Family Relationships

Here is an explanation of the English-language conventions for naming family relationships, and some technical facts about ancestry.

Relationship Chart

The best tool for understanding the confusing relationships of cousins is a relationship table. On WikiTree our Relationship Finder will do the work for you — the following is just for illustration.

Common Ancestor
down right parent grandparent great grandparent 2nd great grandparent 3rd great grandparent
parent sibling niece or nephew grandniece or grandnephew great grandniece or grandnephew 2nd great grandniece or grandnephew
grandparent niece or nephew 1st cousin 1st cousin 1 time removed 1st cousin 2 times removed 1st cousin 3 times removed
great grandparent grandniece or grandnephew 1st cousin 1 time removed 2nd cousin 2nd cousin 1 time removed 2nd cousin 2 times removed
2nd great grandparent great grandniece or grandnephew 1st cousin 2 times removed 2nd cousin 1 time removed 3rd cousin 3rd cousin 1 time removed
3rd great grandparent 2nd great grandniece or grandnephew 1st cousin 3 times removed 2nd cousin 2 times removed 3rd cousin 1 time removed 4th cousin

To use this chart, start by determing the first common ancestor between two people. Next you name the relationship between the common ancestor and the first person, and between the common ancestor and the second person. For example, for you and your aunt, the first ancestor that you share is a grandparent to you, and a parent to your aunt.

Follow across the horizontal (x-axis) columns to find the name of the relationship between the common ancestor and the first person. For you, this is a grandparent so it would be the second column.

Follow down the vertical (y-axis) rows to find the name of the relationship between the common ancestor and the second person. For your aunt, this is a parent so it would be the first row.

Where the column and the row intersect is the name of the relationship between the first person and the second person. You already knew your relationship with your aunt, but as you can see, the table tells you that you are her niece or nephew.

Deeper Ancestry

To make it easy to read, the table above only has five generations. WikiTree's Relationship Finder searches ten generations. To go even deeper, this Cousin Relationship Calculator will show 100 or more. The page also has some handy definitions.

Half-Relationships

The table above considers the first common ancestor, singular, not the first common pair of ancestors.

Therefore, it doesn't account for "half-" relationships. For example, if you share a common father with someone they are your sibling. If you don't share the same mother, some would call you have a half-sibling.

Relationships by Marriage

The table above only considers "blood" relationships, not relationships through marriage.

Despite having no common ancestry, the following are still family relationships:

Number of Ancestors

You have over two thousand direct ancestors in just ten generations. Here's how the numbers work.

  1. Two parents (1 mother + 1 father = 2)
  2. Four grandparents (2 grandmothers + 2 grandfathers = 4)
  3. Eight great-grandparents: (4 great-grandmothers + 4 great-grandfathers = 8)
  4. 16 great-great-grandparents
  5. 32 3rd great-grandparents
  6. 64 4th great-grandparents
  7. 128 5th great-grandparents
  8. 256 6th great-grandparents
  9. 512 7th great-grandparents
  10. 1,024 8th great-grandparents

However, you might not actually have two thousand different ancestors in these ten generations. This is due to what is called "pedigree collapse".

Autosomal DNA Connections

The following is a rough illustration of who is included in our autosomal DNA test connections. See the DNA page for more explanation.

Note that this does not exactly match our program. We follow five steps of blood relationship in any direction.

Down 5 generations Up 1, down 4 Up 2, down 3 Up 3, down 2 Up 4, down 1 Up 5 generations
Test-Taker parents of TT grandparents of TT great grandparents of TT 2nd great grandparents of TT 3rd great grandparents of TT
children of TT siblings of TT aunts and uncles of TT great aunts/uncles of TT great grandaunts/uncles of TT
grandchildren of TT nieces and nephews of TT 1st cousins of TT 1st cousins of TT 1 time removed
great grandchildren of TT grandnieces/nephews of TT 1st cousins of TT 1 time removed
2nd great grandchildren of TT great grandnieces/nephews of TT
3rd great grandchildren of TT