Talk:Cousin

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Second Cousin / First Cousin Once Removed interchangably used?[edit]

I removed the following statement: "Alternatively, the terms second cousin and first cousin once removed are often incorrectly used interchangeably.", and its reference: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/second%20cousin. Clicking through the link to Dictionary.com's definition does not in any way show this incorrect usage. All three definitions of "second cousin" provided show that the term is correctly defined as a parent's first-cousin's child. If someone can find a source that does show these terms "incorrectly used interchangeably", please feel free to reinstate this passage with the new correct reference. MrItty (talk) 11:21, 31 May 2011 (UTC)

A "second cousin" is your *parent's* first cousin's child. A "first cousin once removed" is *your own* first cousin's child. The progeny of your first cousin never cease to be your first cousins, they just become farther removed. And for the record, people in my area of the United States don't know the term "first removed", and do, in fact, use "second cousin" incorrectly. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.177.28.26 (talk) 00:09, 19 June 2011 (UTC)

So nephew can mean uncle?[edit]

In File:Canon law relationship chart.svg, if I put myself at row 2 on the left, and put an uncle at row 1 on the right, it says that he is my nephew! Is this a mistake, or some special (legal?) usage that I’ve never heard of? Neither of the linked articles mention this possibility. Vadmium (talk) 13:44, 8 June 2011 (UTC).

I suppose it's a mistake: the chart only shows his relationship to you. To be completely rigorous it would have to say Uncle/Aunt/Nephew/Niece. Adzz (talk) 18:11, 9 June 2011 (UTC)

Then I think the left hand side should have “father”, “g. father”, “uncle”, “g. uncle”, etc, along maybe the left side, but sons and nephews still on the other side. Vadmium (talk) 03:37, 10 June 2011 (UTC).


This is a flaw in the chart. My Nephew and I share a common ancestor; my father. That's up only one generation, so we're 0th cousins. He's one generation below me, so Nephew = 0th cousin once removed!! Also, I am my own negative first cousin! 208.104.52.232 (talk) 12:16, 16 July 2011 (UTC)J271

I'm not sure what chart you're referring to but there's no flaw in the Canon Law chart. If you put yourself in Row 1 on the left, and your nephew in row 2 on the right, then it clearly shows that he is your nephew. Shoeless Ho (talk) 20:11, 23 December 2011 (UTC)

Half-cousin's child would be a....[edit]

According to the page currently, "children of half-first cousins are half-second cousins to each other and so on because they would share only one common great-grandparent out of eight instead of two, and so on."

Whereas in all other instances children of first cousins are first cousins once removed. So that should make my half-first cousin's child my half-first cousin once removed.

Or is there a flaw in my logic? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.177.28.26 (talk) 00:02, 19 June 2011 (UTC)


I don't think its a flaw in your logic but a misunderstanding/ambiguity in the wording. children of YOUR first cousins are first cousins once removed but "children of first cousins" (meaning two people whose parents are first cousins of each other) are second cousins. 208.104.52.232 (talk) 12:09, 16 July 2011 (UTC)J271

Siblings' grandchildren[edit]

Above it's said that "second cousin" means that the cousins share a great-grandmother, instead of a grandmother, as "first cousins" do.

Does this mean that the grandchildren of siblings are second cousins? It doesn't seem to be so from the chart.

Sorry to further muddy the turbid waters here. Sca (talk) 10:41, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, you are correct. grnadchildren of siblings are same generation (so no "removed") and their common ancestor is a great grandparent, so second cousins....208.104.52.232 (talk) 12:13, 16 July 2011 (UTC)J271

Cousins??[edit]

my cousin - Helen the girls cousin - Stan If Helen marrys Stan does this make me and the girl cousins?

Kevin — Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.76.241.17 (talk) 23:20, 12 December 2011 (UTC)

No. It would make you and Stan cousins-in-law. It would also make Helen and the other girl cousins-in-law. Jim Michael (talk) 17:11, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

Article cleanup[edit]

In the next month or so, I'm going to try to get around to doing a major article cleanup. I'm going to try to add some citations and references to address the tag at the top of the article. I might also take a crack at making it easier to understand because based on the talk page, some people are apparently confused. Personally it makes sense to me but perhaps that's just my inner genealogy nerd shining through. Shoeless Ho (talk) 17:01, 3 January 2012 (UTC)

-- Would you be sure to point out that children of first cousins are second cousins, but children of *your* first cousin are your 1st cousin once removed downward? (That confuses a lot of Americans...) Thanks and Good luck! AndreQ (talk) 17:16, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

Major Article Overhaul/Cleanup/Simplification[edit]

I took a crack at a major edit today to address some of the major problems with the article. Based on the talk page topics it was confusing to a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons. Here are some of the things I tried to fix:

  • The article was all over the place: Previously, the article featured some definitions, then charts, then more definitions, then charts, then math, etc. I tried to either combine like sections or at least place them near each other.
  • Sidetracked with non-cousin relationship terms: Some sections devoted a lot of space describing the differences between non-cousin relationships, such as Aunt/Great Aunt/Great Great Aunt, etc. In order to "Keep It Simple Stupid" I either deleted or re-worked these sections in order to stay on topic, and hopefully avoid confusion.
  • Complex/Simple/Complex: I attempted to order the article beginning with simple/basic concepts and working towards more complex concepts towards the end. So it starts with basic definitions (beginning with first cousin, then second, then explaining "removed") and working down towards more complex charts, and ending with the math section.
  • Too many charts: I eliminated one of the three charts because I felt it was too many. Of the three, I eliminated one of the two that went into non-cousin relationships, and kept the other two. I also placed the two sections together and put the simplest one first.
  • Basic Terms: I put the basic cousin terms together at the top of the page with definitions and examples. Oddly, the article didn't have a basic heading for "first cousins", although it had sections about more esoteric terms.
  • Additional Terms: I also put other less common types of cousins (double, half, step, etc), together in a table below the basic terms.

I worked under the assumption that the average Joe is probably stopping by to figure out how a distant cousin is related to him, and probably won't read any further, so I moved that stuff to the top of the page. He will read as far as he needs to then navigate away, while genealogy nerds like us will keep reading. I also tried to eliminate duplicate information, and too many long winded explanations and examples.

I think the result is more readable and understandable to the average wiki user. Thoughts? Shoeless Ho (talk) 03:10, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

The cleanup is good and well-thought out. The only feedback I have is the Basic terms section deserves a graphic, as it is both 1) the most fundamental information on the page; and also 2) possessing definitions that get quite abstract for the "average Joe" (using your terms) for exactly the use case you cite. The only chart that addresses this was removed. I translated it since I found it useful, so if it is inaccurate or could use some minor modifications I will be happy to oblige. Note that a comment present when your edit was done, which may have influenced the decision to remove it, was close to nonsense (the claimed inaccuracy of the representation of "degree of genetic sharing" was both inapt (the article is not about genetic sharing directly, simply inter- and intra-generational ancestry, which is significantly, if subtly, different) and incorrect (one does not share 1/4 of one's DNA with one's uncle as one's father does not have the same DNA as one's uncle; their DNA is a mix of the same DNA, but that mixture is different (likely, significantly so unless they are identical twins)). So I think the diagram is both apt and useful. I have added it back.

Echion2 (talk) 02:57, 6 June 2012 (UTC)

What is my relationship to the grandson of my grandmother's sister?67.230.135.212 (talk) 11:32, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

Shoeless Ho-- Great aunt/ Great uncle redirect to this article, so they should at least be in the charts when possible. tahc chat 10:12, 22 June 2012 (UTC)
Tahc-- Wow, I hadn't noticed that. I just did another series of edits. One major part was all of the redirects. In following with the precedent of how great-grandparents are redirected to Grandparent, I redirected all the assorted great/grand uncles to the Uncle article, the various great/grand aunts to the Aunt article. I also redirected the various nieces and nephews to the Nephew and niece article and assorted versions of "familial relationships" to the Family article. There were something like 117 redirects to this page, but I got it down to 88. This should (hopefully) cut down on some of the understandable confusion seen here on the talk page questions. Shoeless Ho (talk) 16:48, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

Should this page include asymmetric definitions?[edit]

"For example, if A has a grandparent whose sibling is B's parent, then B is A's "second cousin, once removed (upwards)", whereas A is B's "first cousin once removed (downwards)".[3] This is an error (typo?), repeating an error from the source cited. When A and B are first cousins once removed, it means that the parent of one of them is the first cousin of the other. The one with the parent is the 1C1R downwards...the one who is the first cousin of that parent is the 1C1R upwards. Second cousins do not enter into it, period. Yes, the child of the "upwards" is the second cousin of the "downwards," but again, the first cousin once removed relation comes about because someone ("the parent") has an offspring and a first cousin, and it is these two that are related as first cousins once removed...the offspring downwards, the first cousin upwards. 24.58.140.121 (talk) 03:42, 19 August 2012 (UTC)stolf or stolf24.58.140.121 (talk) 03:42, 19 August 2012 (UTC) or however you do it...

Argument based on reliability of sources[edit]

You are completely correct, according to the dictionary. However, the subsection you are quoting -- Cousin#Asymmetric definitions -- discusses an alternate, non-standard use of these terms. I have edited that section to make this more clear.
But should this section be removed entirely? I'm not comfortable with Wikipedia saying "Here is another definition of 'cousin'" when that alternate definition does not appear in major dictionaries (e.g., Merriam-Webster [1]), and is sourced solely from a website [2]. Is this "Askdefine.com" website a reliable source for definitions that don't appear in the dictionary? So I would be glad to remove that section, but I'd like to see what others think first. — Lawrence King (talk) 17:31, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm the most recent author of this section. There are two pieces of information here. The first describes the asymmetric usage. It's not the most common usage, but at the same time, it exists (N.B. the "Who" comment on the "some people" is a little odd - it's an accurate statement, and I provided a reference, so it's harsh to describe it as weasel words). The second is the "upwards" or "downwards" usage. I'd never seen this until I edited this section, but there's a reference there, so it seemed worth keeping. Note that the sentence introducing it begins with "sometimes", there's no claim that this is a common usage. N.B. I find the dictionary argument a bit odd. Wikipedia does, and should, contain more information than appears in dictionaries, if not, it would be just, well, a dictionary. Joelphillips (talk) 10:15, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
A google search for "cousin removed upwards" reveals a few other usages (I think that all these predate the edits I made to the page, haven't checked for any earlier work). My point here is not that these are great references, just that they exist, and that means that some people do in fact use this terminology. In my experience, the asymmetric usage without the "upwards" or "downwards" is more common, but, obviously, it's harder to search for. http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ericlippert/archive/2010/01/04/first-cousins-once-removed.aspx, (comment by Peter Hornby), http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_your_mother's_first_cousin_to_you, http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-645930.html, http://www.sheffieldforum.co.uk/archive/index.php/t-325181.html Joelphillips (talkcontribs) 10:36, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure that the use of "upwards" and "downwards" is the crucial part here. It seems possible that some people who use the standard definitions also include "upward" and "downward" to indicate which of the people is the higher generation. (This usage would seem illogical to me, but my point is merely that the contentious part of this alternative definition is not the use of the terms upwards and downwards. It's the idea that if Cheryl is Joe's third cousin [with whatever removals and modifiers you want], that Joe might be Cheryl's second cousin [with various modifiers]. That's the usage that is being questioned here.
Regarding your references: Your first link uses the traditional terminology exclusively, except for one commenter who says he has "always understood" it differently. If he were saying "Yes, your version is the most common, but mine is common too" that would be more persuasive, but he seems to be unaware of the traditional terminology, which raises a question in my mind about whether he's just confused. Your second link advocates the alternative terminology, while stating that the traditional terminology is the only one that is "technically correct". Your third link is a comment thread in which people discuss the traditional terminology, and someone says that although it's right he doesn't like it, and then someone else supplies a link to the very section we are discussing now. But the Cousin page cannot cite the Cousin page as a valid source, so this isn't helpful. Your fourth link is another discussion in which someone named shlg has a non-traditional understanding (which does not appear to match the non-traditional one we are discussing here!) but the other commenters quickly set him right. He then replies, "I stand corrected. And I've been spouting lies for over 20 years because I believed my mum's explanation!"
These links provide excellent support for the claim that many people find the correct usage confusing. They don't provide any support for the claim that there is a specific alternative definition that is either widely circulated, or is circulated within specific circles or locations, or is being promoted by a reputable movement.
So at this point, it seems to me that this section is equivalent to including a subsection on the page Whale that describes an alternative taxonomy in which a whale is a fish, not a mammal. You could find a lot of support for that claim in casual conversation, but it's still not something Wikipedia should list as an alternative. — Lawrence King (talk) 13:10, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
The question of whether a whale is a fish is a taxonomical (ontological) question - people have an understanding of what fish are and what whales are: Are whales fish? (N.B. The Whale page does in fact mention a couple of usages of the word "fish" to describe whales in a mythological / biblical context. A similar example is whether a Tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, a controversy that Wikipedia seems to take in its stride.) The question of what "removed" means in a cousin definition is more of a semantic question: What do people mean when they use the expression "second cousin once removed"? My personal interest is that in my (very extended and cousin-ful) family, they mean the asymmetric definition. The references indicate that we're not alone in this, but I agree that they aren't that great. In their defense:
* It's hard to search for usage of the asymmetric meaning. That's why I searched for "upwards", because there's a textual difference. For the non-upwards/downwards case, google isn't going to distinguish, unless they also use "asymmetric", (which they don't, unless they're quoting the wikipedia article).
* In any case, finding a corpus of actual usage of any cousin terminology is hard. If you search for "cousin removed", you just find a lot of definitions.
* The definitions that one does find are all the conventional one, but they are all worded very similarly and look like they originate back at a small number of (possibly a single) source(s). In particular, there has been a lot of reuse of images that also featured on early versions of the Wikipedia page.
People are confused by cousin terminology. I expect that if you asked most people whether they were confident in their interpretation of what "cousin x times removed" means, they would go and check on the web, (probably on wikipedia) to check. There's clearly a fair accusation to be made that the evidence for this section is weak, but at the same time, Wikipedia ought to avoid becoming unwittingly involved in the establishment of a consensus. I think that the current caveats about not being common or standard terminology strike a good balance between these two problems. Joelphillips (talk) 10:56, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
Then here is my proposal. Until we have more definite information, the section on asymmetric definitions should stay. However, most of this article uses the standard terminology, and it would be a major mess if every time the term "second cousin" is used in the article we had to put in parentheses "in the traditional sense". To avoid confusion, therefore, the following changes should be made: (1) There are currently two sections that describe alternative usages: Asymmetric definitions and Colloquial usage. These two sections should be moved to the end of the article, just before the See Also section. (2) These two sections should become subsections of a new section entitled Alternative definitions (or if you prefer, Alternative usages). (3) The first two sentences of the Asymmetric definitions should be rephrased. They should state right off the bat that an alternative definition of "Nth" cousins is about to be discussed. After that, the fact that this alternative terminology is asymmetric will be explained.
The reason for # 3 is this: As it currently stands, this section makes the bold claim that "some people prefer to use an asymmetric terminology". Your sources and your own experience has convinced me that there are some (dozens? millions?) people who use these alternative terms. But the current article actually asserts that these people prefer this terminology, and seems to imply that they prefer it because of its asymmetric properties. Such a bold claim requires serious support, and we don't have it. (Analogy: It is an established fact that people in Chicago call soda "pop" -- but it would be absurd to conclude that people in Chicago "prefer" to call it pop, much less that they prefer this term because it's a palindrome.) Even if we discover ten million people who use this alternative terminology, I find it extremely unlikely that they are using it because they prefer its asymmetric properties! — Lawrence King (talk) 23:21, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm happy with all of that. A good resolution.Joelphillips (talk) 06:52, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Argument based on the terminology's intrinsic merits[edit]

Yes, I understand...I was confused because I wouldn't have expected a simple mistake to be elevated to the level of "alternate definition." I would indeed remove this section for at least 3 reasons...

