Family reunions can be confusing places. There are a lot of people there, but how in the world are they related to you? I couldn’t tell you how your great aunt is related to your step-brother’s cousin, but I can do my best to explain the difference between a “second cousin” and a “cousin once removed.”
A cousin (also known as a first cousin) is, as I hope everyone is aware of, someone in your family who shares the same set of grandparents. They’re the children of your aunts and uncles. Simple, right? Well, enjoy that warm feeling of accomplishment, because it’s about to get more complicated.
Fortunately, I found a page from the experts at Genealogy.com that explains things. A second cousin is somebody who has the same set of great-grandparents as you. However, their grandparents are different. To put it another way, think about your first cousin. For the sake of discussion, let’s call him “Cousin Homer.” If Cousin Homer has a kid named Bart, then Bart will be your child’s second cousin. Make sense?
So, that’s a second cousin, but how does that differ from a “cousin once removed”? Simple. When somebody drops the “once removed” phrase, what they’re really referring to is a difference in generation. For example, your Dad’s first cousin is your first cousin once removed. Your grandmother’s first cousin is your first cousin, twice removed. And so on and so forth.
There is also the question of “step-relatives.” You know, step-father, step-brother, etc. The meaning is well understood, but the origin of the term isn’t. According to World Wide Words, “the prefix (‘step’) was used in Old English to mark someone who had been orphaned.” Back then, being orphaned could refer to the death of either parent, “not necessarily both.” When the surviving parent married, the children became “step-children.”
Got any other questions on what the different family terms mean? Please leave a note in the comments and I’ll do my best to get you answer in time for your next reunion.
Say “Hi” to Aunt Lucille, and thanks for reading,
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