Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

How Am I Related Expands on the FamilySearch Family Tree

The ability to view relationships on the Family Tree has just been dramatically expanded. Thanks to my online friend, David McLean for alerting me to this expanded feature.

Now, according to this notice, you can trace your relationship back as far as 15 generations. Please take seriously the notice that the relationships are only as accurate as the data in the Family Tree. Going back 15 generations in any family line involves a lot of assumptions and very little factual content.

This link to "View My Ancestors" appears on every person's detail page on the Family Tree.

David McLean also sent me some notes about how we describe the relationships that the new features will reveal. For someone like me, working through relationships has almost been second nature. I was always being required to figure out how I was related to someone or another. Let's take this relationship chart for an example. How am I related to Charles Howard Randall?

So here is how I am related:

As David explained in his email to me, if you count back from the related person, until you reach the common ancestor the number of grandparents equals the number of the cousin.  So here, Charles Howard Randall's father is Henry John Randall. His first grandparent is Matilda Tanner and the second one is shared and is John Tanner. That makes us 2nd cousins, but there are now two extra generations to count. We refer to these extra generations as "removed." So, in genealogical jargon, I am a 2nd cousin, two generations removed to Charles Howard Randall.

You can extend this as far out as you wish to go. Here is another example:

How am I related to Aurelius W. Brandt? This is a trick question.  I am not related. He is the spouse of my 1st cousin, four generations removed on my side. OK, so this isn't as easy as some of us would like to think. It does help to have a chart and when you are working on descendency research, you can use the link to remind yourself how you are related to the person you are working on.

David McLean gave me a good way to refer to these relationships and with his permission, I will quote him.
When I teach it, I say “to be related we must share a common ancestor . . .” Once this is established I go on to say; “ if we share a parent, we are siblings; if we share a 1st generation grandfather, we are first cousins; if we share a 2nd generation grandfather, we are second cousins; if we share an X generation grandfather, we are Xth cousins." People usually catch on to this very quickly.

I then say, “Just start with the shortest ancestry and count up parent, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and then count the extra hops."

Don’t say “times-removed” (what is a “times” anyway); it is a “generation” removed.

By the way, an uncle/aunt is nothing more than a sibling X generations removed.
I think it is the term "removed" that causes some of the confusion. We are so many generations removed when we aren't in the same generation. My father's brother's children are my first cousins. But those same people are my children's first cousins and there is a "removed" generation that is missing on the cousins' side so my first cousins are my children's "first cousins, on generation removed." Be sure to count yourself in the "removes."

Thanks to FamilySearch for finally clearing all this up.


  1. Is this using the Relative Finder app or another app? If another, do you have a link?

    Thanks -- Randy

    1. I'm sorry, I should have been more clear. This is the "View My Relationship" link on every detail page now going back 15 generations on every individual in the Family Tree.

    2. I guess I made too many assumptions. Sorry.

  2. I have a question about your statement that you are not related to Aurelius W. Brandt. I agree you are not blood related, but wouldn't he be your 1st cousin-in-law, four generations removed? I believe I am related to the spouses of my cousins, and to my wife's cousin's and their spouses. They are all my cousin-in-laws. However, I am not related to my cousins' spouses' parents or siblings, or the siblings and parents of the spouses my wife's cousins.

    I think this is an important distinction as we are allowed to submit temple work for those we are related to, and I think cousin-in-laws are included. However we aren't supposed to submit those we aren't related to. I think FamilySearch has it right showing that you are related to Aurelius W. Brandt. However, if you looked at his parents and spouses, it would say you aren't related (unless you happen to be related through a different common ancestor).

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Who we considered to be "related" is culturally defined. The FamilySearch rules about who is and who is not related need to take into account cultural distinctions around the world. There will always be some areas that are somewhat vague. For example, by our genealogy investigations, my wife and I are distantly related. But I do not consider her siblings' spouses' siblings to be my "relatives." There is a point at which considerations of relationships get too remote to be considered.

  3. It's interesting to wonder what being able to check relationships so easily will do not only to the linage societies you mention in your other post, but just in every day life, at least for people who have a genealogist somewhere who has put a lot of information in Family Tree. For example, from the chart you posted above, I was able to go to your father's Family Tree record and in two seconds determine that you and I are 8th cousins, with common ancestor Samuel Hickok b. 1643, assuming, of course, that the connection persists after the tree is verified that far back.

    1. Thanks cousin, but at this point, I do not put much confidence in the older chains of ancestors, especially those with no source citations.