numbered cousin of yours, but you’re not…it’s somebody else’s numbered cousin, and the “removed” tells you whose. In Spanish, they deal with this so much more logically than in English…a 1st cousin once removed is called a “2nd uncle”…2nd cousin once removed, “3rd uncle,” etc. Then going up to your grandfather’s generation, a 1st cousin twice removed is your “2nd grand uncle”…2nd cousin twice removed, your “3rd grand uncle,” etc. But if you check Chart 395, you’ll see that in English the great grandfather of your 3rd cousin is a kind of “uncle”…whereas the great grandfather of your 4th cousin is still a kind of “cousin”…a confusing inconsistency that doesn’t exist in the Spanish system.

111.4  At any rate, to get to the Cousin Ladder, you compare a Cousin Line with your own direct line, again going back to the common ancestor of you and your cousin…and the Cousin Ladder is how each pair of ancestors in each generation is related to each other. The Cousin Ladder is in red and yellow in Chart 396…and it ties together several very important kinship truths.

chart 396

111.5  First…You can’t have numbered cousins without first having a pair of siblings, who are the offspring of that common ancestor. So anywhere in a family tree where you suspect there are cousins, you first go back and look for siblings.

111.6  Second…Just as 1st cousins are the offspring of siblings, 2nd cousins are the offspring of 1st cousins…3rd cousins are the offspring of 2nd cousins, etc. In general, Xth cousins give birth to (X+1)th cousins…conversely, the parents of Xth cousins are (X-1)th cousins. With this crucial fact you can match up numbered cousins, no matter how complicated the family tree. Even if 2 individuals are, say, 2nd cousins on one side, and 3rd cousins on the other side, the trail back to a pair of siblings and the siblings’ parent will be there…in this case, 2 trails, thru 2 parental lines.

111.7   And third…a Cousin Ladder is yet another illustration of the meaning of cousins removed. For example, in Chart 396, take your father…and the father of your 4th cousin, who is your 3C 1R. Those 2 fathers, according to the Cousin Ladder, are 3rd cousins…and sure enough, your 3C 1R is “once removed” from you exactly because he is of your father’s generation…i.e. your father’s 3rd cousin. And as you can see, that works for all your removed cousins, all the way back to the common ancestor. Next,  a look at the Cousin Ladder in action…


111.8  We’ll go back to #28: French Canadians. I like to use personal examples for 2 reasons: they are real-life examples, typical of what you’re likely to find researching your own family. And it’s also a shout-out to my distant relatives, who might recognize part of their tree, and have information to help me flesh out mine…since it truly remains a work in progress, no matter how detailed I can get it. Now in #28, I was looking at 5 individuals…my maternal grandfather Henry Berube…2 brothers Lorenzo and Alfred Berube, altho not Henry’s brothers… and 2 sisters Imelda and Claire Roy, all from Salem, Massachusetts. The brothers married the sisters, and one of the children of Alfred and Claire was Rodrigue “Rudy” Berube, the founder of the Berube & Sons Funeral Home, still in operation in the Witch City today.

111.9  And as it turns out, my grandfather was related to the brothers, and related to the sisters…and the brothers and sisters were related to each other! When I was growing up, I was aware that there were other Berube families in Salem…(my mother grew up in Salem, but she and my father moved to the town “next-door” when they were married.) Apart from my grandfather’s brothers and 1st cousins, we were always told we “weren’t related” to the other Berubes. Indeed, Henry was 5th cousin to Lorenzo and Alfred…and in a culture where 2nd cousins are considered distant, “not related” is a common simplification. I should mention that in the opinion of L’Association des familles Bérubé, all North American Berubes can trace their lines back to the founder Damien Berube, who arrived in Quebec from Normandy in 1671.

old chart 98

111.10  So after diagramming the connections between these 5 individuals, I ended with a larger chart showing additional connections between the Berube and Roy families…Chart 98. Males are in blue boxes, females in red. The Roy family members are written in black, Berube in red, and the connecting Miville and Lizotte clans in green. (Double-left click to see the chart larger.)  The Berubes surrounded by yellow are where I had to duplicate a part of the tree in 2 different places…thus despite being on opposite ends, Pierre Berube who married Elizabeth Lizotte and Charles Berube who married Celeste Roy are brothers, the sons of Louis Berube, himself son of Louis, son of Mathurin, son of Damien.

