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Here’s a Puzzle for You

Posted in Research Questions

Two of my students posed a question to me because they know I’m a genealogist. They wanted to figure out how they are related. To retain their privacy, I am changing their names and identifying names of some of their relatives. Here is what I know:

  • Harold had twin children named Joyce and Michael.
  • Michael had a daughter Susan, who was my student Bill’s mother.
  • Joyce had a son named Jon, who married my student Sally’s paternal aunt, Lisa.

As far as I can figure, that means that Bill and Sally share cousins, but are only related by marriage. Bill’s second cousins, the children of Jon and Lisa, are Sally’s first cousins, as they are the children of her aunt.

Is there are way to express the relationship between Bill and Sally? I don’t have big prize money to offer, but if you like a challenge and feel like tackling this one, have at it. I can use your help in figuring this one out.

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  1. If Jon and Sally have a child–say his name is Fred–he will be a cousin to both Bill (second cousin to Bill on Fred’s paternal side) and Lisa (first cousin to Lisa on Fred’s maternal side), but Bill and Lisa are not cousins to each other.

    There is a term for this: shirt-tail cousins. In other words, person A is a cousin of person C’s cousin (who can be labeled “person B”).

    Hope this makes sense!

    March 25, 2007
  2. Jon and Sally can’t have a child because he’s married to Lisa. Lisa and Jon are Sally’s aunt and uncle (by marriage). But thanks for the term. I’ll tell them about it tomorrow.

    March 25, 2007
  3. Dana,

    In this day and age, Jon and Sally can easily have a child…I imagine you meant that “they wouldn’t have a child” for morality reasons, like being married to someone else.

    To answer your question – Sally would be a first cousin to the children of Jon and Lisa, and Jon and Lisa’s children would be second cousins to Bill. However, sally and Bill are not related genetically (unless they have common ancestors back before Harold.

    Shirttail cousins is not a legal term, of course, but it is descriptive!

    GThanks for the challenge — Randy

    March 26, 2007
  4. Switch the names “Lisa” and “Sally” around in my first comment, and then my comment should make sense (I hope!). 😉

    March 26, 2007

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