#198: Embracing Enhancement

198.1  The word “enhanced” is a relatively new one in genealogical circles, but an exceedingly useful one. It refers to people who are related to each other in more than one way. Now there are some people…altho I daresay virtually none who are seriously interested in kinship and genealogy…who deny that you can actually be related in more than one way. Suppose you and Sheena are both 1st cousins and 2nd cousins…well, just pick one, and that’s it…say, 1st cousins.  And for casual conversation, that’s fine…but you are still more closely related, genetically as well as genealogically, than “just” 1st cousins.

198.2  For example, I have a friend whose father and his brother married sisters. He always suspected he was more closely related to those 1st cousins than to “normal” cousins, but never really thought about it. In fact, he and his cousins are “double 1st cousins”…1st cousins on their fathers’ side and on their mothers’ side…as closely related as half-siblings…1/8 + 1/8 = 1/4. And in his particular case, those sisters were identical twins…which genetically count as the same person…so while 1st cousins thru their fathers, the cousins are genetically half-siblings thru their mothers…while genealogically still 1st cousins thru their mothers of course, since their mothers are 2 different people. So they are the equivalent of “3/4 siblings”…related by 3/8, which you’ll notice is slightly more than 1/4 or 2/8.

198.3  If the fractions are confusing, you can compare their degree of relationship to common ones…here, they are half-way between half-siblings and full-siblings…so they are as closely related as half-siblings plus something more…they are “enhanced”! And BTW, he finds this information fascinating…for him, his relatives are what they are, and it’s very cool.

198.4  I was introduced to the concept of “enhanced” relatives at a very eye-opening website, one that really kicked my interest in kinship to the next level…GENETIC AND QUANTITATIVE ASPECTS OF GENEALOGY, by F. M. Lancaster, a British professor. Whether or not he invented the term I cannot say, but he surely knows a good thing when he sees it, as do I.

198.5  My friend and his cousins are “enhanced 1st cousins”…you can also have “enhanced siblings,” where for example the parents are 3rd cousins to each other, so that their children, besides being siblings, are also 4th cousins to each other. These situations are rare, certainly…but real none the less…and especially interesting to me are “enhanced half-siblings.” Usually, half-siblings share one parent…say they have the same father and different mothers. Many will simply call themselves siblings rather that halfs, and that’s an acceptable everyday simplification. But they aren’t like normal siblings, who have the same father and  the same mother. They may have grown up in the same house, maybe not…they may have had very little contact at all, or always been close…each family is different.

chart 713

198.6  For most half-siblings, the parents they don’t share are not related to each other…but for a few, they are…and they are the enhanced ones. In Chart 713, X and Z are half-siblings, having the same father A. If their mothers B and C are unrelated, they are simply half-siblings, related by 1/4. But is B and C are related, X and Z are related over and above half-siblings…if the mothers are sisters, they are also 1st cousins…half-sisters, then half-1st cousins…1st cousins, then 2nd cousins.

198.7  Prof. Lancaster leaves it at that, but I couldn’t resist running with the “enhanced” idea…to what I call “super-enhanced half-siblings,” where one or both of the unshared parents are related to the shared parent.  I discussed this at Related How Again? #46: More of David  and again at #99: 7/8ths of What Again?…but it’s worth reviewing.

chart 714

198.8  As with kinship in general, the possibilities are virtually endless, given how human beings can and do combine and recombine. 3 of the simplest are illustrated above. In Chart 714a, the shared father is a 1st cousin to one of the mothers. In Chart 714b, he is a 1st cousin to both of the mothers, and I have colored the connections differently to indicate that these are on opposite sides of A‘s family…say he is 1st cousin to B on his father’s side and 1st cousin to C on his mother’s side. If it were all on the same side, the 3 parents would be 1st cousins to each other, as in Chart 714c.

198.9  And there’s a 4th cousin possibility…B and C could be 1st cousins altho not on the side that relate them to A…in other words, A‘s and B‘s fathers could be brothers…A‘s and C‘s mothers could be sisters…and B‘s mother and C‘s father could be siblings. I just kept it at 3…sue me. But how do we figure the relationship of X and Z?

chart 715

198.10  By comparing the parents, by pairs. And as seen in Chart 715, moving left to right, we get closer and closer to the equivalent of “3/4 siblings” but never quite reach it. I know, it can make your head spin if math isn’t your bag…but a hobby’s a hobby, nez pah?


198.11  Speaking of math skills, they’ve really been hit hard by the general dumbing-down over the past several decades…and the Media, God bless ’em, gleefully leads the charge. Is there a newspaper or magazine anywhere that would disagree with this statement: 10th Annual Ogdensville Pomegranate Festival marks their 10th Anniversary.  Actually, there are…and I’ve seen them…the ones that realize, logically enough, that the 1st Annual Festival did not  mark the Festival’s 1st Anniversary…those 2 numbers mean different things and will never match. But they are few and far between, and I suspect their number is dwindling…as old pros, for whom such simple cyphering is second nature, get unceremoniously kicked to the curb.

198.12  And since reckoning degrees of kinship is mathematical at the heart of it, that also takes the hit…altho once in a while they get things right, and are to be applauded and encouraged on those rare occasions.

chart 716

198.13   I noticed the above item in my local Sunday paper next to the birth listings…and almost as a reflex I sketched it out. Were they correct? If Rick and Randy are brothers they are, and a quick check of Facebook confirmed all is kosher. Admittedly, the paper likely got 2nd cousins right because the family told them about it…such are the virtues of living in a small town…but being right is never wrong, and it sets a good example regardless.

chart 717

198.14  I happened to come across a chart I did for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, 5th cousins once removed, showing how un-related they really were…and it serves as a good cousin reference…print it out and stick it on the fridge. Their degree of kinship was half-way between the bottom 2…so about .03% related, 99.97% un-…which is why nobody got very excited about it…altho that was then, this is now, sad to say…

wicked ballsy


Yeah, but see…having a child does make you a father…always has…Biology 101. At the same time, the word “father” does have different meanings, so point well taken, sez me.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


#197: Whack-a-Wiki!

197.1  Hold onto your hat…I’m going to say something nice about Wikipedia! Well, it will start out that way, probably won’t end that way…what can you do?

197.2  But I believe in giving credit where credit’s due. Ground zero for kinship confusion is the term “cousin”…and Uncle Wiki’s cousin page is much improved from the mess it was several years ago. Key improvements include very clear family tree diagrams illustrating the different types of cousins….and more recently, they removed from the “alternate definitions” section that dopey mistake that makes your uncle also your first cousin once removed. To wit, taking for example a 2nd cousin, they had said moving up and down a generation would make your 2nd cousin’s son your 2nd cousin once removed (correct) and your 2nd cousin’s father also your 2nd cousin once removed (incorrect…the father your 1st cousin once removed.)