(1) There are many other mistakes you have not covered...for example, some people think a first cousin twice removed is a second cousin, and a first cousin 3 times removed is a third cousin...others say no, you have to add both numbers, so that a first cousin twice removed is a third cousin...and a second cousin 3 times removed would be the same thing as a fifth cousin. After all, the difference between wisdom and stupidity is that wisdom has its limits.

(2) Using your specific example, would the father of your first cousin be called "your first cousin once removed?" As well as, or instead of, your "uncle"? The trouble with simple mistakes is that they can't apply to the system as a whole, because the person making the mistake isn't aware of how the system works in the first place...otherwise, the mistake wouldn't have been made, yes?

(3) Truly asymmetric kinship relations don't exist because they result in intractable contradictions. For example, suppose A is B's first cousin, but by this same relationship, B is A's second cousin. In a state where you can marry your second cousin, but not your first cousin, A could be married to B, while B wouldn't be married to A. What would you call this, a "half-marriage"? 24.58.140.121 (talk) 00:58, 20 August 2012 (UTC)stolf

I'm not sure we are disagreeing. Like you, I believe that these "alternate definitions" are not very useful, and are confusing. You are 100% correct that American law uses the traditional definitions, and therefore if everyone were to move to these alternate definitions, the law about whom you can marry would have to be rewritten.
However, New York City was recently considering a law to ban sodas larger than 20 ounces (or something like that). But it doesn't follow from this that Wikipedia should never use the term "pop" instead of "soda". The fact that U.S. law uses the traditional cousin terminology or the word "soda" does not mean that other terminology shouldn't be discussed on Wikipedia.
Note that the entire Cousin article uses the traditional terms -- the only question is whether these alternative terms should be mentioned in a special subsection clearly labeled "alternative terminology".
If someone could show, for example, that these alternate definitions of cousin are commonly used in New Hampshire or India or South Africa or Dayton, Ohio, then they should be included in the article "cousin", even though you and I find them very unpleasant and are unfamiliar with them. On the other hand, if these alternate definitions were invented by some person on the internet and no English-speaking region actually uses them, then they should not be in this article, even if someone could prove they are better than the usual terms (which they are not).
In other words, there's no point in discussing whether these alternate terms are good. What we need to know is whether anyone actually uses them. If no one speaks up within a few days, I will remove them -- but for now, let's see if any other editors know something about these alternate terms. — Lawrence King (talk) 12:55, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
I think that Lawrence is taking a sensible approach here. I've attempted to give a few more references above, but I acknowledge that they aren't great. Obviously, it's hard to search for usage (without the more obscure upward and downwards).
It's not pertinent, but, as I guess might be evident, this is how I and my family have always described cousin relationships and I quite like them (I'm English, FWIW, although I don't know whether this is standard English usage). The OP 's arguments are flawed:
(1) The incorrect belief that "first cousin twice removed is a second cousin" results in an inconsistent system, so can be fairly considered a mistake, whereas asymmetric cousin definitions don't.
(2) This complaint can equally well apply to the non asymmetric definition. Why is my brother not my zeroth cousin? Well, because he's just not, that's why - there's not really a problem here.
(3) "Truly asymmetric kinship relations don't exist because they result in intractable contradictions". How would you describe father-daughter, or niece-nephew? Joelphillips (talk) 11:09, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
The origin of "cousin" may be of some interest.[3] Cousin is kind of loosely defined in English. Your points are good. I would only add that calling one's sibling a "zeroth cousin" has some logic to it, but it's not a term that's used very much, if at all. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:18, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
The point of these terms is to get some indication of how closely related two people are (or aren't). If we have grandparents in common, we're first cousins. If we have great-grandparents in common, we're second cousins. And so on. If my grandparents are your great-great-grandparents, then we are first cousins twice removed (i.e. two generations removed). If my great-grandparents are your great-great-great-grandparents, then we are second cousins twice removed. And so on. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 13:23, 28 August 2012 (UTC)

Partial treatment[edit]

The discussed improvements to the paragraph have been made, and citations have been found. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 04:43, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

"By extension, the term "cousins" can also be used to refer to different tribes or nations with common ancestors or origins, or even to the genetic relationships between a species (such as the human species) and other form of life, under the theory of evolution of all life on Earth descending from one common ancestor. However, the term in this sense is most commonly restricted to the fields of study surrounding ecological genetics."

True, yes, but this is only a partial treatment as far as how the topic can touch other species. Not only can species as groups be called "cousins" in a looser sense, but individuals of different species are actually cousins, albeit extremely distant cousins, in the more traditional definition the Article mainly treats.

A formal test conducted in 2010 demonstrated, with probability astronomically in favor, that all life is derived not even from a species but from a single cell that lived sometime between 3.8 and 3.5 billion BC. That cell was never alone and was itself the descendent of one of a few abiogenesis products; it was just the only one whose descendents survived beyond the Paleoarchean Era.

This means you could take even the most distantly removed of organisms, for instance a human and a bacterial cell, and theoretically at an advanced enough degree with enough times removed any given individual human and any given individual bacterial cell would in fact be distant cousins. You, the reader, and a random bacterial cell in your home septic tank would be multi-millionth cousins billions of times removed, but nevertheless the distant cousin relationship exists.

