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Abstract of "New York Times" Article

NATIONAL DESK | April 4, 2002, Thursday
Few Risks Seen To The Children Of 1st Cousins
Late Edition - Final, Section A, Page 1, Column 3
New report says first cousins can have children together
without great risk of birth defects or genetic disease
Contrary to widely held beliefs and longstanding taboos in America;
scientists report first cousins are somewhat more likely than
unrelated parents to have a child with a serious birth defect,
mental retardation or genetic disease, but their increased
risk is nowhere near as large as most people think.
Dr Arno Motulsky, senior author of report, notes that unrelated
people with genetic disorders have far higher levels of risk than
first cousins, and they have children; says
laws against cousin marriage should be abolished;
24 states have laws forbidding such marriages, and 7 states have
limits like requiring genetic counseling; no countries in Europe
have such prohibitions; in parts of Middle East, Africa and Asia,
marriages between cousins are considered preferable.
Report is in latest issue of
"The Journal of Genetic Counseling."

To read the complete article

What's the difference between a 1st or 2nd cousin
and a cousin once or twice "removed?"

"Cousins" are of the same generation.
"Cousins removed" are of different generations.

(including charts and other family relationships)
Surf these links, find the one that makes sense to you!


~ by Duane F. Alwin dfa@umich.edu
[Duane F. Alwin is Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan,
where he teaches social psychology, the family and research methods.
In his spare time he actively pursues the history of his own family.]
The word "cousin" has a variety of meanings, some of which are more
precise than others. We often use the word in a general way to refer
to any collaterally related persons more distant than siblings who
share a common ancestor. When we want to be more specific, we use
the term in a different way: cousins (or first cousins) are the children
of siblings. That is to say, the children of my aunts and uncles
are my first cousins.

Second cousins, on the other hand, are the children of first cousins,
and third cousins are the children of second cousins, and so on. In
other words, my second cousins are the children of my parents' first
cousins, and my third cousins are the grandchildren
of my grandparents' first cousins.

The degree of cousinness, thus, simply follows generational lines,
given kinship relations defined by a common ancestor. By contrast,
when one crosses generational lines to express relationships among
cousins in an adjacent generation or across several generations,
one normally expresses these cousin relations as "once removed" or
"twice removed" according to how many generations separate the
related individuals. Thus, one is a first cousin once removed (1C1R)
to his or her parents' first cousins, or to the children
of his or her first cousins.

I have always gotten a kick out of telling people that I am a cousin
to myself. My maternal grandparents were first cousins once removed
-- my grandfather married the daughter of his first cousin. His cousin
was 15 years his senior and he was a few years older than my
grandmother. In any event, following the above definitions -- second
cousins are the children of first cousins -- we can see what may
appear to be a contradiction. Because they are both daughters of first
cousins, my mother is a second cousin to her own mother. This makes me
a third cousin to my mother, as she and I are both children of second
cousins in the same ancestral lineage. And, of course, to myself I am a
third cousin, once removed (3C1R). Thus, when I use my genealogy
software to print out the descendants of Samuel CHACEY (our common
ancestor) I appear twice (and in different generations)-- once as a
descendant of my grandfather and once in my grandmother's line.
What better proof that I am my own cousin.

Matings between cousins are called consanguineal, meaning that the
members of the pair have one or more common ancestors. In some
geographical areas at some times such matings can be quite common.
Whether we know it or not, each of us probably has some consanguineous
marriage in their pedigree. Most cultures have rules that
regulate the degree of relationship permitted between
two individuals who wish to marry.

In many societies, including our own, marriages between first cousins,
uncles and nieces, and aunts and nephews, are typically discouraged or
in some cases outlawed. Although it would mean fewer grandparents to
keep track of, such matings are probably not a good thing. Individuals
with rare recessive sex-linked traits are often the offspring of such
matings. On the other hand, such consanguineous matings are not
necessarily undesirable. Charles Darwin married his first cousin
Emma Wedgwood, and the entire Darwin-Wedgwood lineage was
highly inbred. Some have speculated that the pre-eminence of this
lineage in the arts, sciences, and the professions may have resulted
from some inbred genetic trait. But this is probably the exception,
and genetic diversity in families is probably
healthier over the long run.

(even if she is thy cousin)

~ by David L. Brooks dlockbrook@peoplepc.com
Taken from RootsWeb Review, Vol. 5, No. 21, 22 May 2002
"Rootsweb Review's Bottomless Mailbag"
When I was growing up, before the advent of television, my parents
derived much pleasure from the visits of other "old-timers." Much to
my youthful disgust, they would sit for seemingly endless hours and
talk about their parents, grandparents, cousins, and uncles and aunts,
as well as all the kinfolks of the neighbors.

Never in my remotest dreams did it ever occur to me that I should have
been listening instead of smirking. Now that most of those who could
have supplied the answers to many of my questions about those souls
from whom I sprang, are gone, I have developed an interest in
genealogy. If only someone had taken it upon himself to preserve some
of the fruits of these meetings on paper, how much easier would the
tracking down of my ancestors now be.

Early in my quest for information about my progenitors, I became
amazed at the frequency at which they intermarried. Marriages of
second, third, and even first cousins were not uncommon. After
reflecting upon this phenomenon, I have concluded that perhaps we
should not be too harsh in judgment of those kissing cousins of days
gone by. Let's consider their plight:

First, there just were not many people from whom to select a marriage
partner, especially in the rural areas where the pioneering families
lived. Travel was severely restricted, since they had neither automobiles
or roads -- the horse was the "mane" mode of transportation. (Usually,
the horse was one with which the fields were plowed, wagons and
sleds were pulled, and general farm work performed, so knights upon
prancing steeds our ancestral swains were not.) Add to this the fact
that trying to wrest a living from the rocky hillsides was a six- or
seven-day-a-week job for all able-bodied males of the family and it will
be understood that courting did not enjoy prime-time billing. Maybe this
was Mother Nature's application of the principle of survival of the
fittest to those earlier generations -- only the most-determined people
married and reared families.

From the studies I have made thus far in my embryonic genealogical
career, I believe that I now understand more about how those farm lads
who begat us chose their mates. They would strike out across the
mountain from where they lived, and if a wife was found on the other
side of that mountain, it was his first cousin whom he married. If no
suitable bride material was found there, he crossed the second
mountain. A girl chosen there would be his second cousin. If he had to
cross three mountains in search of a heart and hand, it would be his
third cousin, and on and on. The roving suitor-at-large who completely
left the county on his mission stood a chance of finding someone who
was of no blood relation at all, but many may have considered it not
worth the extra time and effort to do so, with all those good-looking
cousins just across a mountain or two.

Having no expertise in the field of genetics, I cannot say if the many
horror stories about inadequacies and deformities of the offspring of
parents whose families have excessively intermarried for generations
have any validity. I only know that if I were a young man seriously
considering matrimony, I would not take any chances. Conceded, love
may be blind, but it doesn't have to be stupid and irresponsible as well.

A couple who expects to combine their talents and genes to produce
children would be wise to have some genealogical knowledge of each
other. I am speaking from experience -- I inadvertently married my
fifth cousin, and all five of our children, with no exceptions, were
born stark naked and with hair all over the tops of their heads.

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