• Timothy J. Barron

Grand Aunt or Great Aunt? The Choice is Yours!


Family tree researchers, especially those who are beginners, will regularly consult and share family tree relationship charts. Obviously, everyone understands the basic relationship types of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncle, and first cousins, and that is not what these charts are intended for. These charts help visually explain the relationship types that extend beyond the familiar, such as first cousins once removed, second cousins, second cousin once removed, etc.


What some family tree researchers do not recognize is that there are pervasive inconsistencies in these charts with one particular path of the terminology. This pertains to the relationships subsequent to an aunt or uncle, such as the terms for the siblings of grandparents, the siblings of great grandparents, etc. These problematic relationships are shown in the following illustration with the red questions marks.

Some readers may already be saying to themselves "that is a grand aunt or uncle," while some other readers may be saying to themselves "that is a great aunt or uncle." That demonstrates the problem, as there is no universal agreement on this particular terminology. This article does not seek to explain the background, regional differences, or history of these variations. The purpose of this article is simply to help demonstrate and educate the reader that these variations do exist, and help the reader to recognize, interpret, and translate them.


Some may initially think that there are only two variations in the terminology, but there are actually three variations. The following is a summary of each of the three variations, and some examples of the sources, websites, and software that have adopted each of the particular variations.



VARIATION 1: Grand Aunt or Uncle > Great Grand Aunt or Uncle


The first variation refers to the siblings of grandparents as grand aunts and grand uncles, and the siblings of great grandparents as great grand aunts and great grand uncles. This variation is illustrated in the chart below.


Ancestry is an example of a resource and website that utilizes this variation in terminology. This variation can be seen in the chart below from their Family Relationship Terms article on their support website. This variation is used by Ancestry for any relationships in family trees and DNA matching.



FamilySearch is another example of a resource or website that utilizes this variation in terminology. This variation can be seen in their Cousin Chart which is show below. This variation is used by FamilySearch for any relationships in family trees.



VARIATION 2: Great Aunt or Uncle > Second Great Aunt or Uncle


The second variation will refer to the siblings of grandparents as great aunts and great uncles, and the siblings of great grandparents as second great aunts and second great uncles. This variation is illustrated in the chart below.


DNA Painter is an example of a resource or website that utilizes this variation in terminology. This variation can be seen in the chart below from their Shared cM Project Tool.


FindMyPast is another example of a resource or website that utilizes this variation in terminology. This variation can be seen in the chart below from their article What is a First Cousin Once Removed? Your Kinship Terminology Questions Answered. This variation is used by FindMyPast for any relationship calculations used in their family trees.


These are some other examples resources, websites, or software that also use this variation.



VARIATION 3: Great Aunt or Uncle > Great Grand Aunt or Uncle


The third variation will refer to the siblings of grandparents as great aunts and great uncles, and the siblings of great grandparents as great grand aunts and great grand uncles. This variation is illustrated in the chart below.


MyHeritage is an example of a resource or website that utilizes this variation in terminology. This variation can be seen in the chart below from their article How Do I Interpret the Possible Relationships Indicated on a DNA Match?


The professional genealogist firm Legacy Tree Genealogists is another example of a resource or website that utilizes this variation in terminology. This variation can be seen below in their DNA & Relationship Chart.



Inconsistent Usage


Once you are aware of these variations, you might occasionally notice inconsistent usage by some of the sources or websites. Below are two examples which I have previously encountered.


Ancestry is an adopter of what I refer to as Variation #1 of the terminology. The chart below is from their article What is a Second, Third, or Fourth Cousin - or a Cousin Once Removed? and shows what I refer to as Variation #2.


Another example is FamilySearch, which is an adopter of what I refer to as Variation #1 of the terminology. The chart below is from their wiki article Cousin and shows what I refer to as Variation #2.



Conclusion


After this simplistic visual summary, you should now be fully aware that there are at least three variations of terminology associated with the relationships subsequent to an aunt and uncle. As there is no universal agreement on the terminology, it would be fruitless to debate which is better or which is right. The best thing to do is maintain a situational awareness that the variations in terminology do exist, then recognize which variation is being utilized by a source or website, and learn how to interpret and translate them into your own preferred terminology.


The image at the top of the article was intended to bring some light humor to the variations. Whether you want to refer to Violet Crawley as your grand aunt or great aunt, the choice is yours! Regardless, she's still the Dowager Countess of Grantham, and said that "life is a series of problems which we must try and solve, first one and then the next and then the next, until at last we die.” Have you encountered any other variations? Are there variations from a major source or website which I should revised to highlight? Have you encountered an inconsistency from a major source or website which I should revise to highlight? Please leave any comments below, send me an e-mail, etc.



#genealogy #genealogytips



© Copyright - Timothy J. Barron - This page was updated July 17, 2022