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Updated : 6/2/2017

Relationships

Introduction

Genealogists are conscious of the relationships between family members. The way the relationships are described is somewhat complicated and gives rise to confusion.

Understanding the meaning of the various designations of family relationship will help clear up the confusion. Most people understand the close relationships like parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The most confusing of the family relationships arise when cousins become involved.




Method

One method uses an ancestor that two people share as a starting point.

If you and a relative are of the same generation i.e. your common ancestor bears the same relationship to both you and your relative then the process logic is very straight forward:-
We all have two sets of grandparents, but it only takes one pair to provide the cousin relationship. You and your first cousin will share a set of grandparents. One of your parents and one of your cousin’s parents are brothers or sisters. If you and your first cousin both have children, they will be second cousins. If the second cousins have children, they will be third cousins and will have the same set of ancestors: for the second cousins, the common ancestors will be great grandparents, and for the third cousins, the ancestor will be great-great-grandparents.


However, complications arise when we try to determine relationships that cross generational lines ie the relationship between yourself and a common ancestor is different to that between a relative and that common ancestor.

If your grandfather is also the great-grandfather of another person, you are cousins, but what kind? The trick is to count how many generations it is back to the common ancestor for each of you and subtract to find the difference. In this example, you will subtract 3 from 4 and get 1, and that will make you first cousins once removed.

The relationship table given below enables the relationship between two individuals with a common ancestor to be quickly determined as follows:-

  1. First choose the most recent common ancestor that you share.
  2. For you and your fathers’s brother’s grandaughter, the common ancestor is your grandparent (their great-grandparent).
  3. Visualise that name in the ‘common ancestor’ box.
  4. Move your finger along the top row until you find your relationship to the ‘common ancestor’ (grandchild).
  5. Then move your finger down the left-hand colunm until you find their relationship to the ‘common ancestor’ (great-grandchild).
  6. The point at which the row and column meet show your relationship to each other – ‘first cousin once removed’
Common ancestor child grandchild g
grandchild
g-g
grandchild
g-g-g
grandchild
child siblings neice/nephew g
neice/nephew
g-g
neice/nephew
g-g-g
neice/nephew
grandchild neice/nephew 1st cousin 1st cousin 
once removed
1st cousin 
twice removed
1st cousin 
three times removed
g
grandchild
great
neice/nephew
1st cousin
once removed
2nd cousin 2nd cousin
once removed
2nd cousin
twice removed
g-g
grandchild
g-g
neice/nephew
1st cousin
twice removed
2nd cousin
once removed
3rd cousin 3rd cousin
once removed
g-g-g
grandchild
g-g-g
neice/nephew
1st cousin
three times removed
2nd cousin
twice removed
3rd cousin
once removed
4th cousin

Because of the symmetry of the table it does not matter if you move to your relationship to the common ancestor in the top row and the relative's relationship in the first column or vice versa. Also this symmetry allows the table to be extended as far as is required.

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