Cousinometry

“He’s my second cousin, twice-removed!”

It’s a line we don’t hear much in movies these days.  I suspect that screenwriters used to slip it into the dialog of a character who was supposed to be pretentious and superficial, someone audiences could picture with multiple D.A.R. applications cluttering her writing desk.   With today’s renewed interest in genealogy, you’ll find queries about the term on the Internet.  The “second cousin” part is probably clear enough.  Your first cousin is your aunt or uncle’s child.  One of your parents is the brother or sister of one of your cousin’s parents.  To put it more simply, you have the same grandparents.  You have a second cousin if one of your grandparents and one of his or her grandparents were siblings, meaning, you have the same great-grandparents.  Third cousins share great-great-grandparents, and so on.  The term “removed” can seem puzzling, but it certainly gets a workout among Thomas Lovewell’s descendants.

Thomas had two wives, Nancy Davis and Orel Jane Davis.  His only child with Nancy to produce children of her own was Juliana, more commonly known in Lovewell History as “Julany.”  She was born in 1857, married Edward McCaul in 1871, and gave birth to the first of their two boys, Edward, Jr., in 1877, when she was nineteen.

In the meantime, her father had embarked on his second marriage in 1866 at the age of forty.  In December of 1874, when he was about to turn 49, Thomas’s second wife delivered a boy, Stephen, the fourth of their seven children.  Stephen’s children also arrived in two sets, the first six with his wife Villa, who died in 1912 at the age of thirty-three.  Stephen remarried in 1923 and his new wife Alta gave him six more children, the final one in 1938.

This means that Thomas Lovewell’s family went about the business of producing his grandchildren over a span of 60 years.  Thomas has great-great-grandchildren who are older than some of his grandchildren.  The great-grandson of  Thomas's daughter Juliana McCaul might introduce himself to Stephen Lovewell’s daughter as her first cousin, twice-removed, because the kinship is through her grandparents, but the two cousins are separated from each other by two tiers on the family tree.

I believe that, technically, they might be counted as half first-cousins twice-removed, since Juliana Lovewell and Stephen Lovewell had the same father but different mothers.  Then again, maybe less than 50% should be subtracted, since Nancy was Orel Jane’s aunt, and it’s all about shared DNA.  Where’s a real genealogist, when you need one?  Tell her to bring her calculator.

After I mentioned the clutch of double cousins in Nehemiah Lovewell’s family over the weekend, Dave Lovewell dropped me an email to remind me of a more recent case and to pose a puzzling question:

“Two of my aunts, Orel and Bernice Lovewell married brothers Chet and Elwin Poole.  The brothers’ sister Gladys was married to Chester Jinks Vanmeter, who was a cousin to Orel and Bernice.  So I guess their children were their own cousins????”

I think we now know why all those families moved away from Dunstable in the first place, and then kept moving.  They looked around one day, realized that they were related to everyone in sight in multiple ways, and decided to get out of town before the kids were grown.  It didn’t help matters that having seven to a dozen children was the norm.  This was also a problem for small Indian tribes, who sometimes forced their young men to go on long journeys on a quest for brides.  But, back to the question - yes, the Lovewells did seem to go for group swims in the gene pool, but their children weren’t their own cousins.  I suppose you could make a case for your father being your first cousin once-removed because you’re both related to his grandparents, and you and he are separated by a generation, but the closest family relationship trumps all others.  It’s like the tie going to the runner.     

By the way, I’m afraid I did some last-minute editing to my previous blog item about the kinship ties between Thomas Lovewell and Prof. J. T. Lovewell and his brother John, and my last-minute edits always make a hash of something.  In this case I sprinkled too many “greats” into one paragraph, after chiding a newspaper reporter for using too few.  So, I guess it all evens out.  Anyway, it should be safe to look at now without getting dizzy.  I really should check it again, but after reading Dave’s question, I don’t want to think about cousins for a while. 

© Dale Switzer 2016  dale@lovewellhistory.com