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Its quite easy to remember or work out who your close relatives are, such as Uncles/Aunts, Nephews/Nieces, but as the relationships become more remote, the majority turn into COUSINS! But which sort?

There has often been "interesting" discussion at family gatherings as to what  relationship links that child to ones offspring, or other various combinations.  This page will hopefully act as an aide memoir to ensure that members of a family know to whom they are related as a cousin, and more importantly, what kind of cousin that is!

cousin (kûz-), n, child of ones uncle or aunt.

Well that's straightforward enough, and because of this strange hierarchy, they would be more specifically known as a First Cousin (since both of you are of the same generation). But what would any child of your first cousin be to you? They would be a "first cousin once removed" (removed in level from you by one generation). Their child (the grandchild of your cousin), would be your "first cousin twice removed" (two generations from your level), and so on.

Now then, what would that same line of cousins be to your children? Well your first cousin would be "first cousin once removed" to your children (one generation difference). BUT your cousin's children would be "second cousins" (same generation), and their children "second cousins once removed" (one generation difference).

It therefore follows that your first cousin's grandchildren and your grandchildren  would be "third cousins" (same generation again but three generations down from a common ancestor). So, this whole complex definition is based on the sharing of a common ancestor, which is pretty obvious, otherwise you would not be related at all! It means if you share a common Grandparent, you are first cousins (or brother/sister). By sharing a great grandparent you are second cousins and sharing a great great grandparent, you are third cousins. If this common ancestor has a different relationship to each of you, then you start to be "removed" from each other by generation.

The following table is probably an easier way to establish the relationship between two people. First identify who the nearest common ancestor is. Then decide what the relationship is of the common ancestor to each individual. Use the top row for one relationship and the left hand column for the other. Where they intersect is the relationship between those two family members.

Relationship of Common Ancestor Parent Grandparent Great Grandparent Great Great Grandparent Great Great Great Grandparent
Parent Brother/Sister Aunt/Uncle or Niece/Nephew Great (or Grand) Aunt/Uncle or Great Niece/Nephew Great Great Aunt/Uncle or Great Great Niece/Nephew Great Great Great Aunt/Uncle or Great Great Great Niece/Nephew
Grandparent Aunt/Uncle    or Niece/Nephew First Cousin First Cousin Once Removed First Cousin Twice Removed First Cousin Thrice Removed
Great Grandparent Great (or Grand) Aunt/Uncle    or             Great Niece/Nephew First Cousin Once Removed Second Cousin Second Cousin Once Removed Second Cousin Twice Removed
Great Great Grandparent Great Great Aunt/Uncle    or             Great Great Niece/Nephew First Cousin Twice Removed Second Cousin Once Removed Third Cousin Third Cousin Once Removed
Great Great Great Grandparent Great Great Great Aunt/Uncle    or             Great Great Great Niece/Nephew First Cousin Thrice Removed Second Cousin Twice Removed Third Cousin Once Removed Fourth Cousin


So next time you happen to be at a family gathering or wedding, you will now be able to introduce yourself to those strange relations you've never met before. But behave yourself, or you might well get removed!

 © C.G Jenkins