#147: The Kennedys, Part 2

147.1 Last week we saw how John F. Kennedy had no 1st or 2nd cousins named Kennedy. Now to say he had “no Kennedy 1st cousins” is a bit imprecise. He had 4 1st cousins on the Kennedy side…which is to say, his father Joe had 4 nieces and nephews, and his grandfather Patrick Joseph “P.J.” had 4 grandchildren (not counting Joe’s kids.)  Since these 4 were on the Kennedy side, they were all “Kennedy 1st cousins” in that sense…but their last names at birth were Connelly and Burke, not Kennedy.

147.2  Likewise, Joe Kennedy had 21 cousins on his father’s side…which is to say Joe’s father P.J. had 21 nieces and nephews, and Joe’s grandfather Patrick Kennedy, “the Immigrant,” had 21 grandchildren (not counting Joe and his siblings.) None of these were named Kennedy at birth…they were named Kane, Mahoney, or Caulfield. I do not know if any of these 21 had offspring…I’d say it’s likely some, if not most, did…and all those offspring were JFK’s “Kennedy 2nd cousins,” altho again none were named Kennedy

147.3  Would I someday like to trace Joe’s  21 “Kennedy 1st cousins,” their spouses and children? You betcha…someday, when there’s time…and it may take money, as the only folks who have bothered to put them on-line may have locked them away behind Ancestry.com’s pay-wall. But for now, altho I happen to know the identity of not one of Kennedy’s 2nd cousins, I have no doubt he had some, and they definitely weren’t named Kennedy, which is the whole point.

147.4  Did JFK have 3rd cousins on the Kennedy side? Some in the Old Country for sure and probably some here. What’s more, unlike his 1st and 2nd cousins, it is possible that some bore the Kennedy last name, as we shall see. But before we head to the Emerald Isle, let’s get oriented…

chart 512

147.5  JFK’s 3rd cousins would be the great grandchildren of his great grandfather’s siblings. That great grandfather is Patrick Kennedy, on Chart 512  in green…I was going to draw my own chart from scratch, but found this on line and decided, with a few modifications, it would do the trick. Now what do we know about Patrick Kennedy as established fact? We know he was born in Ireland and emigrated to the US in 1848. Shipboard he met Bridget Murphy. They settled in East Boston and were married on Sept. 26, 1849. They had 5 children, including JFK’s grandfather Patrick Joseph “P.J.” Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy worked as a cooper and very soon became involved in politics, becoming a ward boss for his neighborhood. He died of cholera on either Nov. 21 or Nov. 22 1858. Yes, note the date.

147.6  Based on US census records, Patrick Kennedy was born about 1823. Where in Ireland? We don’t officially know…and by that I mean, there are no civil records or church records confirming his birth or, and this is key, the identity of his parents. All we have is family tradition…and as far as I can determine, researchers have yet to nail those traditions down as solid fact. So armed with all that, let’s do what JFK did during the summer of 1963…visit the land of his ancestors.

mary ryan

147.7  June 23 thru July 2, 1963…this was a state visit, meaning he made speeches and met with government leaders. He stopped in England, Germany (“Ich bin ein Berliner”), the Vatican, and 4 days in Ireland, one of which was spent in County Wexford, the presumed home of Kennedy’s forebears. And ground zero was the town of Dunganstown, in the parish of Whitechurch, the site of the farm where Patrick Kennedy is thought to have been born and raised. His hostess was the widow Mary Kennedy Ryan, seen above. She was the granddaughter of one James Kennedy, and she had married James Ryan, grandson of James Kennedy’s older brother John…yes, Mary and Jim Ryan were 2nd cousins. Patrick Kennedy is believed to be the younger brother of John and James…and he had a younger sister Mary…but only Patrick left Ireland for the US.