197.3   It sort of makes sense, until you apply it to 1st cousins, then it doesn’t. Elevating this mistake to a full-blown alternate system was crazy…I complained about it on the “Talk” page and whether that helped or not I don’t know…but for now, it’s gone. Actually, I would like to see some discussion of this mistake and why it’s wrong…as well as the far more common mistake of calling your 1st cousin’s child your 2nd cousin. Apparently there was such a “2nd cousin mistake” entry at one time, but it was removed…both mistakes are common enough that they deserve to be addressed, but current Wiki-thinking says no.

197.4  But I still bristle when I read their opening definition, which is extremely misleading…A cousin is a relative with whom a person shares one or more common ancestors. In the general sense, cousins are two or more generations away from any common ancestor, thus distinguishing a cousin from an ancestor, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.  You know you’re on the wrong track when you make a statement and immediately have to take it back! Better would be the simple: Cousins are the descendants of siblings, by the same number of generations. 

chart 706 AB

197.5  And up until my recent series of blogs on step-relations, I hadn’t noticed the problem with their treatment of “step-cousins”…Chart 706A. Saying that Joe is your step-cousin doesn’t provide much information, since Joe can be any one of 3 different things, as I have indicated in Chart 706B. And they missed type 1, which I have diagrammed using their style.

inset 0

197.6  I pointed this out on the “Talk” page, with no response as of yet…and also addressed the wider issue of whether extending step-relatives beyond the nuclear family of parents/children/siblings makes sense at all. The key problem in my mind is how you can have step-somethings without being in a step-family relationship…that is, without having a step-parent or a step-child.

197.7  My current thinking is that if you must have step-cousins, they ought to be the result of a step-relationship that involves either you or one of your direct ancestors…that is, parents, grandparents, etc…and not the result of a step-relationship that involves one of your collateral relatives. And this requirement would apply to both step-cousins. Thus, in their diagram (Chart 706A), the criterion applies to Mary but not to David…so they are not step-cousins. In my diagram (Chart 706B) it does apply to both so they are step-cousins…this means type 1 is…types 2 and 3 are not. A compromise of sorts, but it seems to me a reasonable one…if you must have step-cousins!  But in truth, it doesn’t matter that much…precision with blood relatives is what’s at the heart of our system of kinship terminology…relatives thru marriage are fuzzier, because we do get the language we want, nez pah?

inset 1

 197.8  Now it is interesting that moving beyond Uncle Wiki’s cousin page, they say nothing about step-collaterals on their step-family page…limiting it to the nuclear family, which again I think is sensible. It does crop up on the “Talk” page…and the “expert” blithely remarks that it’s all good, which I would dispute. Altho I must say that on the main page they do get the distinction between step-siblings and half-siblings correct, which is eminently laudable.

197.9  And if you’re in the mood for a chuckle, check out this crazy mixed-up comment…talk about giving curiosity a bad name…

inset 2


197.10  So I thought I’d check out some of Uncle Wiki’s other kinship term pages, and as you’d expect they are pretty solid…it’s cousins beyond 1st cousins that throw people.

inset 3

197.11  On the sibling page they do get into 3/4 siblings, which is kind of advanced kinship-wise…and I wish they’d explained why they’re called that. You might be tempted to think the degree of relationship between 2 such individuals would be 3/4, but it’s not…it’s 3/8. The phrase “3/4 siblings” results from this relationship being half-way between full and half-siblings, since 3/8 is half-way between ½ and 1/4.

chart 707

197.12  As you can see on Chart 707, 3/4 siblings are half-siblings on one side and 1st cousins (horizontal) or half-uncle/half-nephew (vertical) on the other…in both cases 1/4 + 1/8 = 3/8. In other words, they are half-siblings…but with something extra, owing to the unshared parents being related. That’s why the generalized term is Enhanced Half-Siblings…and those related parents can be related in countless ways, not just siblings or parent/child.

inset 4

197.13  Uncle Wiki tries to generalize the concept with “sibling cousins.” A clumsy term, first because “half-sibling cousins” would be more accurate…and second, because it’s easy to confuse that with full siblings who are also cousins, as for example siblings whose parents are cousins to each other, which could be called what?…”cousin siblings”? Stick with “enhanced” for siblings who are closer than 1/2…and half-siblings who are closer than 1/4.

197.14  And wouldn’t you know, another “other kind” turns up on the sibling “Talk” page…

inset 5

The answer of “5/8 siblings” is logical, but again misleading, since the coefficient of relationship is 5/16, not 5/8. The correct answer is that not everything needs to have a “name”…just say they’re half-siblings thru their fathers and half-1st cousins thru their mothers…because that’s what they are…Chart 708.

chart 708

197.14  Finally, we come to an “orphan” entry…something that is discussed on the sibling “Talk” page but is no longer on Uncle Wiki’s main sibling page.

inset 6

I believe you can access a list of all the changes if you want to know when exactly “cross siblings” was deep-sixed…I’m more interested in what they are…or were. And at the outset we should note that those with an anthropological or sociological bent would take “cross siblings” to mean siblings of the opposite sex…so there’s that.

chart 709

197.15  But here, Chart 709 diagrams the example that illustrated the deleted cross sibling entry. The correct way to look at this is to say that Eden is Michael’s half-sibling on Michael’s father’s side…and Kevin is Michael’s half-sibling on Michael’s mother’s side…what does that then make Eden and Kevin? The answer, at least by blood relations, is nothing. It’s the same situation you have with 1st cousins…you have some on your father’s side and some on your mother’s side…but unless your father and mother are themselves blood relatives, these 2 groups of 1st cousins are unrelated to each other.

197.16  These days, with increasing rates of divorce and remarriage, it’s more common to find a person with half-siblings “on both sides.” It has been suggested that 2 unrelated people who never-the-less have a half-sibling in common be called “quarter siblings.” Well, if such a term is needed, we’ll get one…I’d advise against this one tho, since the word “quarter” suggests a fraction of blood relationship that in this type of case doesn’t exist.

197.17  I suppose the term “cross sibling” is as good as any for now, at least outside of academic circles. I’d be tempted to just say: “Joe is my half-brother’s half-brother”…altho the implicit “but Joe isn’t my half-brother” might be missed by the hearer, resulting in confusion. But how this whole setup strains the meaning of step-sibling is seen in the response, which cites a real life example…except in that example, there is one specific series of events…and there could be another!

chart 710

197.18  What that response describes is Chart 710the Brady Bunch scenario, with say B being Mike and A being Carol. Now on the TV program they had no children together…but if they had, say a daughter Lola, then she would be a half-sibling to both the girls and the boys…but Lola would be a step-sibling to no one.

chart 711

197.19  But suppose it happened the opposite way…Michael came first, then his parents divorced and started new families. This differs from the traditional step-family in Chart 710, where 2 parents are dead. In Chart 711, Michael has both a father and step-father, a mother and step-mother…which traditionally of course wasn’t possible. And remember, altho Michael has step-parents, he has no step-siblings…Eden and Kevin are his half-siblings. It’s a stretch to call Eden and Kevin step-siblings…looked at from Eden’s point of view: your father’s first wife has Kevin with her new husband, and Kevin is your —what? I’d say your nothing…mainly because that first wife is nothing to you. Yet Eden and Kevin are step-siblings in Chart 710…so Chart 709 is ambiguous…it represents both the 710 and 711 scenarios.

197.20  All in all, I’d say this reinforces my basic point: keep steps simple!

wicked ballsy

wb 712

This is one of those “sayings” that circulates around Facebook…and before I could help myself, I’d diagrammed it out…d’oh!…a little lemon juice, a little tartar sauce….


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#196: The Man from H.A.L.F.-U.N.C.L.E.

196.1  Hey, did you hear the latest? The state of New York has legalized incest…woo hoo!

imnset 1.png

196.2  Um…really?  No, of course not really. It’s just that in their unbridled rush to make everything sound as bad as possible, those who today pass for journalists often cross the line separating exaggeration from falsehood. This is why I haven’t watched watched broadcast news in 3 years…brush over newspaper stories with due skepticism…and turn to the internet when I need a good laugh.

196.3   Now to be precise, here’s what the court ruled: while marriages between uncles/aunts and their nieces/nephews are specifically prohibited by state law, half-relations such as half-uncle and half-niece are not the same thing, and since they are not addressed specifically, such marriages are not prohibited. In addition, the fact that a half-uncle/half-niece relationship is as genetically close as 1st cousins…and 1st cousins in New York State can marry…tended in the judges’ minds to lend common sense credence to their basic ruling, which was a simple interpretation of statuary intent.

196.4  And that all sounds fair enough. Mind you, that’s collateral relatives, not direct relatives. The relevant coefficient of relationship here is 1/8…you share 1/8 of your genes with your great grandparents and your great grandchildren…but marching them down the isle is still considered a no-no.

chart 703

196.5  Chart 703 marks you as X…and shows your simplest 1/8 relatives: 1st cousins (a), grand uncles/aunts/nephews/nieces (b), and half-uncles/aunts/nephews/nieces (c)…altho see today’s wicked ballsy.  And to play devil’s advocate for just a moment, one wonders why the lingering distinction between direct relations, those who passed genes on to you…and collateral relations, those who got genes from the same source as you did. As far as the genes are concerned, you share them with somebody or you don’t…and when we say “share genes”…we’re talking about copies of genes…not the literal genes themselves…it’s not like a blood transfusion, where blood that was at one time in somebody else’s body is now in yours. But that’s a philosophical debate for another day.

196.6   The ruling arose out of a case where the federal government wanted to deport a Vietnamese immigrant who claimed to be married to an American citizen. The federales’ argument was not, as it often is, that this was a marriage of convenience solely to gain residency…but that the marriage was prima facie invalid, since it was incestuous by New York state law. The couple have been married since 2000, and the groom was the half-brother of the bride’s mother.

chhart 704

196.7  Since matters of kinship are not that commonly deemed headline news, I thought it would be interesting to look at 3 different media reports. The original stories are in italics, my comments in red…and the first is from the New York Daily News, 10/28/2014, written by Glenn Blain…

196.8  New York’s highest court gave its blessings Tuesday to marriages that are all in the family. Not true…they blessed one specific, and I daresay seldom seen, matchup. To the extent that  this lead sentence implies ALL previously prohibited marriages are now kosher, it’s grossly misleading…but are you surprised?

Despite the ick factor, a union between a half-uncle and his half-niece is not incestuous under New York’s Domestic Relations Law, according to the unanimous Court of Appeals ruling. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe there are more serious considerations involved in crafting laws than whether certain behavior is thought by some people to be “icky.” Thus, had I been editor, I would have replaced “despite the ick factor” with “acknowledging that the so-called ick factor is irrelevant”…but that’s just me.

The court said a marriage in which the groom is the half-brother of the bride’s mother poses about the same genetic risk as marriages between first cousins. I’ll assume the ruling did actually say “about the same genetic risk”…had they left out the word “about,” I would have had no complaint.

“First cousins are allowed to marry in New York, and I conclude that it was not the Legislature’s purpose to avert the similar, relatively small genetic risk inherent in relationships like this one,” wrote Judge Robert Smith, a Republican. Yes, the genetic risk between 1/8 relatives is relatively small. That being said, you wonder if the New York Legislature was really that scientifically savvy…most aren’t. For example, of the 25 states that allow 1st cousin marriages, only North Carolina excludes double 1st cousins, recognizing they are as closely related as half-siblings, 1/4. 

The case involves a 19-year-old Huyen Nguyen of Vietnam, who married her 24-year-old half-uncle, Vu Truong, of Rochester, N.Y., in 2000. The bride’s grandmother — Nguyen Thi Ba — was also the groom’s mother. The groom, however, had a different father than the bride’s mother.

*** In 2007, an immigration judge ruled the marriage was bogus and ordered the bride deported. A federal appeals court, however, asked New York’s highest court to decide whether such marriages were, in fact, legal under state law. See comments below at ***

The Court of Appeals found that while marriages between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews were expressly prohibited, there was no such prohibition on relations between half-blooded uncles and nieces, or half-blooded aunts and nephews. “Half-blooded” sounds like something out of Harry Potter, but that’s the wording used in the relevant law, and it’s a perfectly proper way to express it in English.

While the decision was unanimous, Judge Victoria Graffeo and two other judges suggested the state Legislature should revisit the issue. “Such relationships could implicate one of the purposes underlying incest laws, i.e., ‘maintaining the stability of the family hierarchy by protecting young family members from exploitation by older family members in positions of authority, and by reducing competition and jealous friction among family members,’ ” Graffeo wrote. Dear me…this concern is nothing more than modern-day psychobabble. Down thru human history, incest taboos have been based on religious beliefs, and civil laws followed suit. More recently, misunderstanding of genetic theory and the resulting overreaction has driven incest prohibitions…it is only very recently that “older family members exploiting younger family members” has become a social mantra.

And a goofy mantra it is…in this case the “uncle” and the “niece” are of the same generation, separated by only 5 years…indeed, an “uncle” can actually be younger than his “niece.” But further, except for establishing minimum ages, our laws have nothing to say about the relative ages of a bride and groom. And you’ve never heard of the young exploiting the old? Or people of the same age exploiting each other?

Then there’s this “reducing competition and jealous friction among family members.” So why isn’t there a law against marrying a woman who once dated your brother? As much as we’d like to have a world where everybody gets along, I  think you’ll agree that it’s well beyond the reach of the law to banish jealousy, envy, resentment, and, yes, wounded pride… within a family or otherwise. BTW,  this judge’s screed is lifted verbatim from Benton vs. The State of Georgia (1995)…doncha just love the internet? Used to be, you’d need a wall full of law books to ferret that out…not any more, nope.

Michael Marszalkowski, an attorney for the couple, hailed the decision and insisted Huyen’s marriage was not done for immigration purposes. “They have stayed together for 14 years and counting,” he said.  *** This is a very poorly written story…reading the paragraph I flagged above, I assumed the court action was indeed a marriage-for-residency issue…and I wondered what half-relations had to do with it? Turns out, the real issue was whether such a marriage legally qualified as a marriage in the first place, while the immigration implications were purely secondary.

