In conducting genealogical research, we often come into contact with “distant cousins.” We all know on a functional level how these people are related to us; we have a common grandparent, somewhere in the past. But as we continue on our research, sooner or later, we will bump into, for example, ‘a 3rd cousin, once removed.’ What does that mean?
A cousin is a relative with whom a person shares one or more common ancestors. In the general sense, cousins are two or more generations away from any common ancestor, thus distinguishing a cousin from an ancestor, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew. However, in common parlance, "cousin" normally specifically means "first cousin".
Systems of "degrees" and "removals" are used in the English-speaking world to describe the exact relationship between two cousins (in the broad sense) and the ancestor they have in common. Various governmental entities have established systems for legal use that can more precisely specify kinships with common ancestors existing any number of generations in the past, though common usage often eliminates the degrees and removals and refers to people with common ancestry as simply “distant cousins” or "relatives".
The information above the charts was taken, and adapted, from a larger article entry: Cousin, found online at Wikipedia.com. While some Wikipedia entries are highly controversial (if the topic is controversial — abortion, gun rights, etc. — the entry may be controversial) many entries however are non-controversial, and therefore those entries can oftentimes be good summaries of complex content.
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