Understanding Family Relationship Terminology

It’s a blessing when families grow. Generations are built, traditions are started, and lineages continue on. It brings more birthdays and family photos need to be captured zoomed out. While changes are occurring, it can sometimes be confusing to keep track of the family tree and how everyone is connected.

Below is a quick-hit list of what the correct terminology is for each member of your extended family all of the way up the great-grandparents’ chain to down to the newest additions.

First, let’s start with some important discrepancies that carry over into different relationships.

First, second, and third cousin relationships

The first, second, or third cousins’ relationship means the number of generations removed from the grandparents. For example, cousins share the same grandparent (and are children of siblings) in first-cousin relationships, they share great-grandparents (are children of first cousins) in second-cousin relationships, and great-great-grandparents (are children of second cousins) in third cousin relationships.

When to use the term “removed”

Using the term “removed” indicates a separation of a generation. For example, a first-cousin is the same generation as you are both born to your parents and they to their parents. If you have a first cousin that is once removed that would mean that they are your parents’ first cousin OR your cousin’s first child. This can also be explained with more than one generation gap, hence the terms twice removed or three times removed.

When to use the terms “great and grand”

Like removed, great and grand also indicate the separation of generations. They are used both for grandparent/grandchild relationships and for aunt and uncle/niece and nephew relationships.

When looking at grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews, the generation two generations away gets the designation grand. Further generations have great added on.

For example, a grand-niece (the child of your niece or nephew) is two generations away, and a great-grand-niece (the grandchild of your niece or nephew) is three generations away.

Half siblings

Two people are half siblings when they share only one parent and not both, for example, a biological father and a stepmother. Other half relationships are used in the sense that they are related to a half sibling. For example, a half-niece would be the daughter of a half-sibling.

Now that is cleared up, here is a list of a few common kinship relationships.

  • Your first-cousin’s son/daughter is your first cousin once removed
  • Your first-cousin’s son/daughter’s child is your first cousin twice removed
  • Your parent’s first-cousin’s son/daughter is your second cousin
  • Your parent’s first-cousin’s son/daughter’s child is your second cousin once removed
  • Your aunt/uncle’s first-cousin’s son/daughter is your first cousin once removed (only if your aunt/uncle is related to one of your parents, otherwise since there is no blood relationship that person is not related to you and they are just your aunt/uncle’s cousin)
  • Your aunt/uncle’s first-cousin’s son/daughter’s child is your second cousin once removed (only if your aunt/uncle is related to one of your parents, otherwise since there is no blood relationship that person is not related to you and they are just your aunt/uncle’s cousin’s child)
  • Your grandparent’s brother/sister is your grand aunt/uncle
  • Your grandparent’s first-cousin is your first-cousin twice removed
  • Your child’s niece/nephew’s child is your grand-niece/nephew
  • Your child’s niece/nephew’s child’s child is your great-grant niece/nephew

For more, view this helpful chart from familysearch.org

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