You Are Related How?

Understanding How You Are Related To Everyone In Your Family Tree

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you were trying to explain to them how you were distantly related to someone? I’m talking about someone other than your mother, father, sister or brother.  When talking about our relatives we commonly use the titles of cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparents, great grandparents, but when talking about someone who is very distantly related it can get a little tricky, so we try to explain using as much detail as possible. We may say “he is my father’s brother, my uncle Tom’s daughter, Karen’s grandson Michael”, which is quite lengthy and can be somewhat confusing. It would be easier to say Michael is my first cousin twice removed on my father’s side, which has the same information, but less confusing.

The level or the degree of a cousin’s relationship is based on the most recent direct ancestor that the two of you have in common. So let’s start with our closest and most direct cousin and work our way back.

Who is Your First Cousin?

Your First Cousin is a child of your aunt or uncle, also known as your parent’s niece or nephew.  This person is considered to be your first cousin. You share one set of grandparents with this cousin, but you do not share the same parents. Look at the chart below and find yourself (You) and then find your first cousin. That is pretty straight forward relationship.

What makes them a Second Cousin?

Your second cousin is the grandchild of your grand-aunt or grand-uncle, also known as the child of your parents’ first cousin and you share the same set of great-grandparents with your second cousin. You do not have the same grandparents though.  Their grandparents are your grandaunt and granduncle. More commonly, many people use great aunt or great uncle, but technically they are grandaunt and granduncle. They are the siblings of your grandparents. Look at the chart below and find yourself and then find your second cousin.

How about those Third Cousins?

Your Third Cousin are fairly distantly related, but you both share the same set of great-great-grandparents. Your third cousin is the child of your parents’ second cousin. They are the great-grandchild of your great-grand-aunt or great-grand-uncle. You share a set of great-great-grandparents with your third cousin.  As for your Fourth cousin, they share a set of great-great-great-grandparents with you.  Look at the chart below and find yourself and then find your third cousin.

Do You have any Double First Cousins?

Just to complicate matters let’s talk about Double First Cousins. If two siblings let’s say brothers in one family marry two siblings, sisters from another family and each couple has a child, these two children are called double first cousins. The word double in addition to the first cousin term is because they share the same four grandparents. In typical, first cousins share only one set of common grandparents, while double first cousins share both sets of grandparents.

What does the term “Once Removed” mean?

The term “once removed” is used to explain the relationships of cousins of different generations. A cousin who is “once removed” means one generation before or after you. Your first cousin’s child is your first cousin once removed, and your mother’s first cousin is also your first cousin once removed. One was born from the generation after you and the other was born in the generation before.  Removed cousin relationships are measured by the generation difference, not age.

Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. As in example above Michael is first cousin twice removed. Your grandmother’s first cousin would be your first cousin, twice removed because again you are separated by two generations.  The person was born two generations after or before you.

Cousin relationships can be any combination of first, second, third etc, and also be once, or twice removed, and so on. Look at the chart below and find yourself and then find a first cousin once removed and a first cousin twice removed.

How is one a Grand or a Great?

Grandparents and great-grandparents are very commonly used titles for the parents and grandparents of our parents. Aunts and uncles become grand when they are the siblings of grandparents, though we rarely call them grandaunts or uncles, we usually call them great aunts and uncles, but technically, your parents’ aunts and uncles are your grand aunts and uncles. The aunts and uncles of your great grandparents would be your great-grand aunts and uncles.

Also, if your niece had a child, it is common for you to say “my niece’s child Amber”, but the child can also be referred to as your grandniece. Your grandniece’s child would be your great-grandniece, this is identical to that of grandchild and great grandchild.

The chart below is an example of the levels/degrees of family relationships This chart serves as a visual to help determine the correct titles of your relatives. ItIt It represents the relationships for either your mother’s or your father’s side of the family.


Here is a pdf copy of the above family relationship chart.  I hope that you now have a clearer understanding of how you are related to the members of your family tree and have an easier way of describing your connection to those relatives. For more helpful genealogy articles: