And Bob’s Your Uncle: A Guide To Defining Great Aunts, Great-Great Grandparents, First Cousins Once-Removed, and Other Kinfolk

When genetic counselors attend family reunions, their unofficial job becomes Namer-of-Relationships. “Keith, you and I are first cousins once-removed. Viola is my great aunt. Margo, you are my mother’s second cousin’s second wife so you would be…..well, some kind of in-law or kissing cousin, I guess.”  It gets confusing, even for experts. It is even more difficult for patients or referring providers who try to relate a family history of a second cousin with a cleft palate and a heart defect but who is actually a first cousin once-removed.

Below I have created a generic pedigree that illustrates the most common familial relationships in the kinship system of the modern Western English-speaking world. The pedigree undoubtedly contains errors and omissions. So, in the spirit of crowd sourcing, I encourage my fellow pedigree wonks to scrutinize it and report mistakes, mislabelings, missing relatives, and thoughtful commentary in the Comments section below (this would also be a great discussion topic for a few hours of a genetic counseling student seminar).

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The accompanying explanatory table supplies details, controversies and inconsistencies. I am cowardly avoiding the complicated relationships that stem from assisted reproductive technologies such as donor eggs, donor sperm, surrogate mothers, etc. Of course, the person you decide to call Mother, Father, Uncle, Cousin, etc. is based not on genetic relationship but on personal experience, family preferences, and social norms.

For those not familiar with pedigree arcana, each individual is identified with a numbering scheme such that relatives in the first generation (at the top of the pedigree) are identified with a Roman numeral  (e.g., I) and an Arabic numeral (e.g., 2). This indicates, reading from left to right, that I-2 is the second person on the first line of the pedigree. The next generation down is numbered II, and so on. Thus, IV-7 is the seventh person in the fourth generation and who is the the proband or propositus, the reference point for the relationships. IV-7’s father is III-3, IV-7’s paternal great grandfathers are I-2 and I-4, and so on.

There seems to be no widely accepted guidelines for when to include hyphens in a relationship name (e.g., great-grandfather vs. great grandfather). Since this is my blog post, I get to decide the grammatical rules. Thus, because I tend to be a minimalist, I hyphenate only when there is more than one “great” in a title. In the pedigree, I-1 is a great-great-uncle, but I-2 is a great grandfather. I also use hyphens in “removed” relationships (e.g., first cousin once-removed) because, well, it just looks right. Stepmother seems to be more common than either step mother or  step-mother. However,  “stepbrother” is infrequent. For consistency, I recommend the spaced-but-not-hyphenated style for “step” and “half” descriptors” (e.g., half brother, step mother).

An alternative graphic to describe family relationships is the Canon Law Relationship Chart.

Image from Wikipedia Commons, under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Image from Wikipedia Commons, under the GNU Free Documentation License.

The relationships illustrated in the pedigree are described as follows:

Self, You, (AKA Proband, Propositus): IV-7, the person who is the reference point for  all relationships in the pedigree.


Genetic Father: III-3

Genetic Mother: III-4

Step Parent: III-5, the new or former spouse of your genetic mother or father.


Full Brother: IV-8. Male siblings with whom you share both genetic parents.

Full Sister: IV-9. Female siblings with whom you share both genetic parents.

Half Sibling: IV-10. A sibling with whom you share only one genetic parent. Or, as one of my patients said to me the other day “She is my half of a sister.”

Step Sibling: IV-11. A sibling with whom you share no genetic parents, e.g., the son  your stepfather had with his previous wife.


Son: V-2. A male child.

Daughter: V-3.  A female child.

Step Child: V-1. The son or daughter that your spouse had with a previous spouse.


Grandson, Granddaughter: VI-1. Your child’s son and daughter, respectively.

Great Grandson, Great Granddaughter: VII-1. The son and daughter, respectively, of your grandson or your granddaughter.


Grandfather: II-3, II-5. The father of your mother or father. But note the inconsistent use of grand and great. The brother and sister of your grandfather is your great uncle and great aunt (vide infra, Great Uncle, Grand Nephew). Presumably the word stems from the French grand-père, which itself goes back to the 12th century. Prior to the French influence, a grandfather was referred to as a grandsire, and prior to that, in Old English, the Germanic-derived ealdefæder or eldfader.

Great Grandfather:  I-2, I-4, I-6, I-8. The father of your grandparent.

