The People in Your (Extended) Family

Ah, family. We know who some of them are—hello, mom and dad, sister and brother, auntie Kimmie and uncle Kyle, cousin Sue, cousin Sal.

However, sometimes you meet someone you think is related, but neither of you really know what that relationship is. You stand around speculating about who you are to each other and make terms around: third cousin?, Second cousin once removed?, step mother?

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Half of these people just met today.

Let’s start with the first common circle outside of the nuclear family of parents and siblings: your parents’ parents are your grandparents; your siblings’ children are grandchildren; your parents’ siblings are aunts and uncles; Your aunt and uncle’s children are first cousins. It’s all pretty familiar territory.

At a glance at the most direct line of generations before us, we have great people and grandparents: your grandparents’ parents were your great-grandparents; their parents are your great-grandparents etc. And just like your parents’ siblings are aunts and Your great-grandparent’s siblings are great-aunts and great-grandparents. – uncle, and so on.

Where it really gets confused is in cousins ​​territory. As we mentioned, a first cousin is the child of a person’s aunt or uncle. You and your first cousins ​​share the same set of grandparents because each has a parent who is a sibling of the other.

Let’s say you and a first cousin—say, Sue—both have children. Your children and Sue’s children will be second cousins ​​and will share a group of great-grandparents (your and Sue’s common grandparents). Suppose your child and Sue’s child have children—that is, those second cousins ​​have children. The children of those second cousins ​​will be third cousins, and they will share a group of great-grandparents (again, the same grandparent as you and Sue). The children of those third cousins ​​will become fourth cousins, etc.

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But what about between generations? What is Sue, your first cousin, to your child? And what is Sue’s child to your grandchild? This is where the word REMOVE in: a relative is “removed” when that person is of a younger or older generation.

(A note on terminology generation: generation this is not the kind we read about in demographic discussions; it is a single step in the lineage from the ancestors. If your sibling is 20 years older than you, you are still a sibling and of the same generation. Your child will still be a first cousin and of the same generation, although one may graduate from college while the other is young.)

Cousins’ qualifications (first, second, third, etc.) don’t change between generations, but the word REMOVE used to signal another generation. Your first cousin Sue is also your child’s first cousin, but removed by one generation, making Sue your child’s first cousin after being removed. And Sue’s child is your first cousin after being eliminated. Your child and Sue’s child are second cousins; For your grandchildren, Sue’s children are second cousins ​​after being removed.

If you’re actively figuring out how you’re related to someone, a pen and paper is invaluable for getting through the twists and turns. And when you’re standing around with a distant relationship, you can at least know that you’re in a spiral together, even if you don’t quite know how kinship you are.

Categories: Usage Notes

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