Degrees of Separation: How kinship works

When probate genealogists, Finders International, the professional heir hunters that are featured on the BBC TV programme of the same name, trace potential beneficiaries to an intestacy they may send an agent to see the first cousin once removed, but what does that mean?

Simply put such terms refer to degrees on kinship. That is, how closely people are related. So for example if a beneficiary is the child, parent or sibling of the deceased they are a first degree relative where as, a grandparent, or cousin is a second degree relative.

This relates to the genetic overlap between the relatives. So first degree relatives share 50% of their DNA while second degree relatives share 25%, an anomaly being a half sibling who while only sharing 25% DNA is a first degree relative. Confused? Well a professional heir hunter won’t be which is why Finders International are so effective at tracing potential beneficiaries and missing heirs.

Another anomaly arises through adoption either into or out of a family. The adoptee will become a first degree relative of their adoptive parents and siblings, losing that relationship with the family they were adopted from. This is significant for inheritance as while an adoptee may in later life establish a relationship with their original family they will not benefit from their estate.

So back to the original question, what is a first cousin once removed? It is a cousin via the deceased’s grandparents but a generation younger. Or if you like the deceased’s grandparents, child’s, child’s, child! Add another child and the heir hunter will be tracing the first cousin twice removed.

For further information and advice contact Finders International HQ, 6-8 Vestry Street, London N1 7RE +44 (0)20 7490 4935 or call their Scottish Office in Edinburgh on +44 (0)131 278 0552 or Irish Office in Dublin on +353 (0)1 691 7252