147.8  So how are Mary Ryan and John F. Kennedy related? I’ve read many accounts of the visit, and most play it safe and call them “cousins” or “distant cousins”…can’t go wrong there, as that’s certainly true in the broadest sense of the word “cousin.” Among those who venture to make it more specific, a few say “2nd cousins” but most prefer “3rd cousins”…altho one calls them “cousins 3 times removed,” presumably thinking that’s what “3rd cousins” means…ya gotta love it.

chart 513

147.9  But as you can see in Chart 513, Mary Ryan and Joe Kennedy are 2nd cousins, making Mary and Jack 2nd cousins once removed…which is to say, in non-genealogical terms, Mary was Jack’s father’s 2nd cousin. And kudos to at least one writer…which just goes to show, some people can handle the truth!

2c 1r

 147.10  But do we now have any JFK 3rd cousins named Kennedy? We have some 3rd cousins, that’s for sure. Circled in the picture below is nurse Mary Ann Ryan, who along with her sister Josie and late brother Thomas were double 3rd cousins to Jack…thru Mary Ryan their mother and thru James Ryan their father. After the assassination, Mary Ryan was invited to the funeral but declined, daughter Mary Ann going in her place.

nurse mary ann

147.11  It’s interesting to note that the farms that constitute the Kennedy Homestead are now a popular tourist attraction, managed by one Patrick Grennen, son of Josephine Ryan Grennen, who died in 1979…and thus Mary Ryan’s grandson. He recently revealed that Jack had plans to visit again in 1964, this time a personal not public trip, but of course that never happened. One report I read called Grennen Jack’s 3rd cousin once removed…brilliant! Gold star for you!

147.12  But 3rd cousins named Kennedy? I know of none by name, but looking at Chart 513,  it is a reasonable assumption that there are some descended from the sons of Patrick Kennedy’s brothers John and James…then again, it’s possible there were not, just daughters who all took different surnames when they married…altho did any remain single? The children of John and James are shown in gray boxes, and these are ones I know of…there may be others…and indeed, Patrick may be Mary Ryan’s father. Sons of Jimmy Kennedy, Mary’s brother, would also be likely suspects and he had at least 4 children (see wicked ballsy below)…that could be him circled in in the photo below, from the Kennedy Library and Museum’s exhibit on the trip…and we see the famous walking stick, too.


147.13  And at least one author asserts that after John and James died, some of their children continued to work their farms, which were across the road from each other…but…others emigrated to America, leaving open the possibility of 3rd cousins named Kennedy on both sides of the Atlantic. Sooooo…plenty more research to do some rainy day.

147.14  But before we leave Erin’s verdant shores…one more question: who was the father of Patrick, John, and James? Bearing in mind that corroborative paperwork, or even gravestones, have yet to surface, all seem to agree the brothers are descended from John Kennedy and Bridget Swallow, also given as Shallow…altho backwards from them, it gets really murky…possibly leading back to a Thomas then several Gilbert Kennedys in Scotland…then again, maybe not. But as to the path from this John and Bridget Kennedy to Patrick (JFK’s great grandfather) this is no agreement.

chart 514

147.15  Four possibilities are put forth…it appears (4) is the least likely…it seems to be mentioned less frequently…and wouldn’t you know it, that’s Uncle Wiki’s choice. The links Wikipedia provides for verification show the poverty of their whole approach…one doesn’t mention John or James Kennedy at all…the other does, and it is from no less a genealogical authority than an Irish bed-and-breakfast…OK, fine.

147.16  The other 3 possibilities suffer from an abundance of Patricks. The dates I’ve included are those commonly cited…and you’ll notice in (1) that both father and son died in 1824. I suspect this is an error that stems from the fact that one of the few pieces of documentation we do have is a tithe listing from 1824 that names both Patricks as land-owners…and the younger is even called “Junior.”  But how either or both of these hook up to Patrick the Immigrant nobody can agree on…check this article from no less than the New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845…pretty weighty, no?

