What kind of cousin?

Question on Facebook which prompted this post

I’m a member of various genealogy Facebook groups and one of the questions that seems to crop up often is about cousins and once/twice removed etc.

A couple of days ago I saw this question posted on Facebook and it occurred to me that her picture was just the same way I draw things out when I am trying to work out how I am related to someone.

What tends to happen is I’ll be sent a snippet of someone’s lineage back to an Unst person that I can find in my tree, or the statement, “so-and-so was my great-grandfather”. Once I can find that person in my tree I follow back through their parentage until I come to the common ancestor between us (more on that later).

Now on my whiteboard or a piece of paper I draw out the two lines down from the common ancestor, trying to keep the generations neatly lined up.

Finally, I add in the relationship markers. The first generation down from the common ancestor were siblings, the next generation were first cousins and so on.

In many of the recent examples when I have done this, the new contact is an nth-cousin to one of my parents and so is an nth-cousin once-removed to me.

Once Removed Cousins

If you’ve been doing genealogy for a little while, you’re bound to have come across this term, but do you know what it means?

Once-removed means that you are not in the same generation at the person you are related to. In the chart above, my new contact was a fourth cousin to my parent. So they are not in the same generation as me, they are in my parents generation. Their relationship to me is then the same as for my parent but “once removed”. If I was two generations away, it would be “twice-removed” and so on.

Their children and me would be in the same generation, and we would be fifth cousins.

Finding the common ancestor

In order to start drawing out this little chart, first I need to find the common ancestor. If you are an Ancestry.com user, then this is very easy. I’m sure other family tree making software does something similar. As I said earlier, usually I am given the name of an ancestor that is how they have their Unst connection. I find that person in my family tree and then walk back through the parents until I get to a person who is a direct line back from me. So I am looking for the relationship to say “nth great-grandfather”, rather than “nth great-granduncle” or “wife of …”.


Do you have Unst ancestry? Do you think we might be related? Let’s test out that theory. Please feel free to get in touch in a comment below, or via my contact page for a private discussion.

Morag would love to hear what you think. Leave a comment here.

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