Quick: what do you call your relative who is your Grandfather’s cousin’s daughter?

She is your second cousin once removed!

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But that’s also what you call the daughter of your second cousin (your grandparent’s sibling’s grandchild). How can that be?

It’s hard to keep these relationship titles straight once you get much further than your immediate family, right?

That’s okay, though, you’ll have this all sorted out quickly enough.

Let’s get started with the easy stuff. Look at your family tree, starting with you:

In your immediate family, you have your parents, brothers, and sisters.

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From there, your parents’ parents are your grandparents. Your parents’ siblings are your aunts and uncles. Your aunts’ and uncles’ children are your cousins, first cousins to be exact.

What about your parents’ cousins and their families, what are their relationships to you?

One of your parents’ cousins is called your first cousin once removed. “Removed” is another way of identifying how many generations away from you this family member is.

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Your parents’ aunts and uncles are called your great aunts and great uncles; which is easy enough.

Let’s zoom out a little further to identify the relationship of your grandparents’ extended family and who they are to you.

So a cousin of one of your grandparents would be identified as your first cousin twice removed. To help remember this, think of it as a ladder: your grandparents’ cousins are first cousins, and you have to climb two rungs of the generational ladder to get to your grandparents’ generation—twice removed.

Likewise, your great grandparents’ cousins are one-two-three generations removed, so, they’re your first cousins, thrice removed.

Have you got the “removed” part down now?

What about second and third cousins?

Your second cousins are the children of your parents’ cousins. Another way to say that is that your second cousins are the children of your first cousins once removed.

A third cousin would be the grandchild of your first cousin twice removed. You could also say that your third cousin is the grandchild of one of your grandparents’ cousins.

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The parents of your third cousins are called your second cousins once removed.

These relationships travel down through your family tree, too.

Using the same principles, your cousins’ children are your first cousins once removed—they’re just removed down a generation, not up.

A grandchild of your second cousin would be a second cousin twice removed.

A graphic to help sort this all out.

Hopefully, this graphic will help you understand these basic familial principles.

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Alice J. Ramsay

Your first cousins are children of your aunts and uncles.

Your other first cousins are the cousins of your parents or grandparents or the children or grandchildren of your first cousins; only they need a “removed” label.

The ” __ removed” label is as many generations away from you as this relative is to your direct family line. So your parents’ first cousins are once removed, your great grandparents’ cousins are three times removed, your cousins’ grandchildren are twice removed. Get it?

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Now the next time you attend a family reunion, you can impress your relatives by articulating your relationship to each family member—congratulations!