Ever wondered what relation you are to the grandson of your father's great-uncle? We'll show you how to work it out for yourself and help you to understand how to determine and describe kinship terms on your family tree


Kinship is the recognition of a relationship between persons, based on either descent or marriage. Where there's a biological link, the relationship is described as consanguineal and includes your ancestors and descendants as well as siblings. Any person living today probably has a lot more blood relatives than they realise once distant cousins are taken into account. Here are some of the relationships that are based on descent:

• MOTHER/FATHER We each have two biological parents

• GRANDFATHER The father of your own mother or father

• GRANDMOTHER Mother of your own mother or father

• GREAT-GRANDMOTHER The mother of one of your grandparents


The father of one of your grandparents

• SIBLING Brother(s) and sister(s) with whom we share both biological parents

• HALF-SIBLING Brother(s) and sister(s) with whom we share one biological parent

• SON/DAUGHTER Your children who share the same biological parents

• GRANDSON The son of your son or daughter

• GRANDDAUGHTER The daughter of your son or daughter

• GREAT-GRANDSON The son of your grandson/granddaughter

• GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER The daughter of your grandson or granddaughter

• UNCLE The brother of your mother or father

• AUNT The sister of your mother or father

• GREAT-UNCLE The brother of one of your grandparents (or your great-aunt's husband)

• GREAT-AUNT The sister of one of your grandparents (or your great-uncle's wife)

• COUSIN The children of your aunts and uncles

• NEPHEW The son of your brother or sister

• NIECE The daughter of your brother or sister

• GREAT/GRAND NIECE Daughter of your niece/nephew

• GREAT/GRAND NEPHEW The son of your niece or nephew.

As you work back a further generation, the word 'great' is added to the title, so your great-great-grandparents are the parents of your (eight) great-grandparents and so on.

Relationships arising through marriage, law or custom are referred to as affinal and include members of the family with whom there is no blood link:

• FATHER-IN-LAW The father of your spouse

• MOTHER-IN-LAW The mother of your spouse

• STEP-FATHER Your mother's second (or subsequent) husband

• STEP-MOTHER Your father's second (or subsequent) wife

• BROTHER-IN-LAW The brother of your spouse

• SISTER-IN-LAW The sister of your spouse

• STEP-SON Son of your spouse's former marriage or relationship

• STEP-DAUGHTER The daughter of your spouse's former marriage or relationship.

These terms were often used interchangably in the past so when you see 'step' or 'in-law'

UNDERWOOD FAMILY: This shows the way in which the term 'step' and 'in-law' were synonymous during the 19th century. Due to the early death of a spouse, the extended family - made up of several members of a family, rather than just parents and their offspring - was common in Victorian times describing a relationship it could refer to either. The 1891 Census entry above describes Elizabeth Ann Prescott as the sister-in-law of Edward Underwood as she was the youngest sister of his wife, Jane. However, when he married Jane, Edward 'forgot' to mention that he was a widower with a grown-up son named John. Eventually John's existence became known to his stepmother and he later married Elizabeth Ann. As there were no blood links between them, the marriage was perfectly legal but Jane must have been surprised to find that she became the mother-in-law of her own sister!

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