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.