147.17  Notice also that if (3) is correct, Bridget Swallow cannot be Patrick the Immigrant’s grandmother, as she died in 1774 (gravestone) and her son, the Immigrant’s father, was born in 1785. Yet this exact scenario is cited by several sources. Sure, they’re probably wrong, but who knows? Grrrrr…and back next week, to wrap up with some more Kennedy genealogical tidbits…

wicked ballsy

wickey ballsey

Honestly, I don’t mean to complain. But sometimes the earnest researcher…who is doing this for enjoyment as well as edification after all…will feel overwhelmed by the mountain of sheer stuff and nonsense he will encounter. The book excerpt above is a perfect example. It tells of Jack’s first visit to Ireland in 1947, as a first-year congressman. Let’s look at precisely what Michael O’Brien has written:

(1)  Jimmy Kennedy (Mary Ryan’s brother) knew of a Patrick Kennedy visiting there in 1912…this Jack identifies as his grandfather, Patrick Joseph or P.J…and correctly so, for in 1912, Patrick the Immigrant had been dead for 54 years.

(2)  Over at Mary’s place, she is said to be the granddaughter of Patrick’s brother James…and she married her 2nd cousin, grandson of Patrick’s other brother John. But this Patrick is not the grandfather P.J., but instead is his father, Patrick the Immigrant.

(3)  So who is confusing P.J. with this father…Mary Ryan or the author Michael O’Brien?

(4)  And in the end, despite his questioning, young Jack cannot “make a definite link” and concludes that he and Mary are “3rd cousins”…which could very well mean he thought his father’s 2nd cousin was his 3rd cousin, who can say?

chartt 515

But how could Jack not have made a definite link? Is it because he couldn’t tell if Mary was the grand niece of his grandfather P.J. or his great grandfather Patrick the Immigrant? Well, perhaps that’s it exactly…because if you move P.J. into his father’s spot, as we’ve done in Chart 515, then Mary and Jack would be 2nd cousins…not the 3rd cousins Jack thinks they are, nor the 2nd cousins once removed they actually are…ready to give up yet?  No, of course not…but you see what I mean…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#146: The Kennedys, Part 1

146.1  About 6 years ago, I started really getting interested in genealogy and kinship. Today’s blog is an expanded version of my first research project. Well, technically, my “first” was determining exactly how FDR and Eleanor were related…5th cousins or something else? Turned out to be something else, 5th cousins once removed…FDR was the 5th cousin of Eleanor’s father Elliott…and also of course 5th cousin of Elliott’s brother, President Teddy Roosevelt. But that wasn’t really research…anyone who wondered about this just had to find a Roosevelt family tree and it would all be laid out plain as day.

146.2  Today’s question did not yield a pat answer, so I had to do the digging for myself. I got to thinking about John F. Kennedy and his siblings. Giddy with Camelot, the media duly reported all their comings and goings. But what about Jack’s 1st cousins? You never heard anything about them…except for lawyer Joe Gargan, son of Rose Kennedy’s sister Mary Agnes….he was with Teddy at Chappaquiddick. In fact, “Joey” was more a brother than a 1st cousin…he and his 2 sisters were raised by Rose and Joe, and he was just 2 years older than Ted….Jack was 15 years older than Ted, Bobby 7.

146.3  So I reconstructed the family tree, and found JFK had 14 1st cousins…4 on his father’s side and 10 on his mother’s. But the interesting thing was this: he had no 1st cousins named Kennedy!  Call me cynical, but I can see where having the Kennedy name made news, while just being a relative might not. Or maybe this group was just very low-key…


146.4  But as you can see on Chart 507, Jack’s father Joe had 2 sisters and a brother…and that brother died in infancy. Thus Jack had one Connelly and 3 Burke 1st cousins thru his father’s sisters, Mary and Margaret.

chart 508

146.5  And of course, there were no Kennedys among the 1st cousins on the Fitzgerald side…just 3 Gargans and 7 Fitzgeralds…hence our “law-firm”…Connelly, Burke, Gargan & Fitzgerald. Not for nothing, but there could have been Kennedys on the Fitzgerald side…there were and are thousands of them, and intermarriage among immigrant populations wasn’t unheard of. But I’d like to touch upon 3 of Rose’s relatives named Fred Fitzgerald…her youngest brother, that brother’s son, and her second youngest brother John Francis Fitzgerald Jr.’s son. In Chart 508 (as well as Chart 507) I wanted to include full names where possible…first, middle, and last. JFK 1st cousins Robert P. Fitzgerald and Joseph F. Gargan Jr. (as well as Sr.) resisted all efforts at decoding, so I used the initials…these could turn up yet! But the 3 Freds also proved puzzling.

