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Archiver > APG > 2005-03 > 1110948409

From: Bob Velke <>
Subject: Re: FW: [APG] Re: Kissing Cousins
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 23:46:49 -0500
References: <200503152309.j2FN9O8S014568@mail.rootsweb.com>
In-Reply-To: <200503152309.j2FN9O8S014568@mail.rootsweb.com>

Ms. Mills said:

>< I surveyed a long list of
>professional genealogists and societies on this point some ten years ago
>and every one agreed that "half cousin" is a colloquial term that is based
>on a misunderstanding of the word "cousin.">
>Ahh, now there's a really scientific authority <g>.

I've always been comfortable with the definition of "cousin" that is
offered by the Oxford English Dictionary and those by Cambridge, Merriam
Webster, American Heritage and every other that I've seen. They all agree
that "cousins" are descended from a single common ancestor.

I conducted the informal survey at the urging of an amateur genealogist who
claimed that professional genealogists used the term differently than the
rest of the educated world. Until this thread, I hadn't found any
professional genealogist who agreed with her.

>But, of course, we're back to my first statement of the last posting. It
>makes a difference
>whether we are using "cousin" generically or whether we are referring to a
>specific relationship such as the one Jean inquired about -- i.e. "the
>relationship of two people whose mother's are half-sisters
>(same father -- different mother). Are they first cousins or first
>The relationship Jean inquired about is genetically referred to as
>half-first cousin.

Or at least by that particular study.

If the field of Genetics really uses a different definition of "cousin"
than the rest of the world, then one would expect that NIH, the Department
of Energy, the Human Genome Project, the Lasker Foundation, or the Genetics
or Molecular Biology Departments of the University of Michigan, Cornell, or
Loyola (among many others I checked) might have heard about it. You can
find links to their dictionaries below.

Almost any misused term can be defended on the grounds that it fits
anecdotal evidence of colloquial usage. Again, if you can provide any
scholarly source with a formal definition of the term of "cousin" that
indicates that _two_ common ancestors are required, then I will happily
concede the point. Until then, I think the overwhelming weight of the
evidence is with me.

Bob Velke
Wholly Genes Software

The Dictionary of Cell and Molecular Biology

The National Human Genome Research Institute's Glossary of Genetic Terms
(National Institute of Health)

Dictionary of Genetic Terms at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Dept of

The Genome Glossary maintained by the The Human Genome Project

The Genetics Dictionary at Cornell University

The Cell Genetics Dictionary at Loyola University

The Molecular Biology Glossary at the University of Michigan

The Genetics Dictionary at the Lasker Foundation

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