#132: Sweet Treat…

132.1  Let’s consider actor Treat Williams. First big break, with loads of curls, came in the movie version of “Hair”…I remember him best from one of my favorite flicks, Steven Spielberg’s “1941”…both came out in 1979. Now when you first heard of him, did you think the name “Treat” was some sort of tinseltown publicist’s gimmick? Having paid attention somewhat in American History class, I suspected there was more to it than that.

132.2  And when I was looking at the lack of middle names among the Founding Fathers back in #115…and noticed that of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, only 3 had middle names…one of those being Robert Treat Paine…OK, now that’s what I’m talking about!

132.3  As much as I distrust Uncle Wiki with a passion, I will go there as a starting point…but only that. So here’s what they had to say…


They’re especially sloppy with famous kin…the people are usually right, but the precise relationships, not so much. I figured it would be fun to verify this (and it was!)…starting with William Henry Barnum, which as a direct ancestor would be straight up the tree, child to parent.

132.4  Census date proved sufficient…in fact, Treat Williams’ maternal grandmother being a Barnum made it especially easy. You will notice that William Henry turns out to be Treat’s 3G grandfather, not 2G as Uncle Wiki stated…don’t they ever check this stuff?

chart 460

132.5  I suppose it’s possible that they thought they were saying 3G when they said “maternal great great grandfather”…William Henry Barnum is Marian Andrew’s 2G grandfather, true. Trouble is, “maternal” means “on your mother’s side,” not simply “your mother’s.” I mean, if mother’s and maternal meant the same thing, then your mother’s mother would also be your…maternal mother…d’oh!!

132.6  At any rate, Treat Williams was known as Treat growing up…nicknamed Sweet Treat or Meat Treat…and you can see why from Chart 460. A boy will often go by his middle name if this first name is the same as his father’s. Here, Treat’s dad was called Dick…and his mother was called, trust me on this one, Andy…Andy Williams, get it? You’ll also notice the obvious path to Robert Treat Paine, with both a grandfather and uncle named Treat Payne Andrew. Paine with an “i” is the accepted spelling today, but things were more loosy-goosy way back when…hence Payne with a “y”.

chart 461

132.7  But before getting to that, there was the obvious question of whether William Henry Barnum was related to Phineas Taylor “P.T.” Barnum, as both being from Connecticut suggested. Sure enough…not only were they kin, but in the 1867 election for Congress, William Henry defeated P.T. …no “Vote Barnum” signs, I reckon. And Chart 461 gives us 3rd cousins once removed. I’ve seen “3rd cousins,” but that’s only because nobody checks this stuff, nez pah? BTW, it’s tempting to suppose that Milo and Philo were brothers, but they were 2C 1R…

chart 462

132.8  And Treat Williams’ relation to P.T. Barnum? Just place Chart 461 on top of Chart 460 and you should get 3rd cousin 6 times removed…a relationship that derives not from William Henry Barnum, but from his father, who was P.T.’s 3rd cousin.

chart 463

132.9  Connecting Treat Williams to Robert Treat Paine…”The Signer” as his family called him…was straightforward as well…not surprising, since these Anglo-Saxon families are pretty well documented, especially when involving historic figures. Chart 463 gives us 2nd cousins 7 times removed. And that’s certainly a “distant relation” as Uncle Wiki put it…bearing in mind that at some point, even direct ancestors (grandparents with G’s) are distant too…just easier to say! And that should have pretty much been that…

132.10  …except it wasn’t…

132.11  …and that’s where things get sort of comical. If you read what Uncle Wiki says, it’s that Treat Williams is related to William Henry Barnum and Robert Treat Paine, nothing more. But when I read it, I thought they were saying he was related to Robert Treat Paine because Robert Treat Paine was a “distant relative” of William Henry Barnum….in other words, related to Robert Treat Paine thru William Henry Barnum. In fact, it looked pretty cool because if Treat were related to Paine thru the Barnums, he was also certainly related thru the Andrews…a double link. And that still might be the case, if you go back to the Old Country and remove some cousin 12 or 13 times.

132.12  Luckily, I re-read Uncle Wiki and finally understood what they were saying before I had done too much extra work. And I must say, one good thing about it was getting reacquainted with a very valuable website called The Political Graveyard…it connects various political relatives down thru history, and I’ve found their precise kinships to be right on the money.

132.13  I’d even sketched out a tentative solution…Treat Williams related to H.C. Barnum, who was related to P. T. Barnum, who was related to one Luther Hotchkiss, who was related to Charles Hotchkiss, who was related to Robert Treat Paine…and who’s to say this might not have eventually paid off. But as The Gambler said, You’ve got to know when to fold ’em. 

chart 464

132.14  Still, I’d done 2 more charts before I stopped dead in my tracks…and waste not, want not, that’s my motto.

chart 465

132.15  Plus, it’s always nice to see relatives marrying relatives, as with Merriman Hotchkiss and Betsey Durand in Chart 465…2nd cousins…which today freaks a lot of people out. Hope you recover in time so we’ll see you back here next week…

wicked ballsy

Got a comment about the various Valentine Hatfields…I approved it and answered it, but I’m not seeing where it shows up on this blog, so I’ll repeat it all here for the record.

wicked ballsy

I’ll be interested to see if she has any additional info, since she is a relative. If I’m wrong in my conclusions, so be it. Just need to see some evidence, you know?


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#131: Out of the Mail Pouch

131.1  Dear Stolf: Would 2 half-brothers be my cousins or half-cousins? Ha ha…my spell-checker just changed “half-cousins” to “half-moons”!  …from Sunny Mullins, Plushbottom NM

131.2  Dear Sunny: Good old spell-checkers, you can’t beat ’em for shucks. But the answer to your question is a definite maybe. And the reason is this: what makes 2 individuals half-brothers is different from what makes them half-cousins.

131.3  Thus, consulting Chart 457, one of these things can occur, as in (b)…or the other can (c)…or both (d)…or neither (a)…4 different cases. What makes 2 people half-brothers is if they share one parent, but the other parents are different. What makes 2 people half-1st cousins is if their parents share one parent, with the other parents different.

chart 457

131.4  In Chart 457b, X and Z are half-brothers…they have the same father, different mothers. Their father, your Uncle U, is your father’s full brother, not half-brother…so X and your full 1st-cousins, not half-1st cousins. Uncle U can have offspring with as many women as the wants…they will all be your full cousins because he is your father’s full brother.

131.5  On the other hand, in Chart 457c, X and Z are full brothers…but their father Uncle U is your father’s half-brother…so X and Z are your half-1st cousins. Then in Chart 457d, X and Z are both half-brothers to each other, and half-1st cousins to you, since both of these conditions occur…and in Chart457a, everybody is a full something to everybody else, since neither condition occurs. So that’s the story…and a complicated answer is still an answer, nez pah?

131.6  Dear Stolf: You think you’re so smart, diagram this one: My parents had me, then got divorced, and each of them married somebody else and had a child. Those marriages ended, they got remarried, my 2 half-siblings came to live with us, AND my parents had a second child. Good luck!  …from Mix n Match, Halifax, Nova Scotia

131.7 Dear M-n-M: No luck needed…and aren’t you glad I AM so smart? I’d say Chart 458 does you up nicely…and a interesting family portrait it paints. You are A…your parents are X and Y. Your natural or full sibling, granted thru a second marriage between the same 2 people, is D…that might make it seem that you and D are something other than “regular” full siblings, but in reality that’s all you are. Now who did you live with when your parents were married to W and Z respectively? That one would have been your step-parent, for a time anyway…and altho only one of your half-siblings B and C would have been living with you, both really are your half-siblings, albeit thru different parents. Likewise, both are half-siblings to D.

chart 458.png

131.8  The interesting question is: what are B and C to each other? They are certainly not blood relatives…B’s parents are 2 different people from C‘s parents. Once you were living all together, your father is B‘s father and your mother is B‘s step-mother…conversely, your father is C‘s step-father and your mother is C‘s mother. And B and C are simply step-siblings to each other…if you and D didn’t exist, this would be a typical blended family, exactly like the Brady Bunch.

131.9  What’s unique here is that amongst and between 4 “siblings,” there are full, half-, and step- relations. But it is what it is, and that’s it. Still, I can’t resist going you one better…after your parents remarry, W and Z have a child neither wants, so E comes to live with you.

chart 459.png

131.10  Now what can we say about E? And please watch me on this, so I don’t fumble the ball… 😉 😉  First, blood…E is no blood relation…not full, not half-, not anything…to either your, your brother D or your parents. E is a half-sibling to B since they have the same mother W…and E is also a half-sibling to C thru their father Z. In other words, E has a half-sibling on his mother’s side, and another half-sibling on his father’s side. There is a movement afoot, of which I am not a member, to then call B and C “quarter-siblings,” since E is a sort of link between them. My guess is this won’t catch on, given people’s propensity to get all bollixed up by the kinship terms we have already.

131.11  What about step-‘s? I don’t see any. Regardless of what may have happened in the past, neither of your parents X and Y is currently married to either of E‘s parents W and Z. Is there such a thing as an ex-step-parent? Perhaps, but only in any sort of meaningful way if that step-parent actuality functioned as a parent to the child in question. After all, if one of your parents was married to somebody else before you were born to your currently married parents, that someone else can hardly be thought of as your step-parent…you weren’t even there at the time! I mean, it isn’t all about you, right? … 😉 😉

131.12  Getting back to Chart 459,  it’s certainly true that at one time, one of E‘s parents was your step-parent. But when this parent is no longer your step-parent, are their subsequent children your step-siblings? Nope…not in my book, and that’s my take on it…sure, I elaborated on it, but YOU brought it up, my friend…

131.13  Dear Stolf: A while back you asked for a ruling on whether you’re brother’s husband is your brother-in-law. My ruling is no. Does that make me a bad person? …from Mother Theresa, Jr., Calcutta, Iowa

131.14  Dear Mother TJ:  Of course not…to each his own. You can call your anything your anything else, and you’re perfectly free to. Language changes as it changes, but what you say and think and feel are your business and yours alone, now and for the duration. Live it!

131.15  I’ll tell you how I’d rule…but first some background. When the idea of gay domestic partnerships (“civil unions”) was first floated, I found that my take on the issue differed from what I was hearing, and that hasn’t changed. And that is, this is a single vs. married issue, not a straight vs. gay issue. Think about it…if straight couples increasingly don’t want to be married…or don’t stay married for very long when they are…why would gays?

wedding131.16  What’s going on is, unmarried couples want the same “rights and privileges” as married couples…they want to be “married” but still “single.” Gay people are by definition single, and this leads to the conflation of the 2 concepts: married/single and straight/gay. The introduction of “civil unions” brings benefits of married life to singles, regardless of lifestyle, and I would have thought that would have been the end of it. But it isn’t really about marriage, it’s about acceptance and recognition…and I wonder, as do many people these days, which groups will want acceptance and recognition next. Stay tuned, as they say…

131.17  As to my ruling…a civil union does not produce siblings-in-law…any more than “living together”…or even “going together.” Traditionally, a marriage resulted in children…thus, a family…and the whole idea of being “related” in the first place. Your in-laws are not blood relatives, but they are socially connected to you, because one of theirs married one of yours…but more importantly, because there is now somebody you’re both related to by blood: the grandchildren!