In conclusion, I propose a Section entitled "Extremely distant cousins" which would explain how calling all living things one's cousins is not necessarily an entirely separate sense of the word, at astronomically advanced degrees of relation. Such a Section would of course contain a link to LUCA Article. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 05:33, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

I don't think that would be a good addition to the page. The page is about the KINSHIP TERM cousin. The additional information is just going to confuse people. Shoeless Ho (talk) 16:52, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. If I refer to a certain catfish as my "cousin" in English, my audience will understand that (1) this is literally true, (2) this is not the way the word "cousin" is normally used, and (3) this is probably intended for humorous effect. # 1 and # 2 are already explained in this article, while # 3 doesn't belong in it. — Lawrence King (talk) 19:09, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
Except it operates on the ordinal numbers already defined in the Article, if you say for example "40 billionth cousin, 16 million times removed." It's the same concept of degrees of relation, just with extremely large numbers. Basically, a brief Section at the end linking to the LUCA Article is what I mean. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 07:47, 14 September 2012 (UTC)
1) I still think it's a horrible idea and would serve no purpose in the article about the KINSHIP TERM cousin. The article is already known for getting out of hand and being overly confusing, and the suggested addition would only exacerbate that problem. 2) IMHO the suggested information would be better fitted on a page related to biology or evolution. Shoeless Ho (talk) 16:50, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

As it stands, this page does claim that the word "cousin" is used for the relationship between different species. El Willstro's suggests that it is also used for the relationship between individual members of such species. His suggestion may be off topic, but it's no more off topic than what is already stated, and it is unsourced, but no more so than what is already stated. So I have added his claim to the text we are disputing. But per Shoeless Ho's point that this page is about the kinship term cousin, I have moved this entire paragraph to the Alternative Definitions section.

We need to keep the following in mind. (1) This page should never include information about how we, personally, would like the word "cousin" to be used. Therefore, I hope that El Willstro can supply citations showing that this word actually has been used by reputable sources in the way he mentions; lacking such citations, I or another editor will remove this at some point. (2) Shoeless Ho is correct, strictly speaking, that this page deals with the kinship term "cousin" -- as can be seen from Cousin (disambiguation). But El Willstro's proposal does in fact deal with the kinship term. If an evolutionary biologist asserts that an American rabbit and an octopus are "cousins" (or even "twelve millionth cousins"), he or she is using the term cousin to mean kinship. There is certainly no other page listed under Cousin (disambiguation) that could possibly be the home for that biologist's use of the word cousin. So my big problem with El Willstro's definition is that we do not, yet, have any sources supporting the claim that the word "cousin" is actually used this way. (A single reputable biology textbook that uses the word this way would suffice as a valid source; fifty blogs that use the word this way do not.) — Lawrence King (talk) 18:15, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

