We were on a trip this last weekend, visiting my wife’s family up in Washington state.  A whole passel of relations stopped by, and of course the topic occasionally turned to actually trying to figure out the proper description of the various blood relationships.  No one could really remember how the whole cousins thing works, past the first level.  So, me being the resident GeekDad, I pulled out my handy iPhone, and looked it up on Wikipedia.

I know it’s not some earth-shattering bit of deep research, and each of you could go find it right now, pretty darn quickly, if you wanted to.  But, as a public service, I’m going to lay a bit of it out for you right here, and if that doesn’t slake the deep-seated thirst for knowledge you didn’t realize you were carrying around, you can venture further on your own.

So, we were visiting my wife’s aunt and uncle.  Their kids were there, who were, of course, my wife’s 1st cousins.  That number represents the minimum number of steps away from having a shared ancestor.  Now, my wife’s cousins’ children were also there, who are, by definition, my wife’s 1st cousins, once removed.  Here’s the tricky part – the 1st number (as I said) represents the minimum number of steps away from having a shared ancestor, so because my wife only had the single step (even if the cousins’ children had two steps), they are still 1st cousins, but because there’s a generation between them, we get the "once removed" bit.

Yeah, it’s not easy.  So, here’s part of the chart from Wikipedia:

If one person’s → Grandparent Great-grandparent Great-great-grandparent
is the other person’s
then they are ↘
Grandparent 1st cousins 1st cousins once removed 1st cousins twice removed
Great-grandparent 1st cousins once removed 2nd cousins 2nd cousins once removed
Great-great-grandparent 1st cousins twice removed 2nd cousins once removed 3rd cousins
Great3-grandparent 1st cousins thrice removed 2nd cousins twice removed 3rd cousins once removed

So the end result is that we figured out we have a number of 1st cousins, once removed, and second cousins, running around this weekend.  Until we recalled that the great-grandma who most were tracing down from, had been married a couple times, and some folks came from different great-grandfathers, such that there was some half-cousining involved.  At that point, we all just went and grabbed another beer from the cooler, and started talking about other things.

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