How to Figure Out What Kind of Cousins You Are in Four Steps

By Shannon Combs-Bennett Premium

Meet Ann and Bea. They met at a genealogical society meeting and are trying to determine how they’re related. Can you help them figure it out?

Four Steps to Determining Cousin Relationships:

1. Identify the most recent ancestor.

For Ann and Bea, let’s say it’s James Eugene Harding, born in 1850.

2. Determine each person’s relationship to that ancestor.

What kind of cousins you are depends on the most recent ancestor you share with your relative. First cousins share grandparents. Second ones share great-grandparents, third ones share great-great-grandparents, and so on. Add a “great” for each generation away from the common ancestor.

Ann and Bea determine that James is Ann’s great-great-grandfather and Bea’s fourth-great-grandfather.

3. “Equalize” the cousins at the level of the one closest to the common ancestor.

Equalizing the them at Ann’s level would make them third cousins.

4. Add one “removed” for each difference in generations between the them.

Two “greats” separate Ann and Bea—they’re third cousins twice removed.

Things get trickier when you’re talking about being “removed.” Each “removal” signifies one generation of difference between the two. Your first cousin’s child is your first cousin once removed. Your first cousin’s grandchild is your first cousin twice removed.

A version of this article appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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