#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? And remember, on a later season episode, Mike’s dad did marry Carol’s mom…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



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