Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fourth Cousin, Twice Removed on My Mom's Side?

Photo by Damiaan on flickr
From time to time I will receive an e-mail, an Ancestry message, or some other communication from someone to whom I am somehow related.  That has happened four times in the past ten days .  I'm always glad to hear from new people and look forward to sharing information, photos, and stories with them.

One of the first things I want to know is exactly how we are related.  That's where a relationship chart can be helpful. has a simple to use Relationship Chart available as a pdf download or to bookmark.  I use it frequently to help determine my relationship with others as well as determining relationships between "cousins" who marry or those who live together, work together, etc. within my family tree.

If you haven't used a relationship chart before, it is pretty simple.  The relationship depends upon identifying the common ancestor I share with a new family contact.  Using FamilyTree's chart, I first identify my relationship with that common ancestor using the labels across the top line of the chart.  If that common ancestor is my Great Great Grandparent, I'll use the fourth column (outlined in red) as I determine this new relationship.

Next I use the label on the left side of the chart that corresponds to the other person's relationship to our common ancestor.  If the common  ancestor is that person's Great Grandparent, I would use the third row (outlined in blue) in determining our relationship.

Family Tree Magazine Relationship Chart

Follow where my column and the other person's row meet, and there is our relationship.  In this case, this new person and I would be second cousins, once removed.  The term once removed indicates that we are separated by one generation.  My father would be this person's second cousin since they are of the same generation.  Twice removed would mean that we were separated by two generations.

One reminder, frequently letters from the past and even census records used the term cousin in a variety of ways.  It could refer to an actual cousin, a relative in general, or someone with whom they shared a close relationship.  This first hit home as I started transcribing some family letters written during the Civil War.  The "Dearest Cousin" was sometimes written to a cousin, other times to a sister- or brother-in-law.  Once I expanded my definition of "cousin", the letters and their family references were much clearer.

Finally, to all my first, second, third, or fourth cousins, once, twice, or three times removed, on either side of my family tree, greetings!

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