Saturday, April 12, 2014

Out On A Limb

A few years ago, Third Niece asked me about the difference between first and second cousins and what the heck could first cousins "once removed" or "twice removed" or whatever possibly mean?

This was something I was unclear about myself so I went out wandering in the wilds of the internet and found a site that explained it concisely and even had a handy-dandy chart that did not make me want to bang my head against my desk. (I'm somewhat chart averse.) Predictably, I have never been able to find that site again--even though I've spent a good hour or so today looking for it.

With the birth of First Granddaughter last fall coming a week before the birth of Fourth Nephew, and lots of other assorted cousins and aunts and uncles around, all these connections have been much on our minds every time any particular group of us gathers in the same room. Here is the simplest way I've been able to boil down my multiple website search of the subject:

A first cousin is someone with whom you share a grandparent.

A second cousin is someone with whom you share a great-grandparent. (Your grandparents are siblings, in other words. A second cousin is the grandchild of your great aunt or great uncle.)

A third cousin is someone with whom you share a great-great-grandparent. (Your great grandparents are siblings, your grandparents are cousins, and your parents are second cousins.)

And so on...

When it comes to "removals," this refers not to death or divorce or disinheritance (as Third Niece suspected when she was eleven), but to the number of generations between degrees of cousin. For instance, my father's cousin is my first cousin once removed and she is my children's first cousin twice removed. My father's cousin's children are my second cousins and they are my children's second cousins once removed. My father's cousin's children's children would be my children's third cousins, but my second cousins once removed.*

It all seems relatively simple when I'm typing it out on the computer screen in my quiet office. Trying to explain it out loud while some of these cousins and second cousins and first cousins once removed are scrambling under foot and darting in and out of the conversation is a much more difficult thing--and I love every minute of it.

K is for Kin

 *Uh, I think.

12 comments:

  1. Little Sister4/13/14, 12:43 PM

    This was also the topic of conversation at my house after My First Grandson's (a.ka.Your First Great Nephew) birthday party yesterday as My Only Son tried to explain the relationship said Grandson/Great Nephew had to Your First Granddaughter....which according to your description makes them the First Second Cousins of their generation...I think?...even though, removals not-withstanding, all the youngest scrambling cousins share the same "Grammy and Grampy".

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    1. I do believe First Great Nephew and First Granddaughter are second cousins--and the first of that generation in our family. I could be entirely wrong, of course. It happens. ;)

      It's funny how the age thing really messes with your head when you're trying to calculate all of this out, though. Age of the individuals is totally irrelevant, but it's hard not to think of the kids in the same age group as their own generation. Fourth Nephew and First Granddaughter were born a week apart, but he is her first cousin once removed. It makes my head hurt a little, but in a good way.

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  2. Kinship is complicated, especially once they get beyond the first or second levels.
    On the very early branches of our family tree, I’m sure there were second cousins marrying each other.

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    1. I actually ran into something similar on Ancestry. My great grandmother married her first cousin once removed (her mother's cousin). As a result, my 3rd great grandfather in one line is my 4th great grandfather in another. I'm sure it happened quite a bit in rural areas at least in part because there simply weren't other people available.

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  3. Both of my kids are older than my youngest cousins; they grew up playing together and calling each other cousin. My daughter recently asked me exactly what level of cousin they are to each other. Second? Once removed? I said let's keep calling each other cousins and save a headache!

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  4. SO confusing! I just say, "We're somehow related!"

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    1. A simple & elegant solution! :)

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  5. The way you've explained this actually makes sense to me, but I'll still probably just end up calling them all cousins and not worrying about the rest.

    TaMara
    AJ's AtoZ wHooligan
    Tales of a Pee Dee Mama

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    1. I've recently become a genealogy geek, which explains some of the curiosity. We all mostly do the "cousins" thing, too except when there are new babies and we try to figure out all the puzzle pieces. :)

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  6. I always wondered about that. Especially because my grandparents were cousins of some degree. Sounds sort of icky but backwoods Kentucky will do that.

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    1. Yeah, there are definitely cousins marrying cousins in my tree as well--and we didn't even have Kentucky as an excuse--just northwestern Pennsylvania. ;)

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