#190: Steps by Step

inset 0190.1   Our system of kinship has 2 fundamental categories: relatives by blood and relatives by marriage. Can the relationships between 2 people be both? Yes indeed, as we saw last week with Mookie Wilson…his brother had a child, Preston…then Mookie married Preston’s mother, making Mookie both Preston’s uncle and step-father…and BTW, Preston considered Mookie the only father he’s ever known. So yes, there can be overlap. But that overlap can be tricky.

190.2  Within what I call the nuclear step-family…parents, children, siblings…one cannot be both blood and step. For parents: your step-mother is married to your biological father, but is not your biological mother…so by definition she can’t be both your biological mother and step-mother…because she isn’t your biological mother*. For children: your step-son is the biological child of your spouse, but not of you…so again, they can’t be both a biological child and a step-child to you.

*  …except that real life is messy. So for example your biological parents could have split up soon after you were born. Dad marries your step-mother, who raises you until you are a teenager…you have no contact with your real mother. Then your step-mother dies, and your Dad marries your real mother, who now functions as a step-mother…your “new” mother…even tho she is blood…get it?

190.3  But what happens when we extend step-relatives beyond the nuclear step-family? Could someone, for example, be both your biological uncle and your step-uncle? Well, since last week we had a case where a person’s biological grandparent and step-grandparent were the same person, owing to the fact that step-siblings had married…you’d think it could work for uncles…and you’d be right.

chart 669

190.4  One such possibility is Chart 669A…here Y had daughter B, X had sons A and CA married B and had you…then X married Y. Now C is your biological uncle, being your father’s brother. But C is also your mother’s step-brother, so in that sense your step-uncle. Please ignore the fact that your father is also your mother’s step-brother…it’ll be easier on your sanity, I think.

190.5  In Chart 669B, your father A marries your Aunt B, making her your step-mother…C is your biological uncle, being your mother’s brother…but he’s also now your step-uncle, being your step-mother’s brother…but here again, looked at that way, your mother X is also now your step-aunt…are you sure you want to extend steps beyond the nuclear family? Just askin’…

chart 670

190.6  Last week we looked at 2 different ways you could have a step-uncle…left side of Chart 670, Uncle C is a step-uncle because he’s your step-mother’s brother. I call this a self-step relationship since it comes about because you yourself are in a step-relationship. On the right side, Uncle C is your biological mother’s step-brother, so again your step-uncle. Con-step come from consanguine…meaning it is not you, but one of your relatives, that is in a step-relationship. It has been suggested to me that there might be yet another way…

chart 671

190.7  In Chart 671, your 1st cousin C is the son of your mother’s sister B. Suppose B divorces C’s father D and remarries…her new husband E is now cousin C’s step-father…does that also make E your step-uncle? Before you say yes, what was D? As the husband of your biological aunt you probably called him “uncle”…looked at that way, wouldn’t E now be just your  “uncle”…the same as D was? Or perhaps you’d say “uncle by marriage.” But this would be based on E‘s  relationship to your aunt, without regard to his relationship to you cousin. See the tangles that develop when you start expanding steps beyond the nuclear step-family? You’re free to of course…knock yourself out.

chart 672190.8  But this is a good time to recall some basics. In Chart 672, we’re assuming you marry a woman named B who has a son C by a previous marriage. Consider B’s father A…is he your father-in-law or your step-father? And what is C…your son-in-law or your step-son? Native speakers of English can parse in-laws versus steps fairly automatically…still, we do have 2 parallel systems of terminology…or 3 really, when you consider your biological aunt’s husband, whom most people again would address as “uncle”…but ultimately acknowledge as an “uncle by marriage”…certainly neither a step nor an in-law.

190.9  So where does this leave E in Chart 671? Would he be your “step-uncle by marriage”? This is what we here at Related How Again? call a connection, not a relationship. And not to gild the lily, but notice that in Chart 669A, A‘s father-in-law Y is also A‘s step-father…it can happen in the best of families, sez me.

190.10  And just to put steps into some historical context, check out this quote from The Mountain of Names: A History of the Human Family written by Alex Shoumatoff in 1985.


What’s important to realize here is that such a “marriage chain…of six marriages among seven people” would have been the result of deaths, not divorces. Today, one can have a biological mother and a step-mother both alive at the same time…this was almost never the case with our ancestors. It is notable that there were “families with an extremely dense and complex mix of natural and step-parents and full and half siblings”…and “[of the resulting children] some of them did not have any parents in common.”