146.6  Only 2 of them are mentioned in the Fitzgerald Family Bible, now resident at the John. F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum….the same Bible Jack used at his inauguration. Rose’s youngest brother is called Frederick Hannon Fitzgerald… after their mother Mary Josephine “Josie” Hannon…and his dates of birth and death are correct. His son Fred is not mentioned…and Rose’s brother John Francis Jr.’s son is listed correctly by date of birth, but called simply “Fred.”

146.7  Full names for the 2 younger Freds? The 1940 census lists John Francis Jr.’s son as “Frederick H.”…H for Hannon would be a reasonable guess, but only a guess. Trouble is, all 3 of the Freds are sometimes called Frederick Harold Fitzgerald…and that gets around 2000 Goggle hits, while Frederick Hannon Fitzgerald only gets around 700.

146.8  Granted, family bibles aren’t always reliable…a slip of the pen, a momentary confusion of memory, or even a “traditional” family mistake are all possible. And even when  the information is solid, reading the penmanship can be a challenge.


146.9  So…not to point fingers, but I found one website that reproduces the 6 pages of handwritten information from the Fitzgerald Bible, then attempts to transcribe them, warning that there may be errors, so compare to the originals. Good advice…the transcription with the birth date 1904 is Hannon…but with the death date 1935 it’s Harold. And you can see for your self above, it really is Hannon both times. I’m not saying this is the ultimate source of Harold…he could be real after all…wish I had the money for Ancestry.com…maybe a Kickstarter is in order… 😉 😉

chart 509

146.10  But before we leave the Fitzgeralds, is it true that Rose’s parents were 2nd cousins?  As you can see in Chart 509, absolutely. And how does this effect the 1st cousins? Using Ted and Joey Gargan as an example, they are both 1st cousins and double 4th cousins.

chart 510

146.11  Getting back to the Kennedy side…OK, no Kennedy 1st cousins…how about, for the sake of argument, Kennedy 2nd cousins?

chart 511

And surprisingly, as per Chart 511, there are none of those either…Joe’s father and Jack’s grandfather Patrick Joseph “P.J.” Kennedy had 3 sisters, and only one brother, who again died in infancy. Thus, there are Kane, Mahoney, and Caulfield 2nd cousins, but no Kennedys. At this point, I really don’t feel like giving up…so how about 3rd cousins? Ah, and now we must delve into the genealogical mysteries of the Kennedys of Ireland…we’ll reconvene next week, OK?

wicked ballsy


…and speaking of the Old Country, what do you make of this, dear friends? I can see at least 2 problems…first, the precise identity of JFK’s great great grandfather is a matter of some dispute, believe it or not. More on that next week. And second, nobody can be 1/48th anything…the denominator has to be a power of 2. Well, 11/512 is close to 1/48, off by .00065. I’m just sayin’…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#145: How Close Is Close?

145.1 …not very close, as it turns out. It’s one thing to say 1st cousins are related by 1/8, and 2nd cousins by 1/32…but how close is that really?  How big are 1/8 and 1/32 when compared to say 1/1,000,000 (a millionth)? Here’s where percentages come in real handy.

145.2  Let me pose a question…at what point (1st cousins, 2nd cousins, halfs, removeds, etc.) are 2 relatives 1% related and 99% unrelated? What would you say…5th, 6th, 10th, 20th cousins? If you consult Chart 503*, you will see that the 99% threshold is crossed relatively early on…at 3rd cousins. And perhaps surprisingly, even 1st cousins are within 2½ percentage points of being 90% unrelated.

