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Wed Apr 16, 2014, 11:19 AM

How many 4th cousins do you have?

How many 4th cousins do you have? Probably nobody in the world can answer that question.

I have met and contacted a number of 4th cousins, or their grandparents. So it makes me think of the fact that we all have a number of 4th cousins floating around and we have no idea who or where they are.

A 4th cousin is somebody who has the same great-great-great grandparents as you do. Which is the first difficulty. Most people cannot name their great-great-great grandparents, certainly not all of them. Even I, who have done thirty years of family history research can only name 17 of my 32 triple great grandparents. One of the reasons I contact 4th cousins is to try to inform them of their ancestry that my research has uncovered. When I was a kid, my grandparents could usually only name their own grandparents. From that original list of 31 ancestors, I have found another 748 ancestors in my family tree (quite often thanks to the work of others that I tie into), 559 on my dad's side, and 189 on my mom's side.

But, if you could know, how many descendants would those 16 couples have? I decided to count what I have found out. In my all-paternal line my triple great-grandparents had 13 kids, 72 grandkids, 221 great-grandkids (just try remembering all those birthdays), 376 g-g-grandkids, and 521 g-g-g-grandkids. To get 4th cousins, I then need to subtract the descendants of my own great-great grandparents (because those people would be 3rd cousins or less). There are 41 of those, leaving 480 (!!) fourth cousins from that line!

For my other lines though, I had much lower numbers, including zero from one line and one from another. In the zero line, that couple had 5 children (one of which was my ancestor) 19 grandchildren (9 of them from my ancestor) but then the 19 great-grandchildren that I knew of were from my own branch of the family. The others stayed in Switzerland and I only had Swiss records to 1870.

So last weekend I did a flurry of research to see if I could find more 4th cousins. And I did. I found 54 more people in my Hart line, 32 more in my Gasser line, 18 more in my Diehl line, and so on. Then, ironically enough, even though I wasn't looking, I found 22 more people in my paternal line.

So, my total that I know of now from 9 of 16 lines, is 717, an average of 102 per line if you figure that two of my lines are very incomplete (with 0 and 1 fourth cousin). Considering the incompleteness of my data, 150 per line is a reasonable estimate for a LOW guess. I mean, ten years ago I had 393 known descendants in my paternal line, and today I have 521. Finding another 128 in other lines would bring my average to 230. So, I think 150 is a bare minimum. Taking that number for 16 lines would mean a person has, in general, at least 2,400 fourth cousins.

Of course, relationships don't stop with 4th cousins. People have 5th cousins, 6th cousins, and so on. The further you go, the more diluted the relationship. Still, I have had some encounters. Volunteering in a youth center in 1990, one of the first kids I met was Kevin. It turned out later, that he was a 4th cousin once removed. Teaching class in that same town, one of my students was a 5th cousin. That connection I knew about and told her on the first day of class. Another person that I knew since 7th grade turns out to be an 8th cousin on my mom's side. Even more of a twist was my discovery that one of my sister's boyfriends from junior high is an 8th cousin.

Sometimes in family history you find connections that you do not want to find. I mean, it is cool to be distantly related to FDR, Humphrey Bogart, Thomas Edison, Frederick Law Olmstead, Sinclair Lewis, Norman Rockwell, Ben Affleck, Cole Porter, John Forbes Nash, Tom Seaver, Anthony Perkins, Story Musgrave, and Sam Shepard, et. al. It is not so cool, depending on your politics, to be distantly related to Sarah Palin and George W. Bush.

Still, we all have that mix of famous and infamous in our family trees, because, of course, the whole human race is interconnected and distantly related. If one could know their 8th cousins, those would descend from 512 couples. I can only name 65 of those 512 in my own ancestry. The number of descendants is astounding to me. In one family I know well, the Loomis family, I have records of 8 children, 88 grandchildren, then 407- 1,472- 4,058 - 9,169 - 16,032!! And that is not a complete count.

But not every family was that successful at producing descendants. But with 16,000 after seven generations, seems like you could figure a low average of 5,000 after nine generations. Which would give most people at least 2.5 million 8th cousins.

Say hi to the family.

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Arrow 18 replies Author Time Post
Reply How many 4th cousins do you have? (Original post)
hfojvt Apr 2014 OP
Peacetrain Apr 2014 #1
hfojvt Apr 2014 #2
Peacetrain Apr 2014 #16
SharonAnn Apr 2014 #10
Peacetrain Apr 2014 #15
Cooley Hurd Apr 2014 #3
hfojvt Apr 2014 #4
MoonchildCA Apr 2014 #5
hfojvt Apr 2014 #8
KurtNYC Apr 2014 #6
TuxedoKat Apr 2014 #7
Retrograde Apr 2014 #9
hfojvt Apr 2014 #12
Logical Apr 2014 #11
1monster Apr 2014 #13
davidpdx Apr 2014 #14
laundry_queen Apr 2014 #17
theboss Apr 2014 #18

Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 11:23 AM

1. I have over 40 aunts and uncles

when you include those married into the family.. 18 biological alone.

And cousins.. holy cats.. three of those aunts had 13 children each.. so you can just imagine the numbers..

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Response to Peacetrain (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 11:31 AM

2. true, I had some lines

that were not very fertile, My dad only has two brothers - David and Charles (just kidding) and he only has two first cousins, both from his mom's side. But his dad also had four half-sisters. So there are an unknown number of half-first cousins in that line.

If your family was like that in the past too, then you would seem to have almost 1,000 2nd cousins!

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Response to hfojvt (Reply #2)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 12:56 PM

16. I would not be a bit surprised at numbers approaching that

But our families did slow down.. my Dad was the next to the youngest of 11 and his older brothers and sisters were 15 years older than him.. as I wrote to some one else..thank GOD for birth control

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Response to Peacetrain (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 10:06 PM

10. I have 65 first cousins. Can't imagine, given the fertility on both sides of the family,

how many 4thcousines I have. Fortunately my generation has far fewer children than our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had.

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Response to SharonAnn (Reply #10)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 12:52 PM

15. Amen to that..

those aunts who had 13 each were prior to the availability of birth control.. if our family had kept reproducing at the rate they were going.. we would have taken over the world .. Luckily I was blessed with 2 brothers and a sister..and we have fewer children yet..some of us do not even have children..

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 11:37 AM

3. Just hope they aren't a murderer:

 

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Reply #3)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 12:54 PM

4. one thing I find disgusting

is that seemingly my most FAMOUS relatives are a gang of thugs. There have been movies made about the "Loomis gang" and people are seemingly all excited to be related to the Loomis gang.

And I am thinking "of all the Professors and doctors and Revolutionary War soldiers and such that this family includes and people make movies about a gang of thugs, and want to talk about their relation to a gang of thugs."

But I am also related to THIS family as well http://www.inheritingthetrade.com/

A sad truth of our society, the easiest way to become famous, and one that takes almost NO talent at all, is to get a gun and go on a shooting spree. Suddenly your name will be on the front page of papers and on the TV and maybe even in some movies.

In one of the Foundation books, Asimov suggested that the media stop using real names when reporting on these people, instead of a name just call them Moron #1 or some such. Because a desire to be famous to be SOMEbody does seem to motivate at least some of the morons who do these type of things.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 07:43 PM

5. We've done a bit of sleuthing into our ancestory.

My sister found that we are a direct descendent of General Putnam, as is Nathaniel Hawthorne, so he is a relation as well. It's pretty interesting stuff, especially since we all had thought our relatives on both sides of the family emigrated here in the late 1800s. It turns out though that my Maternal GG's roots can be traced back to Salem, Massachussets in the 1600s.

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Response to MoonchildCA (Reply #5)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 09:32 PM

8. I had the same thought

for some reason I thought that all of my great-great grandparents were born in Europe or that their parents were. Perhaps part of the media message of "immigration in the 1800s".

And it is true on my mom's side, seven of my 8 great-great grandparents on my mom's side were born in Europe. Even on dad's side, 4 of 8 were born in Europe.

But the one's that weren't sometimes go back to 1630, as a lot of American's ancestry does.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 08:44 PM

6. This Vsauce vid has a lot of fun facts in this area

I think this stuff is fascinating.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 08:57 PM

7. Haha

Thanks for reminding me about my 10th or so cousin, George W. Genealogical research is fun. One of these days I'll get back into it again. Some day I hope to find relationships with other presidents.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 09:33 PM

9. My family records don't go back that far

Fourth cousins mean having a common great-great-great grandparent, and there's not much record past great-great, if that. My ancestors lived in parts of Europe that were largely flattened by various wars and a lot of documentation - not to mention people - didn't survive. The LDS managed to copy some church records before WWII, but it's scanty. The earliest record any of my relatives have is of a woman in the early 1700s who had at least one child but no record of a spouse. Having great-grandfathers who used a variety of names in the US, and a grandmother who loved to embellish her family stories with unlikely connections to vanished nobility didn't help.


However, my sister has met someone with the same last name as our mother, and from the same general part of Poland as her grandfather, so there may be distant relatives out there.

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Response to Retrograde (Reply #9)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 10:55 PM

12. neither do mine

in 7 of 16 lines I have no idea who the parents were, and maybe never will. Although as I think of it now, one of mom's great grandparents was said to have come over with her parents and siblings except that the parents died on the voyage. There may be a record of that on some ship's manifest.

In another line the children were born in Germany in the 1830s so it should be possible to find them. Maybe 100 years from now all the copies of German church records will be indexed and computerized. Actually the LDS church is apparently already doing that with some of the villages that I have done lots of work on from my mom's side.

In all of my research I have NEVER as they say, jumped the pond (the Atlantic Ocean). I have only found my ancestors in Europe because some other, older family member knew what villages I should search.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Wed Apr 16, 2014, 10:10 PM

11. Really interesting post! Thanks! nt

 

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 12:13 PM

13. My paternal great-, great-, great-grandparents came to this country in 1852 and

had only one child. That child, however, had with his two wives 18 children, plus the two his second wife had with her first husband.

There used to be, when I was a child, (maybe still is) a huge annual gathering of the descendants of my great-great grandfather and there were literally hundreds of them-- and those would have been third cousins.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 12:22 PM

14. I've attempted to do some tracing of family history

In the process I reconnected with a 3rd cousin I knew when I was a kid, but hadn't talk to in sometime. I came across information about his Great, great, great grandfather ( or my great, great, great uncle) including a picture.

On my mom's side I was able to find out enough information about him to put him into one of the programs online and find relatives going back to the 1st and 2nd century.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 01:12 PM

17. As you said, I have no idea. I have around 100 second cousins

on my maternal grandfather's side alone (the only side I've had any contact with extended family beyond 1st cousins). Third cousins? omfg, no idea. 4th cousins - likely in the thousands.

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Response to hfojvt (Original post)

Thu Apr 17, 2014, 01:22 PM

18. I think I would have to visit a lot of jails to find my fourth cousins

 

My family tree gets a little shaky around my great grandparents.

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