Marszalkowski said the couple denied being related to each other but lower courts — based on evidence supplied by the groom’s sister — concluded they were. And one of the hallmarks of a poorly written news story is that it raises questions that it doesn’t answer…as here…did the couple really not know they were related or were they trying to hide the fact?  The groom’s sister spilling the beans fits in how exactly? She knew and her brother didn’t…because mom told her but not him? In terms of genealogy and kinship, this is the juicy part!

“This really was an all-or-nothing issue for them,” he said. “If this would have been denied, she would have been deported and sent back to Vietnam.”

About a half dozen other states, Marszalkowski said, allow such marriages. Did he mean half-uncle/half-niece marriages or 1st cousins marriages, because if he meant 1st cousins marriage he’s off by a factor of about 4. Or is the author of this story mixed up?

The Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of conservative group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, saw danger signs in the court’s decision. “If government’s only interest in marriage is who loves each other, than what logical stopping point is there?” McGuire said. To answer the good Reverend’s question, there is no logical stopping point...none at all. Welcome to 2014. Then again, except in the case of marriage-for-residency, I don’t believe love has anything to do with the legal definition of marriage. One partner marries for sex, the other for money…you see that all the time. Or the love that once existed is gone but the marriage persists. Or you have “lavender widows,” women who marry closeted gays…there’s a real famous one in the US these days, in case you hadn’t noticed.

But precisely what the government’s interest in marriage should be is a fascinating question…it probably has something to do with the children that marriages traditionally produce…but beyond that…tax benefits, hospital visitations, inheritance, whatever…maybe everybody should be married, just to have a “buddy”…nez pah?           

196.9  Next, the New York Post’s take, 10/29/2014, written by Julia Marsh…

The state’s highest court has toppled a cultural taboo — legalizing a degree of incest, at least between an uncle and niece — in a unanimous ruling. Right from the get go you can tell the Post’s tone will be more hysterical than the peripatetic Daily News. And in their haste, they make their first  major factual mistake…marriage between uncle and niece was not legalized… thus no cultural taboo was toppled, and that’s mistake #2. In fact, nothing that was previously illegal was legalized…so that’s mistake #3…ambitious start, no?

While the laws against “parent-child and brother-sister marriages . . . are grounded in the almost universal horror with which such marriages are viewed . . . there is no comparably strong objection to uncle-niece marriages,” Tuesday’s ruling reads.

Judge Robert Smith of the Court of Appeals wrote that such unions were lawful in New York until 1893 and Rhode Island allows them. These 2 sentences make no sense…this case simply did not deal with an uncle-niece marriage. Again, one wonders who’s confused, the judges or the article’s author.

The decision stems from a case brought by Vietnamese citizen Huyen Nguyen, 34, a woman who had appealed a ruling by an immigration judge. The judge had tried to boot her from the United States after declaring that her 2000 marriage in Rochester to her mother’s half-brother was invalid. Nguyen and her husband, Vu Truong, 38, appealed and won. Fine…at last we switch from uncle/niece to half-uncle/half-niece…and it looks like the author of this article wasn’t really confused, just  taking the position that full and half collaterals were the same thing…when that was just what this case sought to clarity in the first place…that’s called begging the question, and is mistake #4…geesh…just out of junior high or what? Then again, maybe she wasn’t being willfully  opinionated….just confused after all…but at this point, who cares?…turn to the funnies…

“I’m very happy for my clients,” said their lawyer, Michael Marszalkowski. “They’ve been married 14 years now, but unfortunately, for half the time, there has been this concern over their heads about whether [the immigration issue] could be resolved. Thankfully, now it has been,” Marszalkowski said.

Marszalkowski said he won the case by zeroing in on the language of the state’s domestic-relations law. The statute reads that “a marriage is incestuous and void whether the relatives are legitimate or illegitimate between either: 1. An ancestor and a descendant; 2. A brother and sister of either the whole or half blood; 3. An uncle and niece or an aunt and nephew.”  What could it mean that “of either whole or half blood” is deemed a necessary addition when talking about brother/sister, but not when talking about uncle/niece? It’s clear cut to me: “a [sibling] of either whole or half blood” is another way of saying “siblings and half-siblings”…and that’s what the law means. Since it does not add “of either whole or half blood” to the part about uncles, it does not mean to include halfs, only wholes…otherwise, it would have done so, as it did with siblings…next case (no pun intended.)

Incest is a crime punishable by a $50 to $100 fine and up to six months in jail.

Marszalkowski determined that as a matter of consanguinity, or blood relations, half-uncles and nieces share the same level of genetic ties as first cousins — or only one-eighth the same DNA. Completely right…did his homework. “It really was the equivalent of cousins marrying, which has been allowed in New York state for well over 100 years,” Marszalkowski said.

Those on the six-person judicial panel acknowledged that they are not scientists, but noted that the “genetic risk in a half-uncle, half-niece relationship is half what it would be if the parties were related by the full blood.”  It’s just a common sense conclusion, owing to the fact that each of us has 2 parents.

Nguyen and her husband, a truck driver, still live in Rochester and do not have any children. She sued the US Attorney General Eric Holder, who enforces the country’s immigration laws. A spokesman from his office did not return a message. They never do…I think that’s part of  their job.

Family law expert Michael Stutman of the firm Mishcon de Reya, who is not involved in the case, said the ruling is in synch with today’s modern families. 

“As people are more mobile and living longer marriages are ending and people remarry and you get blended families with step children and half children,” Stutman reasoned. Wrong…such “blends” have always been common, but for different reasons…in olden days, it was because spouses tended to die younger, and it was considered proper that everyone be married, and every child have a father and a mother…fancy that.

“There are plenty of other societies that allow so-called intermarriage without worrying about genetic defects. And frankly we have a long history of cousins marrying each other, take FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt,” he said. The president and his wife were fifth cousins once removed.  This “expert” is a dummy…sure, he did get the Roosevelt relationship correct, but their degree of relationship is 1/4096…cousin-like genetic connections end around 1/128 or 3rd cousins, for whom over 99% of their genes are different…they are genetically only as cousin-like as 2 random people off the street.

196.10  Finally, Joel Stashenko in the New York Law Journal, 10/30/2014…

 New York’s Domestic Relations Law does not regard marriages between half-uncles and half-nieces as incest, the state Court of Appeals has determined. A hifalutin’ law journal? You’d be within your rights to expect a much more sober and level-headed approach than we’re seen so far…and based on this lead sentence, I’d say that’s just what you’re going to get.

Making a rare foray into human genetics, the court unanimously said that “half-blood” uncles and nieces—or half-aunts and half-nephews—may marry without violating the prohibitions in Domestic Relations Law §5(3) against marriages between parents and offspring, brothers and sisters and aunts/uncles and nephews/nieces.

The question arose in the form of a certified question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It asked for clarification in Nguyen v. Holder, 146, whether a marriage in Rochester between a half-uncle and his half-niece qualified as incest under state law and, consequently, the marriage was void. Could hardly be more accurate and to the point…wow.