131.18  So for me, in-laws remain as they were. What about “husband” and “wife”? The Media is currently wrestling with that issue. There seems to be a general assumption that 2 men would automatically consider the other his “husband.” But some prefer the word “partner”…while a more traditional gay couple could very well consist of a “husband” and a “wife”…think La Cage aux Folles. Seems to me the word “spouse” solves everything…unless you don’t want it to be solved, because solving it isn’t the point…my 2¢ worth, anyway…

wicked ballsy

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.52.07 PM

Along those lines, I’m sure you’re familiar with the multi-colored rainbow flag for alternate orientations…it’s been around since 1978, you’ve probably bumped into it. Well, speaking of “acceptance and recognition,” one type of lifestyle not included in that grouping recently introduced its own flag, at least to the extent that some can speak for all…and I find that pretty interesting, having since childhood been fascinated by vexillology…(look it up!)…and that’s the Asexual Pride flag.

The black stripe represents sexuality…the white stripe, lack thereof…the gray stripe, what’s called “Gray-A” or “demisexuality,” current buzz words for low sex drive…and the purple at the bottom represents “community.” So when’s A-Pride Day at Disney World? At least no public smooching to confuse the kiddies…I’m just sayin’…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#130: Linked 2 Lincoln

130.1  Dear Friends: OK, so I’m a little behind the times…

130.2   To wit, last fall the movie “Lincoln” came out, with Daniel Day-Lewis’ tour-de-force in the title role. And yes, I missed it when, presumably to snag a little publicity for themselves, Ancestry.com announced that George Clooney was related to Abraham Lincoln…which I guess was their way of saying Day-Lewis wasn’t, nez pah? Now to be honest with you, I have some serious reservations about Ancestry.com’s funky “free trial period” offer…give them your credit card information and Lord knows what kind of “mistakes” can be made…better to locate a library that has the Library Edition for really free.

chart 451

130.3  But I’ve found their info to be pretty sound, so I would tend to trust this Clooney connection…I took their diagram and modified it as Chart 451…I thought it needed pictures so you’d be absolutely clear who they were talking about… 😉 😉  Now the fact that all the relations down from Mary Ann Sparrow are halfs means she was a half-sister of Lincoln’s mother…and I’ve verified that to be correct. This account employs the proper amount of genealogical specificity as far as I’m concerned, so I’m satisfied with their conclusion, half-1st cousin 5 times removed.

130.4  You should bear in mind that Clooney is not a direct descendant, but a collateral one. After all, there are documented cases of people related to George Washington, but none, zip, zero descended from him, since he and Martha had no children. In fact, assuming the information I found (below) on the internet is correct, the last surviving descendant of Lincoln died almost 30 years ago…and all together he only had 10, of any generation, marked in the yellow boxes.


130.5  All very interesting, and it was there I was ready to lay the matter to rest…when something occurred to me.  When you’re dealing with presidential pedigrees, the name Hanks is a definite red flag…it’s something that had been in the back of my mind, under a bunch of magazines, but out it popped. It’s the continuing controversy, alive and well after over 150 years, as to the precise identity and origins of Abraham Lincoln’s maternal grandparents, that is, the parents of his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln. I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that this is the #1 all-time genealogical puzzle…I mean, it’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN, right? Professional historians…as well as earnest amateurs, both those who believe themselves to be relatives and simply interested outsiders like me…have churned up an enormous amount of conflicting information, theories, and scenarios.

130.6  Far more than I can cover here, except to give you a introductory taste of it…if you’re looking to shut out the cares of the world, you could do worse than taking up the question of Lincoln’s family tree…more addicting even than Candy Crush! Now there is a consensus, true…but it is not universally accepted. First tho, to get us grounded, a quick look at the Lincoln side of the family, which is pretty much settled…

chart 452

130.7  Abraham Lincoln’s father Thomas had known Sarah Bush since childhood…they both married the same year, and both lost their spouses relatively soon after….Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks died when he was 9 years old, and his step-mother arrived on the scene a year later, along with 3 step-siblings. Lincoln was very fond of her, and said he believed he got his sense of humor from her. And BTW…looking at his namesake grandfather Abraham, how cool is having a grandmother named Bathsheba?

chart 453

130.8  On the Hanks side, things are considerable more disheveled. The prevailing opinion is what’s presented in Chart 453. Great grandfather Joseph Hanks had 9 children, and Grandma Lucy Hanks had Lincoln’s mother Nancy out of wedlock when she was still a teenager. Family lore had it that this unknown grandfather was of the gentry class, a wealthy Virginia  landowner…the family moved from Virginia to Kentucky right around this time…Lincoln was born in Kentucky, and they moved to Indiana just before his mother died. Lucy Hanks had a second illegitimate daughter, Sarah or Sally Hanks…and was ultimately criminally charged with fornication, a charge withdrawn when she married Henry Sparrow.

130.9  Lincoln himself believed his mother to be a “love child”…altho he famously said: “I don’t know who my grandfather was…I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”  Lucy and Henry Sparrow raised 9 children, and by all accounts she was a “good Christian woman,” beloved and respected in the community. But you must understand that while many of the famous founding families were wealthy Virginians, there were many dirt poor ones as well…and these were sometimes a bit, shall we say, “lackadaisical” about officially tying the knot. They even had a way to say it: some of your kith and kin were married regular, others were not…that was life. “Fatherless” children could originate in various ways…a single liaison, a protracted love affair, or what we would call a “common law” marriage. How else could Nancy’s daughter Sally have 6, count ’em 6, in her bastard brood…the oldest of which, Sofia, lived with Abe and his parents  for a time.

groop shot

130.10  But there was certainly some stigma attached, which is why such a child often went to live with other relatives…thus, Nancy was first raised by her grandparents Joseph and “Nanny” Hanks. When Joseph died in 1793, Nanny left Kentucky to go back to Virginia…and Nancy then went to live with her mother’s sister Elizabeth, who happened to be married to Lucy’s brother-in-law Thomas Sparrow. She called them mother and father, and for a time was known as Nancy Sparrow. In fact, as a child, Lincoln knew Elizabeth as his “granny,” his mother’s mother, when she was really his mother’s aunt. Likewise, to him it was Aunt Lucy and Uncle Henry…it wasn’t until much later that he learned they were actually his grandmother and step-grandfather. Not for nothing, but another bastard, Dennis Hanks, was also raised by Elizabeth Hanks Sparrow, and in adult life he appears to have been the most vociferous in trying to establish an honorable reputation for all concerned.

