Sunday, January 27, 2008

Family Relationship Chart

A couple days ago I emailed my father to tell him that my cousin (on my Mom's side) just had a baby. He emailed me, "Uncle-once-removed?" I thought to myself, "hmmm, I thought it was second uncle..." So off I trudged through the internet jungle again, this time looking for a "relationship chart" or some such beast.

Well, Google told me that there were several charts, among them one from and another one from an authoritative-sounding And of course there's the omnipresent Wikipedia version. All of these charts used the same terminology: I was that baby's "first cousin once removed". That's all fine and good, but here's the kicker: that baby is my "first cousin once removed" too! That, to me, is highly unsatisfying.

The current "cousin" charts, more than being only unintuitive, do not take into account either the direction of the generation level or the gender. Dictionaries, however, correctly define words such as grandaunt, grandnephew, and great (definition 8). Also, there exists in common usage the terminology displayed in the chart below, such as "second grandnephew" and "second great grandaunt". Although judging by the number of search results, you'll find that in the case of the name for younger generations a space is preferred, "second grand nephew", whereas it is not for older generations, "second great grand aunt".

Hopefully with this table codifying preferred terminology, the bland cousin charts will fall from favor and the leaders in disseminating these terms will choose more descriptive jargon.
If one person's →Parent*GrandparentGreat grandparentGreat great grandparentGreat great great grandparent
is the other person's

then that other person is his/her
Parent*Brother/SisterUncle/AuntGranduncle/auntGreat granduncle/auntGreat great granduncle/aunt
GrandparentNephew/NieceCousinSecond uncle/auntSecond granduncle/auntSecond great granduncle/aunt
Great grandparentGrandnephew/nieceSecond nephew/nieceSecond cousinThird uncle/auntThird granduncle/aunt
Great great grandparentGreat grandnephew/nieceSecond grandnephew/nieceThird nephew/nieceThird cousinFourth uncle/aunt
Great great great grandparentGreat great grandnephew/nieceSecond great grandnephew/nieceThird grandnephew/nieceFourth nephew/nieceFourth cousin

*In the Parent row there is also the possibility of having a direct ancestor, e.g. father/mother, grandfather/mother, great grandfather/mother, etc.
*In the Parent column there is also the possibility of having a direct descendant, e.g. son/daughter, grandson/daughter, great grandson/daughter, etc.