Thursday, November 1, 2007

First cousins, three times removed?

The other day I featured a death certificate for Edwin J McQuillin, who died in 1913. At the time, I mentioned I was his first cousin, three times removed. Ever wonder exactly what a first cousin three times removed is?

Say your name is Joe and your sister's name is Alice. You and Alice have a sibling relationship. Then you, Joe, get married, and have a son and because you have no imagination, you name your son Joe 1. I know, technically it would be Joe Jr. but in this case, you, Joe, love flaunting convention and name the kid, Joe 1. Alice, who adores her older sibling, decides when she has a daughter, to name her Alice 1 in the same tradition as big brother Joe. Joe 1 and Alice 1 are cousins, or to be more exact, they are FIRST COUSINS.

Joe 1 gets married, and has a son naming him Joe 2. (The family is obviously missing an “originality” gene.) Alice 1 has a daughter, and names her; you guessed it, Alice 2. Joe 2 and Alice 2 are SECOND COUSINS.

Joe 2 marries and has a son, naming him what else, Joe 3. Alice 2 marries and has a daughter that she names Alice 3. Joe 3 and Alice 3 are THIRD COUSINS.

Joe 3 marries and has a daughter, but stuck in family tradition decides to name her Joe 4. Alice 3 also marries and has a daughter, which she names Alice 4. Joe 4 and Alice 4 are FOURTH COUSINS.

Are you still with me?

Okay for those of you who can see the illustration accompanying this blog; you will be able to follow this better than those who cannot. The relationship between Joe 1 and Alice 1 is that of FIRST COUSINS. Joe 1 and Alice 1 are of the same generation. But what is the relationship between Joe 1 and Alice 2 (Alice 1's daughter)?

Joe 1 and Alice 2 are not part of the same generation, but rather, of different generations. In this case, there is a difference of one generation, or they are REMOVED by one generation. That is why Joe 1 and Alice 2 are said to be FIRST COUSINS ONCE REMOVED.

Joe 1 and Alice 3 then would be two generations different or removed, and would be considered FIRST COUSINS TWICE REMOVED.

What would be the relationship between Joe 2 and Alice 3? To determine this, first look to see whom in Alice's family is in the SAME generation as Joe 2 (this is where seeing my little illustration is helpful). The answer is Alice 2. We know from our previous discussion that Joe 2 and Alice 2 are second cousins.

But Joe 2 and Alice 3 are not of the same generation. Alice 3 is one generation removed from being Joe 2's second cousin. In other words, Joe 2 and Alice 3 are SECOND COUSINS ONCE REMOVED.

In the case of Edwin and myself, the generations break down like this. My great-great-grandmother Catherine Good was a sibling of Mary M. Good. Catherine had a son John Perry and Mary's son was Edwin. They were first cousins. John Perry had a daughter, my grandmother, named Katheryne. Edwin had a daughter named Olive. Katheryn and Olive were second cousins.

Katheryne had a daughter, my mom, named Phyllis. Olive had a son named Gay. Phyllis and Gay are third cousins. Phyllis had a daughter named Terry (me!) and Gay had a son named Francis. Francis and I are fourth cousins.

So what is the relationship between Edwin and me? Well you have to go back to Edwin's generation and see who in my family tree was of this same generation. In this case, it was my great-grandfather John Perry Lynch. Edwin and John Perry were FIRST COUSINS. Then it's a matter of counting how many generations that I am removed from Edwin — the answer is three, making Edwin and I FIRST COUSINS THREE TIMES REMOVED.

Don't worry, if you didn't follow all of that. Most genealogy programs have a relationship calculator that will tell you the exact relationship without all that head scratching.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, November 1, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

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