Nice Edit and good compromise. I still think it would be a better fit for its own page, something like "cousin: biological term" but as Lawrence pointed out, there doesn't seem to be another "cousin" page like that, and unless there IS a lot of evidence about the usage in that way, any such page would be a stub. So the edit, placement, and phrasing by Lawrence seems to be the best way of addressing it. Shoeless Ho (talk) 16:54, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I see the concern, Shoeless Ho and Lawrence King, about sourcing. These answers are not mutually exclusive.
A. Until some other source is found, a link to the LUCA Article may be treated as a temporary source.
B. It is a common knowledge consequence of the evolutionary LUCA Heritage, that you (the human reader) and a random bacterial cell are in fact 50 billionth cousins 80 million times removed, or some large numbers like that with respect to the kinship term. (The exact numbers are not feasibly known.) Nevertheless, a source may be found for the claim that all organisms are ultimately related.
Whatever the linguistic choices of the scientific articles, sources can certainly be found for the Italics in Point B above. This may appear at first glance to fail WP:Synthesis, but it actually passes that standard for the following reasons (continued from bullets above):
C. It is perfectly clear to us as biologists that the universal relationship in the LUCA Heritage is a literal, genetic relationship, not just a "relationship" in some adoptive or allegorical sense of the word.
D. The basic definition of a cousin in terms of a genetic relationship (1st Cousins sharing at least 1 grandparent, 2nd cousins at least 1 great grandparent, etc.; X times removed by generations, etc.) are already provided in the Article. The astronomically large cousin degrees and numbers of times removed required to apply this to the LUCA Heritage are, I would argue, obvious from the gradual nature of evolution and the differences existing between organisms today. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 23:12, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
You make some good points. With regard to B and C, I am not convinced, however. When a certain bacterium X reproduces, it fissions into two bacteria Y and Z. (See Prokaryote#Reproduction.) I am not an expert, but my impression is that biologists do not generally refer to X as the "father" or "mother" or "parent" of Y or Z, nor to Y and Z as the "sons" / "daughters" / "children" of X. They may occasionally use this language, but the difference between cell division and sexual reproduction is so great that I am not convinced that a biologist would agree with you that X is the literal father of Z. The second problem is that I am not sure that biologist agree on exactly how sexual reproduction developed, and unless they do, I am not convinced that even if a certain bacterium billions of years ago is my ancestor that there is an unambiguous way to count exactly how many generations there are between me and it.
But let's stipulate that you are correct in all your assertions. In that case, you have demonstrated that the relationship between me and a specific E coli bacterium in a lab in Detroit is an example of the "cousin" relationship. This undermines your conclusion completely! The relationship between Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt is an example of a cousin relationship, but it's not mentioned in this article. The only reason that a discussion of inter-species cousinhood would belong here would be if it is not exactly the same thing as human cousinhood; in that case, the article needs to mention it to be complete. If it's the exact same thing, then it's merely an example, and therefore optional. — Lawrence King (talk) 16:57, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
//You make some good points. With regard to B and C, I am not convinced, however. When a certain bacterium X reproduces, it fissions into two bacteria Y and Z. (See Prokaryote#Reproduction.) I am not an expert//
You just admitted you're not an expert. You are talking to an actual biologist (Bachelor's of Science, Lycoming, Class of 2012).
//But my impression is that biologists do not generally refer to X as the "father" or "mother" or "parent" of Y or Z, nor to Y and Z as the "sons" / "daughters" / "children" of X. They may occasionally use this language, but the difference between cell division and sexual reproduction is so great that I am not convinced that a biologist would agree with you that X is the literal father of Z.//
Wrong. They are referred to as parent and offspring cells (or in some circles parent and "daughter" cells), and the word "parent" is in fact still used in a literal sense. A single sexless parent is still a parent!
//They may occasionally use this language, but the difference between cell division and sexual reproduction is so great that I am not convinced that a biologist would agree with you that X is the literal father of Z.//
Once again, I'm a biologist myself and I did pay attention in class. The word used would be simply "parent" rather than "father," but it is literal, not allegorical. The offspring cells are clones barring any new mutations, and for future reference biological parenthood denotes genetic origin, by whatever medium of reproduction.
//The second problem is that I am not sure that biologist agree on exactly how sexual reproduction developed, and unless they do, I am not convinced that even if a certain bacterium billions of years ago is my ancestor that there is an unambiguous way to count exactly how many generations there are between me and it.//
I said you couldn't feasibly know the exact number of generations, if nothing else because it is an enormous number (we know that much) and the time scale is so great.
The development of sexual reproduction (which is defined in terms of diploid-to-haploid division, and male and female are defined in equal and one-dominant-cell division of the individual's gametes cytoplasm, respectively) is complex, but as I said parenthood is defined in terms of genetic origin at each generation, whatever the mode of reproduction at the time.
//But let's stipulate that you are correct in all your assertions. In that case, you have demonstrated that the relationship between me and a specific E coli bacterium in a lab in Detroit is an example of the "cousin" relationship. This undermines your conclusion completely! The relationship between Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt is an example of a cousin relationship, but it's not mentioned in this article. The only reason that a discussion of inter-species cousinhood would belong here would be if it is not exactly the same thing as human cousinhood; in that case, the article needs to mention it to be complete. If it's the exact same thing, then it's merely an example, and therefore optional.//
It's such a counter-intuitive example, that it deserves mention simply because readers won't assume it on their own. Based on the LUCA Heritage, it is a notable fact about extended families that the entire biosphere is your ultimate extended family. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 17:38, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Excellent. Then as a professional biologist, you will have no trouble finding reliable sources that you can add to the section Cousin#Usage for extremely distant relations. — Lawrence King (talk) 17:57, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Sources for the LUCA Heritage (and therefore its logical consequences) would not be hard to find at all. I can start by checking the RefList at the LUCA Article itself. :-) The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 03:01, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Actually, here's not only such a source but a landmark paper: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v465/n7295/full/nature09014.html#/access.
Throughout the opening decade of the 3rd Millenium, all the buzz was about hyper-horizonal-gene-transfer models against the monophyly of all life, and this paper's formal test showed those models to be astronomically less likely than a monophyletic biosphere with some horizontal gene transfer later on, and that shifted the paradigm. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 03:17, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
There we go! I totally overhauled that whole Subsection just now, and now at least it has citations. The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 03:38, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
Excellent. Thanks! — Lawrence King (talk) 15:53, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Could we start off with something simpler[edit]

Let's not forget the visitor who wants a good definition in fifteen seconds. You are trying to explain/CYA everything at the beginning! It is fine to get into details like "once removed," divorce and intermarrying entanglements later. What about starting off with something like this:

In kinship terminology, cousins are persons who share one (and only one) set of ancestors. First cousins share a set of grandparents. Second cousins share a set of great-grandparents. Third cousins share a set of great-great-grandparents.

At your family reunion, the grandchildren are first cousins because they share your grandparents. Next year, when you go to your spouse's family reunion, your children will meet their other cousins, children who share the grandparents on your spouse's side. Any great grandchildren at the reunion will be second cousins. That is because they share this one set of great-grandparents.

Dlong2 (talk) 01:46, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

Article Cleanup/simplification[edit]

It's been a while since I looked at this page and it seems to have become overcomplicated again. Since it seems like the number one complaint is that the article is too complicated I did some revisions.

  • Redirected Great/grand aunt/uncle pages: As it was pointed out a while back, these pages redirected here for some reason. I redirected them to aunt/uncle. I did this in keeping with the way in which great-grandparent is redirected to grandparent. I even went so far as to update those pages to include a line about great/grand versions of their respective terms.
  • Changes to the Cousin Chart: I removed the "parent" and assorted "uncle-aunt/neice-nephew" columns from the cousin chart. It's a cousin chart, so in the interest of clarity, the additional information doesn't really belong there and is in fact contradictory to the opening paragraph.
  • I removed two photos/charts: I know some people are in love with the idea of a particular chart being included and/or stuffing every possible chart onto this page, but I think the article has plenty of charts and graphs and the additional charts didn't add any new information. I removed "European kinship system en.svg" and "Table of Consanguinity showing degrees of relationship.png."
However... I'm not married to the changes but if the consensus is to insert them both back in, I suggest putting them together in a subcategory labeled something like "other charts" rather than inserting them in random unrelated locations throughout the article. In fact TRIED to do this, to see what it would look like but I couldn't figure out how to arrange them so that they would stay in their own category without bleeding/wrapping into other sections.
Also, I left the one labeled "File:Canon law relationship chart.svg" where it was because it is referenced in its own section.
Thoughts?

