#140: A Case in Point…

140.1  I find the ins and outs of figuring how who is related to who to be continually fascinating. Presumably you feel the same, to some extent anyway, or you wouldn’t be here. So today, let’s tackle a case in point…in the form of a query posted on the “And Bob’s Your Uncle” site I mentioned a while back…

1st insert

140.2  Comment 1: “Royal lineage connection” makes sense. For an American, especially of WASPish stock, going back as far as 13th, 14th, 15th cousins is not impossible…in fact, on my French Canadian side I’ve got it back to 14th century Normandy. (That’s the 1500s…remember, the years are one less than the century…20th century = 1900s, etc.) But it sure helps if you can tap into a royal blood-line, as they kept pretty decent records, for obvious reasons.

140.3  Comment 2: “Much to my dismay”…glory, I wish people would stop doing that! 13th cousins, let alone twice removed, are remote to beyond the point of human comprehension. Don’t believe me? Check out the numbers in Chart 485, especially the “not related, percentage” column. Those 9’s accumulate pretty fast, don’t they? Even 3rd cousins are genetically 99.2% complete strangers. And if you wonder if the numbers are right, consider this: 3rd cousins are related by 1/128…now 1/100 is the same as 1%, by definition. So at 1/100, you’d be 1% related, 99% not related…128 is bigger than 100, so the fraction is even smaller…and we’d be closer still to 100% than 99% is…so the 99.2% sounds about right…and in fact is right. Honestly, numbers don’t lie…

chart 485

140.4  So what are the 3 facts Faye has given us to work with? (1) There is someone, I’ll call them A, to whom she is a 15th cousin. (2) Her ex-husband and A are 14th cousins once removed. (C ) She and her ex-are themselves 13th cousins twice removed. The question she poses is, how is this relative A related to her son, which we will assume is also her ex-‘s son…otherwise, it’s obvious: your son and your 15th cousin are 15th cousins once removed, done and double-done.

140.5  What’s hanging her up seems to be how her son is related to his father…and this is important: the son is related to A in one way because his mother is related to A…and in another way because his father is related to A. The fact that mother and father are related to each other adds nothing more to the relationship between son and A…altho this union would have other implications that aren’t relevant here…for example, how the son is related to his own siblings.

140.6  And here we have a problem…Faye calls A a “common ancestor” to herself and her husband. This is absolutely wrong, and calls into question whether she’s using her kinship terms correctly in the first place. Your only real ancestors are your direct ones…parents, grandparents, etc. Collaterals, like those ancestors’ siblings and cousins, could be thought of in a casual sense as ancestors, if you mean ancestors to be relatives of yours who lived in the past. The trouble here is, regardless of the relative ages of Faye and A, they are, as 15th cousins, of the same generation. Perhaps if you had a 1st cousin who was 40 years older than you, and dead to boot, you might think of them as an “ancestor,” but we can’t be sure what Faye is thinking.

140.7  And what really makes me nervous is the sad fact that some people think “big” numbers, like the “15” in 15th cousins, implies “way back in time”…when the truth is, you could have very easily gone to high school with your 15th cousin. So maybe what she really means is, A is her 13G grandfather’s 1st cousin, that being 15 generations back…but then again, no way to know for sure.

140.8   So in terms of answering her basic question, given way she asked it, our analysis comes to a screeching halt…except to repeat that A and her son are 15th cousins once removed thru her…and then thru the ex-, the son and A are either 14th cousins twice removed (A is the 14th cousin of ex-‘s father) or 15th cousins (A is the child of ex-‘s 14th cousin). Yes, leaving off ascending/descending from “cousin removed” creates ambiguity, hence 2 possible answers…I beg you…begging here!…not to do it.

140.9  But there is a silver lining…there’s still a lot of fun to be had, in sketching out how…well, also if…the 3 conditions Faye set forth can exist together consistently. So that’s today’s real project. And one way that immediately presents itself is to set up A‘s relation to Faye and to ex-, and then see where that puts the relation between Faye and ex-. To make the job more manageable, we can “reduce” the relationships as indicated below…if you doubt this is a legitimate tack to take, make a leap of faith for now…I’ll show that it indeed is in a bit.

2nd inset

140.10  So let’s tear into this sucker…and again, the ambiguity of cousin removed without the asc./desc. means we have 2 different cases to consider. In Chart 486a, ex- is the 1st cousin and A is the offspring…in 486b, ex- is the offspring and A is the 1st cousin.

chart 486

140.11  Next we’ll add in the son…and to make it easier to see, I’ll put him in 2 places on each chart, since the son is the child of both YOU and ex-. You can do this to simplify any analysis…you can even do it on real family trees if it helps…just be very clear to indicate that you’re doing it!

chart 487

140.12  And just because I like working with these charts, 487c is what it could also look like if this were ALL the information we had…that is, if we didn’t know that YOU and ex- had to be themselves related. I’m reminded of what Charmaine Bucco said to Artie on “The Sopranos”…“The new owners are Portuguese…they’re sticklers!”

chart 487 c

140.13  Finally, undoing the reduction of 140.9, what we get is Chart 488. I’m gratified to see that in both cases, the son’s relationship to A jibes with what I said in 140.8. BTW, I did Chart 488 several days ago, and did the figuring in 140.8  without referring to it…that’s a good way to test yourself…do it twice and see if you get the same answer. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you see the fatal flaw…

chart 488

140.14  …which is, you are and your ex- are supposed to be 13C 2R…here you’re 14C 1R…in 488a, ex- is the ascending…in 488b, YOU are the ascending. So it’s back to the old drawing board…altho I don’t have one, so I’ll be using an ironing board… 😉 😉

140.15  Recall that with Charts 486-488,  we were setting up the given relationships between both A and YOU…and A and ex-…and seeing where that put YOU and ex-. We’ll change our tack by doing it the other way around. (BTW…tacking is steering a sailboat…I believe the tack is the direction the lower edge of the leading sail is pointing, but don’t quote me.) As before, we’ll reduce the relationships to manageable relative numbers.

3rd inset

140.16   Next we’ll show the 2 ways YOU and ex- can be 1C 2R in Chart 489a…and fill in A as 3rd cousin to YOU in Chart 489b

chart 489

geez, stupid ironing board…hold on a sec…

chart 490

140.17  That’s more like it…so we have the right relationship between YOU and ex-…and between YOU and A…how about between ex- and A? D’oh!!! Should be 2C 1R…instead it’s either 1C 2R or 3C 2R. Now what? Well, there was nothing wrong with this approach per se…we were taking the simplest approach, which was to assume that YOU, ex-, and A were all related thru the same family. Turns out that doesn’t work…perhaps a keener mind than mine would have seen it wouldn’t work at the very beginning and not gone thru all this. But no matter…we will just move on to something more complicated…

chart 491

140.18 …and while it is more complicated, we’ve seen it used to successfully sort out some seemingly impossible connections before…why not now? And that method is: (1) YOU are related to A thru one side of her family…(2) ex- is related to A thru the other side of her family…and (3) YOU and ex- are related thru the sides “left over.” To make a long story short, in Chart 491, your son is 3C 1R to A thru the Blue family…your son is 3rd cousin to A thru the Pink family…and you and ex- are 1C 2R thru the Yellows, with ex- ascending.

chart 492

140.19  Or switching the Yellow connection to YOU ascending, we get Chart 492…with no change in your son’s relationships, since…surprise! surprise!…those are thru the Blues and Pinks, not the Yellows. And I’d say that’s a good day’s work, I don’t care who you are…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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