Kinship and Social Organization:
An Interactive Tutorial


  1. Cousins and Cousin Marriage
  2. Kinship Software

Cousins and Cousin Marriage

Most of the queries I have received concerning this tutorial have focused on some aspect of cousin relationships in North America, especially on the issue of first cousin marriage. Here are some queries, answers, and links to detailed diagramming and discussion of the issue in the tutorial pages.
  1. Determing Degrees of Cousinship:

    "I need to know what my father's cousin's daughter would be to me..... can you help me????"

    Your father's cousin's daughter would also be your cousin but whether she would be your second, third, or more distant cousin depends on how she is related to your father. For example, your father's first cousin's daughter would be your second cousin. An additional complication results if your father's cousin was not in the same generation as your father and was therefore one or two steps removed. To be totally accurate you can draw up genealogy and check it against a cousin reference diagram I have provided in the tutorial.

  2. Marriage between Cousins:

    1. Legal Issues:

      " I live in Minnesota and am planning to marry my first cousin and need to know the state laws regulating marriages between relatives."

      Cousin marriage is treated differently in each state as are marriages between in-laws. According to my information, Minnesota does not allow marriages between first cousins but you should of course check with a lawyer in your locality for current regulations. For a full description of the situation in each state and a discussion of geographic pattern see State Variations on American Marriage Prohibitions

Kinship software

I have also received numerous queries about software for producing kinship diagrams. I have not used any special software to produce the figures in this tutorial, only a simple drawing program. Several anthropologists have developed more formal computer algorithms and programs to compile kinship data and produce kinship diagrams. For specific software and a general discussion of efforts at computerization see Michael Fischer's extensive and excellent web presentation: Representing Anthropological Knowledge: Calculating Kinship. Analyzing and Understanding Cultural Codes. Also see Doug White's Linkages Project and P-Graph software. He also has put up a page that lists and reviews general genealogical software.

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Brian Schwimmer
Department of Anthropology
University of Mantioba

Created: October 1997, Updated January 2001