What are Second Cousins?


When it comes to family relationships, it can sometimes be confusing to understand the different terms used to describe relatives. One such term is “second cousins.” In this article, we will explore the concept of second cousins and delve into the intricacies of this familial relationship.

Understanding Cousin Relationships

Before we delve into what second cousins are, let’s first establish a general understanding of cousin relationships. Cousins are individuals who share a common ancestor, but are not siblings or direct descendants of one another. The degree of cousinship is determined by the number of generations separating two individuals from their closest common ancestor.

First Cousins

The most common type of cousin relationship is called “first cousins.” First cousins share the same grandparents, but have different parents. They are often considered to be close relatives and commonly interact with each other during family gatherings.

Second Cousins

Now that we have a grasp on first cousins, let’s move on to second cousins. Second cousins share the same great-grandparents, but their grandparents are different. In other words, second cousins are the children of first cousins.

Exploring the Family Tree

To better visualize the relationship between second cousins, it can be helpful to refer to a family tree. Let’s consider an example:

Family Tree Example
  • John (Great-Grandparent)
  • +
  • Mary (Great-Grandparent)
  • James (Great-Grandparent)
  • +
  • Linda (Great-Grandparent)
  • David (Grandparent)
  • +
  • Alice (Grandparent)
  • Michael (Grandparent)
  • +
  • Sarah (Grandparent)
  • Emily (Parent)
  • Mark (Parent)
  • Lucy (Second Cousin)
  • Tom (Second Cousin)

In the above example, Emily and Mark are siblings, making them first cousins to Lucy and Tom. Lucy and Tom, who are also siblings, are second cousins to Emily and Mark. Their closest common ancestors are John and Mary, their great-grandparents.

Genetic Similarity

While first cousins share approximately 12.5% of their genetic material, second cousins have a smaller percentage of shared DNA. On average, second cousins share about 3.125% of their genetic material. This genetic similarity decreases as the cousin degree increases.

Interactions and Cultural Significance

Second cousins often have less frequent interactions compared to first cousins due to the greater generational gap. However, the frequency of interactions can vary depending on the cultural practices and geographical proximity of family members.

Family Reunions

Family reunions are a common occasion where second cousins have the opportunity to meet and connect with each other. These gatherings provide a chance for distant relatives to strengthen family ties and learn more about their shared heritage.

Genealogical Research

For individuals interested in tracing their family history, second cousins can be valuable resources. They may possess information about shared ancestors, family stories, and photographs that can enrich one’s understanding of their roots.


In conclusion, second cousins are individuals who share the same great-grandparents but have different grandparents. While they may have a smaller genetic similarity compared to first cousins, second cousins still hold a significant place within the extended family network. Understanding these familial relationships can help individuals better navigate their family tree and appreciate the diverse connections that exist within their lineage.

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