Genealogy Articles

(Not Related to a Specific Family)

Are your cousins’ children your second cousins or are they your nieces and nephews?  And what exactly do you call your parents’ cousins?  In both cases, they are your first cousins once-removed.  OK, so what does once-removed mean?  (One family member told me being removed makes it sound like a person has been disowned by the family.) And why are some relatives born a generation before you called the same thing as some relatives born a generation after you?

It is common knowledge that your parents’ siblings are your aunts and uncles, and your aunts’ and uncles’ children are your cousins – first cousins to be exact.  And it’s commonly understood that children of your parents’ first cousins are your second cousins.  But it’s less commonly known what to call the relationship between you and your cousins’ children and/or your parents’ cousins, especially when some of them may be close to the same age as you.  If you refer to them as your second cousins … informally it’s not really important, but technically you are wrong.

A good rule to remember is cousins are all on the same generational level of the family tree, and the designation of first, second, third, etc. cousins indicates how many generations UP the family tree one has to go to find a common set of grandparents.  So, if you and another person born in the same generation share a set of grandparents, you are first-cousins; if you share a set of great grandparents, you are second cousins; and if you share a set of great-great grandparents, you are third cousins.  

Being "removed" simply means you and another relative are separated by a generational level.  Removed relatives are either ascendant or descendant, although this designation is often dropped.  Ascendant cousins were born one or more generations before you were born, and descendant cousins were born one or more generations after you were born. So, your first cousins’ children are your (descendent) first cousins once-removed, and your parents’ first cousins are your (ascendant) first cousins once removed (or in other words, the parents of your second cousins are your (ascendant) first cousins once-removed).

The following chart from helps illustrate various family relationships. 


  • COUSINS: Are all on the same generation level
  • FIRST COUSINS: Share the same grandparents
  • SECOND COUSINS: Share the same great-grandparents
  • THIRD COUSINS: Share the same great-great-grandparents
  • “REMOVED” COUSINS: Are separated by generational levels, whereas true cousins are not
  • FIRST COUSINS ONCE REMOVED: Are separated by one generation from each other
  • FIRST COUSINS TWICE REMOVED: Are separated by two generations from each other
  • An ASCENDANT REMOVED COUSIN: Was born a generation earlier than you were born
  • A DESCENDANT REMOVED COUSIN: Was born a generation later than you were born

The following chart found on can be used to determine the cousin relationship between two blood relatives. 


  1. Determine the shared relative between two people.
  2. Find the FIRST person’s relationship to the shared relative.  For example, the grandchild of the shared relative.
  3. Find the SECOND person’s relationship to the shared relative. For example, the great grandchild of the shared relative.
  4. The intersection of the row and column shows the relationship between the two blood relatives.