Preface: a piece I wrote for Family Tree Magazine several years back:
Don’t Prune That Tree
Wherever we go-whether it’s Israel, Canada, Colombia, Slovakia, Australia or America-I can usually name a local cousin or two from the thousands of people I’ve researched over the years. My kids, exasperated, invariably ask, “A real cousin? Does he know you?” They, for whom any cousin past first is too distant, understand I have no problem embracing second and fifth cousins equally. I also welcome cousins by marriage (and their cousins, too) as my own. My family tree is wider than it is high. If your clan is small, you take what you can get, right? And besides, I believe all Jews are brothers.
So when my son planned a trip across America, I suggested an alternative to the motel route. He could travel genealogically, staying with cousins. Our forefathers emigrated from Russia to New Jersey, Poland to Pennsylvania, and Slovakia to New York. Today, I exchange e-mails with their grandchildren in Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and California. To me, that’s a mighty fine itinerary. But my son sought excitement. Anonymity. Spontaneity. The last thing he wanted, he laughed, were cousins. He wanted to live his own dream, not mine.
Let him laugh. I haven’t yet met all our e-mail cousins in person, and perhaps I never will. But I have been blessed.
Recently, I asked Geni, the noted genealogy site, to compute my relationship with a distant cousin– but one close enough that I knew personally.
xx is your second cousin’s husband’s sister’s husband’s nephew’s wife’s second great uncle’s wife’s niece’s husband’s nephew’s wife.