Cousin Chart—Cousin Relationships Explained

July 23, 2019  - by 

Ever found yourself asking “So what exactly is a second cousin?” or debating with your family and friends about what it means to be “once removed”? We’re here to settle the debate once and for all!

What Is a Cousin?

Cousins are people who share a common ancestor that is at least 2 generations away, such as a grandparent or great-grandparent. You and your siblings are not cousins because your parents are only 1 generation away from you.

Simple enough, right? But what does it mean to have a second or third or fourth cousin?

Cousin Chart

What Is a Second Cousin?

The number associated with your cousin has to do with how many generations away your common ancestor is. For example:

  • First cousins share a grandparent (2 generations)
  • Second cousins share a great-grandparent (3 generations)
  • Third cousins share a great-great-grandparent (4 generations)
  • Fourth cousins share a 3rd-great grandparent (5 generations)

Quick Tip: Count how many “greats” are in your common ancestor’s title and add 1 to find out what number cousin your relative is. Note that grandparents have no “greats” in their titles, so cousins who share grandparents are first cousins because 0 + 1 = 1.

Sometimes you and your cousin may share a common ancestor, but you each call this ancestor something different. For example, the common ancestor may be your great-grandparent, but your cousin’s great-great grandparent.

This is where the phrase “once removed” comes in handy.

What Does it Mean to be “Once Removed”?

Grandchildren with grandparents

To be “removed” from a cousin means you are separated by 1 or more generations.

If you look at the cousin chart above, you’ll see that each row is color-coded by generation. You, your siblings, and your first, second, and third cousins are all of the same generation.

You may have noticed that cousins labeled “once removed” are either from one generation above or below you. You are “once removed” if you are separated by 1 generation and “twice removed” if you are separated by 2 generations, and so on.

Quick Tip: Your parent’s first, second, and third cousins are also your first, second, and third cousins—but once removed. This is because your parents and their generation are 1 above yours. Likewise, your grandparents’ first, second, and third cousins are also your first, second, and third cousins, this time twice removed. This pattern continues throughout each generation.

Now that you know what to call your distant cousins, learn how to quickly calculate how you’re related.

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  1. Thanks for the charts and especially the quick tips. I think I understand the cousin relationships a little better now. I will have to work on it a lot more though to get it really well.

  2. This is a GREAT article and chart! Thanks for making it all very accessible! I have been sharing it with others since I read it.

    Just a couple questions.

    1) This chat is for our predominant culture in the USA. Are there different relationship terms and organization for other cultures?

    2) would it be possible to get a version of the chart that has “ME” in place of YOU in the starting grid, to make it seem more personal rather than imperative?

    Thanks for the article and the cheerful chart!

  3. Thank you for the handy chart. I do not have any full siblings. I how ever have half sibling(s) from my moms side and bio dad.
    What would a cousin chart be like with half sib/cousins? Could another chart with with this info could be helpful for people or would it be the same?

  4. My cousin is on my mother’s side but have found out he is also my cousin on my father’s side. Does that make him a double cousin or what

  5. Familysearch es una gran ayuda , me falta mucho por aprender , gracias por estos consejos que son tan beneficiosos para nuestro árbol , empezare a trabajar con los primos y descargare la tabla

  6. My fifth grt father is jonathon davenport born 1674 Leek Staffs I share him with John Davenport famous Potter of Leek Staffordshire England what reation is John davenport 1765 born potter to me?