Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Confusing Cousins! RELATIONSHIPS in Family History

Relationships in Family History- Confusing Cousins!

Joss Häberling, born in 1656 in Ottenbach, Switzerland, was a 'removed' cousin. He was, in fact, removed ten times. If you are a family historian you will no doubt understand that I am not suggesting that cousin Joss was the black sheep of my Swiss family. Joss Häberling was my FIRST COUSIN TEN TIMES REMOVED.  That is his official relationship to me.

Cousin Joss was NOT this!

Family History is all about relationships, affiliation by blood, or consanguinity. When you are researching your family history it is most relevant to have some understanding of the types of relationships which exist.  Kinship or relationship terms can be one of the most confusing peculiarities of family history. 

Most family or kinship relationships are quite easy to comprehend - father, mother, grandparent, uncle, aunt, cousin, half relationships, step relationships and in laws. That's in English! If you are researching other  ancestries, it can be somewhat more confusing.  Some languages do not have gender specific terms for certain familial relationships. In Danish, the word Onkel can be applied to an uncle or an aunt and in French, the same kinship term is used for a daughter in law and a step daughter. For the purpose of this blog, however,  I will be concentrating on English cousin consociation.

When I began delving into my family tree, I found cousin relationships somewhat complicated to calculate. In the early days of searching for ancestors and relatives, I did not usually spend  time determining the exact relationship between myself and my ancestors, nor between myself and the many members of 'family' who I have connected with through my family history blogging. I  have often loosely used the term 'cousin'  for relatives all around the world, whom I keep in regular contact with and with whom I exchange valuable information.  The term 'cousin' is commonly adopted as a proxy for the precise relationship we have with ancestors and remote family members.

There are numerous relationship charts available on the internet, many of which have left me more confused than when I began attempting to understand kinship degrees and terms such as 'once removed' and 'twice removed', double cousins, and second, third and fourth cousins. I was contacted recently by two 'cousins' who live in Illinois in the USA, We have become good friends and exchange information regularly. Our first shared grandparents are our Scottish great great grandparents [2 x great grandparents] John McDade (1842-1896) and Margaret Bonner (1842-1883). I will use this relationship consanguinity to explain FIRST, SECOND, THIRD COUSINS.

                                  DIAGRAM OF FIRST, SECOND AND THIRD COUSINS
                                       JOHN MCDADE     =     MARGARET BONNER (Scotland)
                                                 |                                              |  
                        JOHN MCDADE (1872)  SIBLINGS            AGNES MCDADE (1874)
                                                 |                                              |
                                                 |                                              |
                                                 |                                              |
                                             ME              THIRD COUSIN     LIVING COUSIN IN USA


In summary. a cousin relationship is one where two people share a common ancestor.

Agnes Leonard (McDade)

The perplexity begins with the term 'removed'. Many people are confused between a first cousin removed and a second cousin. The familiar misconception for cousin relationships is that the child of your cousin is your second cousin or that your mother or father's cousin is your second cousin. The requirement to be first, second, or third cousins, is to SHARE a common set of grandparents, great,  great grandparents , or great great grandparents and so on it continues for fourth, fifth and more degrees of cousin kinship.

  1. In the diagram below, Colin Hamilton McDade is a FIRST COUSIN to Patrick Leonard. They shared a common set of grandparents.
  2.  For Patrick Leonard,  any child belonging to his FIRST COUSIN Colin Hamilton McDade, would become  his FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED. That is, they are almost his first cousins except that they are ONE GENERATION REMOVED from each other. Colin John McDade is therefore, the FIRST COUSIN ONCE REMOVED of Patrick Leonard. 
  3. A child of Colin John McDade  (Myself), becomes a generation further removed, and therefore I become a FIRST COUSIN TWICE REMOVED to Patrick Leonard. This calculation is made by counting back the number of generations from myself to the related cousin (or forwards from he/she to me).

                                              DIAGRAM OF 'REMOVED' COUSINS
                               JOHN MCDADE         =         MARGARET BONNER
                                     |                                                             |
             JOHN MCDADE                 SIBLINGS               AGNES MCDADE =  Martin Leonard
                                     |                                                             |
                                     |                                                                            /
      COLIN JOHN MCDADE  FIRST COUSIN ONCE  REMOVED--  /  [1]                                      
                                     |                                                                        /
                                   ME   FIRST COUSIN TWICE REMOVED--  /   [2]                                                            

One of the many RELATIONSHIP Charts available.

Another example of a Cousin Chart

So, far from being tossed out of my Swiss Häberling family, Joss Häberling, my Swiss relative, whom I mentioned earlier, was an affiliated, relation - a 'removed' cousin. I will demonstrate, below, how Joss Häberling was my FIRST COUSIN 10 TIMES REMOVED.
I can trace my Swiss ancestry back to Christian Häberling, born in 1527 in Ottenbach, Zurich, Switzerland. Christian was my 11th Great Grandfather. His son Hans Heinrich was my 10th Great grandfather.

                                                     CHRISTIAN HÄBERLING (1527) (My 11th Great grandfather)
                                       HANS HEINRICH HÄBERLING (1578) (My 10th Great Grandfather)
                                            |                                                |
           HEINI HÄBERLING  (1606)      Siblings               CHRISTEN HÄBERLING (1620)
       (My 9th Great Grandfather)                                        (My 9th Great Uncle)                                             
                                            |                                                |
10.                   JOS HÄBERLING  (1646)  First Cousins         JOSS HÄBERLING (1656)
       (My 8th Great Grandfather)                                                              |
9.            JOHANNES HÄBERLING (1680-1744)   _______________|    First Cousin 1 x removed                        
       (My 7th Great Grandfather)                                                              
8.         HEINRICH HÄBERLING (1721-1771) __________________ |   First Cousin 2 x removed
        ( My 6th Great Grandfather                                    |

7.           KASPER HÄBERLING (1756-1828)____________________|   First Cousin 3 x removed
       (My 5th Great Grandfather)
6.            JACOB HÄBERLING (1785-1857)_____________________|   First Cousin 4 x removed
       (My 4th Great grandfather)
5,            JACOB HÄBERLING (1822-1905)_____________________|   First Cousin 5 x removed
        (My 3rd Great Grandfather
4. BARBARA LENA HÄBERLING (1867-1957)__________________|   First Cousin 6 x removed
        (My 2nd Great Grandmother)
3.       LILLIE HERMINNIE NARGAR (1888-1966)________________|   First Cousin 7 x removed
        (My Great grandmother)
2.         HILDA LILLIAN WESTON 1908-1992)___________________|   First Cousin 8 x removed
        (My grandmother)
1.       ALWYNNE JEAN REECE-HOYES (1931-1995)_____________|  First Cousin 9 x removed
                           LIVING (ME)_________________________________|  First Cousin 10 x removed

Barbara Lena Nargar (Häberling) and family


  1. I'm impressed enough with 11xgreat grandparents without getting down to how many times removed :-) times like this I don't think I'm actually a genealogist at all.

  2. Relationships are about not only taking, but also giving. If you find yourself not giving very much, or feeling resentful of how much you give and how little you receive back, you may be in an unequal relationship where one side is taking more than they are giving.
    Family Survival Plan

  3. Finally! A chart I can use for those 6th to infinity cousins that I need for my brick wall! I think this will be a very good finding aide. Thank you a thousand times.