What is a Second Cousin Once Removed?

When meeting a new family member, one who is living or one who died long ago, I always want to put a label on them. I feel a need to know exactly what our relationship is, but it’s one of the things I’ve never got to grips with.

I find it easier to go to my ancestry site, where you can just click on the other persons name and find ‘their relationship to you’, but it would be nice to be able to work it out for myself. Through ancestry I know the cousins I recently found in America are my third cousins once removed, and my new family in Australia are my third cousins, but I had no idea how this was figured out.

At the moment I’m reading a great book, ‘Who Was Your Granny’s Granny?’ by Paul Blake and Audrey Collins. grannys grannyThere is a short paragraph that explains very clearly ‘the exact meaning of relationships, such as second cousin twice removed.’ It  goes on to say,

“Any relationship between two individuals refers back to their descent from a common ancestor. Therefore siblings have the same parents – half-siblings only share one parent. first cousins have the same grandparents; second cousins have the same great-grandparents; and so on ad infinitum. ‘Removed’ describes how many generations from the actual cousin a person is. Therefore the child of a second cousin is ‘second cousin once removed’ and the grandchild of a first cousin is ‘second cousin twice removed.'”

I’ve always wondered what my cousin Sue’s children are ‘to me’, and now I know they are my first cousins once removed! I think!

Who Was Your Granny’s Granny, Blake & Collins, foulsham publishers England, 2003. 

About Jackie Dinnis

Welcome to my blog where I am enjoying meeting my family - past and present - one at a time. Join me as I learn who my ancestors were, where they lived, what their occupations were and what everyday life was like for them.
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11 Responses to What is a Second Cousin Once Removed?

  1. Petra Kimber says:

    Also one of my confusions Jackie! Remind me of what our official relationship us called? Petra x

  2. Sue Woodland says:

    I heard it explained on the radio many years ago as follows. To be cousins, second cousins etc you must be of the same generation. The next generation down is once removed and so on. So yes you are a first cousin once removed to my children and I am the same relation to your children. However, our children are the next generation down so their relationship is second cousins. I find this quite easy to remember and work out (usually)! To answer Petra’s question I’m not sure what or if we are officially related. Our uncle and her auntie were married but we don’t actually share any ancestors. Over to you, Jackie, for the answer to that one!

    • I might need some time for this puzzle! And I thought I’d done so well in finding out about our relationships to one another’s children! If we don’t actually share any family, maybe we’re not ‘officially related’ but having met Petra I feel she is ‘one of the family’.

  3. Peggy Guiler says:

    Love it. Inspired to write about this as well as to start paying the dreadful price for Ancestry.com

  4. Becky B says:

    It was a question I was asked a few times as a registrar and fortunately thanks to my genealogical interest was able to explain.
    Both you and Sue have done good explanations.
    I always think of the first number as a way of explaining how far removed from the original siblings and then the removeds explain the generation gaps between the cousins. However I always best to draw it!

    Of course the other confusion is that many cultures use the word ‘cousin’ to signify any family relationship!

    • Hi Becky, how lovely to hear from a professional, thank you for your comment. It gives me confidence that the more I keep looking at generation gaps and cousins, the better able I will become to know who they are! Drawing it is a great idea, then you have something on paper you can look at. Thank you so much for commenting.

  5. Petra Kimber says:

    Thank you both Jackie and Sue. I remember so well the excitement and pleasure at finding out I had Dinnis family and the huge delight in feeling that the connection meant I belonged. Even if the link is through marriage Auntie Margaret and Uncle Ron were our core and we will always be family.
    I know you both understand how I’m feeling at present which makes family and those that care about you so much more important. x x x

    • Hi Petra, we were just as excited and happy to find you! We knew ‘of you’ but to meet with you and chat over old times was really special. We are both thinking of you at this time, and send our love xxx

  6. Pingback: Are My Cousin or My Second Cousins Once Removed | Spilt Milk

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