* If this chart looks familiar, it is Chart 485 from Related How Again? #140, with siblings and half-siblings added at the top in blue…for comparison to the degrees of cousins. And since I brought it up, the one millionth is passed at half-9th cousins or equivalent.

chart 503

145.3  I hope now you can grasp why 5th cousins, unrelated by 99.95%, are for all intents and purposes (and especially genetic ones) as closely related as 2 random people off the street. And I am finding that when a person wonders how closely related they are to somebody else…over and above mere curiosity…it often has to do with someone they are romantically interested in. Perhaps they just met, or have been dating for a while, or are married, with children even…and they discover there is a family connection way, way back.

145.4  It is safe to say that in general, a relationship you didn’t know about is one that has no real relevance to whether you should or shouldn’t be together. Certainly not in a legal sense…nothing beyond 1st cousins is unlawful anywhere in the US, and in the vast majority of cases, a person knows who their 1st cousins are. Grown-up adoptees are a major exception of course, which is why siblings are often “kept together.”

145.5  As far as the “ick” factor is concerned, many people today are a lot more squeamish than folks were just a few generations ago, when as close as 1st cousins marrying was relatively common. Even more troubling today is the tendency in the old days for foster siblings or even guardian & ward to get together, to the approval of all concerned. So if 10th cousins freaks you out, despite the “99.999995% unrelated” you find on Chart 503, I don’t know what I could say to change your mind.

145.6  But here are the latest such questions from this website wiseGEEK, and my answers to them there verbatim.

chart 504

145.7  Since you mention that your grandmother had half-siblings from Bill’s first wife, and you also wonder if your husband might be your “half cousin,” I will assume that Bill’s first wife is your husband’s great great grandmother. In that case you and your husband are half-2nd cousins once removed. This also means you are a half-2nd cousin to one of your husband’s parents. 

About half the states allow marriage between 1st cousins, and all allow marriage between 2nd cousins. You are more distant than that, so you are completely legal. Still, I understand that “half-2nd cousins once removed” might sound close enough to be wrong in your mind. After all, “2nd cousins” sounds close compared to 8th cousins or 10th cousins, right?

So how close are you? By way of comparison, 1st cousins are related by 1/8. In terms of percentages, that’s 12.5%. It’s a quarter of that for 2nd cousins, so about 3.1%. For half-2nd cousins once removed it’s a another quarter, or .78%. This means that you and your husband’s genes are .78% the same and 99.22% different. Yes, you and your husband are related to a small degree, but you are over 99% unrelated. Not very close at all, is it?

chart 505

145.8  There is a mistake in your description of your family. You are correct in saying that your mother Miriam and Christy are 1st cousins, since their mothers Milena and Eless are sisters. But you are wrong in saying that Miriam and Christy are also 1st cousins to Alan. Instead, they are 2nd cousins to Alan, since Alan’s father Phil is 1st cousin to Milena and Eless. 

You are a 2nd cousin of Joe, since your mother Miriam and Joe’s mother Christy are 1st cousins. But you are also a 3rd cousin to Joe, since your mother Miriam and Joe’s father Alan are 2nd cousins. Thus you are related to Joe two ways: 3rd cousin (1/128) and 2nd cousin (1/32 = 4/128) for a total degree of relationship of 5/128.

It is easier to see how distant this is if we convert the fractions to percentages. You and Joe are 3.9% related and 96.1% unrelated. Nowhere in the US are relatives beyond first cousin forbidden by law to marry, which is 12.5% related and 87.5% unrelated, so you’re in the clear legally. And yes, Jeff has nothing whatsoever to do with any of this!

chart 506

145.9  To figure out relationships like this, take it one step at a time. I suggest after each step, stop a moment and think about where you are. And remember, practice makes perfect!

Step 1: What is your grandfather’s niece? It is your parent’s 1st cousin, the child of your grandfather’s sibling.

Step 2: Your parent and your parent’s 1st cousin each have a child. Your parent’s child is you. Your parent’s 1st cousin’s child is this guy’s parent, since your parent’s 1st cousin is this guy’s grandmother.

Step 3: You and this guy’s parent are 2nd cousins, since you two are the children of 1st cousins.

