The interconnectedness of all things (and people)

Talk of genealogy on “If this isn’t nice...” A space for happy moments got me thinking about why I’ve never really been interested in genealogy.

I guess at the core, I know that we are all related, and I just don’t really care about the details. We’re each different, yet all the same and all part of the one that is us.

I love history, and trying to understand why events happened the way that they did - what influenced the people to that point. Trying to figure out all these divisive aspects of religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, ideology, etc. It’s weird and interesting.

Anecdote: I once went along with my (half-stepdaughter? step-halfdaughter?) to pick up my wife’s ex’s ex’s son, who’d previously stayed with us a bit when he was between school and career, and who I considered as one of our kids. He was at the home of one side of his family and a bunch of people were there. Someone asked who I was, implication being how I was related. There was an awkward moment as the three of us looked at each other in confusion, trying to figure out how to explain the relation. I shrugged and said “I’m my name”. My (half-stepdaughter?) and (quarter-stepson?) just smiled and said yeah, he’s my name. That ended that awkward line of questioning.

I’ve also acquired a sister. Actual relation probably dates back hundreds or thousands, or tens of thousands, of years, but that doesn’t really matter. We’re brother and sister now.

Am I alone in this, or do other people sort of just pick up their tribes that way, but no one ever mentions it?


From an early age (my birth, actually), I had four half-siblings, up to two decades older than I was. I generally just referred to them as brothers and sister rather than half-brothers and half-sister, even though I also have two full sisters. And since my demisiblings were so much older, I’ve been an uncle since I was seven.

So my family was always somewhat complicated to explain. There were many exes, too. My dad was my mom’s third husband. Her mom married nine times. My eldest brother married five times.

In part because of this complicated setup, I don’t try to add to the complication. I have excellent relationships with all my siblings, always have, but I do have a small handful of friends with whom I am much closer. But I do not call them brother or sister. I have been lucky to be related to truly swell people. But my handpicked inner circle are much closer than family. In large part because they are handpicked.


Huh. I’ve been Dad Pat to a whole clan of Filipinos (parents included) in the Bicol region for nigh on a decade now, one family at the nexus, and the paternal and maternal cousins (except for one cousin who prefers Uncle, which bothers me not in the least). The young adults of the clan tend to chat me up when they need advice. I suppose it could be worse: I could be Lolo Pat…

I’m also Dad Pat to my Thai translation partner, who is over here working on her Masters. My brother and sister-in-law are also Dad and Mama - our family sort of adopted her and have been helping her along as best as we can. She hasn’t ever disappointed us - she’s driven and works very hard, but still a very nice person. Mind you, our family has a history of taking in strays, especially during holiday season.

I think that, when you learn to look at it properly, family is a very large place…


Pretty much. My grandparents on my mum’s side were both married twice. In both cases their first spouse died of TB.

So there always have been a mix of multiple marriages, kids, and so on. I blame 1950s TV for having us believe anything different.


No, thanks. I mean, I like the idea in general, but in my specific case, my family tree has too many leaves already for me to keep track of them all.

I’m taking my sister’s word for it, but she said that when sending out invitations for the latest family do, she counted about eighty people on both sides of our family. I could probably, with some effort, name about half of them.

So, while I have nothing against people expanding their conception of family to extend to step-step-stepchildren or other non-blood relations, I just do not have the mental capacity to enumerate even my biological family, let alone step-tribes.


I have a relatively (heh) small family. Two parents, one brother. One aunt and uncle and three cousins who I avoid. Unfortunately no surviving grandparents now. A couple of family friends who were “aunt and uncle” when I was a kid.

My spouse has two siblings, and each of her parents had multiple siblings with multiple kids and it’s just overwhelming. I can’t keep track of who’s who at holiday gatherings beyond a couple of people I’ve singled out as kind of cool.


My ex-husband and I always just called my stepkids our children, my daughter and his kids from his first marriage brother and sister, and I was something like Mama Suzanne to them. I forget the specifics. It was a good call.


Nah, same here. My extended family/tribe tends to pick up new members who just get added in. Occasionally people try to figure out the relationships but they get a headache and go drink instead. I do know my genealogy and tribal relationships clearly but explaining them to others tends to get challenging.

