Cousin Chart—Family Relationships Explained

July 23, 2019  - by 
In the summer, a family of three generations having fun around a table in the garden sharing a meal. A teenager does a selfie with all the guests

Ever found yourself asking “So what exactly is a second cousin?” or debating with your family and friends about what it means to be a “first cousin once removed”? Use our cousin chart 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. Cousins explained

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. However, keep in mind that this trick only works if you are both the same number of generations removed from the common ancestor.

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 a Cousin “Once Removed”?

To be “once removed” from a cousin means you are separated by one generation. The number before “removed” will always represent the number of generations you are separated (“removed”) from the cousin.

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 the boxes labeled “cousin 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. So, for example, a first cousin once removed is either the child of your first cousin or the parent of your second cousin.

Now that you know what to call your distant cousins, use the chart below (click to enlarge) to calculate your cousinship! You can also check out these other ways to calculate cousins.

cousin calculator, relationship chart, cousin chart

Note: These cousin naming-conventions are primarily used in English-speaking societies and may be different in other languages and cultures.

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  1. Née sous x j’ai beaucoup de mal à trouver les ancêtres qui me lient à mes meilleurs matches avec lesquels je partage :
    1) 547 cM
    2) 407 cM
    3) 388 cM
    Le 1) a 30 ans
    Le 2) a 50 ans
    Le 3) a 20 ans
    Personnellement j’ai 62 ans !
    Quels conseils me donneriez vous sachant que ces trois matches n’ont pas d’arbres exploitables !

    Google Translate – French to English: Born under x I have a lot of trouble finding the ancestors that link me to my best matches with which I share:
    1) 547 cM
    2) 407 cM
    3) 388 cM
    The 1) is 30 years old
    The 2) is 50 years old
    The 3) is 20 years old
    Personally, I am 62 years old!
    What advice would you give me knowing that these three matches have no exploitable trees!
    Thank you

    1. Look at your shared matches with them, that could give you an idea of the branch that they share with you.

      Else, there could be a (wanted/unwanted) surprise of either another sibling of yours and it’s their children (as the cM’s would suggest 1-2nd Cousin range) – else another Aunt or Uncle and it’s their children.

      If the match is on Ancestry click the cM’s to see other types of relationships that could be possible and try and expand your tree from that point (e.g. 2nd Gt Grandparents)

  2. So if my boyfriend(DeavonSmith) has a cousin(Devin Brink), would mt boyfriend(Deavon Smith) be related to Devin Brinks long distant cousin?

  3. Hi,
    Checking my ancestry I find that I am the 4th cousin 7x removed to Abraham Baldwin, on of the 56 writes and signers of our Constitution of the United States. How far off beat is this? Is something like this common? Is this something that would be real irregular, or , an every day type of thing with people???

    1. For anyone who has roots in America for more than 3 generations, I’d say this is common.

  4. For me as a Jew from Europe whose BM was fro Strasbourg & grandparents from Germany too its very hard to find genetic relationships & cousins. Many times Jews married their own cousins to keep their Jewish line intact, i.e. Levys married Levy’s & Cohen’s married Cohen’s.

    1. Turns out that happened in Keltic groups too, families were big and settled in certain areas in my case in Nova Scotia that it wasn’t uncommon for fourth cousins to marry. Horse and buggy day where they didn’t get far. Also weren’t the Roosevelts Eleanor and Franklin first cousins?

  5. So my boyfriend and I have just found out that my brother slept with his moms cousin and had a son , so my nephew is his cousin . Does that make us related ?

  6. How do I find the commom ancester in the first place, to determine whether a distant cousin is 4th or 5th cousin, pleae?

  7. Hello. What should I look for in DNA results in this situation(3rd or 4th grouping of reaults) from my mother’s sample. My mother’s grandmother was adopted. We are trying to find the line. No records. Orphanage burned down that was in Flint Michigan and as far as I can tell all records were lost.

    1. I wish you the Best of Luck, in your search. We have been trying, since 2006, to find my Paternal Grandfather. I live in U.K., so what problems you may have, are VAST. TerryL.

    1. Hi Pat! Your niece and daughter are 1st cousins to each other as they share the same grandparents. Their children would be 2nd cousins as they would share the same great grandparents.

  8. Alright, so- my third cousin just got married to my friend’s cousin. What would we be considered? Thank you.

  9. I have what I believe is my 2nd cousin. His grandmother is my grandaunt. We share great grand parents.
    Do I count back to our great grand parents to determine our relationship?

  10. Is the sister to my great, grandfather, not only my great, great aunt but also my third cousin three times removed. My great, great grandfather of course was her father.

    1. No. Your gg-aunt is the sister of your g-grandmother, but your 3rd cousin 3xremoved would be your 3rd cousin’s gg-child.

      1. Thank you for your reply. I must admit that I am still confused because I thought that any time two people have a common grandparent no matter what the difference in generations they are considered cousins of some sort.

        1. Ok, and I find it a bit confusing too, but I think this is correct. You are talking about cousins removed going backwards, not forwards, and I was thinking of 3rd cousin’s offspring’s offspring etc.
          Yes, you seem to be right, going back in removed cousinship! Strange that I have never noticed or heard it mentioned before!
          I still feel that there’s something wrong about it, though.

          1. Here’s what works for me. If two people A and B have a common ancestor, they are either siblings or cousins. Suppose that A is five times removed from the common ancestor, and that B is seven times removed from the common ancestor. Take the lower number (in this case 5), and subtract one, to get four. Then take the difference (in this case seven less five), to get two. The result is that B is the fourth cousin, twice removed, of A.

          2. I should have said “siblings, cousins, or uncle-aunt/niece-nephew.” But you all knew I was forgetting that one.