Relationships and Their Meanings


AFFINITY: An affinity is a relationships which exist because of marital ties. The contemporary term for these relations is "in-laws."

AUGMENTED FAMILY: An augmented family is an extension of a nuclear family, to include people bound together by law, rather than blood; e.g. half siblings, adopted children, stepparents, step-siblings, etc.

AUNT: In American society, the term aunt can refer to a woman in four different relative positions: father's sister, mother's sister, father's brother's wife, and mother's brother's wife.

BROTHER: A brother, may also include (1) the husband of one's sister (2) the brother of one's wife (3) the husband of one's sister-in-law, (3) half-brother (4) stepbrother.

COLLERATERAL FAMILY: A collateral family refers to relatives who are "off to one side" i.e. not in the direct lineal ancestry, but who share a common ancestor. In western society, these people are called aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

CONSANGUINITY: Consanguinity refers to persons who share common descent or biological heritage.

COUSIN: Cousin is a general term in American society referring to someone with whom you share a common ancestor. Can refer to a person occupying relationship on either mother or father's side; may also refer to someone related only by affinity. If this person is in a different generation, the term "removed" is used giving the number of generations apart.

EXTENDED FAMILY: An extended family is when families of more than two generations compose a household or relationship.

FULL SIBLING: A full sibling is one who has the same biological mother and father (thus the same ancestry) as oneself. A half sibling has one of the same parents (and therefore shares only one side of the lineage) as oneself.

IN-LAW: An in-law, in contemporary society, is a term used to designate someone to whom you are related by your own marriage or that of a sibling. In colonial society, this term also referred to relationships created by the marriage of a parent, currently called "step" relationships. Thus a "mother-in-law" in the 17th century, might have been a father's second wife.

NATURAL CHILD: Natural child is when the term "natural" is used the researcher should not jump to a conclusion that it denotes an illegitimate relationship. It is meant to indicate a relationship by blood rather than one by marriage or adoption. An illegitimate child may be called "my base son" or "my bastard son."

NEPHEW - NIECE: Nephew or Niece is one who is the child of a sibling (or a half-sibling, or step-sibling, or a child of a spouse's sibling, or your spouse's spouse's sibling. Since the term derives from the Latin term, "nepos" meaning grandson, it is possible an early colonial reference may have this meaning.

NOW WIFE: A now wife was often assumed that the testator of a will with this term had a former wife. While this might be true, it is more likely the testator is indicating the bequest is intended only for his present wife and not necessarily to any subsequent wife he mmight have. Donald Lines Jacobus wrote, ".... it is to be doubted whether any other legal phrase has fooled so many of our most experienced genealogists."

NUCLEAR FAMILY: A nuclear family is a family group consisting of mother, father and dependent children.

STEP-SIBLINGS: Step-siblings are one related by virtue of a parent's marriage to an individual with children by a former marriage or relationship. While no relation by blood, there can be strong ties of emotion and tradition between step-siblings.

UNCLE: Uncle in American society this term can refer to a man in four different relative positions: father's brother; mother's brother; father's sister's husband; mother's sister's husband.

KIN: Kin are your blood relatives, the co-descendants of a common ancestor. They are also called "kindred" and "kinsmen." Kinship can either be patrilineal (on the father's side) and/or matrilineal (on the mother's side).

COLLATERALS: Collaterals are kin who have common ancestors not in your direct line of descent (e.g., siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces).

KITH: Kith are persons with whom you have a close relationship, not necessarily by blood. They may be friends and acquaintances of your ethnic background, culture, or language.


BROTHER: The term "brother" could indicate any one of the following relationships by blood or marriage: 1) the husband of one's sister, 2) the brother of one's wife, 3) the husband of one's sister-in-law, 4) a half-brother, or 5) a stepbrother.

COUSINS ONCE REMOVED: Cousinships are for persons in the same generation: 1st cousins have the same grandparents; 2nd cousins have the same great grandparents; 3rd cousins have the same great great grandparents. Now for the sticky part, the "removed" part, namely the generational differences. For example: My first cousin's children are removed a generation from me, hence are my "first cousins once removed." My first cousin's grandchildren are removed two generations from me, hence are my "first cousins twice removed." Keep in mind, when the word "removed" is used to describe a relationship, it indicates that the two people are from different generations.

COUSIN: The term "cousin" was once used generally to indicate almost any degree of relationship by blood or marriage outside the immediate family. In early New England the term was sometimes used to refer to a nephew or niece.

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 and uncles.

SECOND COUSIN: Your second cousins are the people in your family who share one set of the same great-grandparents with you.

THIRD, FOURTH, AND FIFTH COUSINS: Third, Fourth, and Fifth Cousins. Your third cousins share one set of great-great-grandparents, fourth cousins share one set of great-great-great-grandparents, and so on.

GREAT AND GRAND: The sister/brother of your GREAT grand parent is your GREAT grand aunt/uncle. The sister/brother of your grand parent is your grand aunt/uncle. Technically, there is no such thing as a GREAT aunt/uncle.

IN-LAWS: The terms "father-in-law," "mother-in-law," "son-in-law," and "daughter-in-law" have always indicated a relationship by marriage rather than by blood. When you find these terms in early American records, those might have the same meanings we give today. And, those might also have very different meanings. "Father-in-law," and "mother-in-law," might refer to a stepparent, and "son-in-law" and "daughter-in-law" might refer to a stepchild. The terms "brother-in-law" and "sister-in-law" are more likely to have the same meanings we give those today.

NEPHEW: The term nephew derives from the Latin "Nepos" meaning grandson. Occasionally an early will refers to the testators grandchildren, both males and females as "nephews." However, for the most part the term was used as it is today to mean the son of a brother or sister and occasionally, the daughter of a brother or sister.

NATURAL SON: When the term "natural" son is used, the researcher should not jump to the conclusion that it denotes an illegitimate relationship. What that term always indicates is a relationship by blood as distinguished from a relationship by marriage or adoption. In seventeenth century English wills, people commonly refered to an illegitimate child as "my base son" or "my bastard son."

NOW WIFE: When this term is used in a will, one often assumes that the testator had a former wife. This might be true, and is not necessarily so unless he refers to children by a first wife and children by his "present" or "now" wife. When the term is used without reference to children, that term more usually means the testator is indicating that the bequest is intended only for his present wife, and should not go to any subsequent or past wife he might have.

SENIOR/JUNIOR: Prior to the nineteenth century, do not assume that the use of the terms SR and JR refers to a father and son. The relationship could have been that of an uncle and nephew, or of cousins. Before the use of middle names, it was not uncommon to have two or more men in a family with identical names. The older man was known as Senior and the younger as Junior. A still younger person of that name might use "III" following his name. It is important for the researcher to keep in mind that a man known in his younger years as William Smith, Jr., might have been known as William Smith, Sr., because of the death of the older man, the previous SR.

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