NaBloPoMo: Day 5

Ok, back on track. On Saturday I mentioned the importance of using proper kinship terminology. Wikipedia defines kinship terminology as “the various systems used in languages to refer to the persons to whom an individual is related through kinship.” Most people understand what great grandparents, great aunts, step siblings, etc are, but I most often hear kinship terminology pertaining to cousins misused. I was a huge offender of this myself prior to my genealogical enlightenment.

First, let’s talk about cousins that don’t have the word “removed” in them, first, second, third cousins. These cousins are identified by which grandparent you have in common. For example if your grandparent, John and Anna Smith, are also the grandparents of Amanda, then you and Amanda would be first cousins. If your great-grandparents Andrew and Amelia Washington are also the great-grandparents of Jared, then you and Jared would be second cousins. The key here is that you and the person you’re trying to identify your relationship with have the same relationship with the central grandparent.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “What the heck does “removed” mean?” Before I started my genealogical research, I always thought it was along the line of a “step” or “half” relative. Not at all. When you see a kinship term that says “___x removed” it means that you’re that number of generations different from the other person. Let’s take an example from my own family tree to illustrate this. I’ve always had great emtional ties to my paternal grandmother’s family. My grandma had a sister Vernis and she had 3 children: Sharon, Edward, and Arlene. These are my father’s first cousins. Naturally I grew up thinking these were my second cousins. 1+1=2, right? Not in genealogical terms. Think of cousin relationships in terms of numbers with exponents. Arlene and my dad are cousins. His line (me) goes down a generation, but Arlene stays the same, so it’s once removed. Then Arlene married John Lutrell and had Kelly. Would Kelly be my first cousin twice removed? No. She’d be my 2nd cousin because her great-grandmother Elsie Domer is alsp my great grandmother. Kelly married Michael Nokes. What would her son Evan be to me? If you guessed 2nd cousin 1x removed, you’re right, because Arlene’s family line was the one to move down a generation while my dad’s stayed the same.

Knowing the proper kinship terminology is pivotal to successful research because it will cut down on confusion and errors. Learn the formula and you’re one step closer to either doing your own successful genealogical research or understanding the research a professional does for you.


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