Cousins - the Complex nature of Shared Ancestry

Throughout this website I will be wittering-on about my relationship to the various persons discussed in the text. This will often take the form of the rather incomprehensible "8th cousin twice removed" or "3rd cousin once removed".

 

Believe me this remains as baffling to me now after 25 odd years of dealing with this subject matter, as it did right at the beginning. I therefore thought that it would be prudent to add a bit of an explanation on this aspect of genealogy. You will forget it all within seconds of having read it, if you are anything like me, but I'll give it a go anyway!

 

Basically, a cousin is someone who has shared ancestry with you. So if you are a Kingshott, or descend from a Kingshott, then we will be cousins. If it stopped there, that would be brilliant. Unfortunately, it is more complicated than that.  

 

The degree of cousin (the first bit, for example 1st cousin) describes one less than the minimum number of generations you have to go back to find a common ancestor. So, a 1st cousin would share grandparents and 2nd cousins would share great-grandparents. This goes on ad infinitum.

 

How far a cousin is removed (if at all) describes the difference in generations between yourself and your ancestor. For example, the children of your 1st cousins are your 1st cousins once removed. You are of the same generation as your 1st cousin, so their children will be of the same generation as your children, therefore they are once removed. Easy isn't it?!

 

Of course, when we are dealing with families in small, rural villages, there is the potential for consanguineous relationships of either the close or distant variety. I descend, for example, from a number of different branches of the Kingshott family because there were only a limited number of families around in these villages. This often leads to complex relationships where I may be related to the same person by two or more different routes. The likelihood of this increases as you go back in time. I may, therefore, be both the 1st cousin 4 times removed and a 2nd cousin 3 times removed, to the same person. This does not make me inbred (much!), and it is something that cannot be avoided in these small, rural villages.

 

This chart shows, better than any written explanation, exactly what these cousin relationships mean. Click on the chart and it will expand and be easier to read. 

This chart is fairly self-explanatory and should give a little insight into what I am talking about. 

 

Clear as mud? Then let us move on!

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