Monday, April 20, 2015

Family Tree

My first cousin's son Zak and his family came to Arcata from New York for a visit two weeks ago. They were on a journey from Seattle to San Francisco, driving the coast highways and enjoying their spring break. We took them to the marsh for a nice hike and to the Interpretive Center to take a look the exhibits and maps.

Outside the Interpretive Center is this fantastic wingspan chart. Zak's daughter Ella stood in front of it and spread her arms. Her arm span is somewhere between a Red-tailed Hawk and a Canadian Goose's wingspan. It's a beautiful graphic to really get a sense of just how big a bird's wingspan is. The Bald Eagle isn't even on the chart, it's an inch bigger than the pelican's span! I photographed Ella while her younger brother Waylon looked on. About a week later, I sent her the photo, and she responded.

Her email was delightful, full of exclamation points, enthusiasm, and capital letters. I loved it, and it started me thinking about family trees. How are Ella and I related? What is the common nomenclature for such a relationship? When I was in college I was an anthropology major, I always loved the way kinships were defined.

Ella is my first cousin twice removed. Her father Zak is my first cousin once removed. My cousin (Zak's mother) is her grandmother. Ella's great-great grandmother was my grandmother. That's how the family tree works.

Here's the difference between first cousins and second cousins. If I had children they would be second cousins to my first cousin's children. My children and my cousin's children would have the same great-grandparents. If I had grandchildren, they would be third cousins to my cousin's grandchildren Ella and Waylon.

So, here's a question, what would the relationship be between my children and Ella? Can you guess?

18 comments:

  1. Part of the family!

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    1. jskcentral-- Yes. But what if one of them asked, "How are we related?" It's a good question.

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  2. Oh God I got all confused trying to figure it out.

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  3. Miz S-- They would be second cousins once removed. Thank you for trying!

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  4. Robin...it is a good question and I've gotten lost in it before. By blood or by marriage is my usual response. My grandkids have adopted a culture where close childhood friends are called cousins and close friends of their mothers are Aunties. With different fathers the amount of half siblings and step siblings keeps growing so everyone just gets melded into one big family. I've given up trying to follow the family tree. Yes it's crazy making!

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  5. When I was little all grown ups were called Auntie or Uncle. As I got older and realised just how convoluted and complicated my family tree is, I believe my parents had the best solution.

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  6. jskcentral-- The sense of family is the most important aspect of childhood and belonging. I like the solution of naming friends and their mothers, cousins and aunties. I don't know why I'm drawn to kinship and understanding the genealogical aspects of family, but I am .

    John-- I'm beginning to think that being the grand-daughter of immigrants may have played an important role in my wanting to know the family tree. My mother's uncles were killed in the Holocaust, only one first cousin was found alive years and years later. I think that influenced my wanting to hold on to a sense of family.

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  7. Phew, I am so glad you gave the answer. I have so much trouble tracking relatives relationships. I get so lost on the "removed" part. I understand with your Holocaust history the importance of tracing roots.
    Do you know what a double cousin is? My step mother and her sister married brothers so their kids are double cousins.

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  8. I had to memorize this stuff at some point, and the details didn't stick. "Dad's cousin's daughter" works better for me -- or just "cousins." I can draw it out on a chart, kinda -- and this one cousin did for the last big family reunion! Which puts everyone in the proper place, but it gets complicated anyway. :)

    What a fun visit!

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  9. I kind of wish my first cousin's kids had been told to call me Auntie, because that works for our relationship. I took them to a hardware store a few years ago -- we were looking for a few items their uncle (my cousin) needed during the big family-oriented move-in to a new house. And the clerk incorrectly guessed that I was their grandma, which sent us all into hysterical giggles (since their real grandma [my aunt] was back at the house supervising something).

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  10. Arkansas Patti-- I had been reading about cousins on Wikipedia and just learned about the "double cousin." So interesting.

    kathy a-- I would love to know how other cultures and families from an earlier time defined their relationships. I can see how wanting to be called auntie would work better than being called grandma. LOL! I love when the grandkids call me Robin.

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  12. Robin Andrea,
    I worked with the resettlement of a number of Montagnard folk who came to NC in the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s to escape persecution. Their culture is matriarchal, with the kids taking the mother's last name. I learned that in their Vietnam Central Highlands home, the daughters would marry and bring their husbands into their mother's house, adding on a room much like the long houses of some of our Native American tribes. They considered anyone who had the same grandmother as brothers and sisters (this would include our definition of first cousins). All of this seemed to be a way of guarding against marrying folk who were too closely related as these were small communities that were often confined to isolated areas. The thousands of Montagnards who have resettled here in North Carolina have an extremely vital and close-knit community still.

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  13. Aubrey-- I love reading this perspective of the Montagnard. It is so interesting to know how other cultures perceive familial relationships. We humans have found wildly different ways of understanding our genealogy and our kinship. A creativity born of necessity and love. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

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  14. Love the photo of your cousins, Ella and Waylon, and all the genealogy talk. My 1st cousin, once removed, from my mother's side, is up here from Southern California this week. Because of my father's mother's interest in genealogy in the 1940s and 1950s, I have an extensive tree for that side with the names of an astonishing number of 3rd and 4th cousins.

    Through having DNA tests done by Ancestry.com and 23andme, I am now aware of 4th cousins from my mother's side of the family and even more distant cousins from both sides of my family. Trying to figure out which ancestors we have in common is a fascinating puzzle which may never be solved. The family resemblances are intriguing. Even discovered that a woman that I worked with for 18 years is a distant cousin. We are documented DNA matches!

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  15. am-- I love that you did the DNA tests. Roger and I have thought about doing that as well. I'd love to know where other members of my family are. I think there must be some still in Europe and in Israel. You have definitely inspired us. Thank you. I would love to hear more about your family and the DNA tests. What made you decide to do it? Why did you do two tests?

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  16. It was after several friends had their DNA tested, with unexpected and interesting results that I decided to have mine tested. I assumed that the majority of my DNA would show ancestors from Scandinavia, England, and Germany. Except for Germany, I was right. Despite centuries of ancestors documented as living in Germany, those ancestors appear to have come to Germany from Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. There was another unexpected 13% of my DNA that connected me to ancestors in Ireland.

    I first tested with Ancestry.com and then tested with 23andme a few years later so that I could find out my maternal haplogroup (H6a1) and my Neanderthal ancestry (2.7%). 23andme showed a tiny percentage of my DNA to be East Asian and/or Native American, including some Yakut DNA. The DNA results were slightly different from the Ancestry.com results.

    I find both sets of results to be useful in researching my family tree. You might find this information helpful:

    http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2014/04/06/2014-most-bang-for-dna-bucks/

    I love research and solving puzzles. Genealogy is a vast puzzle!

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  17. am-- Thank you so much for this info. One of the reasons I want to check my DNA is to check my Neanderthal ancestry. I would love to have a sense of that.

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