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. so if my mom is married to my stepdad, would it be legal to marry his nephew because we’re technically cousins by we’re only related by marriage not blood.

    1. Yes, it would be legal because, as you’ve pointed out, there is no blood relationship between you and the nephew.

  2. I’m trying to find my cousin William Allstaedt and James Allstaedt, I haven’t seen them in a long time and miss them very much, William and I were close when we were little. I still love them and want to know how they are.

    1. I pray that you get reunited with them soon. I also feel sad separated from relatives sometimes you know where they are but you just cant get across to them. That’s most depressing for me.

  3. I have had a possible match from My Heritage for my grandson. ‘What does 1st cousin once removed-second cousin’ mean. Do they have grandparent siblings in common or Great Granparents

  4. Question: When parents are 1st cousins. Say dad’s brother is both an uncle and a cousin once removed, correct? When ask how related, what do you put?

    1. Difficult one! I would probably say uncle; as much because of the age difference as anything else.

    1. cousin – though there is no blood relationship, a legal relationship exists. In Australia, it is illegal to marry a person who is a first cousin, even if there is no common DNA.

  5. can i have a relationship with my dad’s first cousin? like he’s the first cousin once removed because his mother is my grand aunt or my grandma’s sister

    1. It isn’t actually illegal, at least, not in the UK, but it still might not be advisable to have children for medical reasons. I am not sure about the legality in other countries, so you would need to check.

  6. If my grandfather has a half sister then how does the family tree start there? My dad and my grandfathers half sister’s children would be cousins how? And where does it go from there?

    1. The family tree does not start with your grandfather, of course; it will start many generations before, but the half-cousin business (unless it happened earlier as well), only comes into it in your grandfather’s generation.They would be 1/2 1st cousins as it was a half-sister of your grandfather. If they were full siblings, the children would be full 1st cousins. And their 2 lots of children would be 1/2 2nd cousins.

  7. The family tree does not start with your grandfather, of course; it will start many generations before, but the half-cousin business (unless it happened earlier as well), only comes into it in your grandfather’s generation.They would be 1/2 1st cousins as it was a half-sister of your grandfather. If they were full siblings, the children would be full 1st cousins. And their 2 lots of children would be 1/2 2nd cousins.

    1. Thank you for that Sarah. I must admit I will now have to get my head around it, as it all seems a bit bewildering at first.

  8. Is there any way I can place my DNA results with my late Father’s. He had a test and gave me permission to do pursue family links. My therefore cannot be linked in Ancestry. Cannot do this is very important as I am trying to find Grandfather on Dad’s side. Any help would be appreciated. Rosemary

  9. My maternal grandfather married twice. My female cousin Leslie was descended from the first marriage, and my grandfather is her great grandfather. How do you term the relationship between Leslie and I? Thanks for your help.

  10. My cousin from my Aunt has had a baby. I consider this baby to also be my cousin. Nearly lead to divorce as my husband says she isn’t my cousin. She is!

    1. You’re getting into the pet disagreement between my Mother and my Father. As discussed on my blog (linked from here last February), my Mother and the chart at the top would call the baby your First Cousin Once Removed, but my Father would call the baby your Second Niece (note that Dad’s version removes the logical flaw in that First Cousin Once Removed could be one generation junior to you, as the baby is, or one generation senior to you).

      1. Ist cousin once removed. No ifs or buts about it.A niece or gt-niece would be from a siblings child, or the child’s child.

        1. You are correct, Sarah, that is conventional but illogical as I discuss via my February link. By Dad’s version the ambiguity whether a First Cousin, once removed is one generation junior or one generation senior gets removed by referring to the junior generation as Second Nephew/Niece and the senior generation as Second Uncle/Aunt. Just look at the chart and it is no wonder that people get confused when people actually differently related as either senior or junior to oneself are given the same relationship term. If you happen to learn that you have a Fourth Cousin, twice removed but know nothing else about that person, how could you possibly know if that person is junior or senior to you? You can’t, yet generational turnover variability within families can create senior relatives who are younger than you are or junior relatives who are older than you are (I have some). Dad’s Welsh way of naming distant relatives is not conventional in English but more logical and, I am told, is the same as with Spanish and Italian at least among other languages.

          1. I had a friendly discussion about this with your father not long ago. His system is fine, but it isn’t widely used or known. The conventional system is fine too; the generational problem you mention vanishes when people realize that “first cousin once removed”, like “aunt”, is not a reciprocal relationship. Vallera is my aunt, but I am not Vallera’s aunt. Similarly, Vallera’s grandson, Ken, is my first cousin once removed, but that doesn’t make me Ken’s first cousin once removed. I am just his father’s first cousin. Ken’s father, Howard, and I are each twice removed from our grandparents, Alfred and Eleanor. Ken is three times removed from Alfred and Eleanor. In other words, Ken is the one who is once more removed from Alfred and Eleanor than I am. I am once less removed from Alfred and Eleanor than he is.

