Have you ever heard the terms "second cousin" and "third cousin" and wondered what they meant? I remember as a young lad listening to my mother and my auntie Barbara happily waffling on about convoluted family relationships involving branches of our "tribe" who had emigrated to Canada and Australia.
They would say things like "Well, Ethel's daughter's son would be Cuthbert's son's daughter's third cousin twice removed." They could talk like this for hours. I really had no interest in any of this, because I didn’t even have a clue who Ethel or Cuthbert were, let alone their offspring's offspring.
I must admit, however, that the topic of second and third cousins being twice or thrice removed did stick in my brain for some reason. Occasionally it's floated up to the surface leaving me wondering "What does this really mean?"
Well, I just found out. I'm visiting my dear old mom in England this week (she's sitting in a rocking chair next to me as I work in my brother's dining room). My mom's newspaper – the Daily Express – offers a treasure trove of trivia. Every day people write in with questions and there is a two-page center-spread of these questions and their answers provided by the paper's researchers. I just saw one such question and answer combo, which read as follows:
Q: I have just met a long-lost cousin's daughter who visited me with her three sons. My own son came along with his two children and my daughter with her son. My question is what type of cousins are we all. My oldest grandson asked me to find out for a school project.
A:If you share a grandparent with someone they are your first cousin (so the children of your uncles or aunts are your first cousins). If you share a great-grandparent with someone they are your second cousin. If you share great-great-grandparents you are third cousins, and so on. A child of your first cousin is your first cousin once removed. A grandchild of your first cousin is your first cousin twice removed, etc.
The paper then went on to explain the relationships between the person who posed the question and her long-lost cousin's daughter etc. Can you work out what those relationships are?
And, while you are ruminating over this, you might want to take a look at that classic video accompanying the song I'm my own grandpa:
I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this one. What do you think? Are the relationships described in this video conceivably possible?
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One of my daughters married her fourth cousin. So, her children are not only her children, but her fourth cousins, once removed. My son-in-law's father is my third cousin, so these three (soon to be four) grandchildren through my daughter are also my third cousins twice removed through my son-in-law. I find that kind of fun!