First, Second, Removed and Other Ways to Define ‘Cousin’

What's a first cousin, first cousin once removed and what does second cousin mean?

I have 17 first cousins.

When I tell people that, they look at me like I’m crazy, but the truth is I come from a Greek family so I’m pretty sure our family tree is on the smaller side.

How many first cousins do you have? What about a first cousin once removed – do you know how many of those you have?

If you haven’t sat down to count – or aren’t even sure what a first cousin once removed is or what the second cousin definition is, we’re here to help. In honor of Cousins Day is on July 24, we here at Metro Parent provide you with the definition of cousins – with the help of and Live Science.

First and second cousins

First cousins are the easiest relationships to define. These people are children to your aunts and uncles. You share a grandparent with your first cousins.

What does second cousin mean? Second cousins are the people you share a great-grandparent with, Genealogy notes.

“The degree of cousinhood (‘first,’ ‘second,’ etc.) denotes the number of generations between two cousins and their common ancestor,” Live Science notes.

So, this pattern continues with your third cousins, with whom you share a great-great grandparent, your fourth cousins who you share great-great-great-grandparents with – and so on.

What’s a first cousin once removed?

I have to be honest: Up until I started research for this post, I thought my first cousins’ kids were my second cousins. It turns out they are actually my first cousins once removed.

A first cousin once removed is the child of your first cousin. On the flip side, your mother’s first cousin is also your first cousin once removed.

“This is because your mother’s first cousin is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents,” Genealogy notes. “This one-generation difference equals “once removed.”

If you’re twice removed, this means there’s a two generation gap, which would mean you’re first cousins twice removed with your grandmother’s first cousin.

Parallel and cross cousins

Live Science adds to the confusion with parallel cousins and cross cousins. For those who aren’t familiar, parallel cousins are the kids of same-sex siblings, while cross cousins are the children of opposite sex siblings.

Still confused? The International Society of Genetic Genealogy offers a great cousin chart that can help you figure your family relationships out. Click here to view that chart.

How many first, second and third cousins do you have? What about first cousins once removed? Tell us about your cousin connections in the comments section below.

This post was originally published in 2016 and is updated regularly.

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  1. The definition here is that cousins share A (one; single; not both; not two) grandparent. This becomes important if Grandpa had remarried and had a second family: the above definition indicates that all his grandkids from two different wives (i.e. different grandmothers) are cousins. ?? YES ??


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