Right at the moment, my local tribe consists of me and RatWoman, our four kids together, RatWoman’s daughter from a previous relationship who I call my daughter, my older daughter from my first marriage and her son, my grandson. Also RatWoman’s sister, sometimes known as The Reptilian. Oh, and my sister, who doesn’t actually live with us but comes and goes. And that’s just the ones who live here. Add the geographically-extended tribe members and it gets complicated, fast.


That sounds hazardous… Don’t a large number of reptiles consider rodents part of their diet?


I do miss keeping in close contact with the extended family. At the moment, just counting my mom’s offspring and their kids, stepkids, and spouses and such, I have four (of the original six) surviving siblings, four siblings-in-law (one on the way out, and one widowed), sixteen nieces and nephews, and nine or ten great-nieces and great-nephews. And they’re all swell people, but I almost never see the vast majority of them, and several of the youngest I have yet to meet at all. I really miss having large crowds at Mom’s place for Thanksgiving.


Geography and language play a role in that too. My mother has something like a hundred cousins, because her parents had many siblings, and a lot of them had many children.

But to me our family was always small, because all those cousins and (to me) great-aunts and great-uncles all lived on the other side of the Atlantic. A couple of them learned English, but I didn’t meet them until I was in my 30s. (Should explain: since my parents are from different countries they just decided to teach us English. I’ve taken Dutch lessons on my own since then.)

When we’ve gone home to visit (and again: first trip to the Netherlands I was in my 30s), it’s been weird. Weird because my mum knows all these people and I don’t, and weird because even so, I can see the family resemblances in appearances, personalities, sense of humour… and that’s through a language barrier.


My father is the oldest of 8, so on his side there are more than 50 of us first cousins. It’s not an exact number because (as told by my aunt, the current matriarch) that most of my uncles and probably my father have uncounted illegitimate kids. Which feels weird, because kin is kin, but there is a cultural divide. She showed me photos of my half siblings, but told me they were cousins, because she didn’t think my father would have mentioned a previous family. Which, WTF, it was never a secret.


I am so lucky I married my SO. She has three brothers who are wonderful, with two of the SILs likewise. (The third SIL was emotionally and physically abusive, so that brother is separated, getting a divorce, and now has a GF who is the complete opposite of the psycho - warm and loving).

My immediate family is small – two older siblings, older one quite wealthy, bossy, and entitled, younger one angry and quiet. My in-laws suck: one is an ignorant narcissist, the other a self-important, type A who couldn’t care less about family. Younger sib has two kids, neither of whom really keep in touch. Older sib has no kids because they would have gotten in the way. All of them staunch conservatives. Cousins are all rather emotionless, although I do get along with one and her less uptight husband – except she’s thousands of miles away.

Fortunately we have some wonderful friends in the area, whom we would do anything for, and vice versa. Unfortunately the relatives we like are a couple of hundred miles away. The ones we could do without are farther away, which is fine and dandy with both of us. To hell with 'em. I’m too old to waste time on them, when we’ve got plenty of family that we love.

Gee, I guess I’ve got a lot of anger at my side of the family. I wish I could get rid of it, but by golly I’m not gonna rack up more by seeing any of them again.


My aunt works with international organizations. It’s common in Africa and the Middle East for people to call their cousins “sister” or “brother.”


Hm. I just watched a documentary about Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, and they called each other “sister” a lot in their letters to each other.

And according to some of the earlier Victorian literature I’ve read (Jane Austen, George Eliot), in-laws used to refer to each other as “sister” and “brother” as well (no “in-law” part). Things seem to get more specific in the second half of the 19th century, especially in the last 20 years or so. Wonder if the Industrial Revolution was an influence.


My 11-year-old daughter has been playing a lot of Skyrim. She’s taken to calling me “kinsman.”


Hmmm, not sure if you ought to be worried or not.


Indeed, and particularly that one! But we have come to an agreement, or at least an accommodation.


My son became an uncle last year at age 8. You’re making me feel a tiny bit better about that. :wink:

My family is pretty small, but Mr. Kidd’s is huge. Each of his parents is the youngest child of a brood (like 6 to 7 siblings, each). I have no idea how he keeps track of them all, I certainly can’t.


My BIL, youngest of 10, has nieces and nephews older than him. Same with someone I knew in high school.