190.11  And of course among the full and half-siblings would be step-siblings as well…but as is correctly pointed out, some of the children would ultimately not related to some of the others in any simple way, short of something like “my step-brother’s half-brother”…again, more of a connection than a relationship, as our kinship system would currently reckon it. Altho like anything else, that can change…today there is some impetus to refer to your half-sibling’s half-sibling…of no blood relation to you but on the “other side”…as your “quarter-sibling.” If the culture wants and needs it, the language will provide it. Next week…what the heck, we might as well tackle step-cousins…and coming soon: The Hatfields and McCoys Revisited.

wicked ballsy

chartt 673

Paralleling the 2 kinds of step-relatives, I distinguished in Related How Again #144 between the 2 kinds of sibling-in-laws….starting at 144.8. “Spousal” means you get it thru your spouse…you can’t have one without having a spouse, since A is your spouse’s sibling. “Fraternal” means you get it thru your sibling…you can’t have one without having a sibling, since B is your sibling’s spouse. If you are an unmarried only child, you can have neither type, nez pah?

That these really are 2 different things can be seen by the fact that A‘s parents in Chart 673 are your in-laws…but B‘s parents are not your in-laws…they are your sister’s. Spousal and fraternal siblings-in-law are actually the 2 ends of one single relationship…for example, to your spousal BIL A you are his fraternal BIL. Can 2 people be both to each other? Of course…it happens every time 2 siblings from one family marry 2 siblings from another family. Diagram it out if you don’t believe me…but I’d believe me…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#189: Kevin’s Kwestion

Here is an interesting kinship question for you.
My older brother’s ex-wife’s (Pam’s) parents’ names were Fred and Wanda.
After Fred’s mother and Wanda’s father passed away,
Fred’s father married Wanda’s mother and had a daughter named Elaine.
Fred and Wanda married and had two daughters named Pam and Teresa.
(1)  Elaine is Pam’s double half-aunt,
(2)  Pam’s parents are step-brother and step-sister,
(3)  Elaine is both Fred and Wanda’s half-sister,
(4)  and both of Pam’s living grandparents are also her step-grandparents.
(5)  Since Pam and Teresa are sisters, does that make them step first cousins as well?
(6)  Whenever Elaine used to introduce Fred and Wanda, she would say,
         “This is my brother Fred…he is married to my sister Wanda.”
(7)  Do I have all of these blood and step family connections correct?
(8)  What would be the blood and step relations between Teresa’s children and Elaine’s children?

189.1  The above is from a guy named Kevin, and an interesting tangle it is! I have numbered Kevin’s assertions and questions, and we will examine each in turn. But before I do that, let’s look at step-relations a little closer, perhaps in a way that never occurred to you. And I don’t actually know if any of this will be relevant to Kevin’s Kwestion, but it’s interesting nonetheless, sez me.

189.2  And we’ll proceed with a type of diagram that’s different from what I ordinarily use for steps. Chart 662A is typical…it could have come about in 2 ways: A and B had E, while C and D had G…then B and C had F. Or, B and C had F…then split up and had E and G respectively. The reason the chronology is important is that your non-biological step-parent is the current spouse of your biological parent, not a former spouse. In Chart 662A, we could show this by putting little 1’s and 2’s next to the double lines, indicating the chronological order of the marriages.

chart 662

189.3  But to analyze step-relationships themselves, I am going to use a different style of symbolism, Chart 662B. Here, a child is connected to its parents…to one parent by a direct line…to two parents by a line connected to the parents’ marriage double-line. And of course, it is now assumed that B and C are currently married.

189.4  So Chart 663A shows a step-relationship…B is E‘s biological mother…C is married to B but is not E‘s biological father…we then say C is E‘s step-father…and E is C‘s step-son. This is what we might call a nuclear step-relationship…because it involves the only the nuclear family…parents and child. And while B is certainly involved in this relationship, B still not a step-anything, is she? She is E‘s mother and C‘s wife…but not a step in any way.

chart 663

189.5  Chart 663B gives us a “Brady Bunch” scenario…this is still a nuclear step-relationship,  simply doubled…and introduces the idea of step-siblings. Now both B and C are step-parents, where in Chart 663A  only C was a step-parent…and E and G are properly called step-siblings. And altho it may seem ridiculously obvious, it’s still important to note that a person cannot have a step-sibling without having a step-parent.

189.6  This is important is because it answers the seemingly knotty question of whether half-siblings are also step-siblings. Looking back at Chart 662, E and F are half-siblings…they have the same mother B and different fathers A and C. In the case where B and C are currently married, Chart 662B, people often wonder if F and E are also step-siblings…reasoning that C is the biological mother of F, and C is not E‘s biological mother yet is married to E‘s biological father.

