One of the things that people often ask me about is the different types of cousins. We generally know who our cousins are, but want about 2nd and half cousins and the ‘once remove’ tag?

Descendants of Your Ancestors

A First Cousin

Simply known as your cousins, they are the children of your aunts and uncles (true aunts and uncles not the family friend kind). They will all share the same grandparents with you.

how 1st cousins are related


Your Second or Third Cousins.

These are of the same generation but are two or more generations away from your shared great grandparent.

2nd cousin relationship chart


Second cousins will share the same great grandparents.  The parents of these cousins are also your cousins but a generation removed. i.e. they are not from your generation. The number before ‘removed’ is how many generations they are away from you,




The further back you go the more distant the cousinship.  Third cousins will only share your 2 x great grandparents, and your fourth cousin will only share your 3 x great grandparents.

Cousinships chart


On a side note, the siblings of your grandparents will be your granduncle or aunt (commonly called great uncle/aunt). Whatever the description is before the grandparents the same applies to their siblings. Therefore your 3 x great grandparent’s brother will be your 3 x  great granduncle.

Descendants of your Cousins.

Once you know who your first, second and third cousins are, it is easier to determine your relationship to their children.  Children of your first cousins are your first cousins once removed. Grandchildren of your first cousins will be your first cousins twice removed.


Is There a Half Cousin?.

There is some disagreement within the genealogy world as to whether half cousins is a real relationship.

Half cousins do exist in the legal sense. As far as probate, at least, is concerned, if someone dies without leaving a valid or effective will (intestate), full blood cousins are entitled to the estate before half cousins.  In this case  ‘Half’ means they only share one grandparent with the deceased, not both. [1],[2]


Half cousin relationship chart



Cousinships can seem very complex but once you understand as the basics it can be easy to work the relationships out. It is however usually easier if you have a family history chart in front of you to do it.

Be aware though that your ancestors may not have understood this. You may find that distant cousins and even grand aunts and uncles are all simply called ‘cousin’. If you do come across anyone called a cousin in your family papers and they appear to be too old/young etc., they are likely to be a more distant relative, rather than a first cousin.


[1] A ‘Paralegal in Probate’ working as a Case Manager for a global probate research company.

[2] Citizens Advice service. Who can inherit if there is no will – the rules of intestacy. Other Close relatives.


Learn more about Wills and Probate here: Wills and Probate in England and Wales