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That cousin

The Legal Genealogist is swooning.


Head over heels over a male of the species.

And he’s not even tall, dark and handsome.

He’s short, sandy blond and adorable.

He’ll be a year old tomorrow, and he’s my brother’s first grandchild.

His name is Jack.

Br0020-40And I am not taking time from meeting Jack to write a blog post.

But I can’t leave this space vacant, so here’s the answer to a question asked by reader Joe Fibel after the blog post “Reprise: duty came first” this past Saturday.1

There, I had described the late George Thomas Cherryhomes of Young County, Texas, as a shirt-tail cousin of mine, and Joe hadn’t come across that reference before.

Now don’t go reaching for Black’s Law Dictionary here, okay? This isn’t a legal term, but a plain ordinary term you’ll find in plain ordinary dictionaries.

A shirt-tail cousin is a distant cousin2 or, more generally, someone who is “distantly and indefinitely related (as in) a shirttail cousin on her father’s side.”3

And I love the way Rhonda McClure explained it in What Makes a Cousin? in 2001:

Often I have received questions asking how a person is related to the sister of their husband’s brother-in-law and other obscure relationships. The answer is there is no relationship. When a marriage is the only connection between two individuals, then there is no cousinship in the true sense of the word. The most you can claim with this person is a shirt tail cousin. The cousinship is riding on the shirt tails of someone.4

Shirt-tail relatives. A term that definitely does NOT include my great nephew Jack. To whom I am returning. Immediately.


  1. Judy G. Russell, “Reprise: duty came first,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 21 Feb 2015 ( : accessed 23 Feb 2015).
  2. Collins Online Dictionary ( : accessed 23 Feb 2015), “shirt-tail cousin.”
  3. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( : accessed 23 Feb 2015), “shirttail.”
  4. Rhonda McClure, “Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: What Makes a Cousin?,”, posted 25 Oct 2001 ( : accessed 23 Feb 2015).
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