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How are we related is all relative

It's not an easy exercise and I'd challenge even the greatest genealogist to explain how we are related. The combinations are endless, relentless.

  • I am my own grandpa
  • kissing cousins
  • twice or three times removed...

... all head bending concepts to figure out.

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Cousin relationships can be any combination of first, second, third and so on, with once removed, twice removed, and so on. How are we related to our parent's cousins, grandparents' cousins, etc.

An example:

"If you are the "grandchild" of an ancestor and your relative is the "great-grandchild" of same ancestor, then you and your relative are "1st cousins 1 time removed"

How are we related to a First Cousin

most everyone is familiar with this

Your first cousin is a child of your aunt or uncle. You share one set of grandparents with your first cousin, but you do not have the same parents.

How are we related to a Second Cousin

now it's getting more difficult

Your second cousin is the grandchild of your great-aunt or great-uncle. You share one set of great-grandparents with your second cousin, but you do not have the same grandparents.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Cousin

Way out there and we need some help

to understand how we are related

Your third cousin is the great-grandchild of your great-great-aunt or great-great-uncle. You share a set of great-great-grandparents with your third cousin, but do not have the same great-grandparents. Fourth cousins have one set of 3 x-great-grandparents, but not the same 2 x great-grandparents. And so on.

Double Cousin

this happens - has in my family

If two siblings in one family (the Brindle sisters, Betty and Ann) marry two siblings from another family (the Helmes brothers, Joseph and Benjamin) and each couple has a child, the children are double first cousins. The word double in addition to the first cousin term is because they share the same four grandparents. Regular first cousins share only one set of common grandparents, while double first cousins share both sets of grandparents plus all lineal and collateral relatives.


Going once, going twice, going three times!

The relationships of cousins of different generations are explained by using the word "removed". Cousins who are "once removed" have a single generation difference. For example, the first cousin of your father is your first cousin, once removed.

In that case, your father's first cousin is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents. This one generation difference is explained by saying that your are cousins "once removed."

Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference between cousins. If you are two generations younger than the first cousin of your grandparent, then the relationship between you and your grandparent's first cousin are first cousins, twice removed.

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The chart below is a simple tool to determine ancestry relationships. I was quite excited when I connected the dots.

Give it a try with your family tree, pick a common ancestor, maybe your 2 x great grandfather and locate two people on the family tree that share him as a grandfather, great or not. And see how they are related. It's quite addictive.

How are we related and where is my family from? If you know a bit about where your family is from and then start to build your family tree, the relationship between the people will start to form, almost on it's own.

There will be many "did you know" moments. Ah ha moments, or if you're like me, jump out of your chair moments!

Your tree will grow, you won't need to do much more than connect the dots.

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