130.11  At any rate, that is the way the story is told by most of the leading experts and biographers today. The opposing point of view, a minority opinion to be sure but still one with many adherents, is that Lucy Hanks was not a Hanks by birth but instead by marriage…said marriage rendering daughter Nancy legitimate after all. Thus student and teacher alike have a right to be puzzled when they read the information put forth by the National Parks Service and the Kentucky State Parks Department regarding Lincoln’s birthplace…both state unequivocally that Lucy was born Lucy Shipley, and that she was married to Nancy’s father James, a son of Joseph Hanks.

chart 454

130.12  This is the saga of the Five Shipley Sisters, as outlined in Chart 454. In 1938 Louis Warren wrote a book…mainstream mind you, published by Doubleday…called “The Lincoln Kinsmen” in which he aimed to refute the “lies” so long accepted as fact concerning Lincoln’s origins. As to this James Hanks, you will notice he does not appear on Chart 453…indeed, he is supposed to have been born around the time Lucy was, except of course by this account she wasn’t, at least not into the Hanks family, but the Shipleys. Many historians feel this version has been successfully debunked, but obviously not officially, as the tourist brochures I mentioned in 130.11 testify.

130.13  And while Chart 454 sums up the standard Lucy-Was-Married-to-Nancy’s-Father scenario…it is what you will find at Uncle Wiki for instance, altho they don’t mention sisters Ann or Margaret…it is no by means the only one…gosh, I could probably have charted out a dozen more if I had a mind to…but one will do…

chart 455

130.14  Chart 455  is the story told in the 1899 book “The Shipley Ancestry of Lincoln’s Mother,” written by Catherine Hanks Hitchcock…yes, she’s a relative, clearly with an axe to grind. And an astonishingly different version it is…only one of the 5 Shipley sisters even has the same name…that of Lucy…yet it is not Lucy Shipley who is Nancy Hanks’ mother, but her sister Nancy Shipley, who didn’t marry a son of Joseph Hanks…but Joseph Hanks himself! The other way, Joseph Hanks’ wife is one Ann Lee, also known as Nancy or Nanny. But there’s more…Elizabeth Sparrow is now a Shipley, not a Hanks…and to top it all, the oldest sister Mary Shipley is the first wife of Abe Lincoln’s grandfather Abraham, and the mother of his first 3 children, who are now Thomas’ half-siblings!

130.15  So by this account, did Thomas Lincoln marry a relative? No…the most you can say is his wife’s aunt was his father’s first wife, and mother of his half-siblings…which is to say, his half-siblings’ aunt, but not his aunt, was his mother-in-law…pretty sure that’s it. Still, if these are the crazy kind of twists and turns you relish, I heartily advice you to take up Nancy Hanks Lincoln as a hobby…and to that end…

130.16  …other clues to peruse: Nancy Hank’s parents were William Hanks and Keziah Wright….or her parents were Abraham Hanks and Sarah Harper, Abraham being James Hanks’ father’s 1st cousin…and while you’re at it, consider the possibility that Lincoln’s biological father was not Thomas Lincoln but Abraham Enlow or Enloe…and that Lincoln might have had black and Indian forebears, thru the tri-racial Melungeons…or that he was Jewish, Lucy Hanks’ mystery paramour being a Rothschild, an American offshoot line whose surname was Springs.

130.17  But if it were me, the first thing I’d check towards untangling this mess would be the possibility that at that time and place there were as any as 3 different Joseph Hanks…yes, yet another case of the name’s-the-same, the ultimate bugaboo of genealogical research. Anyway, good luck!…and watch out for eye strain…

wicked ballsy

chart 456

Another one I missed, from earlier this year, was a documentary on the National Geographic Channel based on Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Lincoln.” Tom Hanks was the narrator, and evidence was proffered that he too was related to Lincoln, as 3rd cousin 4 times removed…something along the lines of Chart 456.

Now you might wonder, if the “minority report” were true, that Nancy Hanks was not illegitimate…or at least the principle version of it, Chart 454…how would this effect Clooney and Tom Hanks? Barely…because they’d both remain related to Lincoln. In Clooney’s case, it would then be thru the Shipleys, not thru the Hanks, since his 4G grandmother Mary Ann Sparrow would no longer be a Hanks at all. As for Tom, he’d still be related to Lincoln thru the Hanks, only now thru Nancy’s father James Hanks and not thru her mother Lucy Shipley…get it…got it…good.


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#129: Lovely Linda

129.1  Dear Stolf: Found another example of Great Uncle versus Grand Nephew…this is from our pal Uncle Wiki. …from Calamity Clare, Wolftown, NY


129.2   Dear CC: Yeah…see, when you use 2 different systems for the same thing, you run the risk of mixing and un-matching…as in that old routine: There are 3 points to consider: (A)…(B)…and (3)… Murphy’s Law and all that. I prefer Grand Uncle and Grand Nephew…others like Great Uncle and Great Nephew. It’s beginning to look like this might be an American versus British thing…I keep seeing Brits stating unequivocally that they’ve never heard this Grand usage, only the Great. But as you rightly demonstrate, some like to have it both ways. And not that I can recall it ever happening, but you could conceivably have a Great Great Great Uncle followed by a Great Grand Uncle in the next generation…from 3 Greats to 1 Great going down a single step…nice trick.

