Legal Definitions for Comprehending Genealogical Relationships

So what is a cousin? Someone who shares the same common ancestor you do, but through a different, yet related, line of descent.

To learn the exact relationship of two distant relatives, you need to identify the first shared ancestor in the closest generation to you both.

Let’s say your first common ancestor is Daniel Boone, or say, “Rip Van Winkle”:
His children are siblings;
his grandchildren from those various siblings are 1st cousins;
likewise, his (1x) Great-grandchildren are 2nd cousins;
therefore, his Great-Great (2x) grandchildren are 3rd cousins;
& progressively, his Great-Great-Great (3x) grandchildren are 4th cousins,
and so on, until you arrive at the two specific relatives.

When you run out of equivalent generations, and one line of descendancy still continues—that’s when you begin to apply the term “removed.”
Let’s say you are the grandchild of Rip Van Winkle & wife, (your mother is his daughter—and her brother, your uncle, is his son, let’s say he’s named Bob). If you want to know your grandchild’s relationship to your first cousin (son of your uncle, let’s say he’s Max), you could diagram it like this:

(The first shared ancestral couple in the generation closest to you both)
Gpa: Rip Van Winkle (& Wife) Gma: Eva Van Winkle
Daughter/your Mom (Sibling) Son/your Uncle Bob
| |
You (1st Cousin) your Cousin Max
Your Child (1C 1R = 1st cousin, one time/generation removed)
Your Grandchild (1C 2R = 1st cousin, two times/generations removed)

So, the relationship of your child to your cousin Max is 1st cousin 1x removed, & the relationship of your grandchild to cousin Max is 1st cousin 2x removed.

To take it further, when your cousin Max has children, they will be your children’s 2nd cousins, and your grandchildren’s 2nd cousins 1 generation removed.

As you can see, this visual graphing is far more understandable, more clearly & concisely conveyable, therefore easier to follow, than trying to verbally describe the exact relationships orally or in written paragraph form (both of which are far more convoluted & difficult for people to grasp). This quick-charting has been an invaluable tool to accurately ascertain the exact relationships of my varying degrees of cousins and their posterity. As you utilize it & make it your own, I’m confident, that it will become as helpful & enlightening a tool for you as it has been for me. Blessings in correctly identifying your cousin relationships!


Here are some tutorials which may further assist you (by my favorite genealogical tutorial teacher, Crista Cowan, the “Barefoot Genealogist” at I highly recommend all her tutorials as beneficial—she is knowledgeable, articulate, & animated, not boring or monotone in the least—well worth your time!)

“Defining Relationships in Genealogy”

“Adoption and Genealogy Research”

Citation: By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 15 Aug 2016.
Provenance & Permissions: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell (
com/539) permission is granted for use when quoted in full, with proper attribution & citations.


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