Shoeless Ho (talk) 02:56, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

Recent revision by user Hex[edit]

I would just like to say that I LOVE the recent work Hex did to the page. The "Basic Definitions" section is MUCH easier to understand now. His graphical representation of the various cousin relationships are a huge improvement. I was even the one who created the previous chart, but what Hex did blows that out of the water. I think that each example is easy to understand and makes the various types of cousin relationships obvious to the casual reader.

I just wanted to throw that out there because too often editing is a thankless job.

Shoeless Ho (talk) 06:59, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

I agree. I'm working on using the new style to add charts to some of the "Additional Terms" section. And i'm removing some of the header tags. I've been doing genealogy for over 5 years. I may not be a professional, but i'm as expert as this article needs. - UtherSRG (talk) 03:34, 4 March 2013 (UTC)
I've added the missing final 3 charts to the "Additional Terms" section, and then surrounded each chart with a "div" to enable reduction to 75-85% for the widest ones, so as to get wider columns for the definition-texts and example-texts (the cols were very narrow). Also renamed some of the boxes within individual charts so as to keep as close as possible to the earlier "Adam+Agatha, Betty+Ben, Charles+Corinda, Dave" core structure of family-tree example charts on the page. The charts are easier/quicker to understand when the same "core" names fill half of each tree - one can identify and understand the differences in each type even better now. (Although they were already very good charts to start with - nicely thought out). I also wrote better definitions and examples for the last two types (ie. Cousin-in-law and Paternal/Maternal cousin) as they weren't as well expressed as the other types. I wouldn't say the article has "multiple issues" anymore, but it does still some more cites - and the Intro needs rewriting (it's the only weak, woolly part of the article). Pete Hobbs (talk) 05:26, 8 April 2013 (UTC)

Asymmetric, not symmetric for cousins removed[edit]

The question of symmetry and asymmetry is an interesting one. Here is how I would analyze the way the cousin page addresses it.

Every kinship relationship exists between 2 people. There are various ways to ascribe symmetry...the way you wish to do it is to consider whether the terms describing these 2 people are the same (symmetric) or different (asymmetric).

Thus father/son, aunt/niece, sister/brother, husband/wife…these are asymmetric…cousin/cousin, sibling/sibling, spouse/spouse these are symmetric…and notice that in 2 cases, the same relationship has both symmetric (sibling/sibling, spouse/spouse) and asymmetric (brother/sister, husband/wife) versions, depending on whether gender is considered.

But ignoring gender, the difference we see between symmetric and asymmetric terms is one of generations…symmetric lie within a single generation, asymmetric connect 2 generations. That such words exist at all is an indication that this generational information is important to speakers of English. Imagine for example, the words "uncle" and "nephew" did not exist, and we had just one word "nuncle." I would be your nuncle if you were my nuncle. But if I said "my nuncle," you would not know whether it was an older generation (my uncle) or younger generation (my nephew). That both "uncle" and "nephew" exist shows we do think it worth while to know which is which. And indeed, some languages will extend this type of distinction to a single generation, having different terms for "older brother" and "younger brother."

It is now easy to see the problem with "cousin once removed"…it connects 2 generations, but is symmetric, and does not distinguish between the 2 generations…it is in fact the only cross-generational relationship we have that uses symmetric terms, according to the way you describe it. Thus we have the same ambiguity we had with "nuncle."

Now I grant you that "1st cousin once removed ascending/descending" are cumbersome constructions, but they fulfill the mandate that cross-generational terms be asymmetric. It's a pity we do not have the corresponding terms that Spanish does…tio segundo (second uncle) and sobrino segundo (second nephew). But we have what we have… and these are the precise and correct terms we use. Leaving ascending/descending off is not another system, but a simplification that robs us of useful information. When we hear it, we do not know where on the speaker's family tree to place the person referenced. With all other kinship terms, symmetric or asymmetric, we do know where.

So really, your page has it backwards. The asymmetric is the standard, the symmetric is the casual and nonstandard way to describe the relationship between 2 people, one of whose parent is the cousin of the other. And since cousin/cousin is symmetric, the relationship i just described is NOT really a cousin relationship at all…it more resembles, as the Spanish terms indicate, the uncle/nephew relationship…that is, the relationship between 2 people, one of whose parent is the sibling of the other…thus it is properly asymmetric, not symmetric. 74.79.231.68 (talk) 02:28, 1 September 2013 (UTC)

Usage for extremely distant relations[edit]

Invoking theoretical single-celled organisms from the pre-Paleoarchean Era seems a bit extreme, since we're discussing human relationships, not the origins of all life as we know it -- and I'm sure no one here considers his dog to be a seventh cousin.

