Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Cousin By Any Other Name: How To Determine Kinship

Most of us can figure out who is our cousin and who isn't, but after a generation or two, most people begin to have difficulty with the first-cousin, thrice removed concept. Hopefully this article will shed some light on all this removal business.

To start, the brother of your mother or father is your uncle. The sister of your mom or dad is your aunt. Pretty straightforward, right?

Let's take it back a generation. The brother of your grandfather or grandmother is your great uncle. My sisters have grandkids, so that makes me their great uncle (although I, of course, insist that I am their extra-ordinary uncle). Logically, that would make the sister of your grandfather or grandmother your great aunt. Some use the term "grand-uncle" or "grand-aunt", but I like to use "great" but that's entirely up to yourself.

Similarly, the brother of your great-grandfather (or great-grandmother) would be your great-great-uncle. The sister of your great-grandmother (or great-grandfather) would be your great-great-aunt.

1st Cousin: Most of us know that a cousin is the child of your aunt or uncle. Technically, the child of your aunt or uncle is called your first cousin. Basically you are part of the same generation even if there is a great variance in your ages.

2nd Cousin: Now, the child of your great-aunt or great-uncle is your second cousin. Also, your children are 2nd cousins to the children of your 1st cousins.

3rd Cousin: The children of your 2nd cousins are 3rd cousins to your children. And the great-grandchild of your great-great-uncle or aunt (the sibling of your great-grandfather or great-grandmother) is also your 3rd cousin.

What About The Removed Part?

When your first cousin has a child, the child is described as your 1st cousin once removed. Also, if your great-aunt or great-uncle's kids have children, then those children are also described as once removed.

Basically, "once" removed means one generational level different. If a person is your 1st cousin once removed, that makes you his or her 1st cousin once removed.

Your 2nd cousin once removed is the child of your 2nd cousin.

Your 1st cousin twice removed is the child of your 1st cousin once removed. That would be the grandchild of your 1st cousin.

Your 2nd cousin twice removed is the child of your 2nd cousin once removed. That would be the grandchild of your 2nd cousin.

When you are trying to determine the cousin-kinship of two people, you need to count upwards to find where their respective ancestors become brothers or sisters. At this point you can determine whether these people are 1st, 2nd, 3rd cousins. Then you need to figure out the "removed" part.

To figure out how "removed" two cousins are, you have to determine which generation level that they are apart. If your 1st cousin's child is one generation later than you, the child would be your 1st cousin, once removed. Your 1st cousin's grandchild would therefore be you 1st cousin, twice removed.

And now that I've made this as clear as mud...

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