129.3  Further…while I don’t honestly know what sort of conclusions can realistically be drawn from Google word frequencies, I do know that the one I did this time is consistent with the ones I’ve done in the past…Chart 448. . First of all, G-something uncles and aunts are much more often mentioned than nephews and nieces…probably because it’s the former that will die and leave you a stack of cash. But 90% for Great uncle/aunt and just 10% for Grand is pretty definitive…there’s your world-wide web consensus. Still, while people are 9 times more likely to say Great than Grand for uncles/aunts, they’re only about twice as likely to say Great for nephews and nieces.

chart 448

129.4   Now is it possible, given these frequencies, that everybody still goes one way or the other consistently…that nobody mixes and matches? Mathematically, it would simply mean that between the 2 camps the frequency of referring to the older generation versus the younger is vastly different. But I think the more likely answer is the simplest: for whatever reason, people aren’t as sure which to say when it comes to nephews and nieces…meaning there must be a lot of people who mix and match…when they do anything at all. What I mean is, consider that total hits for G-something uncles/aunts as you can see is about 8 million… whereas total hits for “plain” uncles/aunts is 300 million…so it’s possible a lot of people leave off greats and grands entirely.

129.5  Funny thing is…only recently, and for the first time ever, did I find someone willing to actually defend Great over Grand. First they argued: “If my grandfather is my father’s father, then my grand-uncle should be my uncle’s father. But that [my uncle’s father] is my grandfather. So grand-uncle is confusing.” The part I underlined shows where they made their mistake: “grand” in this context means “your father’s,” not “your uncle’s”…so grand-uncle is your father’s uncle, not your uncle’s father.

129.6  The second argument draws upon…ahem…feelings: “Grand- is reserved for the direct line of descent, so it feels wrong to used it for people who are off to the side.”  OK, well, the part about “is reserved for” is begging the question, so this proves nothing…you can’t use what you’re trying to prove as part of the argument to prove it.  Well, duh…but it is done, often more subtly than here, which is why there’s a name for it: “begging the question.” But beyond that, doesn’t it also “feel wrong” when one relative, your great great grandfather, has fewer greats than his brother, your great great great uncle? Or to put it another way, your great great grandfather’s brother and father both have one more great or G than he does…his father has 3 G’s…his brother has 3 G’s…he only has 2 G’s. That sure feels wrong to me, boy…I can really feel it…

129.7  Dear Stolf: On an oldies station I listen to, a DJ said Jimmy Webb wrote “MacArthur Park” about his girlfriend, Linda Ronstadt’s cousin. Is this true?  …Wichita Linebacker, Topanga Canyon

129.8  Dear WL: In a word, no…with an explanation. Mind you, once I give you the explanation, the answer is still no, but at least you’ll know why you sometimes hear what you heard. Jimmy Webb was born and raised in Oklahoma…his family moved to the Los Angeles area when he was a teenager. He graduated from Colton, CA High School class of 1965…oddly enough, one year after Jim Messina. But while still in high school, he met and fell head over heels for an aspiring singer, a classmate named Suzy Horton.

suzy H

129.9  That summer, he helped her and three friends form a singing group called the Contessas. They recorded an album on Motown, with songs written by you-know-who, and appeared on several TV shows, including Shivaree (see it here.)  Suzy’s day job was with an insurance agency, and she would meet Jimmy for lunch in MacArthur Park in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. She also inspired “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Where’s the Playground Suzie,” and probably others. But the group’s career fizzled, as did the budding romance…and the Contessas soon went their separate ways. Suzy Horton continued working as a singer and dancer, and is still active in the music business today.

129.10  In the early 1990s she met and married Bobby Ronstadt, Linda’s 1st cousin, son of Linda’s father Gilbert’s younger brother Edward. Today she is indeed known as Suzy Ronstadt, but her relation to Linda is cousin-in-law at best, and at any rate, she was decades away from being a Ronstadt when she knew Jimmy. Informally, your cousin’s wife can be your cousin…just as your father’s uncle can be your uncle, as we saw last week with Anna Boiardi…but not really…sorry.

chart 449

129.11  Now in Chart 449, I’ve included far more Ronstadt relatives than are relevant to the case at hand, but once you get going, its kind of hard to stop, you know?  And as long as your tree is intelligible, feel free  try different things, as I have here. I generally color males blue and females red, but here I have grouped siblings together as gray. Also, with Gilbert’s uncles and aunts, I positioned their spouses and their children horizontally rather than vertically, as space required…I did want to include that Grampa Frederick and his brother Pepe married sisters.

suzy R

129.12   But be aware: Linda herself has an older sister, Gretchen, who is also known as Suzy. Not only that, Jimmy Webb’s sister Susan Webb sang background on some of his records, along with Suzy Horton…so it’s hardly surprising that confusion reigns…well, not any more, nez pah?

129.13  Dear Stolf: Evaluate please. …from Fruma Sarah, Fiddlersburg, TN

3:4 or what

129.14  Dear FS, a blessing on your head: A person who is related to someone in more than one way very likely knows it and understands it. On the other hand, there are some people who deny such a thing is possible…or if it is possible, you are still only really related in one way, the closest way being the obvious choice. But these people are wrong…genetic inheritance follows its own inexorable path, and it isn’t effected by any other additional lines of descent…all count equally toward the total degree of relationship between 2 people.

129.15  One of the most common of these is “double cousins”…when siblings from one family marry siblings from another…I see it most often as 2 sisters and 2 brothers, but it can be a mixed pair as well. The resulting offspring are cousins on both sides of the family…and their Coefficient of Relationship is double that of normal or “single” 1st cousins… 1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4. They are the equivalent of half-siblings, altho of course they are still only 1st cousins…but 1st cousins 2 ways. 

chart 450

129.16  In this case, “Death to Frying Things” (love it!) describes how his great grandfather and his great grandfather’s brother each had offspring with the same woman. These sons, which on Chart 450  I have labeled “gramps” and “3/4 bro” are an example of what’s called Enhanced Half-Siblings. Half-siblings share only one parent…in this case they have the same mother and different fathers. Typically, those 2 fathers wouldn’t be related to each other, but here they are…they are brothers. Thus their sons are related 2 ways: half-brothers thru their mother, and 1st cousins thru their fathers. Total CR is 1/4 + 1/8 = 3/8.

