relationship
Family & Friends,  Question for Today

What Do I Call You?

Even when it seems everything is going wrong, there’s something to celebrate. My oldest niece had her first baby a week ago today. It’s my sister’s first greatly anticipated grandchild. And the first May birthday, on my side of the family.

What a crazy time to have a baby. My sister and brother-in-law can’t even go visit, unless they want to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Or maybe the baby had to be quarantined for 14 days? I can’t remember which it is. Either way, they can’t see or hold their grandchild until later.

So what is she to me? Is she my grand niece? My great niece?

Well, this whole labeling of family members is quite confusing. I found out that she is my grand niece, which makes perfect sense. She’s my sister’s grandchild and my mother’s great grandchild. It only makes sense that she’d be my grand niece, not great niece, right?

I looked it up because I want to make sure I have it right. Technically, I’m a grand aunt and she’s my grand niece. However, great aunt and great niece have been used so much it’s become accepted. But in the interest of correctness, I will refer to myself as a grand aunt. It sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

So, here’s little Sophie. She clearly resembles her father, which is no surprise. The first picture is when she’s going home. Check out the baby afghan, says the proud grand aunt. And the second picture is three days later. She’s already changing so much.

What about other family relationships?

I had actually thought about writing this a while ago, when I was trying to determine what to call my sister-in-law’s husband. I’ll talk more about that later.

This chart below is great, but it doesn’t address the whole in-law thing. It does show where we make a common mistake – cousins. My cousins’ kids are not my second cousins but my first cousins once removed.

However, it appears that there are two ways to have a first cousin once removed. First, in the way I just described. Second, through my grandparent’s siblings’ children. Does that make sense? Essentially, that would be my mom or dad’s first cousins. Their children then become my second cousins.

Even with this chart, it’s still a bit of a puzzle. It might be helpful to insert names of your family members in it to help clarify the various relationships.

How to make sense of your family, in one chart | Family tree chart ...

So, what about in-laws?

Unlike other family relationships that are based on blood, in-law relationships are based on the law – a marriage contract. But those relationships only exist when there’s one blood relationship. For example, my brother-in-law’s family members have no defined relationship to me.

Back to my sister-in-law’s husband. I wondered if he would be my brother-in-law. I found out he’s not. Technically, he’s nothing. Well, that sounds kind of harsh, but there’s no defined relationship between us, other than he’s my sister-in-law’s husband. In-law relationships only exist between a blood relative and his/her spouse.

My cousin’s wife would be my cousin-in-law but not Tim’s. Only my cousin could be his cousin-in-law. My cousin’s wife and Tim have no relationship.

You’re probably saying, who cares? I know. It’s not worth contemplating for very long. Does it matter what I call the people I’m only related to by law? I usually tend to err on the side of correctness, but in this case, I really don’t care.

However, I do believe I’m a grand aunt and not a great aunt. Even though I can be pretty great!!

16 Comments

  • Caroline

    Congratulations, Grand Aunt Linda! How hard for Terri and your “technally nothing” sister’s husband not to be able to meet her yet!
    I have always been interested in the family relation chart. I finally figured out the first cousin once removed vs. Second cousin. That is often referred to wrong. I did not know I should be a grand aunt instead of great aunt! Interesting! I always referred to my grandma’s siblings as greats, not grands. So my sister’s husband is my BIL but not Tom’s sister’s husband. Hmm… We call ourselves the “outlaws”. Guess we should be the “nothings.” 😁

    • Retired Introvert

      No, Teri’s husband is my brother-in-law. It’s my sister-in-law’s husband who is technically nothing. I like outlaws much better than nothings. We’ll go with that. 😊

  • G. J. Jolly

    I’ve been one of those who assumed it was “great” instead of “grand”, but you’re absolutely right. My great grand children (2) turned six earlier this spring.

    • Retired Introvert

      Me too!! But using grand makes perfect sense, when you think about it. I wonder how great became the standard but it definitely has. Congrats on having great grandchildren!!

  • Marty

    This is so timely because my wife and I were *just* discussing extended family relationships the other day. I wish we had your chart at the time! I’ve always been confused by the “once removed, twice removed” yet I know there are people who completely understand that.

    Congrats on your grand niece. I hope you get to meet her “soon.”

    • Retired Introvert

      Thanks Marty. I have no idea why whoever thought this up made it so confusing. We shouldn’t have to think this hard or have a cheat sheet to figure it out!!

  • Patricia Doyle

    Interesting lesson in family relationships. I have a good friend who is married to my husband’s sister-in-law’s brother…. I say we share nephews by marriage. Oh, and I think I’ll still keep to the technically incorrect great niece – habits are hard to change.

  • Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged

    Wow, I’m glad I have a small family 🙂 These relationships are always so confusing. It appears that I have two first cousins once removed, but I just say “my cousin’s daughters.” So much easier. My husband has a larger family but now you tell me that, other than my direct in-laws, they have no defined relationship to me. Oh well, I’d probably not be able to keep the relationships straight anyway. Interesting info!

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