Determining Cousins – My Formula/Process

Determining Cousins

I was recently asked by a family member how to figure out cousins, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so forth and what “removed” means.  What makes someone a first cousin once removed, and so forth.
First, there are many charts on the Internet that show how to figure out the relationships. I have pinned several of them to my “Genealogy – Cool stuff I find” board on Pinterest.
When I use a chart, I use Blaine T. Bettenger’s chart most often.  Not only does it show the cousin relationships, it also shows the average number of centimorgans of DNA you would expect from a particular relationship and a range matching to show relationships.  I like this one because it shows the DNA amounts for various relations. My link to it is via the DNA Testing page on DNA Relationship Data. (By the way, I’m very excited to be seeing Blaine Bettenger, Ph.D., J.D. speak at the Maine Genealogical Society’s 2016 Spring Workshop this April 23.)

My Formula/Process

I don’t think I’ve seen this method anyplace, but it is the method I use and it works really well for me.

First, determine the common ancestor two people
share. Second, count the number of generations to the common
ancestor for person number 1. (For example, it is 4 generations to my 2nd
great grandparent.) Third, count the number of generations to the same common ancestor for person number
2. (for example, 5 generations to the same
person.) Take the smaller number and subtract one. That gives
the cousin number. (for example, above person #1 is 4 generations to a
common ancestor, subtract 1.  Whoever I
share that common ancestor with is a 3rd cousin.
 Finally, take the larger generation number and
subtract the smaller number. That defines the “removed” number.  (In the
above example, the larger number was 5 generations, minus 4 generations, equals
1, or once removed.

So, if Marion (Sanford) Brown is my 2nd great grandmother and Marion (Sanford) Brown is your 3rd great grandmother, we are third cousins once removed. 
Try it a couple times and you will find it works really easy. It is how I do it and it works well for me.
So, cousins are defined by who you share a common ancestor with, removed is defined by the generational difference between you and a cousin. 
– Don Taylor
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Relationships key to finding the Stelmaszewski’s

Genealogy Tip

Relationships key to finding the Stelmaszewski’s 

A very good friend of mine has been doing genealogy for a while ran into something of a brick wall.  He found his family in the 1940 Census and even his great-grandparents in the 1930 Census, but he was not finding anything for them before that.  We were pretty sure that they arrived at Ellis Island on 20 Jun 1892, so they should have shown up in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses as well.
I did a quick look on Ancestry and on Family Search and wasn’t successful finding anything either. I know that if you asked several people how to spell Stelmaszewski you would receive several different spellings. Trying to figure out how the surname is spelled in a case like this can be daunting. So I took a surname unknown approach.  I used Ancestry.Com because both my friend and I have subscriptions there.
Next, I took stock of a few things we did know.  His grandmother’s name was Priscilla Helen Stelmaszewski and her parents were Frank (or Franz) and Katherine.  We knew Priscilla was born in 1907 in Minnesota.
On Ancestry.Com I went immediately to the 1920 Census records via the Card Catalog (Search | Card Catalog | 1920 United States Federal Census). 
First & Middle Names:  Priscilla Helen  

Last Name: (Left Blank)

Birth:  1907   Location: Minnesota
Then down to family members,
Father:  Frank
Then I added another 
Mother: Katherine
Bang.  Second entry:
A review of the record confirmed that was them, right age for mother, father, and daughter. Right places of birth.  And wow.  Not only them but eight siblings for Priscilla.  
Then I tried the same kind of search in the 1910 Census records.  Boo-hoo no luck.  
I tried several other combinations and didn’t hit on a combination that found them (remember, I’m not using a last name).  
I tried using Frank/Franz with a child named Victoria (usually quite readable and spell able). 
That gave me about 126 thousand responses and none on the first page that looked right.  I knew from the 1930 census that Priscilla’s older siblings were also born in Minnesota so I figured that they might have been in Minnesota in 1920 as well. Also Frank had been born in Poland about 1864 so I went with that too. 
Still too many records (I hate going down to a second or third page).  They lived in Pine County in 1930, maybe they did in 1920 also.  I added that as exact.
Again, there they were.
I used a similar technique to find them in the 1900 Census.
Because I know that Minnesota had an 1895 and a 1905 census I was able to search (leaving out the last name) and including either relationships to children or the location of Pine County to follow the family and see the spellings used for their surname.
1892 – Stelmaszewski (Ellis Island Passenger Record)
Stillmaziski (1895 Census) via Ancestry.Com
1895 – Stillmaziski (Minnesota Census)
1900 – Stetmaszewski (US Census)
1905 – Stelmazewki (Minnesota Census)
1910 – Stelinaszewski (US Census)
1920 – Stetenzki (US Census)
1930 – Stelmaszewski (US Census)
Stetenzki (1920 Census) – via
1940 – Scelmaszewski (US Census) (Living with daughter and son in law)

Although the name changed many times in the census schedules, we were able to fill in the entire census record of the family based upon relationships and locations without using last names at all.

© copyright 2014 – Don Taylor’s Genealogy