There have been a number of mathematical models done of population dispersion. One recent model, by Yale researcher Joseph Chang, was reported in Nature Magazine in 2004. Yang's model demonstrates that the most recent common ancestor of all humans alive today lived probably no more than three thousand years ago (this differs from mitochondrial Eve in that that model traces ancestry only through maternal lines; Yang's research predicates both lines).

http://www.stat.yale.edu/~jtc5/papers/CommonAncestors/NatureAncestorsPressRelease.html http://www.stat.yale.edu/~jtc5/papers/CommonAncestors/AAP_99_CommonAncestors_paper.pdf

I think a rewrite and reference to Yang's (or similar) research in lieu of invocations of Paleoarchean amoebae would be more appropriate here. CNJECulver (talk) 04:29, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

While the term usually applies to human relationships, it can ultimately apply to far more distant evolutionary relationships (and, that's why that Subsection is part of the "Alternative usage" Section in case that little detail escaped your notice). As Yang's research concerns fairly distant relations but not nearly as distant, it could easily be an additional Subsection of "Alternative usage," but an additional item rather than a replacement.
Also, your comment has several glaring errors concerning LUCA: 1. It lived during the Paleoarchean, not beforehand in the Eoarchean (so the term "pre-Paleoarchean" is inappropriate). 2. It was a prokaryotic cell, not an amoeba. Amoebae are eukaryotic cells albeit amorphic ones. 3. The evidence that LUCA existed is much more overwhelming than your use of "theoretical" would suggest. 4. Your dog certainly wouldn't be your "seventh" cousin, more like your seven hundred millionth cousin, tracing to ancestral placental mammals. Your seventh cousin would surely be human, as 8 generations are far too few for a speciation to occur.
What evolution implies, like it or not, is that not only all other humans but, tracing even farther back, all living things, are actually blood relatives, albeit distant ones. They are, whether or not the thought comes to mind often (or even is pleasant to ponder, which for some it might not be). The Mysterious El Willstro (talk) 04:18, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
I've never liked this inclusion on this page. The page is about the kinship term. Sure, the word cousin can be used in many different ways but WP:NAD would seem to preclude this and other unrelated uses of the term. That said, it's a single paragraph at the bottom of the page, so it's not likely to confuse people who are coming to the page to learn about the kinship term. Shoeless Ho (talk) 21:47, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

What a strange article[edit]

It contains several sections discussing the minutae of the definitions of different types of cousins, complete with numerous mathematical diagrams depicting this. But there is almost no discussion whatsoever on the actual subject of cousins, for example the nature of the relationship, differences between cousin roles in different cultures, legality of cousin relationships etc. Thanks  — Amakuru (talk) 14:43, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

Pure nonsense[edit]

And I quote: "if A's great-grandparent is B's grandparent, then B is A's "second cousin, once removed (upwards)", whereas A is B's "first cousin once removed (downwards)".[4]"

It's nonsensical rubbish such as this that gives Wikipedia a bad name. I have read the alternate asymmetrical system suggested by reference [4]…askdefine…which at the top says it is a "user submitted definition." This user, whoever it is, is simply wrong. Every genealogical relationship is between 2 people, and that relationship is the same relationship for both of them. For example…yes, the older generation is called an uncle, the younger is called a nephew, but both are part of an uncle/nephew relationship, which is to say, the father of one of them is the brother of the other. For the uncle, the father of one of them is the brother of the other…for the nephew, the father of one of them is the brother of the other…completely symmetrical.

In the quoted example, A and B are symmetrically related…the father of one of them is the 1st cousin of the other. Thus "second cousin," once removed or otherwise, doesn't come into it at all. If it did, then your uncle would also be your 1st cousin once removed (upwards), since your uncle is one generation removed form your 1st cousin. Please show me where 1st cousin once removed is considered any sort of alternate definition of an uncle…you can't because it isn't.

And assuming such "asymmetrical" cousin relationships as in the quoted example were possible, suppose Betty is my 2nd cousin but I am her 1st cousin. The laws in our state say one can marry one's 2nd cousin but not one's 1st cousin. So I can marry her but she cannot marry me. Ever heard of such a thing? Crazy, crazy, crazy….http://relatedhowagain.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/169-half-baked-and-loving-it/ 108.183.243.41 (talk) 02:02, 30 May 2014 (UTC)

I'm confused. What's your complaint exactly? Is it that you don't like/agree with the 'asymetric definitions" section? Do you disagree with the information or the grammar or what? I agree that it's kind of an oddball outlier definition and I've never heard of that system before, but then it IS at the bottom of the page and it does say at the start that it is a non-standard usage. If you feel strongly about it, edit/reword/correct it. Shoeless Ho (talk) 22:48, 31 May 2014 (UTC)

my point is that a mistake is not a non-standard system...to say so is laughable to anyone with the slightest familiarity with English genealogical conventions...i mean, if that's the agenda, why mention this wacky error?...why not address the much more rampant mistake of calling a 1st cousin once removed a 2nd cousin?...heck, you'll even find that in dictionaries!...i have no problem with a section titled Common Mistakes and Uncommon Ones...would be very beneficial to those who want to learn...as to editing it myself, i tried that on a different topic several years ago and it got put back the way it was so fast it made my head spin...thus i simply talk on the talk page, and hope a Wiki gatekeeper or keymaster will take it to heart...BTW, since when are websites verifiable sources?...the one i supplied spells out the ramifications of this specific "asymetric" error in gruesome detail, with pretty pictures even... 108.183.243.41 (talk) 01:45, 1 June 2014 (UTC)