How does the cousin tree work

Calculate Cousin Relationships • FamilySearch

Trying to figure out what to call your distant cousin? Even if you know what it means to be a second, third, or fourth cousin (and if you don't, check out this simple, visual article for an explanation), it can be hard to identify these relationships in real life. Even a question as simple as "What is a second cousin?" can be tricky. That's where the cousin calculator comes in handy—but knowing the basics is also a good place to start.

Cousins: The Basics

How do Cousins Work?

Cousins share a common grandparent. The cousin label (first cousin, second cousin, etc.) changes depending on which grandparent the cousins share.

What is a Second Cousin?

A second cousin is a someone who shares a great-grandparent with you.

What is a Second Cousin Once Removed?

A second cousin once removed is either the child of your second cousin or the parent of your third cousin. They are "once removed" because you are separated by 1 or more generations.

For a more in-depth look at cousins and what it means to be "removed," check out our Cousin Relationships Explained article. Or, if you have a more complicated cousin relationship to calculate, use the chart below.

The Cousin Calculator

Quickly figure out how you are related with this fast and easy to use Cousin Calculator!

First, select how you are related to the common ancestor. For example, if the common ancestor is your great-grandparent, select "great grandparent" from the first drop-down menu. Then select your cousin's relationship to the common ancestor. The calculator will use this information to tell you how you are related!

Calculate your relationship to another cousin based on a common ancestor.

Your relationship to ancestorParentGrandparentGreat Grandparent2nd Great Grandparent3rd Great Grandparent4th Great Grandparent5th Great Grandparent6th Great Grandparent7th Great Grandparent8th Great Grandparent9th Great Grandparent10th Great Grandparent

Your cousin's relationship to same ancestorParentGrandparentGreat Grandparent2nd Great Grandparent3rd Great Grandparent4th Great Grandparent5th Great Grandparent6th Great Grandparent7th Great Grandparent8th Great Grandparent9th Great Grandparent10th Great Grandparent

The following cousin calculator (click to enlarge) can also help you figure out what to call your more distant cousins.

To use the chart, follow these steps:

1. Identify the grandparents you and your cousin share.

  • Example: Your 5th great-grandparent is your cousin’s 7th great-grandparent.

2. On the horizontal line, find your shared grandparent.

  • Example: Your 5th great-grandparent.

3. On the vertical line, find your cousin’s shared grandparent.

  • Example: Your cousin’s 7th great-grandparent.

4. See where the lines intersect.

  • Example: You connect the lines and see that you are 6th cousins, 2x removed.

How to Calculate Cousinship Using Math

If you enjoy math, you can also calculate your cousinship using the following method, which starts by asking three questions:

1. Who is the common ancestor of my cousin and me?

2. How many generations am I separated from this ancestor? How many generations is my cousin separated from this ancestor?

  • Hint: Count the number of “G’s” in the common ancestor’s title and add 1. For example:
    • Your Grandparents (1G + 1 = 2) are 2 generations away
    • Your Great-Grandparents (2Gs + 1) are 3 generations away
    • Your Great-Great Grandparent (3Gs + 1 = 4) are 4 generations away

3. Who is more removed from the common ancestor?

  • Hint: The person more removed from the common ancestor is the person whose common ancestor is more generations away.

The next steps will be different depending on how many generations both you and your cousin are from your common ancestor.

If you are both the SAME number of generations away from your common ancestor:

Example: The common ancestor is both you and your cousin’s great-great grandparents.

1. Count how many “greats” are in your common ancestor’s title and add 1. This will give you the correct number to label your cousin as.

Example: You and your relative share great-great grandparents. There are 2 “greats” in this title. 2 “greats” + 1 = 3, so you are third cousins.

2. Because you are the same number of generations separated from each other’s common ancestor (meaning you are of the samegeneration), you and your cousin are not removed from each other.

If your cousin is FEWER generations away from your common ancestor than you are:

Example: The common ancestor is your cousin’s great-grandparent and your great-great grandparent

1. Count how many “greats” are in your cousin’s common ancestor’s title and add 1. You now have the correct number label for your cousin.

Example: The common ancestor is your cousin’s great-grandparent.1 “great” + 1 = 2, so this is your second cousin.

2. Subtract the number of generations your cousin is separated from the common ancestor from the number of generations you are separated from the common ancestor. The answer is how removed this cousin is from you.

Example: If your great-great grandparent is your cousin’s great-grandparent, then you are 4 generations removed and your cousin is 3 generations removed from your common ancestor. 4 generations – 3 generations = 1 generation removed, so this is your cousin once removed.

In this scenario, your relative is your second cousin once removed.

If your cousin is MORE generations away from the common ancestor than you are:

Example: The common ancestor is your cousin’s 3rd great-grandparent and your great-great grandparent

1. Count how many “greats” are in your common ancestor’s title and add 1. Now you have the correct label for your cousin.

Example: If the common ancestor is your great-grandparent, there is only one “great” in this title. 1 “great” + 1 = 2, so this is your second cousin.

2. Subtract the number of generations you are separated from the common ancestor from the number of generations your cousin is separated from the common ancestor. The answer is how removed this cousin is from you.

Example: If your cousin’s 3rd great-grandparent is your great-grandparent, then your cousin is 5 generations removed and you are 3 generations removed from the common ancestor. 5 generations – 3 generations = 2 generations removed, so you are my cousin twice removed.

In this scenario, your relative is your second cousin twice removed.

Discover Your Family

What with all your second, third, and fourth cousins and grandaunts and granduncles, your family tree is much larger than just your direct line. Discover more about your family by starting your own family tree at FamilySearch.

What is a second cousin?

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you can't keep your second cousins and your first cousins twice removed straight, you are not alone. But there's a simple way to figure out the relationships between relations.

Family reunions are often filled with confused people scratching their heads, ticking off fingers and mumbling, "If my mother's aunt was her father's grandmother, then what does that make us?" The more steps there are connecting two relatives, the harder it can be to decipher.

What is a cousin?

Related articles

To understand the terms of an extended family tree, it is useful to begin with the basics. The term "ancestor" refers to people who share a direct line, according to the journal PLOS Genetics. Examples of these are your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents etc. Ancestors don't include the siblings of these people. This means that while uncles and aunts (the siblings of a parent) are blood relatives, they don't count as ancestors.

Other than aunts and uncles, any other blood relative that isn't an ancestor is a cousin of some sort. The most common use for the term "cousin" is to refer to a first cousin. This is the child of your uncle or aunt. 

What is a second cousin?

First cousins share a grandparent, second cousins share a great-grandparent, third cousins share a great-great-grandparent, and so on. The degree of cousinhood ("first," "second," etc.) denotes the number of generations between two cousins’ parents and their nearest common ancestor. 

Click on the arrows in the image below to see where a second cousin is positioned on the family tree:

When does a cousin become "removed"?

The term "removed" refers to the number of generations separating the cousins themselves, according to . So your first cousin once removed is your parent's first cousin, or the child of your first cousin. Your second cousin once removed is the child of your second cousin or the parent of your third cousin. And your first cousin twice removed is the grandchild (or grandparent) of your first cousin or the cousin of your grandparent.

Distant relatives

It was discovered that Barack Obama (left) and Dick Cheney (right) are distantly related. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Clearly, it doesn't take many generations before your family tree is a bit unwieldy. Case in point: In 2007, it was revealed that vice president Dick Cheney and presidential hopeful Barack Obama are eighth cousins. Cheney's wife, Lynn Cheney, discovered this tidbit while researching her husband's genealogy for a memoir she was writing, the BBC reported

Parallel vs cross

If these distinctions aren't confusing enough, first cousins can be further parsed into parallel and cross cousins. Parallel cousins are the children of same-sex siblings, according to the journal American Anthropologist — for example, the children of your mother's sister are your parallel cousins. Cross cousins are the offspring of opposite sex siblings, such as your mother's brother's children, or your father's sister's children.

And in case you were wondering, the two relatives at the family reunion (A's mother's aunt is B's father's grandmother) are second cousins once removed.

Additional resources

Find out about the evolution of families and marriages in this book by SAGE Publications . Want to explore your own family tree? Websites such as allow you to trace your lineage.


"What is ancestry?". PLOS Genetics (2020).

"Complementarity and the Structures of Parallel-Cousin Marriage". American Anthropologist (1986).

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How to make a genealogical tree of family and clan

How to preserve the memory of the past of your family? Collecting old photographs and yellowed letters in boxes on the mezzanine is not the best option: in a couple of generations, your descendants will hardly guess who these smiling people from black and white cards are. How about translating that memory into something meaningful, like a real family tree? Its creation will be an exciting quest for the whole family, and in the process of immersing yourself in your own story, incredible discoveries can await you all.

Building a family tree is not easy, but interesting. To do this, you will have to conduct a comprehensive study, collect all the data and photographs, and then try to create a family tree with your own hands from all this.

In our article you will find not only tips for finding information about ancestors, but also various tree design options. We have also prepared for you two templates for filling in the family tree - for children and for adults.

How to make a family tree with your own hands

Where to start

Before you begin, you must determine for yourself why all this is needed. Are you in the mood for deep exploration, or is your goal just to share stories about your parents and grandparents with your children?

A well-defined goal will help you achieve the final result faster.

Think of a plan, break it down into small steps so you can easily track progress. And this will add to your motivation not to give up halfway through - believe me, you will need it.

Finding information about relatives

Once you've decided how far you want to go, the most interesting step is gathering information about relatives and distant ancestors. You will surely learn many funny and touching stories and find some distant relatives living on the other side of the world. Or maybe even reveal a family secret - who knows? To find as much information as possible and understand how to make a family tree of a family, use the following methods:

  • Questioning relatives

Start your search by interviewing your next of kin. Organize family tea gatherings with grandparents - they will be happy to share valuable memories. Arrange a video conference with those who live in other cities and countries, or just write to them on social networks.

  • Family archive analysis

Carefully study all documents, letters and diaries that have been preserved in your family. In birth, marriage and death certificates, passports, employment records and diplomas, you will find answers to key questions important for the pedigree. These records will help restore information that loved ones could not remember. Look through old photographs: maybe grandma forgot to tell about her second cousin. Already at this stage, you can choose photo cards for your family tree.

  • Internet searches

Browse various genealogy websites and related resources for historical information. For example, the website "Feat of the People" provides open access to archival documents about the exploits and awards of all soldiers of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945.

Register on several thematic forums. For example, on the All-Russian Genealogical Tree forum, it is possible to search for a specific person by last name, regions and countries.

Try to find distant relatives of your generation on Odnoklassniki or VKontakte. But do not forget that in a correct genealogical research, any information must be confirmed by archival certificates.

  • Collection of information in registry offices and archives

If you are looking for information about marriage, dates of birth or death, please contact the registry office. If a relative has something to do with the army - for example, is a veteran of the Second World War - make a request to the military registration and enlistment office at the place of residence, service or conscription. But keep in mind: in order to obtain documents of deceased relatives, you must prove your relationship with them, providing, among other things, your birth certificate.

Don't hope for a quick result when searching for genealogy in archives. The process can take months or even years. But the information you find can greatly advance your research.

  • Contact the experts

If you do not want to spend time building a family tree, contact the professionals. Archives staff, designers, and specialty companies can help you find the information you need and create a family tree. In addition, with their help you can create a family tree book, a film presentation and even a family coat of arms.

What are the types of a family tree

There are several methods for compiling a tree.

  • Descending tree

The family scheme is formed from an ancestor to descendants. This design method allows you to visually trace the history of the family from distant times to the present day.

  • Pedigree

Compiled from a person to his ancestors. Such a structure will be especially convenient for those who have not yet completed the search for information and are consistently moving from the known to the unknown.

  • Round table

It is built in a circle, in the center of which one of the children is placed. The second, outer, circle is divided in half and the data of the mother and father are recorded in it. In the third circle, cut into four parts, grandparents are indicated. Then a fourth circle is added, which is divided into eight parts, and so on. This type of tree is quite rare. But this scheme is the most compact.

How to arrange a family tree

  • Family tree on computer

Programs for creating a family tree will help you save time and get a guaranteed result. Use the MyHeritage online service or GenoPro, Family Tree Builder or Tree of Life software. Choose a template, enter your pedigree data and enjoy the result.

You can also find or draw an empty tree yourself in a graphics editor.

  • DIY family tree

Get creative with your family tree results. We have selected a few examples for you to inspire.

Family box

For each ancestor, a box is wound up or one cell is allocated, in which documents, photos, objects are placed. By opening such a box, you can touch the past and find out what kind of person your ancestor was.

Generic tree from local materials

This design option is perfect for a kindergarten or school project.

Family tree in album

Decorative stand with photo frames

How to work with the family tree template

We have prepared two templates that both children and adults will love.

Open Tree Template for Adults

Open Tree Template for Children

Templates can be used both electronically and in print.

  • Print out a blank template and include drawings or photos of yourself and your ancestors.
  • Use a photo editor and paste the scanned images into a template. Print the result.

Filling out a template in Picverse Photo Editor

In Picverse Photo Editor you can not only edit pictures and insert them into a template, but also restore old photos.

Check out our sample of filling out the template - it will be easier for you to figure out how to draw up a family tree correctly.

1) Launch Picverse Photo Editor.

2) If you want to restore photo that has lost its appearance due to old age, open the image in the program. In the tab Correction in the panel on the right, select the option Manual . Open block Smart Restoration . If you want to convert black and white photos to color, activate the switch Make color . Press button Restore . Photos will be automatically restored.

3) In order to adjust colors and sharpness , in the same tab Correction open the required block and change the necessary parameters. Save the result.

4) To add a picture to template , click File –> Open and select the downloaded template to fill. Then go to tab Insert picture and open the photo you want to insert. To resize the inserted photo, drag the corners of the dotted box. Rotate the photo using the arrow button. If you are happy with the result, press Apply .

5) Once you have inserted all the images, click File –> Save .

What is a family tree? How to write your family history?

What is a family tree and how to fill it in correctly? Download the family tree template for self-completion


  1. Family tree
  2. Horizontal family tree.
  3. Vertical descending family tree.
  4. Vertical ascending family tree.
  5. Circle diagram of the family tree.

Genealogical tree

Genealogical tree is a scheme that displays family ties, most often direct ancestors and descendants (parent-child relationship). Sometimes siblings are added.

An example of a family tree, it also lists adoptive parents

The tree with all blood relatives is extremely rarely filled out, due to the huge amount of information. It is difficult to successfully arrange information on the canvas so that everything is beautiful and readable. Each genealogist chooses for himself the most convenient way to fill in the family tree.

Existing genealogical programs allow you to build a variety of complex genealogical schemes. But much more often posters with family tree templates for self-filling are in demand. At the end of the article, you can download such a template, print it, enter your data and hang it on the wall. But first, let's look at what family trees are.

There are several types of schemes.

Horizontal family tree.

This type of family tree is often found in Europe. In this tree, the ancestors are on the left, and the branches go in a horizontal direction. If, in addition to direct ancestors and descendants, there are also other blood relatives, then the tree will be called mixed.

Horizontal family tree diagram

Vertical descending family tree.

An ancestor is at the head of the tree, branches with its descendants emanate from it. An ancestor can be located at the bottom (at the root of the tree), then its descendants diverge upwards, like branches of a tree. Or the ancestor can be at the top, in which case all lines will be directed downwards.

In this version of the tree, there will be no descendants along female lines (from daughters and granddaughters, as well as the ancestors of the wife). Since it is compiled only for the male line. When she gets married, the girl changes her surname and loses contact with her father's ancestry. Hence the saying - “ the family was interrupted ”, i.e. there were no sons who could continue the surname.

Vertical descending family tree, ancestors are at the top.

Vertical ascending family tree.

The main person in the tree is the child. Two branches go from him in different directions: his father and mother. From each of the parents, 2 more branches stretch - these are the grandparents of the child. And so on. This form of the tree unites all the direct ancestors of a particular person. (More about the family tree for children and the template for such a tree)

The location in the family tree (top or bottom) of the main person does not matter.

Vertical ascending family tree, ancestors located at the bottom.

Circle diagram of the family tree.

She is sometimes compared to a bird, where the right wing is the line of the mother, and the left wing is the line of the father. The name of the child is written in the center of the circle.

Learn more