            1. Actually, John, You had that discussion with me. That was in connection with my February postings on this discussion on which the blog admins allowed my link. Dad died in 1996, approaching his 93rd birthday.
              Unfortunately, by the chart above, cousins removed do appear to be reciprocal even though that is a logical impossibility. Put yourself in the “You” box and you get Ken, who is junior to you, as your First Cousin, Once Removed, just as you say. Now put Ken in the “You” box and the chart will show you, who is senior to Ken, as his First Cousin, Once Removed as well. According to that chart you and Ken are First Cousins, Once Removed to each other. As you point out, reciprocal relationships are truly only possible among people who share the same generation count from a common ancestor. The sibling relationship is reciprocal, as are each of First Cousin, Second Cousin, Third Cousin, etc. relationships; thus identical terminology applies to all people in these relationships. The Parent/Child relationship is nonreciprocal, as are the Grandparent/Grandchild, Uncle or Aunt/Nephew or Niece, etc. relationships and the senior people are identified with terminology entirely different from that used to identify the junior people. If the generation count from the common ancestor differs the relationship clearly cannot be reciprocal and, properly, a means needs to exist by which the junior and senior participants in the relationship can be distinguished.

            2. My aunt Margaret is, obviously, my aunt and her grand-daughter (my 1st cousins daughter) is my 1st cousin once removed. She is called Laura, and if you put yourself in her position, her first cousin once removed, going backwards, is her mother’s 1st cousin, ie me. and therefore her 1st cousin once removed, so it can work both ways. Also my mother’s 1st cousin is my 1st cousin once removed. but it also works the other way round.

              1. Here’s why it doesn’t work both ways. My first cousin Howard and I are each twice removed from our grandparents, Alfred and Eleanor. We are four times removed from each other. Ken, Howard’s son, is five times removed from me, and is once removed from Howard. The only person from whom I am once removed is my father. (I have a different set of cousins on my mother’s side.) My father has a first cousin Ruby, so I am once removed from her first cousin, that is, my father. I am Ruby’s first cousin once removed. But Ruby is five times removed from me. She is once removed from her father Sam, but Sam is not my first cousin. Sam is my great uncle. So Ruby is not once removed from my first cousin. She is once removed from my great uncle, Sam. Let’s consider Ken’s first cousin, Daniel, the son of Howard’s brother, and my first cousin, Edward. Daniel is my first cousin, once removed, but I am five times removed from Daniel. The only person from whom I am once removed is my father, who is Daniel’s great uncle. I am the first cousin, once removed, of anyone who is my father’s first cousin. Anyone who is the child of one of my first cousins is my first cousin once removed. First-cousin-once-removed is no more a reciprocal relationship than parent’s-first-cousin is a reciprocal relationship. We have two different, non-reciprocal, relationships and two different names for them.

                1. You can’t be “once-removed” from your father, not in a cousinship way. The only way that you are removed from him is because you are of the next generation. Your father’s 1st cousin Ruby is your 1st cousin once removed, just like you are her 1st cousin once removed. There is no way that she can be 5 times removed from you, as it just wouldn’t make senx
                  sense, as the link is much closer. you have said that it is Ruby’s 1st cousin which is once removed to you, and that can’t be right, as you say her 1st cousin is your father, and obviously fathers and sons cannot be cousins. It is very confusing the way you are trying to explain this, but it is in no way correct, or not where normal cousin relations are concerned.

          2. I understand where you’re coming from, John, and a friend of mine actually had this problem when she got some DNA results back that said 1st cousin once removed. Luckily she knew it couldn’t be the “junior” version as she knew all her 1st cousins children, and as expected, it was a cousin of her mother’s. Usually you can tell whether the 1st cousin once removed by the age, though as you correctly point out, not necessarily. The trouble with calling someone a 2nd niece, for example, is that people could think that she was just the 2nd born child in the family.

            1. Sarah, please fell welcome to scroll back to February and follow the posted link to by blog discussions of this. Your perspective is interesting and I would really welcome your comment there.

                1. Click the “Older Comments” button at the bottom and less recent comments will show. It will take a lot of scrolling and several more clicks on the “Older Comments” button to get back to February. Th blog admins do not normally permit external links but were kind enough to post mine back then. I doubt if they would want to do so again.

          3. That’s funny, and I beg your pardon. I recognized the family and the discussion, but I got confused about the individual. I don’t know why the powers that be won’t admit that the chart has this problem, but it seems that they won’t. It would be easy enough to fix it. They switch from “This person is the X of YOU” in most of the chart, to “YOU are the X of this person” in just those few boxes. I keep trying to think of new ways to make this so obvious that they can’t miss it.

      2. I have looked back through the older comments all the way back to January but can’t find your post. Sorry, and I have told John Davies that I am not saying any more on the subject of removed cousins, as he is obviously not on the same path as I am!

        1. My apologies, Sarah, I misremembered, thinking it was in February. It was actually way back in October that Amy, the blog Admin allowed the link, 2020, October 9th at 9:43 AM..

    2. It sounds like she might be your 1st cousin once removed, if the cousin is your aunt’s daughter.

  11. Mother is deceased I have no full siblings or brothers how do I narrow paternal cousins down?

  12. I’m really confused. What doe Ancestry mean when it says 4th Cousins mean we share a grandparent five generations back and five down. I understand the five back, but what is the five down?

    1. I think Ancestry are just confusing the matter! If it is 5 generations back to a grandparent, it has to be 5 generations back down to you. If you have a 4th cousin, this means that you share 3x gr-grandparents on one branch of your family. There are 5 generations between you and these 3xgr-grandparents.

  13. If my aunt had a child and that child had a step daughter would that step daughter be considered my cousin? If so what type?