Posted by: downtothesea | March 17, 2010

Family Lines Don’t Always Run Straight.

I have a darling little two-year-old niece, Mona who lives down the street from me.  That is, she is my niece because she calls me “Auntie Amy.”  In reality, she and I are cousins…second cousins once removed.  Her mom Elsa and I share the same great-grandparents, and our grandmothers were sisters.  Elsa and I are second cousins.  But this fairly complex family relationship is tough to explain to most grown-ups, let alone a toddler (though Mona is ridiculously smart), and so I am and always have been Auntie Amy.  Probably always will be, too.

But anyone researching our family in the future might introduce inaccuracies into their genealogical research by either 1) assuming that because Mona always called me Auntie Amy that I must in fact be her actual aunt or 2) assuming that since Mona and I are “distant” cousins we had little or no connection to each other.  Neither option is exactly correct.

Another curious family twist:  my husband is 18 years older than I am, and coincidentally his niece, his brother’s daughter, is only four years younger than I.  Since my husband and I dated for 12 years before we married and I lived quite close by his family, I got to know his niece as a close girlfriend, a peer.  When my husband and I finally did get married, his niece and I realized to our horror/fascination/delight that our relationship had changed on paper:  I was now technically her aunt!  Every card she sends me now is addressed to “Auntie Amy,” and she makes quite sure to call me that whenever we meet, in the most mockingly smug tone she can muster.  But that’s okay.  I return the favor by sending her children’s cards for all the holidays…the kind decorated with puppies and hearts emblazoned with some corny sentiment like “Hey, Niece, you’re swell!”  or “For a sweet girl and a super-dee-duper niece!”

Maybe I should just write all of this down and save that poor future genealogist of ours a lot of pain and suffering trying to sort all of this madness out…



  1. And I thought my family relations were complex! I knew my husband’s “Aunt Sarah” for several years before it was explained to me that she was actually a neighbor and good friend.

  2. Great stories – and yes, you probably should make sure that future generations don’t have to try and unwind all that without help! 🙂

    I think we see similar things in older generations. Especially in the very large families the mother was often having her last child when her oldest daughter was having her first child. I have a wonderful picture of my great-great Aunt Laura as achild with her nephew – and both are the same age.

  3. My photo album is full of pictures of a couple my kids call Aunt and Uncle. They have been my husband’s dearest friends since middle school. I’m leaving such a genealogy gold mine when I go that a little mystery might be fun for my 2nd great-granddaughter to figure out!

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