189.7  And we can now see clearly why the answer is no: to have a step-sibling, F must have a step-parent, and he does not! B and C are the only parents involved, and they are both the biological parents of F. Wow, that was easy…

189.8  One thing more: what I have called the nuclear step-family…parents, children, and siblings…might be looked upon by some people as being a true step-relationship. I will refrain from calling it that, but will opine that it is what people typically think of when talking about step-relations. And the trouble is, when you try to extend the concept of steps beyond these basics, you run into ambiguities. Take the example of the step-aunt/step-nephew relationship. It can occur in 2 distinct ways, as in Chart 664.

chart 664

189.9  In Chart 664A, C is your step-aunt why? Because she is the sister of your step-mother B. But in Chart 664B, C is your step-aunt for a different reason: because she is the step-sister of your biological mother B. Did you see that coming? In Chart 664A, I will call C your self-step-aunt…meaning your relationship to her results from you yourself being in a nuclear step-family. For Chart 664B, C is your con-step-aunt…meaning your relationship to her results from one of your relatives, somebody consanguine to you, but not you, being in a nuclear step-relationship…in this case, it’s your mother B who’s in step.

189.10  And now we see the difficulty with considering what is a “true” step…in Chart 664A, as we have seen, is your self-step-aunt, because it is you who are in a nuclear step-relationship. But to C, you are not her self-step-nephew, because she is not in a nuclear step-relationship…rather, it’s her sister B who is…therefore you are C‘s con-step-nephew. Opposite ends of the relationship between you and C are different kinds of steps…self- and con-. And with Chart 664B…here C is your con-step-aunt, since it is not you that is in the step-relationship, but your mother B. But to C, you are her self-step-nephew, since she is in a step-relationship, with your mother B.

189.11  If we were to say that only self-steps are “true” steps, then in Chart 664A, you would be related to C, but C wouldn’t be related to you…and vice versa in Chart 664B…you would not be related to C, but she would be related to you. And whatever else you might want in a kinship system, it’s fundamentally necessary that all relationships be reciprocal, or two-way…if I am your relative, you are my relative. The terms for each of us might be the same, as sibling/sibling or 1st cousin/1st cousin….or they might be different, as father/son or aunt/nephew…but we are each related to the other. So for any kind of step-relation to exist, both self-step and con-step-relations must exist. And without my invented terminology, there is ambiguity.

189.12   And perhaps this is why steps typically aren’t extended beyond parents and children…not even to grands…is your step-grandfather your step-father’s father…or your father’s step-father? There’s no way to know what you mean…or there was no way…now with self-‘s and con-‘s there is. At any rate, Kevin’s Kwestion has been patiently waiting, so let’s gnaw away at it, shall we?

189.13  Kev’s ex-sister-in-law Pam’s family started out like this…

chart 665

…then ended up like this, with Fred’s father and Wanda’s mother dead…yup, dead…not passed or deceased or anything else….old school spoken here, thank you.

chart 666

 189.14  (1)  Elaine is Pam’s double half-aunt. Correct…Elaine is the half-sister of Pam’s father Fred…and also the half-sister of Pam’s mother Wanda. I might be tempted to reserve the “double” terminology for cousins, and say Elaine is Pam’s half-aunt in 2 different ways…but it’s still true that Elaine is twice as closely related to Pam than if it were only one way.
189.15  (2)  Pam’s parents are step-brother and step-sister. Absolutely true…just like the Brady Bunch. And it’s funny that the how of it makes a difference to some people. Like if on the show, Greg eventually married Marcia, there’d be a hew and cry to be sure. But if Greg and Marcia met and married each other first…then their parents married…not so bad, right? (On a later season episode, Mike’s grandfather married Carol’s grandmother…played by the same actors in old-folk makeup.)

189.16  (3)  Elaine is both Fred and Wanda’s half-sister.  There’s no denying it…Fred and Elaine have the same mother but different fathers…Wanda and Elaine have the same father but different mothers.

189.17  (4)  and both of Pam’s living grandparents are also her step-grandparents. By the letter of the law this is correct…B is the step-father of Pam’s mother Wanda…C is the step-mother of Pam’s father Fred. Do people generally extend step-relation beyond what I have called the nuclear step-family…parents, children, siblings? Some do, some don’t. But consider this: multiple relationships between blood relatives are important because they mean the relatives are more closely related than they would be otherwise…for example, double 1st cousins are related by 1/4, as close as half-siblings…that’s a biological fact. The question is, of what value is a multiple relationship that is not a blood relationship?

189.18  And even beyond genetic considerations, double 1st cousins live lives that are different from “single” 1st cousins. For single 1st cousins, family reunions are either on their father’s side or their mother’s side, and therefore involve 2 different sets of cousins on the guest lists. For double 1st cousins, there are some cousins who show up at both gatherings, and rightly so. Now if somebody is both your biological grandparent and your step-grandparent, what is the consequence? Genetically of course, there is none. Socially, if the families are close, a step-grandparent might act as an actual grandparent, especially if there were no others alive or in the picture. But a biological grandparent would act no differently if they were also a step-grandparent…so in a very real sense, such a double relationship is meaningless…they’re “already” a grandparent, nez pah?