Grandmother: II-4, II-6. The mother of your mother or your father.

 Great Grandmother: I-3, I-5, I-7, I-9. The mother of your grandparent.

Uncles, Aunts

Uncle: III-2, III-8. A brother of one of your parents

Aunt: III-1, III-9. A sister of one of your parents

Great Uncle: II-2, II-7. A brother of one of your 4 grandparents.  I thought about recommending the  less commonly used title Grand Uncle (or Grand Aunt) because these individuals are in the same generation as your grandparents. When they are referred to as Great relatives, it seems to imply that they are in the generation prior to your grandparents’ generation. I suspect, though, that Great is so well established that it is unlikely to replaced by Grand. And you share more genetic information with your Grandparents than you do with your Great Uncles, so perhaps using Great rather than Grand is an acknowledgment of that genetic difference (vide supra, Grandfather; vide infra, Grand Nephew vs. Great Nephew).

Great Aunt: II-1, II-8. A sister of one of your 4 grandparents

Great-Great Uncle: I-1. A brother of one of your 8 great grandparents. Note the slightly confusing terminology – the siblings of your great grandparents have two “greats” in their relationship title, compared to only one “great” in their sibling, your great grandparent.

Great-Great Aunt: I-10. A sister of one of your 8 great grandparents.

Nephew, Nieces

Nephew, Niece: V-4, V-6, V-5, V-7. The son and daughter, respectively, of your sibling.

Great Nephew (Grand Nephew), Great Niece (Grand Niece): VI-2, VI-3.  The son and daughter, respectively, of your nephew or niece. In genealogy circles, it is more common to use Grand rather than Great, on the basis that this relative is as many generations removed from you as your grandparent is, only in the other direction. However, in my view, if the siblings of your grandparents are Great Uncles and Great Aunts, then it seems to me that there is greater symmetry in calling them Great Nephew rather than Grand Nephew. Besides, you share as much genetic information with your Great Nephew as you do with your Great Aunt, so from that standpoint it makes more sense to go with Great rather than Grand (vide supra, Great Uncle, Grandfather.


First Cousin: IV-1, IV-2, IV-3, IV-4, IV-12, IV-13, IV-14, IV-15. The children of your aunts and uncles.

Second Cousin: IV-16.  The children of your parents’ first cousins.

First Cousin Once-Removed : V-8, III-10. The children of your first cousins OR the parents of your second cousin (who could also be properly called your second cousins once-removed). Once-removed refers to the fact that the relative is one generation removed from you, either one generation above or one generation below. The children of your second cousins could also be called your second cousins once-removed. This is one of the confusing areas where different relatives can have the same title and the same title could be applied to different relatives.

First Cousin TwiceRemoved: VI-4. The grandchildren of your first cousins.

Unnamed Relationships:

IV-5, III-6, III-7. As far as I am aware, in Western European kinship systems, there is no title for your spouse’s previous spouse IV-5), your step parent’s previous spouse (III-6), or the previous spouse of your step parent’s previous spouse (III-7).


Filed under Robert Resta

84 responses to “And Bob’s Your Uncle: A Guide To Defining Great Aunts, Great-Great Grandparents, First Cousins Once-Removed, and Other Kinfolk

  1. Jessica

    IV-10 appears to be a step-brother, not a half-brother.

  2. Quite a timely article as I’m teaching a pedigree workshop for my non-geneticly trained co-workers today. This will be a great addition to the Oscar & Lonzo “I’m my own grandpa” pedigree challenge I have lined up for them. Love your articles.

  3. Jade

    Hi Robert –

    These would be great to refer to during a confusing session. Any way we can get the images larger (better resolution)? Or downloadable via pdf?


  4. Robert Resta

    I thank Jessica for pointing out my full error about the half brother. I have updated the pedigree accordingly. It is always amazing to me how easy it is to make and miss clerical errors.

    I am not sure how to get the image any larger or clearer (though clicking on the pedigree itself will help some). I am happy to share a jpeg file, or, if you use Progeny, I can send the Progeny file. I only ask that you acknowledge the source and do not use it for commercial purposes.

    Bob Resta

  5. JB

    Excellent pedigree and explanations!

    It reminds me of the time when my father’s niece had a child and I asked “does this make me an uncle?!” A much younger me was quite deflated to learn that my paternal first cousin once-removed is not my nephew.

