Understanding genealogy is a great way to discover more about your family history. However, the terms used to describe kinship relationships can be confusing.
For example, if you have a first cousin once removed, it means that your two most recent common ancestors are siblings or spouses. The rest of the relationship depends on how many generations there are between them.
Know Your Ancestors
As a genealogist, you will encounter a lot of cousins. Understanding the relationship between you and each of these people is essential – and it’s even more critical if you decide to do DNA testing. Understanding the difference between a first cousin once removed and a second cousin twice removed will help you make sense of your cousin list and verify your matches.
The best way to begin your research is by identifying the people in your direct line of descent. This can be done by making a family tree and recording what you know about each person. Pedigree charts and family group sheets are the two standard tools for organizing this information, and the National Genealogical Society has free downloadable templates to get you started.
Using family documents is another excellent starting point, especially birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, newspaper clippings, letters, journals, and photos. You can also find a wealth of information in census records, which have been taken every ten years since 1790.
Interviewing your family members is also essential. Ask your parents, grandparents, and other family members what they remember about their families – and don’t be afraid to return as far as you can. The more you know, the easier it will be to connect with your ancestors.
If you’re starting, understanding cousin relationships can be confusing. Whether you’re debating with your family over the difference between a first and second cousin once removed or using your genetic genealogy test results to connect with new relatives, knowing how this relationship math works can save you a lot of headaches in the future.
Generally speaking, the more generations you have between yourself and your cousin, the more complicated it is to determine your relationship. This works by adding a number between you and your cousin for every generation. If you share a common grandparent or great-grandparent, you’re a first cousin once removed. If that person has a child, they become your second cousin once removed, and so on.
But it’s not just the number of generations that matters, but also the amount of DNA you share with your cousins. First and second cousins share about 6.25% of their DNA, while third and fourth cousins only share about 3.25%. This is why commercial ancestry tests often can only detect relationships up to three to five generations.
That is why keeping records is essential when searching for your 1st cousin once removed or any other relative. Keeping track of your relatives’ births, marriages, and deaths will help you understand how each generation affects the next.
Count Back the Generations
Generations are a crucial element in understanding family trees and cousin relationships. People typically think of a generation as a 20 to 30-year span, although it could be longer in some families. Calculating your own and other people’s generations can be complicated regarding family genealogy. This is why using a family tree chart to visualize the connections is essential.
You must first identify your common ancestor to determine your relationship with a cousin. Once you do that, you can start counting back the number of generations. This is how you get the terms “once removed” or “twice removed,” meaning that there are one or two generations between your shared ancestor and you.
For example, let’s say your cousin shares a common great-grandparent with you. If that ancestor were your parent, you and your cousin would be considered first cousins. But if that ancestor were your cousin’s parent, you and your cousin would be considered second cousins.
It gets even more complex if that cousin has children. Their children are your second cousins, and so on. This is why keeping track of family history and working with relatives is essential. By understanding the number of generations between you and a relative, you can determine your connection and make informed decisions about how to connect with them.
When researching your family tree, you’ll come across various terms that describe relationships between relatives. These terms are essential to understand, as they can significantly impact your research. Knowing what a first cousin once removed is, for example, can help you determine how closely related two people are and how many common ancestors they share.
When you meet a new relative, ask questions to gather as much information as possible about their ancestry. This could be as simple as asking them about their parents and siblings. Once you have a good understanding of their ancestry, you can begin searching for common ancestors.
Another way to connect with your cousins is by participating in family reunions and utilizing online resources. These websites often contain information you need help finding, such as birth certificates, marriage records, and census data. They also allow you to search for specific surnames and locations, aiding your quest to discover your ancestors.