Family Relationships Page

Most people understand the family relationship terms such as aunt, grandfather, or great grandmother, but they may not be familiar with terms such as second cousin or third cousin twice removed. Hopefully this page, a modified version of a page originally on the site,  explains what those terms mean.

Cousin (first cousin)
Your first cousins are relatives who have the same grandparents as you, i.e. they are the children of your aunts and uncles.

Second Cousin
Your second cousins are relatives who have the same great-grandparents as you, but not the same grandparents.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Cousins
Your third cousins have the same great-great-grandparents, fourth cousins have the same great-great-great-grandparents, and so on.

The word removed indicates that two relatives are from different generations. You and your first cousins are in the same generation, i.e. two generations younger than your grandparents, so the word removed is not used to describe your relationship.

The words once removed mean that there is a difference of one generation, e.g. your mother's first cousin is your first cousin, once removed. This is because your mother's first cousin is one generation younger than your grandparents and you are two generations younger than your grandparents. This one-generation difference equals once removed.

Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference. If you are two generations younger than a first cousin of your grandmother, you and your grandmother's first cousin are first cousins, twice removed.

Use the chart below to simplify working out a relationship.

  1. Pick two people in your family and work out the common ancestor.
  2. Look at the top row of the chart and find the column for the first person's relationship to the common ancestor.
  3. Look at the far left column of the chart and find the row for the second person's relationship to the common ancestor.
  4. Where the row and column cross is the relationship between the two people.
Child Grandchild Gt-grandchild Gt-gt-grandchild
Child Sister or Brother Nephew or Niece Grand-nephew or niece Gt-grand-nephew or niece
Grandchild Nephew or Niece First cousin First cousin, once removed First cousin, twice removed
Gt-grandchild Grand-nephew or niece First cousin, once removed Second cousin Second cousin, once removed
Gt-gt-grandchild Gt-grand-nephew or niece First cousin, twice removed Second cousin, once removed Third cousin

Example: If the first person is a grandchild of the common ancestor and the second person is a great-great-grandchild of the common ancestor, then the relationship between the first & second person is first cousin, twice removed.


(C) M.T. Gibbs 2009