    I have wondered whether it may be useful to have two different terms to describe the two different types of first cousins once-removed. Although, not referring to the children of your first cousin as your second cousins (or your nephew) is a good start.

  6. KS

    I’m wondering how other describe which great grandparent (e.g. maternal great paternal grandmother — is that the correct way to say mom’s dad’s mother?).

  7. Robert Resta

    To JB, who wonders about a term to distinguish between the two different kinds of first cousin once-removed. I have seen some genealogists use the terms “ascending” and “descending” to differentiate between the parent of your first cousin and the child of your first cousin, respectively (e.g., first cousin once removed ascending). It seems like a reasonable nomenclature to me.

    To KS, I don’t know of any terms in Western kinship systems to differentiate among these “great” relationships, probably because there’s not much call to refer to those relatives during regular social intercourse (except maybe during the peculiarly weird intercourse of genetic counseling). I am guessing I know what drives your question; patients will not uncommonly say something like “My great grandmother had breast cancer” but don’t realize that they have 4 great grandmothers, and you have to carefully walk them through the relationship on a step by step basis.

  8. Shannon


    Is my mother’s half sister my half aunt? And are her children my half-cousins?
    My patients lately have been reporting lots of half aunts/uncles and cousins. I am wondering if anyone else is hearing these terms.


    • Robert Resta


      Yes, your mother’s half sister is your half aunt and her children are your half first cousins (just as Charles Darwin and Francis Galton were half first cousins since they shared a common paternal grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, but had different paternal grandmothers), by most standard nomenclature. Note that “halfs” would be one degree of genetic relationship further from the proband than “fulls,” e.g., a first cousin is a third degree relative but a half first cousin is a fourth degree relative.

      In my experience, many patients and healthcare providers confuse the terms “half” and “step,” which may partially explain why patients are reporting it to you. Half relatives are genetically related to the proband, while step relatives have no genetic relationship to the proband. It is helpful to “walk” the relationship with the patient, e.g., “So is this half first cousin your mother’s half brother’s genetic child (which would be a half first cousin), or is it your mother’s full brother’s wife’s child from a previous marriage (which would be a step cousin, I guess)?”

      Of course, many societies have very different and complex ways of describing familial relationships, so be particularly careful in using any of these terms with non-Westernized patients. Anthropologists have made whole careers of describing and exploring alternative kinship systems.

      • Annette Lee Zehring

        My grandmother had a half brother twenty years younger than she. What relationship to me is this half brother’s son? A second half-cousin?

  9. yes, it is very easy to make mistakes…say or write one thing when you mean another…for example, under 1C 1R, you say the parents of your 2nd cousin “could also be properly called your 2C 1R”…this is wrong…the parent of your 2nd cousin is the 1st cousin of your parent, thus your 1C 1R and nothing else…removeds are reckoned down, older generation to younger, not up…is your uncle your 1C 1R, being the father of your 1st cousin?…nope…

    • Robert Resta

      Like stolf, I was raised to believe that once-removed referred only to antecedent generations. However, after looking at genealogy texts, articles, and websites I found multiple instances of “removed” referring to preceding and succeeding generations. Indeed, some have suggested using the modifiers U and D in parentheses to indicate if the “removed” refers to previous generations or to later generations.

  10. Robert, you misunderstood me. Removed cousins are reciprocal, as are all kinship relationships…I am something to you, so you are something to me. And there is a way to distinguish two 1C1R…”ascending” for for older generation and “descending” for the younger generation is pretty much standard, altho I’ve seen up/down, backwards/forwards, major/minor…even one family that used augmented/diminished…which in time evolved into demented!

    My point is that the relationship is figured going downwards, since the older generation was there first. Take your father’s cousin. He is once removed because he is your father’s generation. But what degree of cousin? Down from his generation to yours it’s 1C1R, since he is part of your father’s generation as a 1st cousin. He is that to you and you are that to him. If you were to go up from your generation to his, then it is his son, your 2nd cousin, who part of your generation…so your father’s cousin would be your 2C1R…that is wrong and that is the mistake you made.

    As I mentioned, going younger to older generation, your uncle would also be your 1C1R, being the father of your 1st cousin…which is absolutely wrong…both your father’s brother and your father’s cousin would now be your 1C1R…what sense does that make? BTW, I’ve made this mistake in the past as well…it’s easy to do unless you have a really firm grasp on what the heck removed cousins are in the first place!

  11. Cathy Jacobs

    I recently was told that after my paternal grandfather’s (Clint) dad (Lloyd) died, his mother got remarried . . . to her late husband’s cousin (Arthur).

    Would I be correct in saying that in addition to Clint being Arthur’s stepson, he would also be his cousin once removed?

    Thank you.

  12. Cathy Jacobs

    Correction. My uncle e-mailed me that Arthur was my grandfather’s “second” cousin, so now I’m even more confused as to what relationship Arthur and Clint had other than stepfather/stepson. LOL

    Kudos to you, Bob, for having a website like this. I would have nightmares about family relations!

    • Robert Resta

      Well, this one kinda’ gives me a headache too, and I would have to know the exact connections between everybody, but as I read it and think I understand it, Clint is Arthur’s second cousin once-removed and your second cousin thrice-removed.

      • Cathy Jacobs

        Thanks so much for your reply, Bob. Your conclusion works for me!

        Talking about headaches, I thought you’d get a kick out of four more examples of my crazy family relationships (no questions . . . just wanted to make you smile).

        Arthur (Grandpa Clint’s stepfather) had a sister, Mae, who married a “Vargason.” Arthur’s stepson (Grandpa Clint) also married a “Vargason” — my paternal grandma, Madge Vargason Benjamin Kishpaugh. I don’t know yet how Grandma Madge was related to her “first husband’s stepfather’s sister’s husband,” and I don’t think I want to (although if you’re ever bored, you might want to figure it out!)

        My paternal grandmother (Madge) divorced my paternal grandfather (Clint), and married Walter Kishpaugh. When my parents split up, my dad married Walt’s youngest sister, my late stepmother, Barb. This makes Madge and Walt both my grandparents and my aunt & uncle. It also makes my stepmother, my father’s step-aunt.

        Walt and Barb’s dad, also a Kishpaugh, got his wife LoRena’s sister, Isabelle, pregnant (hopefully, this was after LoRena’s death in ’43), which makes that offspring both a brother and a cousin to Walt, Barb and their other two siblings.

        On two occasions, LoRena’s mother, Lena Lerche, gave birth to sons she couldn’t keep. One boy was adopted by Lena’s brother, George Kinney; the other boy was adopted by her brother, Willis. So, brothers who started out as “Lerches,” ended up cousins named “Kinney.”

        Thanks again for helping me, Bob; I really appreciate it. I think I’ll bookmark your website, as the questions people ask you are very interesting.


  13. R Boleyn

    I’ve read about double cousins, but what is the relationship in this case: A man marries a woman and has a child. He then divorces her, and marries her sister and has a kid.
    Are the two kids half siblings (paternal relationship), or cousins (maternal relationship), or something entirely different, like double half-sibling cousins???

    • misskitty79

      The answer to that, I think, will be twofold. There’s the technical genetic connections (which makes them BOTH half brothers *&* cousins), but the question of which term will be more socially acceptable… I propose that, if both children continue to live w/ the father, they’d likely be considered half-brothers, but if the child from the first marriage remains w/ the first wife, then they’d probably only be referred to as cousins.

  14. Help, please….

    Much to my dismay, I have discovered my ex and I are 13th cousins 2x removed. (royal lineage connection). Oh snap.

    Trying to figure out our sons relationship to one particular ancestor.

    She is my 15th cousin and my exes 14th cousin 1x removed.

    What would my son’s relationship be to this common ancestor?

    Thank you so much!

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  18. Terry Maurice


    With all due respect to your otherwise excellent writing, why do you continue to complicate the naming of uncles and aunts by using the “great” uncle/aunt terminology when referring to the siblings of one’s grandparents as great uncles and great aunts. Although widely used, it is simply wrong and only adds to the confusion.

    The siblings of grand parents are grand uncles and grand aunts. It is simple and easy to remember. The siblings of one’s great grandparents are great grand uncles and great grand aunts. It is consistent with how one’s grandparents are named and also with how nephews and nieces are named and avoids the confusion that using only great creates. Just because a lot of people use the great uncle/aunt does not make it right.

    Furthering the use of this erroneous terminology as you have done in your article just continues the confusion. Someone has to straighten this out sooner than later. Why not sooner!

