#38: Cousins Enumerated

The Question

Jill Says:
June 22nd, 2005 at 1:09 pm
Dear Shaun,

My favorite cousin is getting married at the end of July. I was trying to figure out how his new wife would be related to me. I then realized that I had never figured out the difference between second, third or fourth cousins and cousins once, twice or thrice removed. Can you clarify?

Ever curious,

The Answer

Here’s the deal on cousins.

Your first cousins are children of your parent’s siblings (children of your Aunts and Uncles). You share two grandparents with them.

Your second cousins share two great-grandparents with you, but not grandparents. Second cousins are children of your grandparent’s siblings.

Third cousins share great-great-grandparents, but not great-grandparents. Third cousins are children of your great-grandparent’s siblings.

And so on.

Also, you apply the same rules to your parent’s cousins, grandparent’s cousins, etc. Your mother’s first cousin is also your first cousin. Your grandfather’s first cousin is your first cousin.

How do you tell apart all these first cousins? Let’s talk about removal.

“Removed” refers to generations separating you from the cousin. Your mother’s first cousin is your first cousin, but ONCE REMOVED. That means there is a generation between you.

Your grandfather’s first cousin is your first cousin, twice removed.

When I think about this, I wonder how many people are related but have no clue about it. It’s an interesting thought…

6 thoughts on “#38: Cousins Enumerated

  • 9/23/2005 at 7:36 pm

    Thank you! I never understood the removed thing either.

  • 9/26/2005 at 12:20 pm

    Thorough answer Shaun.

    Cousins and such have often confused me.

    4 stars.

  • 9/26/2005 at 2:29 pm

    The best answers are often due to the best questions. Kudos to Jill for this one.

  • 9/26/2005 at 6:06 pm

    One of my third cousins plays in the WNBA. Though, we’ve never met. But it’s cool to say, anyway.

    This brings up another question. Can you have step-cousins? I have an aunt by blood who remarried and therefore received a stepson. So, she recieved a son from her marriage. Does that mean that I received a cousin from her marriage, called a step-cousin?

    Or cousins-in-law? If I were married, would my wife’s cousin by my cousin-in-law? I received her mother as my mother-in-law from my marriage, so do other relations, such as cousins-in-law also get received? (This would be similar to Jill’s situation)

    Or what about half-cousins? Say I share just one grandparent with someone, each of us being a product of a different marriage of that grandparent?

    Did I just make this whole thing more confusing?

  • 9/27/2005 at 7:36 am

    Shaun, well done. That is very clearly explained. But I still don’t understand what my cousin’s new wife is to me. Is she a first cousin? A first cousin by marriage? Could it be so simple?

  • 9/29/2005 at 12:16 pm

    It is that simple!

    Cousin-in-law is the appropriate term.

    Also, one may have step-cousins (in whatever degree).


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