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Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

How do I determine relationships between distant cousins?

Elizabeth L. Nichols, senior reference consultant in the Family History Department.

Let’s say you meet someone at a family reunion and know you are related, but you don’t know exactly what the relationship is. How do you figure it out? It’s easy if you know the ancestor (or ancestors) you have in common—the person or couple who appear on both of your pedigree charts.

Sample Work Chart

Common Ancestors


David and Elizabeth

Children of Common Ancestors






1st cousins




2nd cousins


2nd Great-Grandchildren


3rd cousins


3rd Great-Grandchildren


4th cousins


4th Great-Grandchildren


5th cousins

Lois Ann

To determine your relationship, it is almost a necessity to create a work chart (shown above). Place the common ancestors at the top of a page. Then list the pedigrees of the two persons in descending order, one on the left side of the page and the other on the right side.

The chart and following paragraphs show how you determine relationships. The first-generation relationships are easy: Clyde and Robert are sons of David and Elizabeth and are therefore brothers.

Cousin Relationships

The second generation—the children of Clyde and the children of Robert—are first cousins. The grandchildren of Clyde and Robert are second cousins.

As long as the cousins are the same number of generations removed from the common ancestors, the relationship is straight cousins (first cousins, second cousins, third cousins, etc.). For example, Whitney and Amber are both on the second-cousins line and are therefore simply second cousins.

Cousins Once or Twice Removed

When two people for whom you are trying to determine the relationship are not the same generation, then it is said they are “once removed” or “twice removed.” This refers to the generations they are removed from the common ancestor.

Let’s take, for example, second cousins Whitney and Amber. Amber has a son named Kaleb. Kaleb wants to know what his relationship is to Whitney.

Whitney is on the second-cousins line, and Kaleb is on the third-cousins line. Always start with the person closest to the common ancestor. Thus, start with Whitney. Come across the chart on the second-cousins line, and then down one more generation to Kaleb. They are one generation apart from each other; hence, Whitney and Kaleb are second cousins once removed (2 c 1 r).

Now determine the relationship between Kaleb and Paul. Paul is on the first-cousins line, and Kaleb is on the third-cousins line. Start with Paul. Come across the chart on the first-cousins line, and then down two more generations to Kaleb. They are two generations apart; therefore, Kaleb and Paul are first cousins twice removed (1 c 2 r).

Amber and Patricia are second cousins once removed (2 c 1 r). Come across the chart on the second-cousins line, and then down one more generation.

Patricia and Lois Ann are third cousins twice removed (3 c 2 r). Come across the chart on the third-cousins line, and then down two more generations.

What to Do if Information Is Missing

It is easy to see from these examples how a work chart helps you determine relationships to distant cousins when you know the pedigree for both. But what if you do not have a pedigree for both people? The work chart is still useful as long as you know the number of generations each person is from the common ancestor. Simply put place-holder lines in the work chart where the missing names would go. For example, if you don’t know the name of Amber’s parent, leave that line blank. Knowing that Amber is the granddaughter of Robert, for example allows you to determine the placement of their names on the chart. Then you determine the relationship.

Niece and Nephew Relationships

In the example, Clyde is an uncle to Shanna. Kaleb is a great-grandnephew to Clyde, and Whitney is a grandniece to Robert. You can correctly state this relationship as either great-niece or grandniece. I prefer grandniece or grandnephew because it makes the generations easier to keep straight; my brother’s grandchildren are my grandnieces and grandnephews, and his great-grandchildren are my great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews.

Personal Ancestral File® Can Help

If you have the family history computer program Personal Ancestral File and have both pedigrees in the same Personal Ancestral File data file, the computer can calculate the relationship for you. In Personal Ancestral File version 3.0, press Y to go to the Utility menu and select the last item.

Learning to determine relationships using this work chart or a computer program can be enjoyable because many of us are more closely related than we think.

What does it mean to be the “salt of the earth “?

Response by LeGrand L. Baker, curator, Wells Freedom Archives, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, and a member of the Cherry Hill Ninth Ward, Orem Utah Cherry Hill Stake.

The scriptural phrase “salt of the earth” has come to mean many things. In likening the scriptures unto ourselves (see 1 Ne. 19:23), we may sometimes overlook the author’s primary intent and the key points of comparison in his use of metaphor. A full understanding and appreciation of a given passage of scripture may thus elude us.

That sometimes appears to be the case with the metaphor of salt. Perhaps we have observed that just as salt enhances the taste of certain foods, so we must be as salt, living our lives to bless and enhance the lives of others and make the gospel palatable to them. We may have also noted that salt is a preservative not unlike the preserving influence of righteous Saints who uphold gospel ideals in a world of shifting values.

While such applications are relevant and meaningful to Latter-day Saints worldwide, to the ancients the central figurative meaning of salt had to do not with taste but with smell.

When sacrifices were offered upon the altars of ancient Israel, the Israelites did not give the Lord the flesh of the animal, the fruit of the ground, or the ashes or smoke of such sacrifices. The acceptable part of the offering presented to the Lord was the smell, “a sweet savour unto the Lord” (Lev. 1:17). In the Bible, the word savour most often refers to the pleasant smell of burning sacrifice in the temple. To ensure that the smell would be sweet, the Mosaic law required that the offering be liberally sprinkled with salt.

The scent of an unsalted burnt offering would be the stench of scorched flesh. But if the meat were generously salted, the odor would be quite different, due to the reaction of the salt upon the cells that compose animal flesh. Under high-salt conditions, cellular fluid rapidly escapes the cells to dilute the salts outside cell membranes. When accentuated by heat, these fluids cause a sweet savor to emanate.

The Lord’s requirements concerning their offerings was clear. Referring to “the salt of the covenant,” the Lord instructed ancient Israel, “With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt” (Lev. 2:13). Flavius Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, explained how that was done. He wrote that the priests “cleanse the bodies [of the sacrificial animals], and divide them into parts, and salt them with salt, and lay them upon the altar, while the pieces of wood are piled one upon another, and the fire is burning. … This is the way of offering a burnt-offering” (Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston [1875], 3:9:1).

The purpose of the law of performances and ordinances given to the children of Israel through Moses was to point their souls to Christ and to bear witness of His gospel. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of Moses and ended blood sacrifice. The resurrected Lord explained the new law of sacrifice to His followers on the American continent: “Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away. …

“And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Ne. 9:19–20).

In this context the charge to be the “salt of the earth” takes on marvelous significance. The Lord said, “I give unto you to be the salt of the earth; but if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted?” (3 Ne. 12:13). The Savior’s audience no doubt understood the law of Moses and the close connection between salt and acceptable sacrifice.

It is clear that under the new covenant the followers of Christ, as “salt,” are responsible for extending gospel blessings to the whole earth. “When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant,” the Lord explains, “they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men” (D&C 101:39). It is our privilege and blessing to lovingly lead our brothers and sisters to Christ, helping them receive their covenant blessings. As we do so, we become the figurative salt that makes it possible for them to offer the acceptable sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In addition, our own covenant sacrifice of time, talents, and means is pleasing to the Lord.

This tremendous responsibility of helping bring salvation to others is coupled with caution: “But if the salt shall lose its savor wherewith shall the earth be salted? The salt shall be thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men” (3 Ne. 12:13). Salt used anciently for sacrifice could easily lose its savor, and always for the same reason—impurity. If such impure salt was heated, the combination of impurities and salt can result in an unpleasant odor. It was therefore discarded, lest its use desecrate the sacrifice and offend the Lord.

Likewise, we are displeasing to the Lord to the degree that we are impure and ineffective “not the saviors of men,” but instead “as salt that has lost its savor” (D&C 103:10).

So how do we become the salt of the earth? The Apostle Paul points out that charity is a key to this process: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 5:1–2). We must seek to love others purely, as the Savior loves us. It is through this love that we can help bring souls to Him, that they and we might be found acceptable—“unto God a sweet savour of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:15).

[photo] Photo by Russell Holt

[photo] Photo by Welden C. Andersen