    • Robert Resta

      You raise an interesting question for me. Who decides what is the “right” and the “wrong” term for a particular familial relationship? Who sets the rules? As I’ve explored familial relationships over the years, I’ve found that there are many differing views as to what should be standardized nomenclature for pedigree relationships. I can be right in one system and wrong in another. Indeed, my blog post contributes to that variation. For me, the variety may be the most interesting part of all this.

      • Terry Maurice

        Yes, right and wrong is perhaps a bit rigid, but we should not let common useage create a situation that is confusing for all concerned. Using grand uncle or grand aunt terminology is consistent with the accepted naming of grandparents. In my opinion, using great rather than grand only creates confusion, especially for those new to or unfamiliar with genealogical terminology. Our goal should be clarity rather than confusion.

  19. well, genealogical convention decides the “rules,” at least the correct kinship terms to use in English…that’s simply so everybody knows what they’re talking about…”2nd cousin” is a perfect example…i see that, and i wonder: do they mean (rightly) somebody of your generation, that is, the grandchild of a grandparent’s sibling?…or do they mean (wrongly) somebody one generation removed (REMOVED!) from you, that is, your parent’s 1st cousin or your 1st cousin’s child…unless there are other “clues” to what they mean, they might as well not have said anything…that’s plain old common sense communication…

  20. BTW…stolf = Mark Astolfi…as to the great “grand/great uncle/aunt” debate…Terry is right of course…the difference here is, using one or the other does NOT cause miscommunication…there is no ambiguity or confusion as to what you mean…the reason genealogists prefer it the way Terry described is pure practicality…going back many generations, it makes more sense for 2 siblings to both have 1 grand and 6 greats…than for one sibling to have 1 grand and 6 greats and the other to have 7 greats…and notice that the parent of those siblings also has 7 greats…like one of his children, but not like the other…huh?…

    bottom line: you don’t have a great uncle because you don’t have a great father…ever notice that?

    • Robert Resta

      While I don’t disagree with any of the grand, great, and removed points you have all made, saying that “genealogical convention” is the Great Judge begs the question: Which genealogist? Which convention? Who has “final authority” and why? Multiple genealogical resources that I have consulted over the years have given different definitions of various relationships, usually with certain authority.

      • different definitions of what relationships?…except for the great/grand uncle/aunt thing, i can’t think of one area of disagreement…can you supply one?…granted, some definitions may be stated in different ways, but they amount to the same thing…otherwise, how could genealogists talk to each other?

  21. Robert Resta

    Here are a few examples of different views on nomenclature. I agree that clarity, consistency and internal logic are all called for, and critical for communication. This discussion also raises the issue of distinctions between kinship systems and genealogy systems.

    1) While the Child of your second Cousin is your second Cousin once removed – being one generation removed from yours – the Parent of your second Cousin is ALSO your second Cousin once removed – because they are one generation removed from your generation as well.

    2) GRANDAUNT/UNCLE: The siblings of your parents are your aunts/uncles. The siblings of your grandparents were originally termed grandaunts/uncles and the siblings of your great-grand parents were great-grandaunts/uncles. But over the years those terms have gradually been replaced by the less de-scriptive great-aunt/uncle for grandaunt/uncle and great-great-aunt/uncle for great-grandaunt/uncle.

    3) See this chart on American Kinship Terminology (not great quality and requires a bit of squinting):

    4) The genealogical term ‘removed’ means to move up or down generations.
    ONCE Removed means move up or down ONE generation
    TWICE Removed means to move up or down TWO generations,_'Removed

    • Terry Maurice

      Robert The first example is not correct. The parent of your second cousin is your first cousin once removed, not a second cousin once removed. Your parent and your second cousins’ parents are first cousins, which makes you the first cousin once removed to your parents’ first cousin.

    • Tom Anderson

      Bicknell is incorrect to say that the original term was grandaunt/uncle. The term greataunt/uncle were used in publications 200 years prior to the appearance of the new more logical terms.

      • Hils

        Hardly logical to call your great grandfather ‘s brother great great uncle. We used to say great grand uncle. Makes more sense. We used to say grand aunt uncle niece etc.

  22. Can you post a higher quality version of the chart? I’d like to show this to a friend, but I think they’d get annoyed trying to read it and miss the awesomeness. Thanks!

  23. Robert Resta


    I have been working on producing a higher quality graphic of the pedigree, but it turns out to be not as easy as I thought it would be. But I will keep at it and hopefully produce a better quality image to share..

  24. Mike

    If my great-grandfather and my girlfriends’ great-grandfather were double cousins, what does that make us? What percent of genetics would we share? Came to find out her moms maiden name is the same as my last name, kind of got weirded out. Are we genetically far enough apart for it to be “acceptable” and not have any complications?

  25. After reading this, I want to verify if I have figured correctly the relationship I am seeking. Is my great-grandfather’s nephew my first cousin TWICE REMOVED? Additionally his mother (my great-grandfather’s sister) is my great-great aunt, is she not?

  26. Ian

    I wonder if anyone can tell me what my adopted niece’s son is to me???

    • Robert Resta

      Since adopted family members are generally considered family, your niece’s son would be a grand nephew or great nephew ( depending on your preference for grand vs. great; see way too detailed discussion above re: grand vs. great). Assuming you don’t refer to your niece as Adopted Niece, then there is no reason that you should refer to her child any differently than if your niece were genetically related to you.

  27. KJ

    My dads dad (my grandpa) has a sister who has a son. Who is the son to me? The relation, if any.

    Thank you for explaining.

  28. Russell Curnow

    am I an Uncle to my Brothers Stepson ?

  29. Rene

    I have a question. I am doing research on the legal matter of cousins dating,marrying etc. Now i understand that it is illegal if first cousins marry.

    This us the scenario;
    My mom and my uncle had the same mother but different father. My uncle has a son making him my cousin. My cousin has a daughter at this point we are related by very little blood. at this point because her great grandfather was my grandmother’s first husband. What is the percentage of relation and would i be legally allowed to marry her?

    • Terry

      It is not entirely true that first cousins can’t marry. It depends on the legal jurisdiction that you or they are living in. In the US some states allow the marriage of first cousins, some don’t and in some states it is a criminal offence. see

      The US is the only western country that prohibits the marriage of first cousins. In Canada, Europe and many other countries, it is entirely legal to marry your first cousin. In 2008 several noted geneticist called for a repeal on laws banning marriage between first cousins, as modern scientific studies have shown a lower risk of genetic disorders in offspring than was previously assumed.

      In the case you site, I see little to no problem with the marriage of the two individuals and no more risk than there is in the general population of any genetic disorders being passed on.

      • Rene

        Terry ,thank you for that info. I did look up by state. Itis a criminal offense in Texas punishable by law of 5 to 20 years.
        That said ,we are not first cousins. As stated in my email. Again ill try to make it as easy to understand as possible. I met a woman that is related to me. Her grandfather is my mother’s older brother making her dad my first cousin. Where it changes is that my mother and her grandfather are only half brother and sister,sharing the same mother but different father. Ive read that we only have 50%of DNA of each parent. That means that we have only 25%of each grandparent. Generally first cousins share about 12.5 %DNA if im correct. However would that percentage be lower since my first cousin’s father is only my mom’s half brother? That would mean that i would generally only share 3.125%of DNA with a third cousin but in this case is it even lower?
        My whole point in researching this is that as a hispanic family we would be shunned upon for persuing anything romantic. We met on FB and both want to persue getting to know one another better. We really dont care what people think at this point. .015626%is what i got . Maybe im wrong. If you can help me figure this out id appreciate it.

        So being that far removed are we legally allowed to move forward?

        Thank you Terry so much.
        I look forward to your response.



      • Terry

        Hi Rene

        There is more of a social stigma to the marriage of cousins than there is a genetic one. In your case I don’t see any problem. As far as a legal opinion is concerned it might be best to consult a lawyer who is versed in the law of your state. It is Texas, then it would be best to get it in writing and make sure that you don’t get yourselves into a situation that might cause you grief later on.

        Having said that, I live in Canada where the marriage of first cousins is allowed and as a second marriage, later on in life, I married my first cousin. We always had a “thing” for each other when we were growing up and some time after both of our marriages broke down, we reconnected. At that time she was living in California and I was in Ontario. However, as time went on we reestablished a great friendship that blossomed into a deep and abiding love. There was some social stigma to overcome within the family, but we did not let that bother us. We have been together now for almost thirty years and have had a wonderful life together. My two children by my first marriage have accepted her as their “other mother” and I have a great relationship with her son and family. Life has been good to all of us.

        You must do what is right for you and make the decisions based on what your feel. Don’t let others dictate to you what is “right or wrong” as that will never be your decision and you may regret not following your heart for the rest of your life. Take it slowly and see if there is lasting power there.

        All the best to you and good luck with all of this.


      • Rene


        Thank you so much for that insight. We plan on taking it slow. The fact that im going through all the research is a plus for her. We never knew each other growing up so its almost like connecting with a total stranger. So beingvaround family isnt really an issue.

        Im truly happy to hear your story ,as i commend both you and your wife. It brings me joy to know that you allowed your friendship to grow into a loving lasting marriage.

        Blessings to you and again thank you.

        I.will look into it. As you said, and i.quote,” it is Texas”. Funny.

        Best wishes to you as well.



  30. Robert Resta


    The daughter of your half first cousin is a fifth degree relative (which is a different measure of relationship than a fifth cousin), which would mean you share a tad more than about 3% of your genome. If instead she were your full first cousin, she would be a 3rd degree relative, and you would share about 12.5% of your genome, or roughly 4 times as much. If you were thinking of having children, and if childbearing risks were a concern to you, this degree of relationship would not likely statistically alter your risk of having a child with disabilities unless a genetic disease is known to run in your families or in people of your ancestry. If that kind of information is important to you, you could meet with a genetic counselor to more thoroughly review your family history (look at to find a genetic counselor near you).

    Of course, how much of your shared genome that is coursing through your cells is far less important than how much love is coursing through your hearts.

  31. Grant

    Excellent article as I begin delving into this subject. I have a large database of families whereby the relationships have not been recorded, but rather each person has an ID assigned, and then a mother and father ID provided. Does anyone know of a tool or software that could take such a structure and assign a relationship (with respect to the proband)?

  32. Ok i need help. My husband and i both have 1st cousins who are also 1st cousins. My aunt daughter.. and my husband’s aunt daughter are 1st cousins. Does that make us like distant related? ? Can’t seem to find answers anywhere. Thank you

  33. To Shannon:
    It sounds to me like your aunt and your husband’s aunt married brothers. If that’s true, here’s the situation:

    Your cousin and your husband’s cousin are cousins to each other thru their fathers. But you are related to your cousin thru your cousin’s mother, not thru your cousin’s father. The same thing goes for your husband and his cousin. Rest assured, there is no blood relationship between your and your husband…absolutely none.

    To understand this, look at it from the point of view of those 2 brothers…call them Sam and Joe. Both get married. Then Sam’s wife’s niece (you) marries Joe’s wife’s nephew (your husband). There was no blood relation between Sam’s wife and Joe’s wife, so there is no blood relation between the niece and the nephew…that is, there is no blood relation between you and your husband.

    But I will say this: there is a distant connection between you and your husband: somebody in his family (his aunt) and somebody in your family (your aunt) married into the same family, that of the brothers. But that’s just a connection thru marriage, not any kind of blood relation.

    If this explanation doesn’t apply, let me know exactly how your and your husband’s cousins are cousins and we can look at it again. And feel free to ask any questions!

  34. Michael Walsh

    My wife’s Great, Great Grandfather was the brother of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch’s Grandmother. What relation would my wife be to Edvard Munch? Thanks in advance for the clarification!

    • Terry Maurice

      Your wife’s gg grandfather and Munch’s grandmother were siblings, so the nearest common ancestor is your wife’s ggg grandfather, who would be EM g grandfather. That would make your wife a second cousin once removed to Edward Munch.

      • Michael Walsh

        Thank you! That’s what I had surmised based on the information on this page, but it’s nice to have it confirmed – these removed cousiny things can get quite convoluted.

  35. Roxanne Jewell

    Here is my problem for my family tree:

    My mother remarried. My step-father’s half-brother’s son is who to me?

    • Terry Maurice

      Formally speaking and from a genetic standpoint, he is no relation to you, as you share none of your family genes with him. As far as a “relationship” goes, he would be a half-step cousin, if such a relationship exists.

      • Roxanne Jewell

        Thank you so much for clearing that up. That has bugged me for awhile because I could neber find any answers.

  36. Betty Frasier

    Would l be related to a step father half sister.and her children.child before marriage

  37. Terry Maurice

    As in the example above, there is no genetic relationship to the step father, so no relationship, in the strict sense, to any of the step father siblings or children. I am not sure what you mean by “before marriage.”

  38. Llamas

    Ok. So my grandma married and had her first child. Then she divorced and married again but to the previous man’s brother and had another child. So if my dad has a half brother/ cousin , is he my uncle or cousin???

