What Does a Cousin, Once Removed Mean?

Everyone is familiar with typical terms to describe family relations, like grandmother, aunt and nephew. It's easy to visualize these relations when compared to yourself. But when it comes to cousins, things can get complicated. What the heck is a fourth cousin, once removed? Or a second cousin, twice removed?

I'll use "third cousin, once removed" to explain. There are really 2 parts to these designations: "third" and "once removed". Each part tells you something different about your relative.

First, the "third". This refers to how many generations between you and the common ancestor that you share with this cousin (minus 1, because people with the same parents are not considered cousins at all). So for my example here, a third cousin has the same great-great grandparents as you do. First cousins have the same grandparents as you do.

Second, the "once removed". The previous bit talked about how far back the relationship connection is, whereas the "removed" tells you the generational difference between you and your cousin. In other words, "once removed" means that your cousin is one generation away from you. Cousins of the same generation as yourself are not described with a "removed" note.

So for our example, a third cousin, once removed, would be someone who shares your great-great grandparents and is one generation away from you (in other words, from your parent's generation).

As your family tree grows, you will find you have cousins on quite a grand scale, like 15th cousins, 4 times removed and so one. Most family tree software programs will assign these designations to relatives automatically, so don't worry if you can't get it straight right away.

I have more articles about genealogy on my personal website, Learn Genealogy.


This article was first published at Suite101.com and was written originally by Darlene Vaillancourt who has given permission for reposting. She's my mom.

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Comments 24 comments

Guru-C profile image

Guru-C 8 years ago

Terri, I've always wanted to find a clear explanation of this, and now I have. Thank you! Very informative.

dafla 8 years ago

In other words, your mother's first cousin is your second cousin once removed. Your father's second cousin is your third cousin once removed. It took me awhile to figure this out too. I did a genealogy once, and it came up when I would meet someone who was related.

Veronica profile image

Veronica 8 years ago from NY

I've always wondered if I was using that correctly. I'm glad to find out I was! Nice article, well written. Thanks for sharing it!

In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

Great information. This has always been somewhat confusing.

janifox 8 years ago

I'm still a little confused, so my first cousin, is what to my children, first cousin once removed?

emma 7 years ago

so then what if you are referring to a cousin who is a generation younger than you?? What are they called?

Yep 6 years ago

To Janifox: That's correct.

To Emma: It's like an absolute value: What's true of one generation up is true of one generation down. For instance, my first cousin's child would be my first cousin, once removed. And I would be her first cousin, once removed. The first, second, third...fifteenth cousins, are the zero line. Everything a generation up or a generation down from there is the same when referring to each other.

Rachel 5 years ago

My cousins child is only 10 years younger then me (Im 13 and shes 3). Does that still mean shes my first cousin once removed? or does itchange when ur that close of ages?

workingmomwm profile image

workingmomwm 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

Rachel: No, the relationships don't change, no matter how close in age you are. My daughter (2) is closer in age to her aunt (my husband's half-sister - 16) than she is to her cousins (my husband's brother's son and daughter - 21 and 23), but they are what they are. And my husband's niece has 2 children (6 and a few months old). They're still my daughter's first cousins once removed - not just first cousins.

Incidentally, during my research, I discovered that my husband and I are actually 8th cousins once removed. And my parents are 7th cousins once removed. I hope that doesn't count as incest!

houston 5 years ago

Your first cousin's children are your nephews and nieces right?

tarvan 5 years ago

My mother's second cousin's son, is he my 4th cousin??? like does it go like this my mother's second cousin would be my 3rd, then his son would be my 4th???????

Jeff 5 years ago

dafla, Your parents first cousins would be your first cousins once removed. The reason being that they are one generation from you and their grandparents are your great grandparents. It's the same reason that makes your first cousins children your first cousin once removed. Your grandparents are their great grandparents.

houston, your first cousin's children are your first cousins once removed. Nephews and nieces are children of your siblings.

tarvan, your mother's second cousin's son would be your third cousin because you both share the same great great grandparents. Your mother's second cousin would be your second cousin once removed because your great great grandparents would be their great grandparents. Which means that there is a one generation difference.

june 5 years ago

Thanks very very helpful...just saw this on my sons fav. Movie...lol

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

Excellent hub.

jeremy parker 4 years ago

my mother has a cousin namend david first cousin that is his mother and my mothers daddy are brother sister so they share the same gandparents ok now since i am one generation away from mother and david then the relationship changes by one generation in other words i can't share davids grandparents with him and he can't share my great grandparents me because his grandparents and my great grand parents are the same people so as you can see there a generation gap so david is my first cousin once removed ok now with his daughter ashley she is my second cousin her grand mother reba is my grandfathers sister my grandfather mother and fater and her grandmothers mother and father are the great grandparents

str8edgeFratguy 4 years ago

Yall have it wrong, the 'removed' means nothing, your 1st cousin is the child of your mom or dad's brother or sister, your second cousin is your mom or dad's 1st cousin, so basically, you and your 1st cousin have the same grandparents, your 3rd cousin has the same great gparents as you, and your 5th cousin has the sam great great gparents as you, so if its an even number, subtract 1 and that's what cousin he or she is to your mom or dad.

jereny parker 4 years ago

i aint got nothing wrong and you need to keep your mouth shut unless you are a perfessional geneologist and know what you're talking about i got the information i have today from my uncle who happens to be a very smart indivual who made all a's in school and never brought a book home so if you are wantting me to call my uncle a liar and insult his intelligrnce i aint gonna do it but i'll tell you what we're gonna do i am gonna put a diagram and show you what i am talking about since you are dumbed and can't count

roy and bessie rutland parents

jim siblings reba

ramona 1st cousins david

ashley 2nd cousin jeremy

ok david a and ramona are first cousins they are in the same generation they have one generation in between them and their grandparents rramona's daddy jim and david's mother reba are brother and sister ok now ashley and i are 2nd cousins we have 2 generations in netween us and great grand parents our parents who are first cousins and our grandparents reba and jim who are brother and sisters ashley's grandmother reba and my grandfather jim are brother and sister so me and ashley are 2nd cousins with each other ok now look at me and david we are one generation appart one generation removed from each other on the family tree david shares grandparents with my mother but their grandparents are my great grandparents the difference between grandparents and great grandparents is one generation or once removed so david and i are first cousins the relationship mother has with david once removed ashley and mother are also first cousins once removed ashley and i are 2nd cousins with each other

Me phi 4 years ago

Lol, whoa ... Now that's intense !

Jess 4 years ago

Jereny: have you heard of punctuation?

James 4 years ago

Ok, I feel REALLLLLLY dumb, because that article confused me.

In terms that somebody INCREDIBLY stupid can understand, can you explain HOW my fourth cousin three times removed is related to me?

James 4 years ago

Have I got it right. This is what I think it is.

My fourth cousin three times removed is my great-great-great-great grandparent's great-great-great grandchild. Am I right?

Natsuki 4 years ago

Ur a bunch of crazies

Good luck

jeremy parker 4 years ago

www.allwords.com this is a dictionary use it sine you are that dumbed

pamela greenwood 2 years ago from inglewood, california

i'm left wondering why I need the degree-of-removal if i'm using 2nd cousin, 3rd cousin, etc. but I think the discussion might've answered my question: my friend and I share cousins. I am a second cousin on their mother's side. he's a third cousin on their father's side. are he and I cousins of ANY type or degree?

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