189.19  (5)  Since Pam and Teresa are sisters, does that make them step first cousins as well?  Technically speaking, yes…in fact they are double 1st cousins. If you must extend steps beyond the nuclear step-family, relationships can be reckoned by assuming the “step-” part isn’t there…determining the results…then re-attaching the “step-“. In this case, Fred and Wanda go from being step-siblings to siblings…and the children of siblings are double 1st cousins, along with also being siblings…this genetic overload is what constitutes the dangers of such close interbreeding. And I should point out that this example of being a double 1st cousin to your sibling has nothing to do with Elaine, the double half-aunt…after all, if an aunt, or even half-aunt, has 2 nieces, they are 1st cousins to each other only if they are not siblings…in which case, they are, well, siblings, not cousins, capeesh?

189.20  So Pam and Teresa in this sense would be double step-1st cousins…but of course there would be no genetic component to this beyond plain siblings…so as with the grandparents, it’s a distinction without a difference. I’d be tempted to put it in the category of the man who claims to be his own cousin…you can finagle the paths on your family tree that way if you’re of a mind to, but what’s the point?

189.21  (6)  Whenever Elaine used to introduce Fred and Wanda, she would say, “This is my brother Fred…he is married to my sister Wanda.”  Here is one of the hazards of the very common practice of calling a half-sibling simply a sibling. In this case, there is no blood relationship between Fred and Wanda, so why shouldn’t they be married? Yet, they are “brother and sister”…seems kind of provocative to not spell it out, but that’s Elaine’s choice.

189.22  (7)  Do I have all of these blood and step family connections correct? Pretty much yes…just watch out for doubles.

chart 667189.23  (8)  What would be the blood and step relations between Teresa’s children and Elaine’s children?  Without fear of contradiction, I would say: double half-1st cousins once removed…Earl is the ascending, Tom is the descending. Are they also steps? No, because Elaine, having no step-parents, also has no step-siblings. Where you can very easily go wrong is in forgetting that the relationship between Elaine and Fred… and Elaine and Wanda…is halfs…while the relationship between Fred and Wanda is step. And thank you Kevin for a fun time indeed!

wicked ballsy

chart 668

On more thought…when 2 people get married, we assume they are unrelated unless otherwise informed. Similarly, your step-parent would not generally be related to you…but in rare cases could be. And such is the case above, with former Major League ballplayers Mookie and Preston Wilson. It is said that Mookie is Preston’s step-father and uncle…and Preston is Mookie’s step-son and nephew. This is entirely correct, since Preston’s father was Mookie’s brother. The family is open about this to a point…that point being whether or not Preston’s parents were ever married. I can’t seem to find out, and while I’m certainly curious, I yield to the family’s privacy, if that’s what’s going on.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#188: Removing Day

188.1  Today we address something that has bugged me for some time…it’s this simple question: All those people who think that your 1st cousin’s child is your 2nd cousin…what do they think removed cousins are? Because what they’re calling a 2nd cousin is actually a 1st cousin once removed…or to be completely proper, a 1st cousin once removed descending.

188.2  And I believe for a lot of them, the answer is what I’ve always assumed it was: they haven’t the foggiest notion of what removed cousins are. If they did, they’d know what 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. cousins are as well, and obviously they don’t. In my experience, people making the “2nd cousin” mistake do so simply because they don’t understand our kinship system. I have never talked to anyone making that mistake who had even the remotest idea what a removed cousin was. Occasionally, one will realize that calling their 1st cousin’s child their 2nd cousin automatically makes their parent’s 1st cousin also their 2nd cousin…but most haven’t thought that much about family trees beyond the absolute basics.

188.3   For the past several weeks, I’ve been exploring the crazy ideas people have about kinship at the Yahoo! Answers website. A question is posed, and all manner of correct and incorrect answers come forth. So I tried a site search for questions concerning 2nd cousins. As expected, some got it right, others wrong. Of those who were wrong, the vast majority didn’t bring removed cousins into it. But luckily for me, a few did…and so I have two answers to my original question…and there may be others, but it’s a start.

188.4  The first answer is that it has something to do with marriages. Now that makes a certain amount of cockeyed sense…their incorrect use of terminology has already accounted for actual removed cousins…so “removed” must apply to something else…and what else could there be? Examples…

inset 1

188.5  (A) is not “super sure”…good!…but guesses that a removed cousin is a step-child of your biological uncle or aunt. Wrong, but not an unreasonable guess. (B) believes a removed cousin is your biological cousin’s spouse…a cousin-in-law. Again wrong, but again at least they’re trying. And in both these instances, it’s a marriage that creates the removed cousin…as a step- or as an in-law. (C) seems to be saying the same thing as (B), but misses the mark…they probably don’t mean it’s your married cousin who’s your removed cousin, but  rather the person your cousin is married to…hard to tell when they can’t clearly communicate their thoughts. And speaking of which, (D)‘s answer is almost mystical…suffice it to say if Dear Abby had given answers like that, she wouldn’t have lasted a week….she would have been “one out” in a hurry, boy.