  39. Llamas

    Ok. So my grandma married and had her first child. Then she divorced and married again but to the previous man’s brother and had another child. So if my dad has a half brother/ cousin , is he my uncle or cousin?

  40. Pingback: Guest Post: Finding Margaret, Finding Myself – How My Search For My Grandmother Led To New Ways to Use My Genetic Counseling Skills | The DNA Exchange

  41. Joanne Cousins

    Hello, would there be a name given in relation to how I would acknowledge my paternal great grandmothers nephew?

  42. Sara

    This doesn’t help, I’m trying to find the title for my uncles father to me, everyone keeps saying great which isn’t correct because it’s my uncles father not his brother.

  43. Your uncle’s father is your grandfather. For example your uncle is the brother of your father, or brother of your mother, so their parents are your grandparents.

  44. Harold Liban

    Hello Robert Resta,
    I can’t seem to analyze nor understand my relationship (first cousin or great nephew). On, the relationship reads: Onelio Tamani Liban is my first cousin once removed’s wife’s uncle’s wife’s great nephew. The relatives relationship starts with me Harold Lumicao Liban to my father Pedro Velasco Liban to his mother Leonarda Dumelod Velasco to her sister Macaria Dumelod Velasco to her son Andres Lumicao Velasco to his wife Virginia Piggangay Bulan to her father Vicente Balassu Bulan to his brother Juan Balassu Bulan to his wife Maria Bulan Liban to her brother Antonio Bulan Liban II to his son Honofre Duleng Liban to his son Onelio Tamani Liban.

    Thank You,

  45. Carrie

    Hi Robert- I’m trying to figure out how I’m related to a friend of mine. My grandmother’s sister married my friend’s grandfather’s brother. They are our grandaunt and granduncle, so are we related?

    • Robert Resta


      You and your friend are not genetically related because you do not share any genetic material. You don’t have any genetic link to your friend’s grandfather’s brother, and your friend does not have any genetic link to your grandmother’s sister. You might informally be described as “second cousins-in-law” a term that I just made up and that has no formal legitimacy as far as I know. However, you would both be genetically but separately related to any direct descendants of your grandmother’s sister and your friend’s grandfather’s brother.

      • Carrie

        Thanks so much for the clarification, so really she is a cousin of our cousin, I guess. My kids will be disappointed! 😦

  46. Tracey

    Is my great uncle, anything to my children? I see great, great used for the siblings of my siblings of my great grandparents, I think? Confusing. But can’t see anything referring to my great uncles’s relationship to my offspring. Anyone know?

  47. Terry

    Yes, using great uncle for the brother of you grandfather is confusing. I much prefer grand uncle or grand aunt, as the brother or sister of a grandparent. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the great great terminology has taken precedence over the more logical great grand terminology.

    Your “great uncle” or grand uncle is the brother of your grandfather and so is a great granduncle to your children or to use the more confusing terminology he is a great great or 2nd great uncle to your children.

  48. Joyce owens

    This is the most confusing thing I have ever read in my life. Everything I have ever known about my relatives has gone down the drain?????

  49. Guinivere

    If my mother’s maternal great-grandmother was sister to my father’s paternal grandmother, what relationship were they to each other?

  50. Teresa Truscott

    If my dad has a great uncle
    What would that great uncle be to my daughter

  51. The “great” uncle of your father is your great, great uncle and so will be your daughter’s great great great or 3rd great uncle.

    Another way to look at the relationship is that the brother of your father’s grandfather is your father’s grand uncle, so this makes him your great grand uncle and your daughter’s great-great-granduncle. For me, this latter terminology is less confusing than using the great uncle designation for a grand uncle. However, the great uncle/aunt seems to be the “popular” terminology.

  52. Bruce


    My grandfather was married several times. His first wife is the elder sister of his second wife. Would mean my grandmother’s sister than became my great aunt? Are the children of my now great aunt 1/2 aunts or uncles, and what about their children? Are they half cousins or removed? What about the children of my grandfathers 3rd wife (unrelated, so step grandma?), would they be half uncles and what about their children, my half cousins again? Head is spinning. 🙂

    Hope you can follow my question.

  53. Pingback: Bob has retired. What are the Resta us going to do now? | The DNA Exchange

  54. Can I say I’m the fourth if my dad, his great uncle, and his great great grandfather have the same name?

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