129.17  The CR for full siblings is ½ or 4/8…for half-siblings it’s 1/4 or 2/8…3/8 is half-way between 4/8 and 2/8, so these sons are called “3/4 siblings”…3/4 is half-way between full and half. This correspondent was guessing at the name…but an astute guess and a correct one. But don’t be misled into thinking they are 3/4 related…they aren’t, since 3/4 isn’t half-way between ½ and 1/4, at least not when I went to school….what’s half-way between 1/2 and 1/4 is 3/8. Another way you can get 3/8…and I have a friend for whom this is exactly what happened…is when brothers marry identical twin sisters. Identical twins are considered genetically the same person…so it is as if the same woman had a child with each of 2 brothers…the offspring are genetically 3/4 brothers, but genealogically only double 1st cousins.

129.18  But here’s the capper to the story of Chart 450: Then they married sisters”…which is why I’ve taken that next step and added Zeke. How is Zeke related to DTFT’s dad? They’re not Enhanced Half-Siblings, since there are 4 different parents involved…but the parents are related, father-to-father and mother-to-mother, so this is still a case of “on both sides.” Dad and Zeke are 1st cousins…1/8…thru their mothers, that’s the easy one.

129.19  As for the fathers, the rule to remember is the “Half and Quarter Rule.” You are related to your parent’s relatives by half of what your parent is*…for example, your father is ½ to his brother, so you are half of that or 1/4 to your father’s brother, your uncle. That’s the “Half” part of the rule…the “Quarter” part is this: 2 people are related to each other by one quarter of the way their parents are related to each other…again, your father and uncle are ½…you are your father’s son, your 1st cousin is your uncle’s son, so you and your cousin are related by one quarter of ½…or 1/8.

129.20  Not for nothing, but you can use the “Half” rule instead of the “Quarter” rule and you should get the same result. Your father is related by his nephew by 1/4…half of that it 1/8 for you and the nephew, your 1st cousin.

129.21  Now we already know that Dad’s father and Zeke’s father are related by 3/8…so thru their fathers, Dad and Zeke are related by one quarter of that, or 3/32…added to the 1/8 or 4/32 they get for being cousins thru their mothers, total CR = 7/32…or a little less than half-siblings, 8/32 or 1/4. Done and done…till next week of course…

* It might seem like this rule doesn’t hold for your brother…he’s related to your father by ½, so to you, half of that is 1/4. But this is correct. Thru your father you are related to your brother by 1/4. Thru your mother  you are related to your brother by another 1/4…which is why the total CR between you and your brother is ½. Full siblings are “double half-siblings,” strange as that sounds. If your mother and your brother’s mother were not the same person, you’d have nothing more than the 1/4 from your shared father…and you’d be only half-siblings after all, capeesh?

wicked ballsy

wicked ballsy

Didn’t Buffalo Bob once ask Howdy Doody: “Who was that lady I saw you with last night?” and Howdy replied: “That was no lady, that was a 2-by-4.” Nawww, I probably just imagined it…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#128: Uncle Ravioli

128.1  Dear Stolf: Saw this on the net…long way to go for the wrong answer, wouldn’t you say? Hee hee… from Dilly in Noshburg, VA

riddle 1

128.2   Dear Dilly: You really ought not to laugh…everybody makes mistakes…shoot, I make them all the time, altho I like to think I am pretty good about correcting them promptly and being up front about it. But the ironic part of this is, this tortuously drawn-out procedure did result in the right answer…they simply copied it down wrong!

riddle 2

128.3  Now I do bristle sometimes when somebody calls something “The”…as here, “The Riddle”…as if there’s something that distinguishes this from every other riddle, and a thousand years from now people will still be talking about it…right. And this ties in with what I said a while back, about having no use for these “cousin charts.” I find them needlessly obtuse…but to each his own…and after all, it did get the job done. Me, I did this in my head, without charts or even scratch paper.

128.4   How in the world? OK…I thought to myself as follows:

Your great grandmother’s uncle’s son is her 1st cousin.
     That uncle’s grandson is your grandmother’s 2nd cousin.
          Your grandmother’s 2nd cousin is your mother’s 2nd cousin once removed…
               and YOUR 2nd cousin twice removed. Done and done.

Yeah, but not everyone can do that. BS! Of course you can…just takes a little practice…you just have to start with knowing what you’re talking about, is all. A chart like this is what they call “rote”…figuring something out without understanding what you’re doing. It’s fine to start, but why not be smart and understand it? Trust me, it feels good!

128.5  Then again, I do believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s an outline of how it would go…
chart 446 rid

128.6  Dear Stolf: I noticed there’s a lady around claiming to be the 3rd generation of Chef Boyardee chefs…real deal or no?…   from Knock Knock Vermacelini, Parma NH

noyardee 1

128.7  Dear Knock x2: Yeah, I even saw where she was called Chef GIRLardee…yikes! Now it’s always been a precarious proposition to claim you’re a famous relative when you’re not…even more so in today’s litigious climate…but this here is completely kosher, if that’s the word. Here’s what I found…

chart 447 boy

128.8  Yes, the chef was a real person…they chose to spell Boiardi phonetically as Boy-Ar-Dee…’mericans tending to bobble when confronted by triple vowels. Ricardo Paulo was the first to come over from The Boot in 1913, got a job as maitre d’ at the Plaza Hotel in NYC. He was known simply as Paul, altho for some reason I’ve yet to uncover, Uncle Wiki…and the sites that copy from it…call him Lorenzo. His next brother Ettore, Americanized to Hector, came the following year…if I read the Ellis Island manifest correctly, by himself…or at least with no family members…at age 16. He joined his older brother as a chef.

boyardi 2

128.9  Did quite well, eventually opened a restaurant in Cleveland, after a stopover in West Virginia, where he catered Woodrow Wilson’s second marriage. Sold jars of his sauces, then conceived the idea of spaghet’ in a can. Moved the operation to Milton, PA. That iron statue above is in neither place however, but in Omaha…home of ConAgra, current owner of the brand. And sure, I’m a huge Chef Boy-Ar-Dee fan and proud of it…BTW, that’s the old school spelling…currently they dispense with the dashes…Boyardee. The above ad from 1969 pretty much sums up my feelings about it…you think it’s slop? More for me then. I like to mix 2 different kinds into a gooey orange mess, then smother it with grated cheese and maybe some crushed red pepper if I’m feeling frisky.