chart 658

188.6  So we know that at least some people who think your 1st cousin’s child is your 2nd cousin also think a removed cousin is either your step-cousin or your cousin’s spouse. But there’s another erroneous interpretation for removed cousins…I have no hard data, but I get the feeling this one is more common. It begins when somebody says that a 2nd cousin and a 1st cousin once removed are the same thing. And when this idea is expanded upon, what comes out is that they believe an Xth cousin Y times removed is the same as an (X+Y)th cousin…you just add everything up. Chart 658 illustrates this notion out to 4th cousin.

188.7  Let me stress that Chart 658 is wrong in two ways: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins are wrong…and the idea that you add the numbers to get an equivalent terminology is also dead wrong. But the thinking is, as a blogger once remarked, Why say 3rd cousin once removed when you can just say 4th cousin?  In other words, 3 + 1 = 4…Keep It Simple, Stupid. And this makes sense…the relative identified as a 4th cousin can be described in 3 other ways…3C 1R…2C 2R…and 1C 3R…but why would you bother? What’s the point? It takes a perfectly simple concept…4th cousin…and complicates it for no good reason. But…since people do talk about removed cousins all the time…the correct inference here is that this “useless” interpretation must be wrong, just because it is useless, it serves no purpose. OK, lots of people can’t think that logically, but there you go…

188.8  However….the “add it up” theory of what “cousin removed” means is an interesting one, wrong as it may be…and I’d like to look at it a bit further, which, since this is my blog, I may do with blissful impunity. The thing is, “adding it up” has an undeniable internal logic to it…unlike many other goofed up kinship notions, it hangs together…it does not contradict itself.

chart  659

188.9  Look at Chart 659 and take 4th cousin as an example. It definitely is 3 steps away from a 1st cousin…hence 1st cousin 3 times removed…in green. It’s also 2 steps away from a 2nd cousin (brown), so 2nd cousin twice removed…and 1 step away from a 3rd cousin (orange), giving you, by this logic, 3rd cousin once removed. But again,  why would you ever want to express it that way? And the answer is, you wouldn’t. But let’s press on.

chart 660

188.10  The point of a system of kinship terminology is to uniquely identify everybody you’re related to, each and every twig on your family tree. So let’s expand Chart 658 outward. If for you, your 1st cousin’s child is your 2nd cousin, your 1st cousin’s grandchild is your 3rd cousin, etc…then it must be the same for your father…and in Chart 660, we do just that…your father’s cousins noted in green. The question now is, what are your father’s cousins to you? People who make this 2nd cousin mistake do so because they don’t understand kinship, and trying to expand it this way is way beyond anything they can or even want to attempt.

188.11  But let’s take a crack at it, for the sake of argument. Look at 3 people…your father, your father’s 1st cousin, and you. What do you have? A pair of 1st cousins and the child of one of them. Now look at you, your 1st cousin, and your 1st cousin’s child. What do you have? The same exact thing! A pair of cousins and the child of one of them. Situations are the same, so relationships must be the same. In your case, you and the child of your 1st cousin are 2nd cousins…so in your father’s case, your father’s 1st cousin and the child of your father’s 1st cousin’s 1st cousin must also be 2nd cousins…making your and your father’s 1st cousin 2nd cousins. This is a perfect example of the patterns that repeat over and over…up, down, and across a family tree.

188.12  So your father’s 1st cousin is your 2nd cousin. Now simply apply the same cousin terminology used on the left side of Chart 660  to the side: your 2nd cousin’s child is your 3rd cousin…in this case, your 2nd cousin is your father’s 1st cousin…and your 3rd cousin is your father’s 2nd cousin…and this continues all the way down the generations. Notice that this 3rd cousin (actually your 2nd cousin using correct terminology) is of your generation…so here your generation consists of a 1st cousin, then a 3rd cousin, and if we extended it to the right…what?…a 5th cousin?….1, 3, 5, all odd numbers?

chart 262

188.13  Yes, this is exactly what happens…the infamous Odds/Evens system of kinship terminology I covered in Related How Again? #75 . This is where your odd numbered cousins are in your generation…your even numbered cousins are in your father’s generation and your son’s generation…odd numbered for your grandfather’s and grandson’s generation…and alternating up and down, as in Chart  263.

chart 263

And checking recycled Charts 262, where each number of cousin has its own color, we notice something interesting: You have 2nd cousins in 2 different places on your family tree…3rd cousins in 3 places…4th cousins in 4 places…and it will keep going like that, as you see in Chart 661.

chartt 661

188.14  And an unwieldy mess it is…let’s take 7th cousins as an example, and say Teddy Roosevelt and my grandfather were 7th cousins. This could mean…

