#183: 20 Q’s…Con-Foo-Shush

183.1   From the Yahoo! Answers genealogy section…a couple of confuzzling multiflations of contentious mishegoss, de-tweezed by webniks with varying degrees of verisimilitude and adroitage…posts are in black italics…my comments in red. The abbreviation OP stands for Original Post or Original Poster…

183.2   Question: I’m confused, help? Events are in chronological order. Jim gets with Elizabeth and they have a kid named Sophia. Jim and Elizabeth completely end their relationship. Elizabeth and Sophia later move away to another country. Elizabeth remarries. Jim gets with Tammy and they have a kid named John. Jim and Tammy completely end their relationship. Tammy and John later move away to another country. Tammy remarries. Jim gets with Angela and they have three kids, Jack, Jill, and Jimmy. Jim is married to Angela.

Please answer all of my questions.
(1)  What is the real definition of a step parent?
(2)  Is Angela a stepmom to Jim’s other kids, Sophia and John? Even if she hasn’t met them and they live in different countries?
(3)  Would Sophia then have two stepmoms in total, first Elizabeth, and then Angela?
(4)  Would John then have one stepmom, Angela?
(5)  Jack, Jill, and Jimmy would all be full siblings, but they would have two half siblings, John and Sophia. Would John have 4 half siblings, and would Sophia have 4 half siblings?

183.3  My Answer:

(1)  A little historical context: our prefix “step-” comes from the Old English word “astieped” which meant “bereaved.” When one of your parents died, and your remaining parent remarried, it referred to your “new” parent. Back when marriage was forever, this was the only way you could get a “new” parent…somebody had to die. You couldn’t have 2 step-parents…one married to each of your biological parents, as happens today, because one parent had to be dead. Sorry…that’s just the way it was. Eventually, “step-” lost its connotation with bereavement and death, and that’s where we stand today…a woman who is now married to your biological father…and who is not your biological mother…is your “step-mother.”

(2)  In common usage, “step-mother” refers a woman who raised you, as your mother, but wasn’t your biological mother. She functioned as your mother, perhaps was the only mother you ever knew, and you probably call her “Mom.” But as this question demonstrates, it’s possible your biological father was or now is married to a woman who didn’t raise you, who never functioned as your mother in a family setting. Usage varies…some people would simply say “my father’s wife”…others would say “my step-mother,” even in the case where you and her have never met. 

(3)  Now we come to the “married” part of it. Jim has had only one wife, Angela. Jim was never married to Tammy, so Tammy was neither Sophia’s father’s wife, nor Sophia’s step-mother. True, Sophia and John are half-siblings…but there is no universally accepted way to refer to your step-sibling’s “other” parent. So again, strictly speaking, Angela is the only one who could be called Sophia’s step-mother…in these circumstances, Sophia might well call Angela her father’s wife….or more realistically, “current” wife. Looked at this way, the answer to (4) is yes.

(5)  Yes…all the children have the same father…ones that share a mother are full siblings…ones that don’t are half-siblings…so Sophia and John would each have 4 half-siblings…Jack, Jill, and Jimmy would each have 2 full siblings and 2 half-siblings. But who is a step-sibling to whom again depends on how you look at it…step-siblings if Angela is considered a step-mother, not if she’s not.

chart 643

183.4  Best Answer:  

(1) Someone who is married to your biological parent. Married. I agree, but it is tricky…because even if your biological parents raised you, they might not have been married, nez pah? See today’s wicked ballsy.  To take an extreme example, if Jim, who seems to be quite the male slut, brought home a tramp for a one-night stand, she would not be stem-mom for a day. I would replace “seems to be” with “is”…but we have to admit that in this day and age, that’s considered old-fashioned thinking…nothing wrong with it, I’m just sayin’…

(2)  Here you get into use. “Step-mom” is, ideally, one who raises you and loves you as she would her own children. I know several people who are adults, living on their own, whose parents divorced and remarried. Some refer to the second wife as “my step-mom” and some as “my father’s wife”. It depends on how much they like the lady, and how much time they spent with her. Most of the ones who were out on their own when the divorce happened use “My father’s wife”.  Exactly…common usage varies.

(3)  No. Jim can be married to just one person at a time. I purely don’t know what Muslim children whose father has four wives call the other mommys. If Jim commits bigamy, the second marriage isn’t legal. This is certainly true…for now anyway. Because as the legal meaning of marriage continues to be redefined, many more combinations and permutations will become acceptable, like it or not. Heads-up for future reference: while today you are allowed to call certain connubial scenarios “icky,” doing so in the future may well qualify as “hate speech.” For example, check this article on identical twin sisters…traditional Mormons…married to the same man.