The federal government is involved because it sought to have the niece, Huyen Nguyen, removed to her native Vietnam after contending that her 2000 marriage to her half uncle, Vu Truong, was invalid and that Nguyen could not remain in the United States by dint of her marriage to Truong, a U.S. citizen.

The federal appeals court said it could not decide that question without a clarification of state law from the Court of Appeals (NYLJ, Feb. 24).

While all six of the Albany judges participating in Tuesday’s ruling said in a brief memorandum that state law does not regard marriages like the Truong-Nguyen union as incestuous, each of the judges joined in concurring opinions which elaborated on their views.

Judge Robert Smith wrote in one of them that §5(3) is “ambiguous.” He said the most likely explanation for the Legislature not including half-uncles and half-aunts in the statute’s prohibition against aunts/uncles marrying nephews/nieces is that they did not intend to extend the law’s restrictions that far, not that it was an unintentional oversight.”

Smith noted that “since time immemorial,” society has regarded parent-child and brother-sister marriages as abhorrent, but has not treated uncle-niece marriages with the same horror.

In fact, Smith noted, marriages between aunts/uncles and nephews/nieces, of full- or half-blood, were lawful in New York state until 1893.  At last…somebody understands that full relatives and half relatives are not the same thing. He theorized that enactment of the prohibition against uncles or aunts marrying their nieces or nephews may have been related to the development of the science of genetics in the late 1800s. 

At any rate, he said the genetic risks of a marriage between a half-uncle and half-niece would seem to be roughly equivalent to marriages between first cousins, which are legal in New York. “Would seem to be roughly equivalent” is needlessly fuzzy. Better is “are equivalent.”

“We are not geneticists, and the record and the briefs in this case do not contain any scientific analysis; but neither party disputes the intuitively correct-seeming conclusion that the genetic risk in a half-uncle, half-niece relationship is half what it would be if the parties were related by the full blood,” Smith wrote. “Indeed, both parties acknowledged at oral argument that the risk in a half-uncle/half-niece marriage is comparable to the risk in a marriage of first cousins.”  Now this last bit is interesting…so the bone of contention was not how closely half-uncles/nieces are related…it was instead what the law actually intended.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Judge Jenny Rivera joined in Smith’s concurrence.In a separate concurrence, Judge Victoria Graffeo said the legality of a half-uncle/half-niece marriage may be an issue for the Legislature to revisit. She wrote that there could be cultural implications in such marriages that are not present in the Truong-Nguyen union, namely protecting young family members from the possibility of being exploited by older family members in positions of authority.

“The issue of unequal stature in a family or cultural structure may not be implicated in this case but certainly could exist in other contexts, and a number of states have retained statutory prohibitions involving such marriages,” she wrote. “These considerations are more appropriately evaluated in the legislative process.” So even the psychobabble lady had the sense to admit that familial balance of power, the bee in her particular bonnet, simply wasn’t relevant in this case…while it could be in other cases…just couldn’t resist getting that in there, could she?

Judges Susan Phillips Read and Eugene Pigott Jr. joined in Graffeo’s concurrence.Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam took no part in the case. Michael Marszalkowski of Buffalo represented Nguyen. Assistant Attorney General Michael Heyse argued for the U.S. Justice Department.

Nguyen was admitted as a conditional permanent resident of the United States in 2000 based on her marriage to Truong. He was 24 and she was 19 when they were married and they have lived together since.

The government took issue with their marital status in 2006, when the couple filed to remove her conditional resident classification and make her residency permanent based on her marriage to a U.S. citizen. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security sought and secured a removal order from U.S. Immigration Judge Philip Montante Jr. based on her allegedly incestuous and invalid marriage.The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed Montante’s finding in January 2013.  Clean and concise, top to bottom…makes the Daily News and the Post look like raving maniacs…and ignoramuses to boot…but then wasn’t that the point of today’s exercise?

196.11  Next week, another round of everybody’s favorite indoor sport, Wack-a-Wiki…too much fun, sez me…

wicked ballsy

chart 705

The underlying question today is this: when a law allows 1st cousins to marry, does this imply that all kin who are related by 1/8, the degree to which 1st cousins are related, can also marry? The obvious answer is no: the universal prohibition of marriage between direct relatives…”ancestors and descendants” as New York state law puts it…rules out great grandparents and great grandchildren. Beyond that, grand uncles/nieces and half-uncles/nieces are the simplest collaterals that are at 1/8. But there are many others, 4 of which are illustrated in Chart 705.

Unilineal double 1st cousin once removed means the bride is the groom’s father’s double 1st cousin. Bilineal double 1st cousins once removed means the bride is the 1st cousin of both the groom’s father and mother. Here unilineal means the relationship is thru only one of the groom’s lines, in this case his father’s…bilineal means thru both the groom’s lines, his father’s and his mother’s.

Double-half 1st cousins means the bride is the child of the groom’s father’s half-sibling and mother’s half-sibling. And quadruple 2nd cousins means the bride is the child of the groom’s father’s double 1st cousin and mother’s double 1st cousin. Sure, it’s starting to get rather complicated, but the math doesn’t lie…it is what it is…or say math would say, it = it.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#195: Ein Cline

195.1   Suppose you are watching a TV drama based on the 1960 presidential election….and one of the key plot elements is bachelor John F. Kennedy continually hitting on Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia…at the time just 13 years old…Kennedy is 42. How’s it turn out? Kennedy is elected, and on inauguration day is accompanied by his new wife, a 19-year-old  Hollywood starlet. Pierre Salinger comments to Sargent Shriver: “He likes ’em young.”

195.2   Pretty outrageous, no? Because these are public figures within our lifetime…we know Kennedy was already married…and while he had a “lust for life” shall we say, all indications are he stayed within his own age group and didn’t chase after young teens….let alone the daughter of his election opponent. Trouble is, when dealing with historical figures from an earlier time, of which the general public has practically no knowledge, such an absurd fantasy becomes more plausible.

195.3   Which brings us to The History Channel’s extremely popular Hatfields and McCoys miniseries of 2012. The rampant historical inaccuracies of this production have been well documented on the net and elsewhere…and I covered those relating to kinship and genealogy in several Related How Again? posts, starting with #122 The Coyfields and the McHats. But in terms of false information and trashed reputation, none are treated worse than Pike County lawyer Perry A. Cline.

195.4   On the TV show, he is the main villain of the piece, portrayed as a craven, sniveling shyster. Now actions he took during the Feud years are a matter of historical record. What his motivations might have been is for historians to debate. I merely submit that he served as county sheriff for 2 terms, was elected to the Kentucky state legislature, spearheaded a bill to educate black students, and served as a school commissioner. In fact, a school was named after him…it closed in 1966, but the building was named a Kentucky Landmark in 2007. And he was inducted into Pikeville University’s Distinguished Educator Hall of Fame in 2012…hardly the resume of a scoundrel, nez pah?

195.5  Parenthetically, one thing about the internet…you must have patience…see today’s wicked ballsy. Back when I was researching the Hatfields and McCoys in the spring of 2013, Perry A. Cline’s middle name remained stubbornly elusive. Turns out it was Anderson, the same middle name as Devil Anse Hatfield, whose seldom used first name was William.