1.  Gramps was the 4th great grandson of TR’s 1st cousin…or…
2.  Gramps was the 2nd great grandson of TR’s 3rd cousin…or…
3.  Gramps was the grandson of TR’s 5th cousin…or…
4.  Gramps was TR’s 7th cousin (i.e. the same generation)…or…
5.  Gramps was TR’s grandfather’s 5th cousin…or…
6.  Gramps was TR’s great great grandfather’s 3rd cousin…or…
7.  Gramps was TR’s 4th great grandfather’s 1st cousin…

188.15  So much for “7th cousin” pinpointing a unique spot on your family tree, nez pah? So you might say, well don’t call them 7th cousins…just use one of the 7 specific descriptions above. Trouble is, that won’t work either…take description #3…Gramps was the 2nd great grandson of TR’s 3rd cousin. Here, “3rd cousin” can refer to one of 3 different things, so description #3 refers to 3 different things…d’oh!

188.16  Bottom line: the Odds/Evens system is completely useless as a coherent system of kinship terminology. Does the nudnik who thinks their 1st cousin’s child is their 2nd cousin actually know that by doing so they’re advocating such a system? Of course not…this a perfect example of an unintended consequence. But then, that’s what happens when you literally don’t know what you’re talking about.

chart 127

188.17  One thing I ought to mention…Chart 127 shows the correct terminology for numbered cousins (your generation) and removed cousins (other generations.) And you will notice that for each removed cousin type, there is one among your ancestors, blue area…and one among your descendants, pink area. That is why you must add “ascending” for the blue and “descending” for the pink…but that’s it, system is now complete. It can’t and won’t be any more cumbersome than that. How in the world would you distinguish 7 different 7th cousins? 7th cousin 1st degree, 7th cousin 2nd degree, 7th cousin 3rd degree, and like that? And which is which? Our system is very solid and very practical…could it be better? Absolutely, because…

188.18  …a responder at Yahoo! Answers with a Hispanic last name said this regarding removed cousins: It [your 1st cousin’s child] would be like your mother’s cousin. To you it would be your cousin once removed. In my culture and family, however, my mother’s cousin would be my aunt/uncle. Specifically, they mean “2nd uncle” and “2nd aunt”…in Spanish, a 1st cousin once removed ascending is a 2nd uncle/aunt…a 1st cousin once removed descending is a 2nd nephew/niece…keeping the terminology consistent for generations above and below you. Not that the Spanish language is perfect…they have a muddled way of dealing with grands and greats, to the extent that nobody can agree just how to do it. Still, removing removeds is a laudable achievement, sez me.

wicked ballsy


The question is, how exactly is Uncle Duke related to Zonker Harris? His full name is Raoul Duke…his son Earl and his cousin David are also both Dukes. He is described by some on the net as an “uncle by courtesy”…that is, an old family friend of Zonker’s parents, an “honorary” uncle. But this strip implies otherwise.

For the record, Zonker’s full name is Edgar Zonker Harris…revealed in the 1983 musical “Doonesbury: A Musical Comedy.” I don’t believe Zonker’s parents have first names. Zonker has an unseen (so they say) sister named Louise…Zonker’s nephew Zipper Harris is her son. But could Zonker’s mother’s maiden name be Duke? Without reading every strip since 1970, I’m not prepared to bet on anything…let’s leave it at that.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#187: 20 Q’s…and Thanx For Asking!

187.1   Posts from Yahoo! Answers are in black italics…my comments in red. The abbreviation OP means Original Poster.

187.2  Question…Okay, so I want to find out the exact title of a relative and I. My mom’s maternal grandpa and my relative’s mom’s father were half brothers because they had the same mom but two different dads. So, would that make my relative and I half 1st cousins once removed since my great-grandparent and his grandparent were half-brothers? No, half-2nd cousins once removed…but you were close!  I just want to know our exact title please, thanks! 

187.3  Okay, so here’s a point to ponder: because the word “maternal” derives from “mother,” people sometimes think that the phrases “my maternal” and “my mother’s” mean the same thing…but in a genealogical context, they mean different things. Consider: my maternal grandfather refers to the grandfather you have on your mother’s side…this is another way of saying my mother’s father. On other hand, my mother’s grandfather is obviously not your mother’s father, so it isn’t your maternal grandfather, capeesh? Having said that, the OP clearly does know the difference…the half-brothers are at the end said to consist of his great grandfather and the other relative’s grandfather…which is completely consistent with what he said at the beginning. Checking Chart 655 we see the answer is half-2nd cousins once removed. 

chart 655

187.4  “Best Answer…Asker’s Choice”…Call him RiQ – Relative in Question – and work it out one generation at a time: 

Generation 1: Your great grandpa & RiQ’s grandfather = 1/2 brothers
Generation 2: Your grandparent & RiQ’s parent = 1/2 1st cousins
Generation 3: Your parent & RiQ = 1/2 2nd cousins
Generation 4: You & RiQ’s child = 1/2 3rd cousins 

I threw in RiQ’s (future) child as a bonus. You and RiQ are half second cousins once removed through your parent.  That’s right, except that you can’t be any sort of cousin unless it’s thru one of your parents…I’m just sayin’...

