2021.10.27 – Cousin Relationships


Cousin Relationships
By Dale E. Lee


  • Confusion
  • Explanation
  • Charts


  • Confusion

Most of us know what we’re referring to when we talk about Parents, Children, Grandparents, Grandchildren and Cousins. But what in the world is a Second, Third, or Fourth cousin? And beyond that, how do you locate a Third Cousin Twice Removed in the family tree?

We know that a cousin is someone that is the child of an Aunt or Uncle, but what are second and greater cousins?

  • Explanation

It turns out that there are good reasons for being confused about how the cousin designations are described. They are not as intuitive as you might expect. The following will help clarify what is meant by these terms when referring to the Family Tree and the link below provides charts that help clarify further.

Cousin relationships have to do with the generational distance between you and your relative in your Family Tree. Cousins are those people that are related by a common ancestor. So for example, if you and your relative have a Mother as the common ancestor, you would be zeroth cousins, but we normally use the term Sibling instead. If your common ancestor is a Grandparent, or one generation back from your parent, you would be a first cousin. If both you and your relative have a common Great-Grandparent, or two generations back from your parent, you would be a second cousin. This relationship carries back through time. If the common ancestor for your relative is at the SAME level as that of your relative, you increase the number each generation back in time, third, fourth, fifth, etc. cousins.

But, what about the removal designation? The Removal designation has to do with how far distant the relative is to the baseline designation: first, second, third, etc. cousin. We stated above that relatives where both have the same Great-Grandparent as a common ancestor would be second cousins. But if one of the relatives having the common ancestor has a different relationship to the common ancestor than the other? The same common ancestor can be related to one relative a different number of generations away than the other. So for example, if the common ancestor of one is a Second Great-Grandparent, but the same ancestor is the Great-Grandparent of the other, the relationship is one time removed (the common ancestor is one level in generations different from one relative than the other.)

The important thing to remember is that when we say we are an Nth cousin N times removed, the times removed can be referring to either back in time or forward in time from the Nth cousin designation. It does not deal with time, it deals with the number of generations distant from the baseline. So for example, a first cousin two times removed can refer to a relationship where one relative’s Second Great-grandparent is the same person as the other persons Grandparent. But it could also refer to the situation where the roles are flipped, one person’s Grandparent is the other person’s Second Great-Grandparent. It all depends on which person of the two you are viewing the relationship from.

  • Charts

Because the relationships are difficult to describe, tables have been created that allow you to enter the relationships of a common ancestor of two different people in order to calculate a resulting relationship between the two. A good example of the relationship charts was given in an article by Jessica Grimaud on July 23, 2019. The charts are downloadable and help simplify the calculation.


  • Wrap up

All of us are related in some way or another and most of us don’t have to go all they way back to Adam to discover that relationship. For those on FamilySearch, you can use their Relatives Around Me app which allows a group of people physically near each other to calculate the relationship between them. For others, you can use the tables in the article above and accomplish the same thing. However, you’ll need to have your Pedigree Charts available so both of you can find the relationship to your common ancestor and plug it into the table to extract the resulting relationship.

Seekerz, © 2021

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