(4) Maybe. See your second Q, which discusses “step-mom” vs. “My father’s wife”.  Correct.

(5)  Yes. Also correct. This poster hews to traditional usage, but as I said, the times they are a-changin’.

183.5  Answer #2:

(1)  A step parent is a person (husband or wife) who is married to the parent of a child but is not the child’s parent. Step parents ONLY HAPPEN if there is a marriage. Sure, that’s how I would call it. When I hear “parent,” I think of a biological parent. But a parent could also be somebody who raised you, or is married to your biological parent, or both. But if they’re neither, I wouldn’t call them a parent…still, many people would. It’s like who qualifies as an in-law. You might consider your husband’s cousins to be your cousins…but perhaps he doesn’t…and/or they don’t.

(2) If Angela marries Jim, she is step mother to any child he has, with any other woman, if he was married to the other woman or not. As has been said, it can be that way…or Angela can just be “my father’s wife” and not any kind of mother.

 (3) (4)  Sophia’s only stepmother is a woman who is married to her father. Where anyone lives, does not matter. John’s stepmother is anyone who legally married his father. (your message is too round about and “gets with” is meaningless) I would agree that if  Sophia and John have a step-mother, it would be Angela. The “gets with” implies they weren’t married, and the living in other countries reinforces the point that Angela didn’t function as a mother to either Sophia or John.

(5)  Full siblings are any child who has the SAME MOTHER AND FATHER. Half siblings have ONE same parent, mother or father. The parents don’t need to be married in either situation. The kids are still either full or half siblings. Quite so…reproduction is blithely independent of marriage…or even cohabitation for that matter.

183.6  Answer #3: Depends. Does “gets with” mean married or just dating?  I was wondering the same thing. I think we all got the impression Jim didn’t marry Elizabeth or Tammy…altho you can’t technically remarry until you’ve been married first…then again, they didn’t get divorced from Jim but “ended the relationship.”  A  bit ambiguous…if the OP meant that everybody here was married, then we’d be talking about “current step-mother” and “former step-mothers,” but you can’t read a person’s mind…


183.7  Question:  What is my grandfather’s half cousin to me? I am visiting a distant relative in the UK and am not sure what she is relative to me (Cousin, half cousin, etc.). She is my grandfather’s half cousin. My great grandfather had a half brother who had a child. What is that to me? When addressing such a question, I make 2 assumptions: first, that “cousin” means “1st cousin”…and second, that this person is related to you at all…if she were your grandfather’s half-uncle’s wife’s niece, your grandfather might call her a cousin even tho she wouldn’t be related to either your grandfather or to you.

Now the answer here is simple…it’s the very definition of “removed”…”once removed” is your father’s generation…”twice removed” is your grandfather’s generation. So to you she’s be the same thing she is to your grandfather, only twice removed…half-1st cousin twice removed. Let’s see if anybody gets it right…

chart 644

183.8  Best Answer:  She is your grandfather’s half first cousin. That makes her Your father (Mother)’s half cousin once removed. Your half first cousin twice removed. Yup, somebody did get it right, altho…Your child’s half first cousin three times removed. You add a “removed” for every generation. If the half-cousin has a child. he/she will be your father’s half second cousin. If the half-cousin has a grandchild, he/she will be your half third cousin.  while all of this extra stuff is true, it could be confusing to the OP and I would have bit my tongue and left it out. No one but a genealogist showing off uses the term “half-cousin” in casual conversation. How snarky. You are what you are…don’t blame the genealogist. When you converse, call her “cousin” and ask if she’d like the tea (or the warm beer); that is close enough. OK, a congenial host in the end, despite the snarkiness.

183.9  Answer #2, “Highest Rated” by others:  That person would be your half first cousin twice removed.  Another right answer…are we on a roll or what? Your grandfather (Ben) has a half first cousin (Emily). Ben has a son named Steve. Steve and Emily are half 1st cousins, once removed (1 generation removed from each other).Steve has a son (You). You and Emily are half 1st cousins, twice removed (because you are two generations apart). Hope that helps. It would obviously help more if you happened to guess their names correctly…still, you’re right on in your explanation…good 4U.

