We can say, for example, “aunt-by-marriage” or “paternal grandfather”, but those precise terms aren’t common in everyday speech.
To try and resolve this particular issue, let’s take a look at an extremely conventional (and at the same time slightly odd) fictional family, headed by Anne and Gilbert; their two children, siblings Peter and Jane; and their two grandchildren, Tom and Hermione: Tom and Hermione belong to the same generation; as children of siblings, they are first cousins.So far, so good: first cousin relationships are usually fairly straightforward to work out, since most people can identify their aunts and uncles with relative ease, if you’ll excuse the pun.Then, one day, Tom has news: Tom and Hermione still belong to the same generation (and always will); but Alice is one generation further on than Hermione – in other words, Alice and Hermione are first cousins but separated, or removed, by one generation. As the chart shows, your first cousin once removed can be either: – your first cousins’ child, or – your parent’s first cousin To resolve this potential ambiguity, some genealogists would further refine the wording by saying that Hermione is Alice’s first cousin once removed ascending, or upwards, while Alice is Hermione’s first cousin once removed descending, or downwards. The four of us – my sister and I, and the two boys – spent all our school holidays together, and we all had dark hair.So when people asked if my “brothers” wanted an ice cream too, I’d have to take a deep breath and explain – in the long-suffering way that only a ten-year-old can – that they weren’t actually my “brothers” but my “second cousins once removed”.
Typically, the reaction would be one of deep befuddlement (particularly from other children: “removed from what??”) Meanwhile, anyone vaguely familiar with the workings of kinship would hazard tentatively, “But if they’re once removed…why are they the same age as you?” (If you can guess why we were all more or less the same age, check your answer at Age is just a number.) So this article is an attempt to help you fathom out your family tree, or at least the lower branches.First, though, let’s look at the pedigree of the word cousin itself.English is sometimes irritatingly vague when it comes to kinship terminology, even within fairly close family relationships.I can’t tell (without more context) if your brother-in-law is your sister’s husband or your husband’s brother.