128.10  Now Anna Marie Boiardi is the granddaughter of the youngest brother, Mario…all 3 formed the company together, altho Hector is the man on the can. And I have to chuckle at the difficulty the media has in trying to, um, spit it out…

boyardi 3

128.11  A is typical…yes, she’s Mario’s granddaughter…but also Mario’s brother Hector’s niece? Actually, that would be possible if they followed the Old World custom of an uncle marrying a niece, and if Mario had a daughter Paul could have married, which he didn’t. No, they meant grand niece. B reiterates the mistake, and introduces an exciting new concept: that of being several different relations to a group of people…collectively, as it were. Hmmm…didn’t see that coming.

128.12  Finally, C gets it exactly right…I wish they’d used “grand” instead of “great,” but their heart’s in the right place. D is really neat…now she’s the granddaughter of 3 brothers…and even with rampant interbreeding, that’s just not possible…one brother could be a step-grandpa, OK…but fugetaboutit. Still, that part about how she was born and raised in Italy…wasn’t Mario supposed to be over here? E solves the mystery…her mother Angela was Italian, met and wed Mario when he was visiting his homeland…and I’ve since found out that they lived in Italy until Anna was 6, then moved stateside…she’s around 40 now. But yeah…real deal all the way…cent’anni!

128.13  Dear Stolf: Doesn’t this prove that somebody besides you can be right? Just curious…   from Rogers Hammerstein, Fujiyama, Norway


128.14  Dear Rogers: Absolutely it does…and I’m fine with that. I welcome it, applaud it, commend it. Sure, I highlight goofs I find on the net as illustrations of how not to go wrong. Obviously a lot of people have a handle on what’s right, but there’s nothing to gain really from them…except to thank them…who else helped me learn all this stuff, nez pah?!

128.15  With this particular question, I might go bit further on that second sentence, where it says that your cousin’s spouse’s nephew is “no relation” to you. That nephew is of course no relation to your cousin either…at least not a blood relation…a nephew “by marriage” to some extent, but different people and families look on these matters in different ways. Me, I wouldn’t have considered anyone to be your cousin’s nephew in the first place if that nephew were not a blood relative of your cousin, and hence your blood relative as well.

128.16  But the point is well taken that if you have a pair of 1st cousins, and each has a child, one is a son and one is a nephew as each of those cousins looks at it…but from your point of view, both are your 1st cousins once removed. This is the principle of interchangeability…and it also gets into what I call “Conan Relations”…like saying “my uncle’s brother”…when it would be more natural…and more meaningful…to say either “my uncle” (my other uncle) or “my father.” Because automatically, your cousin’s nephew is, like this answer says, the son of another of your cousins. For more on Conan relations, see here #66.

128.17  On a final note, the question itself is kind of funny…speaking informally, a lot of people are your cousins besides your “actual” numbered cousins…by which I mean 1st, 2nd, 3rd cousins etc. “Cousins” properly describes people of YOUR GENERATION and nobody else. All the other “cousins” are removed, meaning they are cousins to somebody in your direct line…your parent’s cousins, your grandparent’s cousins, your son’s cousins, etc. Genealogy needs to be specific…but in everyday conversation, people often simplify…as Aunt Bee does on The Andy Griffith Show, calling both Andy and Andy’s son Opie her “nephews”…when actually they are her 1C 1R and 1C 2R respectively. But notice how illogical it sounded above when Anna Boiardi was the granddaughter of one brother and the niece of another brother.

128.18  There are very few cases in our kinship system where it is true to say “My X’s Y is also my Y.”  In fact, it’s never completely true, since “My X’s Y” might refer to YOU! My sister’s brother? Could be my brother, but could also be me. It is sometimes true with siblings, half-siblings, and cousins…but outside of interbreeding, it’s never true with your parents, your children, your uncles/aunts, and your nephews/nieces.

128.19  The rule for cousins that’s easy to remember…if you say “my Ath cousin’s Bth cousin,” then that cousin to you is always whichever number is greater, A or B. Thus your 1st cousin’s 2nd cousin is your 2nd cousin…and your 2nd cousin’s 1st cousin is also your 2nd cousin…in this context, a sibling is a cousin of degree 0. If A and B are the same number, then the answer could be any number equal to or less than A, including yourself. For example, your 2nd cousin’s 2nd cousin could be your 2nd cousin, your 1st cousin, your sibling, or yourself. Yup, any rope can be untangled…and the more you do it, the better you get at it. More Q’s and A’s in 7…

wicked ballsy

Just a thought…



Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#127: GEEK and re-GEEK


127.1  A regular feature here is when I answer kinship questions posed at this website: dopeyGEEK. Well, I do it there too…but can’t include diagrams, which to me tell the story. But before we get to those, and speaking of diagrams, here’s one I found on the net…


127.2  Pretty elaborate, nez pah? Lotta work went into that, boy. I did find one mistake…can you find it? Answer below in today’s Wicked Ballsy. I should say that it isn’t a major mistake, just a niggling inconsistency…and no, it isn’t the use of the word “thrice.” That’s a real word, if somewhat old-fashioned…I think the last time I encountered it was in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum…when Pseudolus exclaims: “He raped Thrace thrice?” And BTW…as far as I know, the sequence once, twice, thrice ends there. I’ve seen it claimed that fourice is in the King James Bible, but 4 difference concordances I checked couldn’t find it.

