Assembling a First Cousin List

That’s what I just did. I put together a joint first cousin list for my wife and me. Later in the post, I’ll say how many are on it.

First cousin is a pretty close relationship. They are children of siblings, grandchildren of common grandparents. First cousins share grandparents. Few people don’t know at least some of their first cousins. Although, I remember seeing an obituary of a person with the last name matching some in my wife’s family. I checked with an uncle of hers, and he said yes, that’s my cousin, but either he’d never met him or barely knew him. I didn’t detect a lot of interest.

Growing up, I always felt our family was somewhat small. Mom was an only child, so no aunts and uncles on that side. Her grandmother had half-sisters, but they never had children, so no first, first or otherwise, there. My dad was one of six children, five of whom lived to adulthood. All together they had 14 children who were first cousins. Four of these lived out of state and we rarely saw them. Almost never did those ten who stayed in Rhode Island ever get together. But, that was the tally: 14 first cousins from my two sets of grandparents.

Then I married Lynda. I came to find out she had a somewhat larger family. On her dad’s side there were four children who had seventeen children, not including three who died in infancy. They would make a total of 20. On her mom’s side, it was two children producing five, plus two who dies in infancy. It would have been more, except two of Lynda’s aunts died in a blizzard while in their teens. So, if you put those two lines together, that’s 23 first cousins. Definitely more to keep up with than me.

Thus, put us together, and it was 37 first cousins. That’s starting to be a big number, the number I had up until 1998.

What happened in 1998? I began making genealogical discoveries. That year I learned about the large family in New York/New Jersey (and some who had moved west) that had been kept hidden from us three siblings for decades. That didn’t produce any first cousins for me, but a bunch for my mom, and a bunch of second cousins for me. Through all this discovery, Lynda’s total stayed at 23 in her blended first cousin group.

Then came 2014, which I learned about my half-sister, the daughter my mother put up for adoption. That added one to the group, now a blended group from two sets of grandparents, so I was one of 15 first cousins. My half-sister had two brothers, who were also adopted, so I didn’t count them. And Lynda’s first cousin group was…still 23, our joint group becoming 38.

Then came August 2017. As I reported previously on this blog, through DNA testing, along with a few statements my grandmother made, I was able to trace who my maternal grandfather was. As I had come to suspect, he had two other families: a small one before WW1 and a larger one after WW1. My mother wasn’t an only child after all; she had five half-siblings, all of whom had children—13 children, in fact, who were my half-first cousins. At that relationship level, it’s a bit silly to keep adding the “half” to the defined relationship. We were cousins, first cousins, having a common ancestor at the grandparent level. That mean my blended first cousin group went to 28. My wife’s…stayed at 23 (how boring!). And our combined group was 51.

Genealogy research took it from 37, a manageable number, to 51, starting to be unmanageable in terms of keeping track of everyone. Of those 51, 39 are still living. The oldest and youngest are still alive. The birth years span 1937 to 1970. Three died in infancy, and none others have passed on. I’ve yet to meet twelve living first cousins.

So, why have I written all this? I really don’ know. It was on my mind today, as I completed for two of the new cousins to take DNA tests to confirm the relationship. I guess I wrote this simply because this is part of my life. This blog is to share my life, more than just my writing.

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