The Cousin Explainer

Ever found yourself asking ‘So what exactly is a second cousin?’, or debating with your family and friends about what it means to be a ‘first cousin once removed’?

Many people struggle with the conventions behind cousins being first, second, third and so on … and even more so when the once removed, twice removed suffix is introduced as well, but hopefully this page will help you understand things better 🙂

What Is a Cousin?
Cousins are people who share a common ancestor that is at least 2 generations away, such as a grandparent or great-grandparent.
You and your siblings are not cousins because your parents are only 1 generation away from you.

What Is a Second Cousin?
The number associated with your cousin has to do with how many generations away your common ancestor is. For example:
– First cousins share a grandparent (2 generations)
– Second cousins share a great-grandparent (3 generations)
– Third cousins share a great-great-grandparent (4 generations)

What Does it Mean to be a Cousin “Once Removed”?
To be ‘once removed’ from a cousin means you are separated by one generation. The number before ‘removed’ will always represent the number of generations you are separated (‘removed’) from the cousin.

The chart below will (hopefully) help you understand how it works.
Focus on the box that marks you and the rest are descriptions relative to you (pun may have been intended!).
You will see there is a pattern, so (for example) a first cousin once removed is either the child of your first cousin or the parent of your second cousin.

By clicking on the chart you will get the chance to enlarge it for better viewing, if needed.
If you’re still confused, contact me for further discussions about it 🙂

Once you grasp the concept, you should also understand the usefulness of the generation number in our Reference Number system, which is explained here.