111.11  But that was the least of my difficulties…as you can see at the bottom, Pascal Berube married Henriette Roy, and had I placed them horizontally in their own generations, how could they be connected as married with a double line? Not to mention their sons Lorenzo and Alfred, who had to be connected up with Imelda and Claire Roy. So it was there that I stopped. This is a good example of why a tree diagram isn’t suited to outlining an entire family genealogy…it gets impossibly complicated…here, most of my relatives have been left out…Chart 98 shows only those relevant to Berube/Roy connections. For example, my great grandfather Joseph Berube, Henry’s father, was the youngest of 14 children, and had a twin brother to boot! 

111.12  But now I was bound and determined to pick up where I left off, and include Lorenzo and Alfred…and it turns out that with a thought, that process was fairly straightforward, as seen in Chart 397. The obvious way to do it was to put Pascal Berube and Henriette Roy “next to each other,” and on the same horizontal line as the rest of their generation. To do that…on her side, we flip the positions of her father Pierre-Antoine Roy and her uncle Clement Roy. On his side, we exchange the positions of the 2 lines coming from Mathurin Berube…son Joseph who leads to Pascal, and son Louis who leads to my grandfather Henry. But when we do this, the Roy/Miville/Lizotte line also gets flipped to the other side, and there is now an overlap of lines drawn from first generation ancestors Pierre Roy to Marie-Anne Roy…and between Damien Berube and Mathurin Berube.

chart 397

111.13  This can’t be helped…the overlap is drawn with a red line as opposed to all the other black lines…but it’s a small price to pay indeed, because now Lorenzo and Alfred fit exactly where they should be, hooked up to their wives Imelda and Claire Roy. So let’s check their relationships with the Cousin Ladder.

111.14  Henry to the brothers Alfred and Lorenzo (Chart 398)…First, identify the siblings, offspring of the common ancestor…then apply the Cousin Ladder down…confirming they are 5th cousins. And to me?…My grandfather’s 5th cousins?…5th cousins twice removed?…oh, so you were paying attention…splendid.

chart 398

111.15  Henry to the sisters Imelda and Claire Roy (Chart 399)…Apply the Cousin Ladder and we get 6th cousins, thanks to the Miville/Lizotte interlude… 😉 😉

chart 399

111.16  The brothers to the sisters (Chart 400)…Starting with brothers Pierre-Antoine and Clement Roy, sons of Clement, and we get 3rd cousins. Are we done? Ah, not exactly!

chart 400

111.17  Look at the direct ancestors (parents, grandparents, etc…) of the Roy sisters: all Roys. Now look at the direct ancestors of the Berube brothers: both Berubes and Roys, since their paternal grandmother was Henriette Roy. And Henry Berube’s direct ancestors? Again, Berubes and Roys (thru the Mivilles and Lizottes.) Meaning what? Well, in Chart 398, we figured how Henry and the brothers were Berube cousins…but since they are both descended from Roys, so they are Roy cousins as well!

chart 401

111.18  Thus by Chart 401, we see that Henry and the brothers are 6th Roy cousins…as well as 5th Berube cousins. Why different numbers for the double numbered cousin relationship? Because the common Roy ancestor is one generation earlier than the common Berube ancestor. And if you’re a stickler, we should also mention before we go that even before they were married, the Berube brothers and the Roy sisters were already related by marriage: the boys’ 2C 3R  (Pierre Berube) having married the girls’ 3C 3R  (Elizabeth Lizotte). Of course, Lizotte is also the boys’ 3C 3R…but you should have expected that, since hers  is one of the 2 marriages that unite the Roy and Berube lines, making Henry and the brothers cousins in 2 different ways in the first place…whew!…and now we can go…see you next week!


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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