187.5  Answer #2…You are 1/2 first cousins. Wrongo! Not having the “once removed” on there means they evened out the generations when they shouldn’t have, perhaps owing to the possible confusion over the word “maternal” that I mentioned in 187.3. But even doing that, they should have come up with half-2nd cousin, so who knows?

187.6  Answer #3…Half 2nd cousins 1 time removed………. as it your great great grandparent and his great grandparent which is the common blood ancestor  This answer is rock solid…and what’s more, there is only one common blood ancestor, resulting in descendants that are a type of half-cousins…for full cousins you must descend from full siblings, and that requires 2 common ancestors, not just one.

187.7  Answer #4…1st cousins removed. exactly  It’s a shame we don’t have such a word as “unexactly.” Not only is 1st cousins not even close, but you can’t just be “removed”…has to be a number of times, to indicate which generation this cousin is a part of, nez pah?


187.8 Question…Auntie or cousin? What is my mom’s cousin to me if my dad’s brother married her? Is she my second cousin or aunt?

187.9 Answer #1…She is both. Actually she’s neither. Is she your aunt? Your uncle married her, but that in itself only makes her your aunt by marriage, not by blood. Is she your 2nd cousin? If she’s your mother’s 1st cousin, she’s your 1st cousin once removed. She is your mother’s cousin by blood (they have a common ancestor, which would also be your ancestor). She is actually your 1st cousin once removed. Like I just said…so why did YOU say “both,” meaning 2nd cousin when you knew she wasn’t? Geez louise…

She BECAME your “aunt” through marriage to your uncle. The difference here.. she would stop being an aunt, if they divorce. But the blood relationship would never be changed by divorce.. since it relies on a relationship through a common ancestor. True enough…in this case your 1st cousin once removed is you aunt by marriage. Your dad’s brother is also a blood relationship (through their parents, who are your grandparents). This is really not such a massive issue. It comes down to the fact that your dad and his brother both married women who are related to each other. Happens all the time No, actually is doesn’t…unless by “all the time” you mean “occasionally” then I can accept that. The upshot of course is the offspring will be your 1st cousins on your fathers’ side, and your 2nd cousin on your mothers’ side….”irregular double cousins” if you must know.

187.10  Answer #2…You go by direct lineage that was there before marriage. It’s more accurate for the family tree, and with the way marriages end in divorce, the ‘aunt’ part is moot, the person will always be your second cousin. Make that 1st cousin once removed and you’re right in a muddled sort of way…in other words, a marriage by itself doesn’t give you additional blood relatives…altho the offspring of such a union does. 

187.11 Answer #3…If she is your mother’s first cousin then she is your first cousin once removed but she is also your aunt by marriage. That’s it in a nutshell…no need to continue…unless you insist… 

To figure cousin relationship
Children of siblings are first cousins to each other as they share grandparents.
Children of first cousins are second cousins to each other as they share great grandparents. Children of second cousins are third cousins as they share great great grandparents.
and so on. 

The removes come in when you are in a different generation coming down from a common ancestor. You are a first cousin once removed to your parents’ first cousins as their grandparents are your great grandparents. Thus one generation different. You are also a first cousin once removed to your first cousins’ children as your grandparents are their great grandparents. Again, one generation different. No argument from me…except to add that the IC 1R ascending is the one in the older generation, the 1C 1R descending is the one in the younger generation.

Here is a relationship chart.   http://www.islandregister.com/cousin.htm… 

This chart is fine…I find drawing trees settles the issue much faster in my mind, but  if such a charts useful to you, knock yourself out. I do like that the chart uses “grand niece/nephew” instead of “great niece/nephew”…a real professional touch.

187.12 Answer #4…The first cousin of your parents is your first cousin once removed. Good so far… If your fathers brother married your mothers first cousin she would be your first cousin once removed and a cousin by marriage. Not cousin by marriage but aunt by marriage…because her being your mother’s 1st cousin has nothing to do with who she marries, which I think you knew, you just got careless, we’ll say.  If they divorced she would still be your first cousin once removed. And that’s a mercy anyway…

187.13  Answer #5…Both. No, neither. Many people have multiple relationships. No they don’t. On the contrary, it’s rare enough that many people haven’t heard of it and so don’t think it can happen.  My brothers and I, for instance, are brothers, plus 4th cousins, 5th cousins and 6th cousins once removed. Some of my 1st cousins are also my 4th, 5th and 6th 1R also. Well, technically you mean double 4th, 5th, etc. but we get it…

You usually use just one title, unless you are bragging at the genealogy clubhouse. In the first place, relationships are never called “titles.” In the second place, people treat multiple relationships in any number of ways…depends on how accurate a picture they wish to paint. For example…if half-brothers had mothers who were siblings, they’d also be 1st cousins…it’s up to the individual whether to mention both relationships…they would certainly be more closely related than half-siblings regardless of what they chose to call themselves. And in the third place, if it’s true it isn’t bragging.

