#186: 20 Q’s…the Black and the Red

186.1  …being the real-life adventures of average folks wresting with kinship questions at Yahoo! Answers…posts are in black italics…my comments in red. The abbreviation OP stands for Original Post or Original Poster…

186.2  Question: If her great uncle is my grandfather, what does that make us? Before anything else, let’s look at the terms “great” and “grand”…when applied to uncles and aunts, it’s one of the rare areas of kinship terminology where there is more than one way to do it. Most everything else has a distinct meaning…for example, 2nd cousins are one thing…the children of 1st cousins…and not anything else…which is not to say people don’t use the term incorrectly, but they’re wrong. With great/grand, there really is no absolutely correct way to use them.

186.3  Still, in a genealogical context, there is a preferred usage, and it is “grand uncle” for the brother of your grandfather. The important point is that each of these gentlemen is thus referred to by one “grand. In like fashion, the brother of your great grandfather is your great grand uncle…again, each is called the same thing, “great grand.” This is done to keep them straight…watch what happens with using “great uncle” for the brother of your grandfather. The brother of your great grandfather is then your great great uncle…one has one “great,” the other has 2 “greats”…but then your great great grandfather also has 2 “greats” even tho he is one generation earlier than that great great uncle. So the idea is that all the siblings of one generation will  have same number of greats…that’s all there is to it. At the same time, there are court cases where “grand uncle” and “great uncle” are deemed to be the same thing legally.

186.4  As to the question at hand…at some point, if you’re really interested in kinship and genealogy, you’ll discover you can do questions as simple as this in your head. If somebody is her grand uncle, he is the brother of one of her grandparents…in this case we’ll say the brother of her grandfather….and the brother of her grandfather is your grandfather. You and her are 2nd cousins. Taking it step by step…your father has a brother and that brother has a child…the child is your 1st cousin. Your grandfather has a brother and that brother has a grandchild…the grandchild is your 2nd cousin. Done and done. Keep at it, dear friends…it will all come in time!

chart 652

186.5  Answer #1…Assuming he is a great uncle by blood, I’ve said it a thousand times but I’ll say it again: if he isn’t an uncle by blood, he isn’t an uncle period…the man married to your father’s sister is an uncle by marriage only, an honorary uncle if you will, but not your uncle. You call him uncle out of courtesy…but consider this: if he divorces your aunt, do you still call him uncle? And since I brought it up, here’s my answer: if they have children, your 1st cousins, then divorce or no, he is still the father of your cousins, so I would still call him uncle…in my family I have several ex-aunts by marriage and I never stopped considering them as aunts. 

Generation 1: Your grandfather and her grandparent = siblings
Generation 2: Your parent and her parent = 1st cousins
Generation 3: You & She = 2nd cousins 

When (if) you both find that special someone and have children, they will be generation 4, and 3rd cousins to each other.  What can I say…correctamundo. You are OK to date and even marry, Relations between 2nd cousins are legal everywhere in the world and in all 50 states…even between 1st cousins, legal practically everywhere in the world and in about half the states, did you know that?  but go really slow and be super polite, or there will some distinct silences at family gatherings. Do you recognize this gag from last week? Yup, same poster…I want to say he’s got a million of them, altho it appears he does not…still, appearances can be deceiving, nez pah?

186.6  Answer #2…Cousin (a little far related ). Clumsily stated but true…in common parlance, a 2nd cousin (or beyond) is typically called a “distant cousin.” And while a 2nd cousin doesn’t sound that distant compared to say a 10th cousin, you share only about 3% of your genes with your 2nd cousin, the other 97% you don’t. 
186.7 Answer #3…well if the great uncle and granddad is in the same generation your dads will be in the same generation and so will you and as your related you will be cousins. See, there’s no “if” about it…grand unc and grand pop can’t be anything but the same generation…and since 2nd cousins are a type of cousin, it’s not wrong to say you’re cousins. p.s. i drew this on a piece of paper  No kidding? I usually draw my diagrams on the bathroom wall, but it takes all kinds, sez me…

186.8  Answer #4…just about nothing  Genealogically, no, not just about nothing…genetically, as we’ve seen, yes, just about nothing. 

186.9  Answer #5…Family  Which just goes to show you can be absolutely correct and still not helpful.

186.10  Answer #6…So your common blood ancestors are your Great Grandparents, which means you are 2nd cousins Yes…and notice here they say great grandparents plural…if the common ancestor were only one grandparent, and not 2 grandparents, you’d be half-2nd cousins. Astute.

186.11  Answer #7…or great cousins because i ave a great uncle and his granddaughter is my second cousin  A few blogs back, I cautioned about starting a sentence with “There is no such thing as — “…so I won’t say that now. I will say this: Genealogists do not use the terms “great cousin” or “grand cousin”…people in general do, but not very often…I Googled them and got about 13,000 and 9,000 hits respectively…minuscule by internet standards…and perusing the first 50 or so each time, only a couple hits referred to specific kinship…mostly they were saying that they had wonderful cousins. Consequently, there is no generally agreed on meaning for these terms…a future blog will investigate just what the few people who do use them mean by them. Here, I think you mean any cousin beyond 1st cousin…what is generally called a distant cousin. But your conclusion is right on. Good! Great! Grand!