195.6  But what concerns this blog is the egregious fabrications regarding Cline’s kinship. You may recall that on the show, Perry Cline wants to marry Randall McCoy’s daughter Roseanna. And near the end, when we meet his youthful bride (not Roseanna), I believe the comment was “You like ’em young, don’t you, you cradle-robbing snake.” Well, that statement itself makes no sense, since women in their early teens routinely wed in those days. But all of this is a complete fabrication…during the Feud years, Cline was already married, to one Martha Adkins, and would eventually father 8 children.   

195.7    Even worse, you will find things like this:

inset 1

Uncle Wiki, that cornucopia of misinformation, agrees, without getting into specifics…

inset 2

And ancestry.com gets into the act…

inset 3

Here,  no mention of Asa Harmon McCoy being Martha Adkins’ first husband, short of simply giving her the last name of McCoy.

195.8  The truth? Perry Cline did marry Martha Adkins, daughter of Allen D. Adkins and Matilda “Patty” Williams. It’s also true that Asa Harmon McCoy had just one wife, also named Martha. So it seems reasonable to suppose that after she was widowed, Martha Adkins McCoy married Perry Cline, right? Wrong! Because Asa McCoy’s wife was Martha “Patty” Cline, Perry Cline’s sister! This is historical fact, as well-documented as anything could be. Still…in her grief following Asa’s murder, could  his widow have married her own brother? I’ll go out on a limb and say…no.

chart 701

195.9  But as per Chart 701, what’s fascinating is that 3 of Perry Cline’s 7 siblings, besides sister Martha, also married McCoys…brothers William Trigg and Peter married sisters Margaret and Elizabeth McCoy, 1st cousins of Asa and Randell…and sister Jennie Cline married another McCoy cousin, John. This certainly accounts for Perry Cline’s close ties to the McCoy family, altho yet another of his sisters married a Hatfield…and of course numerous Hatfields and McCoys intermarried. That’s the way it was back there, back then…alliances were not as clear-cut as History Channel writers would have you believe.

inset 4

195.10  But we’re not through yet…both The History Channel and Uncle Wiki agree that Perry Cline was a “cousin” of Randall McCoy. I ask you to study Chart 701…remembering that Asa and Randall McCoy were brothers…do you see blood cousins? I don’t….certainly not 1st cousins…and going back several generations, I find no McCoy/Cline connection. Perry Cline was Asa’s brother-in-law, but not Randall’s…no cousins there. And several of Randall’s 1st cousins were Perry’s siblings-in-law, but that’s as far as it goes. Do you consider your sister-in-law’s cousin your cousin? Me neither.

195.11  So whether it’s dramatic license gone crazy…or genealogical sloppiness…everything you thought you knew about Perry Cline is wrong…including the occasional mention of his being related to Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts, hung for the murder of Alifair McCoy. This is untrue, but brings up an interesting point…because Cline did have many Mounts cousins…altho he was no blood relation to the Mounts family…BTW 2 good old German surnames…Cline = Klein and Mounts = Muntz.

195.12  Consider: if your father has a sister and she has children, these children are your 1st cousins…and their surname is not yours or your father’s, but the surname of the man your aunt married. Say your father is an Adcock and your aunt married a Zorba. Yes, you are related to people named Zorba, your 1st cousins. Does this mean you are related to the Zorba family? No…you’re certainly connected to them, thru your aunt’s husband, but there is no blood relation between the Adcock and Zorba families…your Zorba cousins are actually your Adcock cousins, and you are theirs, since their mother and your father were born Adcocks.

195.13  Now historians consider Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts to be the son of 1st cousins Ellison and Harriet Hatfield. Cotton Top’s alliance with the Hatfields on their side of the feud stems from Ellison Hatfield’s acknowledgement that they were father and son…and remember, whatever notoriety ensued was because Cotton Top’s parents were unmarried, not because they were cousins…that was common enough in the Tug Valley, as well as just about everywhere else. Harriet Hatfield married Daniel Mounts when Cotton Top was very young, hence his using the Mounts surname. Interesting to note, he had a brother George, also believed to be a son of the Hatfield cousins, and he went at times by both Mounts and Hatfield… and when his widow remarried, she put herself down as a Hatfield.

195.14  So at the outset Perry Cline is no blood relation to Cotton Top Mounts…is he related to Cotton Top’s step-father Daniel Mounts? A resounding yes!

chart 702And that’s thanks to Perry Cline’s aunt Margaret Cline marrying David Cecil Mounts…resulting in Perry having a passel of Mounts 1st cousins, added to his copious Cline 1st cousins, many of whom intermarried, as seen in Chart 702. Well, 2 of Perry’s Cline cousins married each other, Thomas and Edie…but beyond that, sisters Nancy and Margaret Cline married brothers Peter and Jackson Mounts respectively…all 1st cousins to Perry and one another. And 2 other Mounts brothers, Michael and Alexander, married the daughters of Cline 1st cousins Peter Harper and Sarah, themselves siblings…the brides thus being 1st cousins once removed ascending to the grooms.

195.15  Perry Cline’s relation to Daniel Mounts? 1st cousin once removed thru Daniel’s father, and 1st cousin twice removed thru Daniel’s mother. Next week, a breaking news story and we’re on it!…Goodnight David, Chet, Walter…

wicked ballsy

wbToday, when a new consumer product is introduced based on an existing product, it’s called in the business a “line extension”…back in the day it was called “hitch-hiking” or “piggybacking.” A minor example, but well-remembered by me because it was such a tasty breakfast cereal, was General Mills’ Caramel Puffs, a spinoff of its highly successful Cocoa Puffs. For years there was hardly a mention of it on the internet…then old newspapers starting coming on-line, and I found several grocery ads mentioning Caramel Puffs…it apparently was available for only a year, around 1959-60. Finally, several months ago, a picture surfaced…ha!…now that’s what I’m talking about. But like I said, with the internet, patience can pay off. Can’t find something? Wait 6 months or a year and try again…


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#194: Fresh Up Freddie Sez…

inset 0

194.1  So what’s Fresh up Freddie have to do with anything? He was a cartoon spokescritter for 7Up, created by the Disney studios for their prime time TV series Zorro…debuting in October, 1957. And it’s interesting to consider how our ideas about the past differ from the way things really were at the time. It’s fair to say that today Zorro is considered a children’s show…and for its 2 seasons it did air at 8pm, early enough for most schoolchildren. Yet the 7Up commercials, many of which you can see on YouTube, were aimed at adults and older teens…despite the fact that soft drinks were one of the few consumer goods kids could purchase on their own. Then again, one of the earliest sponsors of The Flintstones was Winston cigarettes!

