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Those great grands

It’s NGS time for The Legal Genealogist.

I’m among the hundreds and hundreds of genealogists who have descended on Grand Rapids, Michigan, this week, where the National Genealogical Society is holding is annual conference.

Today, I’ll be talking about the concept of evidence discrimination — some of the ways we as genealogists tell good evidence from bad — and about resolving conflicts in genealogical data as we work towards a sound conclusion in our research.

Tomorrow afternoon, in a livestreamed session at 2:30 p.m. EDT, I’ll be talking about DNA and how the Genealogical Proof Standard applies to its use in our research.1

And Saturday I’m joining my colleagues from among the genealogical speakers and writers to talk about storytelling.

So it’s a busy week, and blog posts will be spotty…

GrandniecesExcept that I can’t resist taking a couple of minutes out for reader Shirley’s plaintive plea for help with terminology.

“What,” she asks, “do I call my fourth generation niece? My oldest sister had a daughter before I was born. Her daughter (my niece) had a child (Theresa), Theresa had a child (Paige) and now Paige has a child (Mackenzie).”

First off, Shirley, congratulations on a wonderfully long-tailed family line! What a joy to have all those generations of lovely women in your family!

Second, the terminology works the same way going down the generations as it does going up the generations.

With those who came before us, we tend to know we have parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents (often called second great grandparents for short), great great great grandparents (called third great grandparents) and so forth up the generations.

And, thank heavens for keeping it simple, it works the same way going down the generations.

A sister’s daughter is a niece. The niece’s daughter is a grandniece.2 The grandniece’s daughter is a great grandniece, and for every generation after that you add another great: great great grandniece (or second great grandniece for short); great great great grandniece (third great grandniece); and so on.

Most of us — sigh — won’t live long enough for this to be an issue.

Good for you, Shirley, and your long-tailed clan that you need to figure this out!


  1. Livestreaming is available for a fee from Playback NGS, and you can also buy recordings of NGS 2018 presentations — most in audio format but the livestreamed presentations in video format as well.
  2. Yes, she could also be called a great-niece, and that terminology would be technically correct. See Judy G. Russell, “Great versus grand,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 25 Feb 2015 ( : accessed 3 May 2018). But this example today is why using grand is preferred — it makes it clearer.
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