One of the things that I found most difficult to understand when I first started doing family history research is the relationships of cousins. I remember finding a long-lost cousin who informed me that we are second cousins; once removed. That’s great! Now what does that mean?
I have come up with what I think is the easiest way to explain the relationships of cousins. My first cousins are the children of my parent’s siblings. That’s pretty easy. You look at the first ancestor in both of our lines. In my line, I have my parents and then our grandparents. In their line, there are my cousin’s parents and then our grandparents. Since we share a common grandparent, this makes us first cousins. My first cousins child and I do not share a common grandparent however. My grandparent would be that child’s great grandparent, so we are one generation apart. This makes us first cousins, once removed. This continues on throughout the family tree. With each generation of separation from the ancestor that we share, there is another “removed” added on. My cousin’s grandchild would be my grandparents’ great-great-grandchild. Those two greats would make us twice removed, so they would be my first cousin twice removed.
Once we have this down, the rest of the cousins follow in suit. It is all about figuring out the common ancestor between you. For another example: The closest relative that I share with another cousin is my great-grandmother. Her grandmother is my grandmother’s sister. So, our closest common relative is our great-grandmother. This makes us second cousins. Her children would then be my second cousins once removed because we are one generation apart. As you can see, this will continue throughout your family tree. As you begin to trace your family tree then, all you have to do is find the common ancestor between you and then see how many generations apart you are to figure out how you are all connected.
If this isn’t clear or if you have any questions about how to connect your ancestors while tracing your family tree, feel free to contact me and I will help you out!