Step 4: This guy is the child of your 2nd cousin, thus you are 2nd cousins once removed. 

Genetically, 2nd cousins once removed are 1/64 related, that is, related by 1.56 percent, and unrelated by 98.44 percent. And that’s pretty distant, I think you’ll agree. 

 145.10  Next week…does Connelly, Burke, Gargan & Fitzgerald  have any significance to you? Could it be a law-firm? Or are you confusing it with Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, & Alexander  perhaps?


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#144: Brothers From Different Mothers-in-Law

144.1  YOU are at fault, dear friends! It’s your bad…you as the speaker have only yourself to blame. And we as the listeners can only put the blame properly on YOU.

144.2  The one gripe I see over and over again is that our kinship system is too complicated…and when pressed for details, one example always comes out, that of “1st cousin once removed”…the criticism is made that it can mean “2 different things”…and you don’t know which of those things a person saying it means…do they mean “my parent’s 1st cousin”…or do they mean “my 1st cousin’s child”?

chart 500

144.3  Here’s the cold hard truth: the English language is not to blame…you are, because you are misusing the language…you are using a genealogical term incorrectly…or in this case, incompletely. “1st cousin once removed ascending” refers to your parent’s 1st cousin…”1st cousin once removed descending” refers to your 1st cousin’s child. Precisely and exactly…no confusion, no ambiguity. True, these are relatively long, involved phrases, but in the world of genealogy, they are absolutely correct. Leave off the ascending/descending, and you are wrong…w-r-o-n-g, hence the confusion.

144.4  Because the words first, cousin, once, and removed are everyday words, used in everyday conversation, people think putting them together to refer to a relative of theirs is also everyday speech. It is not…it is the partial use of a genealogical term, and sure enough, you cannot be clearly understood when you do so…because you are making a mistake, pure and simple. What you really ought to say in everyday speech to refer to your parent’s 1st cousin is “my mother’s (or father’s) 1st cousin”…to refer to your 1st cousin’s child, say “my 1st cousin’s son (or daughter).” That’s how the English language works…these are the descriptive phrases that pinpoint the exact relative you wish to speak of.

144.5  If you want to mix genealogical terms in with everyday conversation…and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t…you can’t complain about ambiguous results if you don’t use those genealogical terms correctly…like I said, it’s your fault. If you say “she’s my 1st cousin once removed” and you are misunderstood, that’s to be expected…it’s as if you said “she’s my grand-something,” and expected the listener to know what you meant…grandmother, grandson, grand uncle, whatever…

144.6  People get hung up on the idea that there’s “no specific word for it.” So what? For example, we get along perfectly well despite the fact that there is no specific word for “the sibling of your parent”…”aunt or uncle” is the best we can do. There are languages where there is no specific word for “grandfather”…it’s either your mother’s father or your father’s father, and they get along perfectly well too. And please notice that altho there may not be a word for “the sibling of your parent”…you can talk about one of them…”my mother’s brother…or all of them…”my father’s siblings” and what you are saying is effortlessly clear.

chart 501

144.7  To sum up, there are no words, phrases, or descriptions for blood relatives in the English language that are ambiguous when used correctly. None. It is always possible to make yourself utterly and completely understood. Complaining about “1st cousin once removed” makes as much sense as asking someone to “do me a favor and buy some underwear for my grandparent” then being disappointed when they bring you a bra for Gramps.

144.8  As for brothers-in-law…as we saw last week with Mel Cooley and Alan Brady on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” there is ambiguity…do we mean “wife’s brother” or “sister’s husband”? As a practical matter, we can simply say that Alan married Mel’s sister…or that Mel married Alan’s sister…problem solved. When you say “brother-in-law,” you are saying 2 people are related thru marriage…that one family “married into” the other…and that’s all. The fact that we don’t have specific words in English for wife’s brother and sister’s husband merely tells us that people can get along with out without specific words for those concepts…because you can just say “wife’s brother” or “sister’s husband” if that much detail is important.

