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?
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 ancestor||Child||Grandchild||Great grandchild||2x great grandchild||3x great grandchild||4x great grandchild||5x great grandchild||6x great grandchild|
|Child||Brother/Sister||Nephew/Niece||Grand nephew/niece||Great grand nephew/niece||Second great grand nephew/niece||Third great grand nephew/niece||4th great grand nephew/niece||5th great grand nephew/niece|
|Grandchild||Nephew/Niece||First cousin||First cousin once removed||First cousin twice removed||First cousin 3x removed||First cousin 4x removed||First cousin 5x removed||First cousin 6x removed|
|Great grandchild||Grand nephew/niece||First cousin once removed||Second cousin||Second cousin once removed||Second cousin twice removed||Second cousin 3x removed||Second cousin 4x removed||Second cousin 5x removed|
|2x great grandchild||Great grand nephew/niece||First cousin twice removed||Second cousin once removed||Third cousin||Third cousin once removed||Third cousin twice removed||Third cousin 3x removed||Third cousin 4x removed|
|3x great grandchild||2nd great grand nephew/niece||First cousin 3x removed||Second cousin twice removed||Third cousin once removed||Forth cousin||Forth cousin once removed||Forth cousin twice removed||Forth cousin 3x removed|
|4x great grandchild||3rd great grand nephew/niece||First cousin 4x removed||Second cousin 3x removed||Third cousin twice removed||Forth cousin once removed||Fifth cousin||Fifth cousin one removed||Fifth cousin twice removed|
|5x great grandchild||4th great grand nephew/niece||First cousin 5x removed||Second cousin 4x removed||Third cousin 3x removed||Forth cousin twice removed||Fifth cousin one removed||Sixth cousin||Sixth cousin once removed|
|6x great grandchild||5th great grand nephew/niece||First cousin 6x removed||Second cousin 5x removed||Third cousin 4x removed||Forth cousin 3x removed||Fifth cousin twice removed||Sixth cousin once removed||Seventh cousin|
Rosemary Collins is the staff writer of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine