How to work out cousin relationships

What is a second cousin? Or a cousin twice removed? Discover how to work out cousin relationships with our chart

Cousin relationships

While tracing your family tree, it’s easy to tell what a first cousin or a great grandparent is – but how much do you know about the trickier cousin relationships? What is a second cousin, and how is it different from a cousin twice removed?

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What are cousin relationships?

One of the most exciting parts of family history research is that it can lead you to meet new cousins from other branches of your family who are tracing the same common ancestors. You might find someone with the same relatives on their tree on a family history website, or match with a distant relative through DNA testing.

When working out your cousin relationships to distant relatives, a crucial principle is that the terms first cousin, second cousin etc refer to your shared ancestors. A first cousin is someone who has the same grandparents, a second cousin has the same great grandparents, a third cousin has the same 2x great grandparents, and so on.

However, the term ‘removed’ indicates the difference in generations in the cousin relationships. Your second cousin once removed is the child or parent of your second cousin, because they are one generation removed from you. Your second cousin twice removed is the grandparent or grandchild of your second cousin, because they are two generations removed.

How to work out cousin relationships with our chart

Luckily, our handy chart is designed to help you work out your cousin relationships at a glance. To use it, think of a distant relative. Now, think of an ancestor you have in common – for example, your great great grandmother (2x great grandmother).

Look along the horizontal axis of the chart until you find how this common ancestor would describe you – 2x great grandchild.

Now, imagine how your distant relative is related to the common ancestor. In this example, imagine that they are also their 2x great grandchild.

Look down the vertical axis until you see your distant relative’s relationship to the common ancestor. Where the two lines meet is the name of your cousin relationship – in this case, third cousins.

Common ancestorChildGrandchildGreat grandchild2x great grandchild3x great grandchild4x great grandchild5x great grandchild6x great grandchild
ChildBrother/SisterNephew/NieceGrand nephew/nieceGreat grand nephew/nieceSecond great grand nephew/nieceThird great grand nephew/niece4th great grand nephew/niece5th great grand nephew/niece
GrandchildNephew/NieceFirst cousinFirst cousin once removedFirst cousin twice removedFirst cousin 3x removedFirst cousin 4x removedFirst cousin 5x removedFirst cousin 6x removed
Great grandchildGrand nephew/nieceFirst cousin once removedSecond cousinSecond cousin once removedSecond cousin twice removedSecond cousin 3x removedSecond cousin 4x removedSecond cousin 5x removed
2x great grandchildGreat grand nephew/nieceFirst cousin twice removedSecond cousin once removedThird cousinThird cousin once removedThird cousin twice removedThird cousin 3x removedThird cousin 4x removed
3x great grandchild2nd great grand nephew/nieceFirst cousin 3x removedSecond cousin twice removedThird cousin once removedForth cousinForth cousin once removedForth cousin twice removedForth cousin 3x removed
4x great grandchild3rd great grand nephew/nieceFirst cousin 4x removedSecond cousin 3x removedThird cousin twice removedForth cousin once removedFifth cousinFifth cousin one removedFifth cousin twice removed
5x great grandchild4th great grand nephew/nieceFirst cousin 5x removedSecond cousin 4x removedThird cousin 3x removedForth cousin twice removedFifth cousin one removedSixth cousinSixth cousin once removed
6x great grandchild5th great grand nephew/nieceFirst cousin 6x removedSecond cousin 5x removedThird cousin 4x removedForth cousin 3x removedFifth cousin twice removedSixth cousin once removedSeventh cousin
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Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine