“My family is my strength & my weakness.”
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
There’s nothing more important than the family. It’s at the core of everything in life. Your family will always be there for you.
Family is a simple concept. It seems almost intuitive.
& yet… As we float through our lives, surrounded by this ever-loving, ever-loved family, there’s one thing that’s been holding us back while we’ve been too ashamed to admit it. It’s one elusive flaw in our lives that we manage to brush by with extravagant nods & all the hot air we can summon. When thinking back on it, we wince, say we’ll figure it out later, & push the memory to some dark corner of our minds.
Come, admit it.
You don’t know how family works.
You don’t actually understand what a “first cousin twice removed” is or what to call your brother’s wife’s sister. & what’s even worse, you don’t just not understand, you pretend you do understand & live in misery because of it.
Well, the ninniforlife rushes to the rescue. I offer myself up as sacrifice for a noble cause. In this post—my most gruesome yet—I’ll be defining & explaining the family. Too many family-related (forgive the pun) blunders have been made for me to even sleep at night anymore. I must set things to rights.
I’ve even created my very own family tree, a real work of art, for the occasion:
They’re a pretty cute bunch, don’t you think? I personally like Duckworth best.
But anyway. We’ve now set the stage for some questions. Let’s take a closer look at Aminta & Millicent first.
Aminta has a brother & a sister-in-law, but what does she call Millicent? Because Millicent’s sister, Verena, married Romulus, Millicent is a sister-in-law only to Romulus.
Well, turns out that Millicent would be called a co-sister-in-law, which kind of makes sense. She’s not as close to Aminta as Verena would be, but she’s still now a part of Aminta’s family. The same applies to Clementina & Calloway, but they’re called co-siblings-in-law. Co-brothers-in-law would be Jeremiah & Hamish.
I’d like to note that my example of Aminta & Millicent is not the common case. Generally, the term “co-sisters-in-law” applies when two women marry two brothers; if Calloway married, his wife would be co-sisters-in-law with Tansy. However, the case of Aminta & Millicent is legitimate – it is just not as common.
Now, let’s head down to wee Thornton & his perspective.
His father’s sister, Aminta, would be an aunt to him. But his mother’s sister is also an aunt. You will notice that Aminta & Millicent are co-sisters-in-law, but not only that; because little Thornton exists, they are co-aunts as well. They are not blood related, but they’re both aunts to Thornton, & so, co-aunts.
If Clementina was a man, she would be co-uncle with Calloway to little Barnabas.
Now, what about that Webster fellow up there? We haven’t discussed him much.
First of all, he’s Tansy’s father-in-law. But let’s focus on Duckworth, too. Duckworth & Webster became family when Tansy & Hamish married.
It turns out that Duckworth & Webster are co-fathers-in-law. This also means that Ambrosia & Isolde are co-mothers-in-law. &, Webster’s father would be Tansy’s grandfather-in-law, & Duckworth’s father & Webster’s father would be co-grandfathers-in-law.
Another note: Sometimes the “in-law” is dropped in conversation, so if someone says “we’re co-grandfathers”—though I don’t know anyone strange or erudite enough to actually say that in daily conversation—it’s the same thing as “co-grandfathers-in-law”.
So let’s put this in clearer terms:
– Aminta & Millicent; Clementina & Calloway; & Jeremiah & Hamish are co-siblings-in-law.
– Aminta & Millicent are also co-aunts.
– Duckworth, Ambrosia, Webster, & Isolde are all co-parents-in-law.
So, now that we’ve got that all cleared up, it’s time to move on to cousins, probably the scariest part of this post. The most important fact to remember when learning about cousins is this: if you share a pair of grandparents with someone who is not a sibling, then that person is a first cousin to you. This is the most common type of cousin, of course. Just remember this one little fact & everything will go smoothly.
Let’s take another look at the family tree.
So here we see that Barnabas & Kassandra, & Barnabas & Hubert are first cousins. Simple.
Okay. So. Being “removed” means that you’re not in the same generation as a cousin, though you’re still cousins. On the other hand , the degree of cousin-hood (first cousins, second cousins, etc.) is how far away you are from the initial pair of people who made you cousins in the first place.
Tiberius & Romulus are second cousins because they’re in the same generation, but they’re farther away from Duckworth & Ambrosia than, for example, Barnabas & Kassandra; Tiberius & Romulus are great-grandchildren rather than just grandchildren, to be exact. That makes their degree of cousin-hood go up.
As for the removing… Let’s go back to Barnabas & Hubert. They’re first cousins, as shown. But what happens when Tiberius is born?
He’s a cousin to Barnabas because his father was, but he’s a generation down. To count it, it is said he’s “removed”. Tiberius is Barnabas’s first cousin (like his father) but once removed. Now, if Barnabas was in Tiberius’s generation, they would be second cousins; but instead, Barnabas makes the cousin-hood a first cousin-hood, & allows for Tiberius’s later generation by saying he’s removed.
It’s quite simple, actually.
These terms describe a “first cousin once removed” relationship more precisely:
A male in the higher generation would be a “cousin-uncle” or “second uncle”
A female in the higher generation would be a “cousin-aunt” or “second aunt”
A male in the lower generation would be a “cousin-nephew” or “second nephew”
A female in the lower generation would be a “cousin-niece” or “second niece”
Now take Hubert & Thornton. What would that be?
Well, first, what’s the degree? Well, Duckworth & Ambrosia are Hubert’s grandparents, so it would be a first degree cousin-hood. However, Thornton is a whole two generations away, so to account for it we say “twice removed”. They’re first cousins twice removed.
Here are more accurate terms for the possible relationship:
A male in a higher generation would be a “second grand-uncle” or “cousin-grand-uncle”
A female in a higher generation would be a “second grand-aunt” or “cousin-grand-aunt”
A male in a lower generation would be a “second grand-nephew” or “cousin-grand-nephew”
A female in a lower generation would be a “second grand-niece” or “cousin-grand-niece”
I could go into second cousins once removed—Romulus & Raoul—or third cousins—Thornton & Raoul—but I think I’ll just paste this awesome cheat sheet here instead:
To conclude my section on cousin-hood, here are some interesting tidbits I picked up:
- Double cousins arise when two siblings of one family marry two siblings of another family. Since I’m far too lazy to design another family tree, I’ll just borrow one. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
I deplore those unimaginative & alphabetical names, but what can one do?
Helen & Ben are brother & sister, & Helen’s husband is the brother of Ben’s wife. Therefore, the children of the two couples are “double cousins”.
- The children of half-siblings (as the result of two marriages) & their respective spouses are called half-cousins.
- A cousin-in-law is the spouse of one’s cousin, or the cousin of one’s spouse.
- Yet another tree – this time for step-cousins:
David & Mary are step-cousins because David’s uncle (Charles) became Mary’s stepfather as a result of Mary’s mother (Corinda) having remarried.
Whew, all done with cousins. & all done with family trees. I hope that cleared some things up. It certainly did for me. Yes, the co-siblings-in-law was a little difficult for me to grasp at first, but I understand it perfectly now. (& I’ve mastered the measured leap it takes my fingers to hit the hyphen key now, too.)
Now, instead of that dreary perspective of woeful ignorance, we can promenade through life with a new enthusiasm. Savor it!
“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”
Michael J. Fox