186.12  Question…How Am I Related To This Person? She’s my grandmother’s cousin. Does that make her my great cousin, just my grandmother’s cousin, or something else? Thanks!  Speaking of which…! Here the use of the phrase “great cousin” goes beyond numbered cousins…that is, your cousins, or cousins of your generation…to cover removed cousins as well. The answer is nothing more than the definition of twice removed…belonging to your grandparents’ generation…so this person is your 1st cousin twice removed

chart 653


186.13  But here’s the point, and it’s a crucial one: there is absolutely nothing wrong with simply saying “my grandmother’s 1st cousin”…in fact, it is the single best way to say it!  Everybody will know precisely what you mean…there is not the slightest shred of ambiguity or confusion. Truth be told, “removed” is genealogical jargon…you use it in general conversation at the risk of not being understood. It’s shorthand, really…instead of saying Lucretia Borgia was my great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandmother’s 3rd cousin….or even my 18G grandmother’s 3rd cousin…they’ll say my 3rd cousin 20 times removed. The 3 underlined expressions mean the same thing, no foolin’. And you’re welcome!

186.14  Answer #1…

Generation 1: Your Grandmother & her cousin = 1st cousins
Generation 2: Your parent and C’s children = 2nd cousins
Generation 3: You & C’s grandchildren = 3rd cousins 

You are two generations apart from “C”. That makes you 1st cousins twice removed. “Removed” means “generations apart” in cousins. Again with those lists…it’s that same jokester, the one who sometimes gives bonus answers, as he calls them. But he’s right, no two ways about it. 

186.15  Answer #2…1st cousins 2 times removed  I concur.

186.16  Answer #3…if she’s your grandmother’s first cousin then she is your first cousin twice removed. her children are your 2nd cousins once removed (they are your parent’s 2nd cousins) & her grandchildren are your third cousins. Wow…3 answers, 3 utterly accurate answers…I’m feeling light-headed…


186.17  Question…If my 3rd great grandfather is a first cousin 6 times removed from a cousin, what is my relationship to that cousin?  Permit me to call the cousin referred to by “6 times removed from a cousin” Bob…and the 3G grandfather I’ll call Gramps. If Bob has a 1st cousin 6 times removed, it would be the 1st cousin of Bob’s 4G grandfather…that’s 4 greats. Where does the 4 come from? To convert between times removed and the ancestor whose cousin is removed, you add up all the “greats” and count the “grand” and “father/mother” as 1 each, like this…

great (1) great (1) grand (1) father (1)… 1+1+1+1=4… 4 times removed
great (1) grand (1) father (1)…1+1+1=3… 3 times removed
grand (1) father (1)… 1+1=2… 2 times removed
father (1)… 1 time removed

Here, we work backwards…to get 6 times removed, you need 1 father, 1 grand, and 4 greats…1+1+4=6. So that means that your 3G grandfather has a 1st cousin, and that 1st cousin is Bob’s 4G grandfather…notice it’s 3G versus 4G…so it’s no surprise that you and Bob are something once removed. What that something is can be found by shinnying down the Cousin Ladder in Chart 654A. And we get…6th cousin once removed.

chart 654

But there’s a wrinkle…when 2 people are cousins removed, one is in an older generation, one is in a younger generation…and unless you append ascending or descending respectively, there’s no way for us to know which is which. I have assumed Bob is alive today and OP wants to know how they are related…understandable. So Bob is the 1C 6R descending, Gramps is the 1C 6R ascending. What if it were the other way around? We take Chart 654A…switch the positions of Bob (“cousin”) and Gramps (“3 greats”) to get Chart 654B…and we get 1st cousin 11 times removed. Taking a generation to be 25 years, Bob is now around 325 years old if he’s a day…whew.


186.18  Answer #1…There are genealogical relationship charts on line that can be downloaded and printed. That’s true…but with 6th cousins on the one hand and 11 times removed on the other, charts might not extend far enough to work in this case. I cannot imagine that your would know a first cousin 6x removed relationship of your 3rd G Grandfather, but not know your relationship with this person.  What a cockeyed thing to say! In my 63 years of living, I’ve found people who have no imagination whatsoever to be extremely rare…but we have one here, woo hoo!

186.19  Answer #2…

3rd GGF = 1C6R
2nd GGF = 1C5R
1st GGF = 1C4R
GP = 1C3R
Parent = 1C2R
You = 1C 1R 

It’s our old friend the list-maker…usually he’s pretty good, but with this first one, not so much. As a rule, I don’t simply say somebody’s wrong and leave it at that…I try to see where they went wrong and how they can be set right. This first list has the OP’s line of ancestors on the left, and what they should be to the cousin I’ve called Bob on the right…and the removeds are fine, but the numbered cousins should increase by one for each step…ending up with 6th cousin…6C…for you.

Maybe. there are a lot of ways to go with this one. No, actually there are only 2 ways to go with this, as I explained with the ascending and descending stuff.  Here’s another: 

3rd GGF = 1C6R
2nd GGF = 1C7R
1st GGF = 1C8R
GP = 1C9R
Parent = 1C10R
You = 1C11R 

And he gets this one right…which makes his first screwy list all the more mysterious, nez pah?

186.20  Answer #3…Friends at the very least.

186.21  Answer #4…That is insanely difficult to calculate,  Please don’t speak for everyone…insanely difficult for you, I can believe…but not insanely difficult for me, just the opposite…which is to say, if I found I couldn’t do it, I’d conclude that I’d lost my mind. and it wouldn’t be that important, genetically speaking you probably would only be trace genetically related  Well, give the devil his due…..on this point you are 100% correct…in fact, calling it a trace would be overly generous…6C 1R are 99.994% unrelated…as are 1C 11R…which means if you have 25,000 genes, you share 2…actually 1½, so it looks like you caught me in a generous mood after all.

186.22  Answer #5…No  Meaningless answer, you old rascal you. I’m trying to remember the last time I was instructed to “answer yes or no, even if it doesn’t make any sense”…but I’m coming up blank, sorry.

186.23  We’ll wrap up our 20 Q’s series next week…I wonder, will it really end up as 20?…I meant it originally only as a figure of speech…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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