Call the Lady in Question LiQ:
Generation 1: Your mom & LiQ = 1st cousins
Generation 2: You & LiQ’s children = 2nd cousins 

That’s one relation; you and LiQ are first cousins once removed through your mom. The person who said “second cousins” is wrong; LiQ’s children, not her, will be your second cousins. Absolutely. The second relation is that she married your uncle, so she is your aunt by marriage. Her children will be your first cousins through their father, your uncle. So, they will be your 1st and 2nd cousins both. Absolutely again. I’d call her “Aunt”, especially if she is more than 10 years older than you, but “Aunt” or “Cousin” is really up to you. How old she is has nothing to do with it…if she were younger than you, she’d still be your aunt by marriage. What if you called her your “cousin” before she married your uncle? You might change to “aunt,” or stick with “cousin,” your choice. The cool thing about Spanish kinship terminology is that your mother’s 1st cousin is automatically a kind of aunt…what they call a “2nd aunt” or tia segunda.

187.14  Answer #6…If this lady is your mums first cousin then she is your 1st cousin once removed and if then your dads brother ( your Uncle) married her, she is also your Aunt  If you mean aunt by marriage then I’m with you.
187.15  Answer #7…she’s ur cousin as well as ur aunt  Yeah, sorta, kinda, approximately, like we’ve said. She’s something by blood and something else by marriage, that’s for sure.

187.16  Answer #8…She would become the closest relationship to you, an Aunt. Well, an aunt is by definition your parent’s sibling, and that’s certainly closer to you than your parent’s 1st cousin. But a relative by marriage is neither close or distant, since they’d not related to you at all.


187.17  Question…My daughters relation to my nephew?  I’m sure you’ve heard it said that there are no stupid questions…frankly, I wouldn’t be so sure. This one comes precariously close…I mean, a child might ask something like this, but not someone old enough to have a daughter themselves. Who is her nephew? Her sibling’s son…that son and her daughter are 1st cousins, one of the first things a child learns about kinship as they move beyond the nuclear or immediate family of mother/father, son/daughter, brother/sister. So you might suspect that this nephew really isn’t OP’s nephew after all…assuming OP is a woman, perhaps it’s her husband’s nephew, or the son of her half-sibling or step-sibling. Still, my policy is to take what people say at face value…it’s only common curtesy.  So the answer is: 1st cousins.

187.18  Answer #1…Your nephew is your siblings child or your husbands siblings child meaning your chaildren and their children are 1st cousins, as they share the same grandparent/s… Which is to say, either your parents or your husband’s parents would be their grandparents if for some reason they do not share the same grandparent/s then they are not related at all  I don’t know if you had some reason in mind when you said “for some reason”…but for the sake of argument, let’s see what reason there could be. Since we are for now supposing OP’s daughter and nephew have no grandparents in common, this nephew can’t be OP’s nephew or her husband’s nephew. Chart 656 shows 2 more possibilities.

chart 656

Chart 656A supposes the nephew is the son of OP’s half-sibling…but then daughter and nephew would share B as a grandparent, so that doesn’t work…in this case the nephew would be a half-nephew, OP his half-aunt, and her daughter his half-1st cousin. Chart 656B tries step-siblings..A and B had OP, C and D had the sibling, then B and C were married, giving OP a step-mother and a step-sibling. Now the nephew would be no relation to OP’s daughter, and share no grandparents with her. Still, if the step-siblings were close, they might call each other’s children their niece or nephew.

187.19  Answer #2…First cousin, if they share a pair of grandparents. Otherwise, step cousin.  Sure enough, step-‘s is precisely what this answerer deduced…but there is an important caveat, explained below.

chart 657
187.20  Answer #3…First cousins. They should share a set of the same grandparents. And the caveat is this: determining relationships based on shared grandparents doesn’t work. Sharing 2 grandparents doesn’t guarantee you’re 1st cousins…you could be half-siblings or even double half-1st cousins…as per Chart 657. The shared grandparents in each case are highlighted in yellow…and if the double half-1st cousins is an eye-opener, it was intended as such. My point is: stop doing it! 

187.21  And that wraps up the 20 Questions Project for now… lots of fun, may revisit it…altho next week, Yahoo! Answers does move me closer to answering something I’ve wondered about for a long time…till then, dear friends…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved