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Ancestry - Family Relationships Explained

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

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If somebody said, “ I'm your third cousin, twice removed," would you have any idea what they means? No me neither!

Royal Family, Queen Elizabeth II christening family photo 1926

The Basics

We all have a good understanding of basic relationship words such as "mother," "father," "aunt," "uncle," "brother," "sister", "cousin" etc.

But do we know much about "second cousin" & "first cousin, once removed"?

Cousin" usually seems good enough when you are introducing one person to another, so most of us aren't familiar with what these words mean.

The definitions below should help you out.

Cousin (a.k.a "first cousin"):

Your first cousins are the people in your family who have two of the same grandparents as you. In other words, they are the children of your aunts & uncles.

Second Cousin:

Your second cousins are the people in your family who have the same great-grandparents as you, but not the same grandparents.

Third, Fourth, & Fifth Cousins:

Your third cousins have the same great-great-grandparents, fourth cousins have the same great-great-great-grandparents, & so on.


: When the word "removed" is used to describe a relationship, it indicates that the two people are from different generations. You and your first cousins are in the same generation (two generations younger than your grandparents), so the word "removed" is not used to describe your relationship.

family illustration

The words "once removed" mean that there is a difference of one generation.

For example, your mother's first cousin is your first cousin, once removed.

This is because your mother's first cousin is one generation younger than your grandparents & you are two generations younger than your grandparents.

This one-generation difference equals "once removed."

Twice removed means that there is a two-generation difference.

You are two generations younger than a first cousin of your grandmother, so you & your grandmother's first cousin are first cousins, twice removed.

Royal family photo Prince Harry with Princess Beatrice & Princess Eugenie
Prince Harry & Princesses Beatrice & Eugenie are 1st cousins

Still confused? You’re not the only one!

Luckily I have a great chart here to make things a bit easier.

Instructions for Using a Relationship Chart

Pick two people in your family and figure out which ancestor they have in common.

For example, if you chose yourself and a cousin, you would have a grandparent in common.

  • Look at the top row of the chart below and find the first person's relationship to the common ancestor.

  • Look at the far left column of the chart and find the second person's relationship to the common ancestor.

  • Determine where the row and column containing those two relationships meet.

Family relationship chart, ancestry
Releationship Chart

There are two other charts further down the page that you may wish to use.


Here are some royal family examples;

By Archives New Zealand from New Zealand (Christmas cards) [CC BY-SA 2.0  (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Queen & Duke of Edinburgh are second cousins once removed, their common ancestor is King Christian IX of Denmark and they are also third cousins through Queen Victoria.

Christian IX was the father of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, (1844-1925) later Queen consort & wife of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (1841-1910), Alexandra was the great grandmother of Elizabeth II. Christian IX was also father of Princess Dagmar of Denmark, later Maria Feodorovna, Empress consort of Russia (1847-1928), she was the mother of Nicholas II.


Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)l is the 6th cousin once removed of Lady Diana Spencer, later Princess of Wales (1961-1997). Their common ancestor is Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706-1758).

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (1874 – 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, & again from 1951 to 1955. Best known for his wartime leadership as Prime Minister, Churchill was also a Sandhurst-educated soldier, a Nobel Prize-winning writer & historian, a prolific painter, & one of the longest-serving politicians in British history.

General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1st Prince of Mindelheim, 1st Count of Nellenburg, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, (1650 – 1722 was an English soldier & statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs.


Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) is the 6th cousin 2 times removed of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (1982-). Their common ancestor is Charles Spencer (1706-1758), an ancestor of his mother.


Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918) is the 1st cousin 2 times removed of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-). Their common ancestor is King Christian IX of Denmark (1818-1906).

Nicholas II or Nikolai II Alexandrovich Romanov (1868 – 1918), was the last Emperor of Russia.


Maud, Queen of Norway (1869-1938) is the grand aunt of Queen Elizabeth II (1926-), and Queen Elizabeth II is the grand niece of Maud. Their common ancestor is Edward VII (Maud's father, & Elizabeth's great grandfather).

Maud of Wales, (1869 – 1938) was Queen of Norway as the wife of King Haakon VII. She was the youngest daughter of King Edward VII & Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom.


Zara Tindall née Phillips, (1981-) daughter of Princess Anne (1950-) is the 1st cousin once removed of Prince George (2013-) & Princess Charlotte (2015-). Their common ancestor is Queen Elizabeth II (1926-).


Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (1984-) is the 4th great grandson of Queen Victoria (1819-1901), and Queen Victoria is the 4th great grandmother of Prince Harry.


Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002) is the grand aunt of Princess Eugenie (1990), and Princess Eugenie is the grand niece of Princess Margaret. Their common ancestor is Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen mother (1900-2002)


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Family ancestry chart

Family relationships chart .ancestry, family tree research help

Related blog; Are You Related To Royalty? (


Thank you for reading

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