This isn’t a William Faulkner novel, it’s reality. It’s also not like it sounds. When your family has deep roots in the same area where you were born and raised, it’s bound to happen, and it doesn’t take much digging to find family members marrying family members. They probably don’t even know they were doing it.
This case is different because my cousin on my grandfather’s side, married a cousin from my grandmother’s side. They are not related at all to each other, but it’s not totally coincidental that it happened. All of my New York cousins come from my great-great grandfather who was born in Poland. Their roots are not nearly as deep in American soil, and they know who most of them are, so the chances of marrying one of the Kwiatkowski cousins are pretty remote. My grandmother’s genealogy can be traced well into pre-revolutionary America though. They settled in Pennsylvania, a wild and untamed frontier, approximately two generations before my Chuck’s grandfather and my great-grandfather arrived with their parents from Poland.
In my grandmother’s day, after the advent of the automobile, it would not have taken much to hitch a ride across the border into New York where she met my grandfather as a very young teenager. When Chuck, my Kwiatkowski cousin, told me that his wife Kathy shares common surnames from the same area of Pennsylvania with me, I was not totally surprised. After all, Chuck still lives in the same New York town my father was born in.
It just made sense to put Chuck next in line for my new Cousin Connection project. When I selected him, Chuck predicted the exact same connection that I found. That is not a surprise either. He knows my father’s side of the family much better than I do. What does surprise me though, is that Chuck, who is just a year older than I am, shows up in my father’s generation, not mine. I was sure I’d missed something somewhere, and so I started checking dates. I noticed that Chuck’s grandfather was nearly twenty years younger than his brother, who is my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather was old enough to be his father’s brother. In fact, my grandfather was younger than that when his first child was born.
Because we are removed by a whole family generation, Chuck and I are second cousins once removed. But the strangeness does not end there. Chuck and I are both Baby Boomers; we both belong to the same social generation, but we are separated by a family generation.
Given that Kathy and my grandmother both come from that broad Pennsylvania, pre-revolutionary background, we could be related in any number of ways. I chose the one that was most obvious to both of us: the Berfield surname. Chuck has a family tree posted on Ancestry.com, so it was pretty easy to find the connection. I just used FamilySearch to verify it. We are fifth cousins with no removals.
No removals means that Kathy and I are both in the same family generation as I expected. After the unexpected generational removal from Chuck, it occurred to me that Kathy and I could be removed socially. You see, Chuck and I are very close in age, and we are both at the tail end of the Baby Boom. Kathy is a year younger than I am, and that actually puts her in a different social generation; she’s Generation X. Even though there are only three years separating the three of us, Chuck and I are separated by a family generation but share the same social generation while Kathy and I are separated by a social generation but share the same familial generation.
If you are confused, I don’t blame you. I have included the charts because I am a visual learner, and that is how I figure out the cousin order and how many removals there are. If a cousin and I are both still alive, it is not likely that we will ever see more than two generations of separation.
Social generations, as the adjective implies, are a social construct derived from common behaviors, characteristics, or both. Baby Boomers, for instance share the characteristic of war’s end. Many of the Baby Boomers’ parents are veterans of any war from World War II to Vietnam. My father is a Vietnam veteran. Often young people would get married and then go off to war, or postpone marriage until after war. Either way, these returning soldiers did not postpone having a family, so a very large amount of births occurred during these years.
Gen X is composed of children of Baby Boomers. Many of those parents wanted for their children not to suffer or go without like previous generations had, so they worked hard to ensure that their children did not need to work as hard. There is a lot of discussion over whether or not Gen X children grew up “disaffected and directionless.” I’m going to assume that this is not the case with Kathy. After all, she is my cousin.
Social generations are explained on the Center for Generational Kinetics’ Website.
Stay tuned for more fun with Cousin Connections coming next week!