183.9  Answer #3:  your “kith and kin”. or just “kin” if you are more modern. True, but it doesn’t help…it does however give me the chance to mention what “kith” is, if anybody ever wondered about it. Kith refers to your friends or acquaintances…together with kin, your relatives, which are defined differently for different societies, they constitute the people you know.

183.10  Answer #4: 3rd cousin  Wrong. The reader might find to fun to figure out how many separate mistakes they have to make to get to this conclusion…today anyway, I’m not in the mood to.

183.11  Answer #5:  She can be either your third half cousin or your half cousin twice removed. A relationship is what it is…it can be described in many ways, but it is only one “thing”…so if you think your 2 alternatives describe the same thing, you are wrong…even tho your second choice happens to be right.

ADDED: I know there are a lot of answers here. Let me explain mine more. Yes, that would be enlightening. Most people refer to cousins as first, third, second. First cousin are the children of your parent’ brothers and sisters. Yes, I’m with you so far. Every new generation adds out a layer so their kids would be your second and so on. No…very common mistake but still wrong.

The “____ Removed” title also has to do with generations. You take the relationship between this person and your family tree down to it’s barest form (in this case half cousin) and then each generation after that becomes a once, twice or three times removed.  Now you’re right again. This helps clarify how closely a person is really related to a person. We all know someone who says, “I am the cousin of Henry IIX” but that covers a lot of possibilities where as someone who says, “I am his cousin 10 times removed” means your great (x9) ancestor was an actual cousin (their parents were siblings). This raises a valuable point…ancestors from long ago will always be removed by a high number of steps…while the actual type of cousin…1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc….could be anything, depending on how they are related to your ancestor of that generation. This is what I believe you meant when you said “barest form.” Problem is, your math is off…if a cousin is X times removed, they are a cousin of your ancestor with X – 2 greats…as for example, your great grandfather’s 1st cousin is your 1st cousin 3 times removed…3 removeds – 2 = 1 great…so 10 times removed is the cousin of your 8G grandfather. Source(s): I learned most of this in an article in Biography magazine On the whole, I’d recommend canceling your subscription…either that or reading more closely.

183.12  Answer #6:  She would be your 2nd cousin, once removed. and her children would be your 3rd cousin. Another cockeyed answer. For starters, “cousin” should be “half-cousin.” After that, she is not your 2nd cousin once removed…her children are your 2nd cousins once removed, since they are your father’s 2nd cousins. And her grandchildren, not her children, are your 3rd cousins. Trust me on this, I have no reason to lie.

183.13  Answer #7:  your inlalaw  Who says spelling doesn’t matter?

183.14  Answer #8:  she is a half ***.  Testy…very testy…

183.15 Update from Original Poster : WOW! Everyone seems to have a different answer.  Well, here’s an interesting distinction between genealogy and knowledge in general. In genealogy, a half-cousin is different from a cousin. But with knowledge in general, being half-wrong is no different than being wrong, you see? Genealogy is a difficult science.  My initial reaction is to say no, it’s not that difficult at all…but that would be unfair of me, because many people do find it confusing. What I will say is that if you study it, and think about it, it should make sense, for the simple reason that it’s merely the same basic patterns and connections repeated over and over…up, down, and across your family tree. Still more, next week…aloha…


wicked ballsy

Myron Cohen was a wonderful comedian who appeared many TV shows in the 1950s and 60s…34 times on Ed Sullivan alone!  And he was old-school…instead of one-liners, he would tell stories…jokes, basically…and this one here is not verbatim as he would tell it,  just my rendering of it. But the punch-line is his, and notice how he tells an “adult” story without using any “bad” words…


It seems Saul and his wife were celebrating 50 years together, and invited their 3 children to dinner. His son the lawyer arrived last minute and said: “Sorry, Pop, I got held up in court, and rushed over here…I didn’t have a chance to buy you something.” “That’s alright,” said Saul, “you’re here with us for this special occasion and that’s what counts.”

Then his son the doctor shows up…”Pop, I was going to get you a nice gift, but I had an emergency call, then came over as quick as I could.” “Don’t worry about it,” said  Saul,” you’re here now and that’s all that matters.”

Then came his daughter…”I’ve been running around all day doing errands and it just hit me, I forgot to get you a present.” Saul assured her: “Your being here is the only present we need.”

After the meal, Saul stood up and addressed his brood: “It’s wonderful that we could all be together tonight, but something’s been eating at me and I have to come clean. You’ve been living a lie…your mother and I were never married.”

His son the lawyer said: “You mean we’re all… ?”

“That’s right,” said Saul, “and the cheapest!”


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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