144.9  The thing that I find interesting is the fact that such ambiguity exists at all…it means that the phrase “brother-in-law” really does refer to 2 different things…altho, and this is extremely important because it applies to “1st cousin once removed” as well, those 2 “different things” refer to either end of ONE RELATIONSHIP…that of one person marrying the sister of another person. Same thing with “1st cousin once removed”…the 1st cousin of one person is the parent of the other. In fact, one type of brother-in-law can’t exist without the other type also existing…just as there can be no father without a son, no nephew without an uncle, etc.

144.10  There is no way in English to use the phrase “brother-in-law” and at the same time indicate which of the 2 types you mean…so I will invent them…

spousal BIL = wife’s brother

fraternal BIL = sister’s husband

144.11  And naturally, these 2 new terms work equally well with all combinations of brothers, sisters, husbands, and wives, spouses and siblings…I’m doing with brothers-in-law  since we started with Mel and Alan. Why spousal BIL? Because it’s a BIL you get thru your spouse…he’s your wife’s brother. You wouldn’t have him if you didn’t have a wife, or spouse. Why fraternal BIL? Because it’s a BIL you get thru your sibling…your sister’s husband. You wouldn’t have him if you didn’t have a sister, or sibling.

144.12  Are spousal BILs and fraternal BILs really 2 different things? Yes, in a number of ways. First, to have a spousal BIL, you have to be married. To have a fraternal BIL, you can be married or single. And it works the other way around: to be somebody’s fraternal BIL, you have to be married…to be somebody’s spousal BIL, you can be married or single…your  BIL is the one who has to be married.

144.13  Second, consider your brother-in-law’s mother…if he’s your spousal BIL, his mother is your mother-in-law…because his mother is also his sister’s mother, and his sister is your wife. If he’s your fraternal BIL, his mother is NOT your mother-in-law…she’s your sister’s mother-in-law, but not yours.

144.14  Third, how many you get depends on who gets married. If you get married, you get as many spousal BILs as your sister has brothers…from 0 to who knows how many. If your sister gets married, you get one and only one fraternal BIL, you’re sister’s husband.

chart 502

144.15  Which brings us back to Alan and Mel. Last week I suggested it was highly unlikely that Chart 502A was the case. To begin with, because most people wouldn’t consider the husbands of 2 sisters to be brother-in-law to each other. At best, A is Alan’s sister-in-law…B is Mel’s sister-in-law. But in addition, there is simply no evidence from the show that this is the case…not a hint. I suppose we could call Chart 502A  “semi-spousal brothers-in-law”…perhaps “half-spousal brothers-in-law,” altho that’s awfully close to “half-brothers-in-law” which sounds like your wife’s half-brother, or your half-sister’s husband. Maybe we shouldn’t call this arrangement anything at all… 😉 😉

144.16  At least now, with our BIL definitions, we are able to deal with Chart 502Bwhich again there is no evidence for on the show, except for the fact that they keep switching between Mel married a Brady and Alan married a Cooley. In Chart 502B it sure looks like Mel and Alan are some sort of double brothers-in-law…or brothers-in-law in 2 ways. And with our new terminology, we now see that Mel is both a spousal and fraternal brother-in-law to Alan and vice versa…Mel is Alan’s spousal BIL because Alan married Mel’s sister X…and Mel is Alan’s fraternal BIL because Mel married Alan’s sister Y…and the other way around from Alan’s point of view. Done and doner…and I can say it that way cuz it’s my blog…sez me.

wicked ballsy

cal 144.png

Here’s an interesting fact: complexity never seems to phase people, especially on a cultural level…they are used to it, and it isn’t complex for them. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Ides of March…and perhaps you’ve also heard that in the old Roman calendar that was the middle of the month, March 15th. True enough…but that’s just part of the convoluted way the Romans reckoned the days of the month. They counted backwards towards 3 fixed days…the Nones, the Ides, and the Kalends of the next month. January 2006 (I picked a month at random) is shown above, ancient Roman style…in shorter months, there were fewer days to the Nones…and somehow, they lived with it for hundreds of years…go figure…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved