I am my own fifth cousin.

No, I’m serious. My uncle keeps a record of our family’s genealogy on a computer program, and there is a view where you can see a list of names of family members and your relationship to them. Next to my dad’s name it says he is my father… and my fourth cousin once removed! I am my own self AND fifth cousin!

There is actually a very simple explanation for this technicality: one set of my great great great grandparents (of which there are 16 pairs) was first cousins. I will go into more detail.

What is a cousin? First cousins are something we are all familiar with. First cousins are people who each have one parent that were siblings with each other. Basically, my mom’s brother’s kids are my first cousins.

Second, third, fourth etc cousins occur when you go down another generation. My kids and my cousin’s kids will be second cousins. People who are any degree of cousin-ness are in the same generation, but the higher the degree of cousin-ness, the farther back your common ancestor is. First cousins have common grandparents. Second cousins have common great grandparents but NOT common grandparents, and so on.

Then there are also “removed” cousins. A removed cousin is someone who is in a different generation from you. For example, my first cousin’s children would be my first cousins once removed. This is because they are removed one generation from me, and we share ancestors who are my grandparents but my first cousin’s once removed’s great grandparents.

So how did I become my own fifth cousin? Well, my great great great grandparents, as I mentioned, were first cousins (this was like, the 1700s or something so… let it slide). This would mean their children, who were obviously siblings to each other, were technically also second cousins to each other, because the children of first cousins are second cousins. This meant my great great grandparents were first cousins once removed to their own parents.

Go down a few more generations and the same technicality remains, but you go from first to second, third, fourth, and fifth degrees. I am five generations from the first cousins who married, so I am fifth cousin to myself. I am also fourth cousin once removed to my father, and fifth cousin to my sister.

Here is a simplified family tree I have prepared to illustrate this. There are no siblings on here (I have sister, my parents have multiple siblings, basically everyone on here has siblings but they are not important to the story and it would make the chart too big).

This strange technicality occurred with my father’s mother’s mother’s parents being first cousins. There are, of course, hundreds and hundreds of pairs in this lineage where these kind of things could have happened that I don’t know about. What about my father’s father’s side? What about my mother’s side? The possibilities are endless.

If you think about it, the chances are rather high that you are your own fifth cousin, too.