#160 Adventures in Cousinland: Them Over There

160.1 …which is to say, our cousins abroad…Britain and Europe…and we begin with a couple of famous Teutonics.


160.2  Wernher von Braun…married his 1st cousin in 1947…Wiki’s list is correct. He had been in the US just 2 years, at Ft. Bliss in El Paso with his staff of rocket scientists…the “original” rocket scientists I guess you could call them. He was 35, his bride was just 18 and still in Germany…he was given permission to marry her there, then the newlyweds and his parents all returned to the US.

chart 558

160.3  One can’t help but notice a lot of given names with this crowd…names and naming being just one of many subjects that feed into the study of kinship. These were aristocratic families…hence the von…in fact Wernher himself was a Freiherr or Baron…and their custom of multiple Vornames (fore-names) began in the 1500s and petered out in the late 1800s, altho it still lingers today. As an accommodation, Germans have a Rufname (common name) which will be underlined in official documents…as Wernher Magnus Maximillian von Braun…and it doesn’t have to be the first one. By law, a German’s Rufname must indicate gender…but  you can get around it with multiple Vornames. For example, you can name your son Alpha Hans Dorpfmann…he’s Hans, a male, to the government…he’s Alpha to everybody else.

chart 559

160.4  Next, a musical fellow I’m sure you’ve heard of…Wiki says he married his 2nd cousin and indeed he did. In this case, it was a “don’t change the towels” union…her maiden name also being Bach, so the monograms remained the same. Chart 559 didn’t take a lot of research, since JSB himself compiled an extensive history of his family, citing his 2G grandfather as the progenitor of the musical wing…Vitus was by trade a miller and baker, but also handy on the cittern (above), a kind of large mandolin plucked with a quill.


160.5  Over to Britain now, and 2 gentlemen who share a non-genealogical connection. Christopher Robin Milne’s father A.A. Milne was taught for 2 years by H.G. Wells, at a school run by Christopher’s grandfather John Vince Milne. Both Wells and Christopher married 1st cousins…you see the latter with his wife above, lower right.

chart 560

chart 561

160.6   Interesting to note that Christopher Robin…nicknamed “Billy Moon” by the family…had a grandfather named Aubrey. This masculine name is a Norman version of the German Albrich…and is not related to the feminine Audrey, a Frenchified form of the  Anglo-Saxon Etheldred…altho today Aubrey is switching over to become a predominantly girl’s name. Extending the benefit of the doubt, we will suppose it’s because parents like the sound of Aubrey…altho, sadly, it’s more likely they mistakenly think it’s a variation of Audrey. And so it goes…old ways die hard, sez me.


160.7   Finally, we come to Charles Darwin (above, right.) So far, things have been pretty straightforward… but this tree has a little tang to it. Wiki’s list says Darwin married his 1st cousin, and no problem there…his mother and his wife’s father were siblings….and yes, that’s the porcelain and pottery people…the first Josiah Wedgwood (above, left) founded the company in 1759. The added twist is that Darwin’s sister Caroline married his brother-in-law Josiah III…and of course, that couple were as much 1st cousins to each other as Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgwood were.

chart 562

160.8  What’s instructive is to see how the offspring of these 2 unions are related. In Chart 562 I’ve labeled them A and Z…for the record, the Wedgwoods had 4 daughters and no sons…the Darwins also had 4 daughters, along with 6 sons. Right off, you know that A and Z are double 1st cousins, their parents being a brother and sister from one family who married a sister and a brother from another family. The complication is that the 2 Darwins are also 1st cousins to the 2 Wedgwoods. The children of 1st cousins are 2nd cousins…but is that single, or, as you may already suspect, another double? The way to confirm it is to compare A and Z‘s parents by pairs, as in Chart 563.

chart 563

160.9  So A and Z are double 1st cousins and double 2nd cousins…total relationship 1/8 + 1/8 + 1/32 + 1/32 = 1/4 + 1/16 = 5/16…meaning they are a bit more closely related than half-siblings 4/16. But I have a confession to make…

160.10  …and that is, I was sandbagging you. Familiar with the term? To try to persuade someone that they’re wrong when you know in fact that they’re right? No, that’s called gas-lighting. Sandbagging in a game or contest is to hide your true strength from your opponent, then reveal it when the time is optimal. In general, sandbagging is withholding information…more insidiously, it’s pretending you don’t know something that you do know. And in this case what I was leaving out was that grandparents Josiah and Sarah Wedgwood were themselves 3rd cousins.

160.11  So then…let’s work it thru. It means that Josiah II and Susannah Wedgwood were, besides siblings, also double 4th cousins. Thus Charles and Caroline Darwin were double 5th cousins to Josiah III and Emma Wedgwood. The only change for Charles Darwin then is that his wife was his double 5th cousin, as well as 1st cousin. And working it out as in Chart 563, A and Z are also quadruple 6th cousins….a relationship that’s equivalent to 5th cousins…since double 6th would be equivalent to half-5th…double that again, it’s equivalent to 5th. Done and done…till next week, when we wrap up our Adventures in Cousinland.

wicked ballsy

chart 564

But while I’m thinking of it, this would be a good time to review just what happens to siblings whose parents are related to each other. In a nutshell, you take that parental relationship down one full step and double it. Here, “full step” means siblings > 1st cousins > 2nd cousins > 3rd cousins > etc…the degree of relationship is divided by 4. “Half steps” would be siblings > half-siblings > 1st cousins > half-1st cousins > 2nd cousins > etc., dividing by 2. Thus in Chart 564, A and B are double 1st cousins…take that down a full step to 2nd cousins, then double it…making their children both siblings and quadruple 2nd cousins to each other.

chart 565

Sure enough, Chart 565 shows the 4 ways X and Y trace back to their great grandparents.  And if this is all starting to make sense, frankly I’m not surprised.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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