127.3  So forward into GEEKworld…what’s my brother-in-law’s cousin to me? Your “brother-in-law” can be 2 different things: your wife’s brother or your sister’s husband. In either case, this BIL is not a blood relative of yours unless he was your relative before the marriage that made you BIL’s…say for example your sister marries her 4th cousin, who is of course also your 4th cousin…now your 4th cousin is also your BIL.

127.4    Whenever there are 2 BIL’s, one is a husband and one is a brother. In Chart 441a, you are the husband. In the broadest sense, all of your wife’s blood relatives are your in-laws. In a narrower sense, it’s generally only her immediate family that are called “-in-law”…father, mother, siblings. For more distant direct relations and all collateral relations, customs vary: “cousin-in-law,” “cousin by marriage,” “my wife’s cousin,” or even “my cousin” are commonly heard. But whatever they’re called, such a cousin is only your relative by marriage, if not literally an in-law.

chart 441

127.5  In Chart 441b, you are the brother, not the husband…and things are a little different. I have never heard anybody call the blood relatives of their sibling’s spouse their in-laws. They are your sibling’s in-laws, not yours…the theory being the person who marries gets in-laws. True, you got a brother-in-law without getting married…he’s your sister’s husband…but that’s just reflexive…if you’re his BIL, he’s your BIL. Other than that, I wouldn’t even say his cousin is related to you by marriage…I’d say he’s your sister’s cousin by marriage, not yours. But then again, you really are free to do and say what you want…nobody’s gonna bounce rocks off your head…not around where I live anyway… 😉 😉

chart 441 c

127.6  And yes, some people will even consider the husbands of sisters to be BIL’s to each other. I venture to say that’s unusual…I know in my case, altho I’m not married, I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters who are…their spouses, all my siblings-in-law, do not appear to see any special relationship between or amongst themselves. Looking at Chart 441c, the cousin of your wife’s sister’s husband is your wife’s sister’s cousin by marriage…perhaps your sister’s, but definitely not yours.

chart 442

127.7  This next one is similar…by marrying Michelle’s brother, your mother now has Michelle as a SIL, as well as neighbor. So you have a new step-father…and step- trumps -in-law…which is to say, if a relative of your generation gets married, you’re dealing with in-laws or relatives by marriage. But if your parent is the one who marries, then we use the step-parent/step-child terminology. The difference being that when your parent marries, there is more likelihood, especially if you’re still a child, that the new spouse will act as your surrogate parent…if you’re the one getting married, or your sibling is, the parents of the spouse will likely just be people you have to invite to parties. Can Michelle be your “step-aunt”? If you want, yeah…but I wouldn’t say it’s universal…still, people will know what you mean when you say it.

chart 443

127.8   Here a chart is nice, but this is one you can do in your head….grandparents are 1st cousins…their children, the parents of you and your girlfriend, are 2nd cousins…and their children, you and your girlfriend, are 3rd cousins.

127.9  Moving on…I generally use 2 kinds of charts…what I call a Family Tree links 2 people who are married…a Parental Tree does not…it only connects parent to child. And as in Chart 444, both can be used in one diagram, and in this case it comes in mighty handy. Otherwise, you’d need 2 different ways to connect parents to each other…one if they’re married (double line?) and one if they’re not (single line?) I’ve seen it done that way, but I find Chart 444  to be pretty self-explanatory.

chart 444

127.10  I’ve given everybody names to make it simpler…and naturally I’m assuming cousin Cal is not also your blood nephew, as he would be if he were Ned’s cousin thru another sibling of you and your sister. Here Cal is Ned’s cousin “on the other side.” The thing is, we can’t say anybody is related by marriage, because there simply isn’t one. No relation by blood, no relation by marriage…no relation period. You can date Cal…or Bubba…heck, even Joe if you have a mind to…and best of luck!

chart 445

127.11  Finally…when 2 members of an older generation are of the same generation…they are siblings, half-siblings, or numbered cousins…and 2 of their respective direct descendants are related to them by a different combination of greats and grands, then we automatically know it’s a case of cousins removed. It’s just a matter of counting down carefully between the generations. Doing that in Chart 445, Jim and Jane are 2nd cousins once removed. Can they get married? I know of no jurisdiction anywhere in the world than restricts marriage beyond 1st cousins or the equivalent…a Coefficient of Relationship of 1/8. Here it’s 1/64…so Jim and Jane are way in the clear. Some religions get can picky…if you follow the rules closely, check with yours.

127.12  As to the genetic status of children of such a union, let’s do a little math. Among geneticists, the consensus is that the chance of a serious birth defect from completely (technically not possible!) unrelated parents is about 2.5%. For 1st cousins, it’s double that, about 5%. The probability from the “base line” of unrelated individuals has increased by 100%…that is, take 100% of 2.5 and add it to 2.5…you get 2.5 + 2.5 = 5. That 100% increase comes from the fact that 1st cousins are related by 1/8.

127.13  2nd cousins are a quarter as related as 1st cousins, or 1/32. Assume the % increase is also a quarter less…that would be an increase of 100/4 = 25%…and 25% of 2.5 is about .63, so the chance of defects for 2nd cousins is 2.5 + .63 = 3.13%.

127.14  And 2nd cousins once removed are half as related as 2nd cousins, so that’s a % increase of 12.5%…and 12.5% of 2.5 is about .31, so the chance of a defect for Jim and Jane is 2.5 + .31 = 2.81%. I think that’s small enough not to worry about…but you, or they, must be the judge. Next week, more Q & A’s…plus ravioli! Chow 4 now…

wicked ballsy

Screen shot 2013-07-06 at 9.25.04 PM

I prefer GRAND for uncle and nephew…others like GREAT uncle and nephew. Whether this chart-marker meant to have it both ways I can’t say. I do know that based on Google frequencies, GREAT for uncle and GRAND for nephew must have a substantial following…but then hybrids are the thing today, right?


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved