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Don’t understand how exactly you’re related to that first cousin, thrice removed? Here’s a chart

In September, I talked with bestselling author A.J. Jacobs about his plans to throw the world's first global family reunion. Sister Sledge was right, says Jacobs: we really are family.

Jacobs insists that everyone is cousins. He's not using the word the way we usually do, in the "first-cousin" sense (i.e. your cousin is the child of your aunt or uncle). Rather, what he means by "cousin" is a person who shares a common ancestor with you. Jacobs told me the farthest apart any of us are is 50th cousins.

One of his cousins he was most excited to find out about was Ellen DeGeneres. "She's my first-cousin-once-removed's-husband's-seventh-great-aunt's-eighth-great-niece. So there you go. Practically my sister."

But really, what is a once-removed or an eighth-great relative? How do you even track degrees of separation from a common ancestor? Can I maybe get a chart?

Actually, yes, reader, you can get a chart. Here you go.

Ancestor chart

(Flowing Data)

Here's how you use the chart, according to the website that designed it: "Figure out the common ancestor between two relatives. Then select the relationship of the first relative to the common ancestor in the top row. Move down to the row that corresponds to the relationship of the second person to the common ancestor. The result is the relationship of the second person to the first."