Now What? Cousin Confusion
8/1/2001
I have heard the expression "second cousin once removed" or "twice removed." What exactly does this mean?

Q. I have heard the expression "second cousin once removed" or "twice removed." What exactly does this mean?

A. All cousins share a common ancestor. Your "degree of cousinhood" (second, third, fourth) depends on how many generations back that common ancestor is. Take your first cousins, who you know are your aunts' and uncles' children. You all have the same grandparents. Your second cousins share a set of great-grandparents with you, your third cousins have the same great-great grandparents, and so forth. So your granddaughter and your sister's grandson would be second cousins, for example — they have two generations between them and the common ancestor (your parents).