194.2  But the reason Fresh Up Freddie pops up today is his catch-phrase…”Right now you’re probably asking yourself…” And right now you’re probably asking yourself if I’ve said all I care to about step-cousins…and the answer is: almost. Because when I was rooting around the Yahoo! Answers website, I found several posts worth commenting on…which is what we’ll do today…starting with…

inset 1194.3  Here we assume that the cousin grandpa married was his 1st cousin, giving us the diagram on the left side of Chart 693. Your grandpa’s 2nd wife B is your dad’s step-mother, so to that extent she is your step-grandmother. They state that B is also their 3rd cousin, which is wrong, but in an interesting way. It has been my experience that people who make the mistake of thinking the child of their 1st cousin is their 2nd cousin have not thought out the implication of this mistake…namely that this would also make your parent’s 1st cousin your 2nd cousin. Likewise, calling your 1st cousin’s grandchild your 3rd cousin makes your grandparent’s 1st cousin also your 3rd cousin.

chart 693

194.4  But this person here has grasped that concept…presumably considering C their 2nd cousin, along with D  of course their 1st cousin. It’s interesting simply to see this cousin mistake taken back to past generations…usually it’s made going forward to succeeding generations.

chart 694

194.5   And this person then carries the cousin mistake forward to his generation in a consistent manner…X, which he calls his “step-auntie,” would be his father’s step-sibling and also his father’s 3rd cousin, so his 4th cousin. And X‘s child Y would then be his 5th cousin. As I said, wrong but at least consistent! I took the trouble to draw all this out to emphasize once again that this cousin mistake gives you an even/odd cousin system…members of your dad’s generation, like C and X, are your 2nd and 4th cousins respectively…even. and Y are members of your generation, and as such are your 1st and 5th cousins…and C‘s child would be your 3rd cousin…odd. The point being that when somebody calls their 1st cousin’s child their 2nd cousin, they don’t realize that in one fell swoop they’ve established this awkward even/odd system…I’m just sayin’…

inset 2

194.6  So in Chart 695, multi-godzillionaire A wants to leave her vast fortune to Z…and wonders which of 3 ways to describe lucky Z would be best…answer: none of them!

chart 695

With something as important as a will, you want to identify beyond all possible doubt the exact person you’re talking about…full name, address at the time the will is written, and a detailed description of how this person is related to you. Anything less, and you’re asking for trouble in probate. Trust me, if you left everything to “my 2nd cousin,” intending that to mean your 1st cousin’s child, there isn’t a court in the land that wouldn’t give it all to your parent’s 1st cousin’s child. D’oh!

inset 3

194.7  “…nothing wrong with the face”…they almost certainly meant “fact” not “face”…back in the day there used to be such a thing as proofreading. Which is not to say a pleasant countenance isn’t always appreciated…let alone the minor detail that this isn’t your step-2nd cousin but your step-1st cousin once removed descending.

chart 696

The part I like is where they lose control of their pronouns, and have their grandfather marrying his great grandmother…replace “his” with “my cousin’s” and you’re back on track.

inset 4

194.8  What’s cool here is the mention of a brother who is on another side of the family…thus he can’t be a full brother, with the same parents as you, since in that case there is no other side of the family. Could he be a half-brother? Possibly, but then one might think he could be at least a little bit on your side, which he evidently isn’t.

chart 697

I’d reckon he’s your step-brother…and with step-brothers like that, who needs — oh, never mind. But you’re right…none of the steps are blood relatives of yours, so go for it, sez me.

inset 5

194.9  I’m commenting on this only to point out the superfluous use of the word usually…which you see a lot these days, along with its step-double half-2nd cousin generally. I came across this recently on Uncle Wiki, where is was said: Expletive infixation is a process by which an expletive or profanity is inserted into a word, usually for intensification.”  What they’re talking about, using mild oaths, are such constructions as “in-frickin’-credible” and “un-blasted-believable.”

194.10  One of the most famous comes from My Fair Lady, in the song “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”…”abso-bloomin’-lutely.” Now where Wiki says “usually for intensification” …this means sometimes NOT for intensification, but for something else…and I’ve wracked my brains trying to think what what that something else might be…and come up dry. Likewise, “step generally means married into the family” means other times step means something else…but what could that be? How do you get a step without somebody somewhere in your family being hitched? Search me.

inset 6.png

194.11 Sure, it’s easy to chuckle at people who don’t know what removed means…here they think removed can somehow move horizontally…which it can’t, only vertically. Let’s just call this an entertainingly mistaken shot in the dark.

chart 698

Now by “technical term” they mean, whether they know they do or not, the genealogical jargon or short-hand for a complicated (agreed!) relationship. And the suggestion in the box at the bottom is utterly sound…just spell it out for what it is and be done with it. I would make just one modification: “step-son of my cousin’s aunt on the other side of the family.”  Because after all, your cousin’s aunt could be your aunt, or even your mother, nez pah?

inset 7

194.12  okay, I’m not a 15 year old girl, but I can still draw pretty pictures. And I hope nobody minds that we assume cousin means 1st cousin…and further, her step-cousin’s cousin is a cousin by blood. Recall that there are 3 different things that can conceivably be called your step-1st cousin…

chart 699

…and here they are…X is the one you like. Notice that in Chart 699 I got sloppy and made you a boy instead of a girl…but then this is 2014, so I guess nobody is supposed to notice “that”…if you get my drift, and I think you do. Anyway, X is of no blood relation to you, so you’re in the clear as far as that goes. You’re being a minor, I dunno how far that should actually go, but there you go…

inset 8

194.13  And finally…one of the challenges in helping people with their kinship queries is in figuring out what they’re talking about in the first place. The “2nd cousin mistake” is so rampant that you have to watch out for it…still, I will assume they are using it correctly unless there is evidence to the contrary. Here, interestingly enough, there is evidence they are using “2nd cousin” correctly…it’s slim, but it’s there.

chart 700

It hinges on the wording “my 2nd cousin’s mom”…using 2C correctly, that would be your parent’s 1st cousin…incorrectly, it would be your 1st cousin. And in the latter case, why not just say that your 1st cousin got married while you were dating the new spouse’s daughter, whom you now consider some sort of step-cousin to you. So it suggests they’re using 2C correctly…but like I said, it’s slim. But correct or not, step-cousins no matter how you construe them are simply not blood relations and everybody ought to quit worrying about it…and that’s pretty much been today’s message. Next week, we rekindle the Coyfield and McHat Feud…woo hoo!


wicked ballsy


Back to Fresh up Freddie…above are the stars of the 1944 Disney film The Three Caballeros…Donald Duck…Brazilian parrot Jose Carioca…and Mexican rooster Panchito.  And as you can see below, the look of Freddie was patterned very closely after Panchito.


So why is it often said that Freddie is a combination of Panchito and another character from the movie, the Aracuan Bird? Altho he has limited screen time, Aracuan steals every scene he’s in. A frenetic cross between Daffy Duck and Robin Williams, he went on to star with Donald in 2 more short features…and see below, he looks nothing like the Brazilian speckled chachalaca, locally called the aracuana…nor does he bear the slightest resemblance to Freddie…so what gives?


Well, I had the presence of mind to actually watch the aforementioned cartoons, and the mystery was solved. The Aracuan Bird has a signature song that includes an infectious hoot which is similar altho not identical to Fresh up Freddie’s trademark “doot’en, doot’en, doot’en!”check here…and reinforcing the Disney connection, in this commercial Fred’s adversary is none other than Mickey Mouse’s old nemesis, Black Pete.


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#193: Exploding Heads

193.1  Today’s blog is utterly gratuitous. You can skip it if you want to…come back next week…no hard feelings. I’m doing it just because I want to…and can. Actually, it’s an exaggeration…things will get rather complicated, but it’s all built up one steep at a time, piece by piece, relative by relative. I realistically expect all heads to survive intact.

193.2  But the thought I had was this: take the 3 types of step-1st cousins, put them all on one chart, then see how they are related to each other. Again, as I’ve been saying for the past several weeks, the idea of step-relations beyond the immediate family of parents/children/siblings is probably “taking it too far” for a lot of people…like calling your wife’s sister’s husband your brother-in-law-in-law or something. Still, what happens if we do take it too far..

inset 1193.3  To start, we’ll take the 3 kinds of step-1st cousins and label them X, Y, and Z.

X…your parent’s step-sibling’s child
Y…your parent’s sibling’s step-child
Z…your step-parent’s sibling’s child

193.4  And just to be absolutely clear, all marriages will be labeled as 1st or 2nd…Chart 688…then it’s just a matter of wending our way thru the branches. There’s an old-timey word you don’t hear much these days…wend.

chart 688

193.5  From X‘s point of viewY is his father’s step-brother’s step-son…Z is his father’s step-brother’s second wife’s nephew. And no, Z isn’t C‘s step-nephew…simply C‘s nephew by marriage

193.6  From Y‘s point of viewX is his step-father’s step-brother’s son…Z is his step-father’s brother’s second wife’s nephew.

193.7  And from Z‘s point of viewX is his step-uncle’s step-brother’s son…and Y is his aunt’s husband’s brother’s step-son. Again, C is in no way Z‘s step-uncle, since C is neither Z‘s parent’s step-brother…nor is C the brother of Z‘s step-parent. C is merely Z‘s aunt’s husband…nothing more.

193.8  That wasn’t so bad…or was it? Except to point out that we’re beyond steps here…on the one hand steps of steps…and on the other hand relationships that can only be described as “by marriage” since there are no steps directly involved…as with C and Z. Do we dare proceed with a mass diagram of step-2nd cousins? Yes, but for a different reason…recall the 5 kinds of step-2nd cousins…

1…your step-parent’s 1st cousin’s child
2…your step-grandparent’s sibling’s grandchild
3…your grandparent’s step-sibling’s grandchild
4…your grandparent’s sibling’s step-grandchild
5…your parent’s 1st cousin’s child

193.9  …yielding Chart 689, which might almost be described as magnificent, in its own lugubrious sort of way…

chart 689

193.10  But instead of relating  1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 to each other…which you’re perfectly free to do if you like…I’ll instead use Chart 689  to demonstrate what I meant last week when I said that these types of step-2nd cousins compliment each other by pairs…they are opposite ends of one relationship. That is, if you have a type 1, to him you are a type 5…if you have a type 5, to him you are a type 1. Ditto with types 2 and 4…and 3’s are all 3’s to each other.

193.11 These charts spell that out…and to analyze one example, in Chart 690, what 5 is to you, you are to 1. Starting with you (green line) and 1 (orange line) you go up to a grandparent…then to the grandparent’s sibling…then to the sibling’s child…then to the child’s step-child. The green and orange lines don’t look exactly the same because in some cases I have diagrammed both parents, in other cases just one parent, but if you follow it along, you’ll see the paths are identical.

chart 690 chart 691 chart 692

193.12  And if this reminds you of how you are a spousal BIL to your fraternal BIL, and a fraternal to your spousal…well that’s as it should be. Next week, we wrap up steps with a collection of notions and sundries…back in 7…

wicked ballsy


Uncle Grandpa is the star of a bizarre animated TV series of the same name…he is described as being either the uncle or grandfather of everyone on Earth…a neat trick, but then it’s only a cartoon show, nez pah? And yes, one episode features his counterpart, Aunt Grandma. In a similar vein are…the title of the first Make Room for Daddy episode: “Uncle Daddy”…a concoction from the Pogo comic strip, Aunt Granny’s Bitter Brittle Root, said to cure the cold robbies and whim-whams…heck, even Uncle Junior from The Sopranos. 


Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

#192: Watch That Second Step…It’s a Lulu!

192.1  Today we get into some heavy-duty kinship analysis…but it will demonstrate a valuable point…that being, as you expand your family tree, you’ll find various relations can occur in more than one way, which might not be immediately obvious. For example, last week I mentioned double 1st cousins can exist in only one basic configuration on your family tree….double 2nd cousins, in 3 ways…double 3rd cousins, in 6 ways, etc. And that’s what will happen today with…

192.2  …step-2nd cousins…And TBT, I don’t recommend you try this at home…it’s merely an academic exercise, shall we say. Because as we saw last week, there is ambiguity in steps as you move beyond the nuclear step-family of parents, children, siblings. Step-1st cousins can occur in 3 distinct ways…it’s a connection between 2 people, no argument there…does it raise to the level of a relationship? In my opinion yes, but a tenuous one…all the more so for step-2nd cousins…and beyond.  

chart 680

192.3  But to give it a whirl…Chart 680 shows how we figure step-2nd cousins…and there are 2 interesting things to notice…

chart 681

In column B, I have re-written the definitions of step-1st cousin so that each contains the words parent, sibling, and child…the definitions in column A did not. And notice how “step-” (in yellow) migrates neatly down the 3 definitions. Now to get the definitions of step-2nd cousin in column C, we remember that 2nd cousins are the offspring of 1st cousins, just as 1st cousins are the offspring of siblings. So where it says “sibling” in column B, we replace that with “1st cousin” in column C…done and done…or are we?

inset192.4  The second definition of step-2nd cousin, highlighted to the left in yellow…does anything occur to you? If not, something would when you tried to diagram these out…step-1st cousin can mean 3 different things!  We now have 5 definitions for step-2nd cousin, not 3.


chart 682

192.5  So I’ve expanded the 3 to 5, and re-written the “new” 3 with grand- terminology. All that’s left to do is diagram them out…see them working in action! And just to be completely kosher, we’ll check that these really are step-2nd cousins. To do that, we’ll remove the step-relationship, indicated by the green arrow, and see what comes of it. In Chart 683  for example, we reconstruct the relationship assuming that the step-mother of YOU is actually YOU’s biological mother…and sure enough…

chart 683

chart 684

chart 685

chart 686

chart 687

192.6  Particularly nice to see how the green arrow indicating the origin of the step-relation migrates up one side of the tree, then down the other. This is simply mathematics’ way of telling us that the 1st type compliments the 5th type, the 2nd type compliments the 4th, and the 3rd type compliments itself…nice how we can all get along, nez pah? Next week, brains hurt and heads explode…don’t miss it!

wicked ballsy


BTW…based on the above reasoning, I believe there are 7 kinds of step-3rd cousins…I leave that as an exercise for you, dear reader…and if you care to tackle it, gold star for you, old school style...


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