Casefile Clues

21 August 2013

Abandoning the Grands and the Greats

Writing is about being clear and sometimes terms are not as clear as we would like. Terms can be especially confusing when describing family members. Degrees of cousinship are often confusing to genealogists, but the "aunts" and "uncles" often bring about more confusion. Many people confuse, misuse, misunderstand, and misinterpret the terms "Grand Aunt," "Great Aunt," "Great-Grand Aunt," etc. that I am very close to not using the terms in my writing. 

The use of these various descriptors is done in an attempt to make the relationship clear. I'm afraid that in most cases, it really does not do that. 

Which is more clear to the reader and explains the relationship more precisely, "My Grand Aunt Nellie (Neill) Shanks" or "My Grandfather Neill's sister, Nellie (Neill) Shanks." I'm starting to think that the second phrasing, while containing more words and slightly more cumbersome, is a more precise description of the relationship. "My Great-grand Uncle Chris Ehmen" is not quite as clear as saying "My Great-grandmother Habben's brother Chris Ehmen." The second phrasing seems more precise to this reader and actually naming the great-grandmother by name would be even more specific, "My Great-grandmother, Tjode (Goldenstein) Habben's brother Chris Ehmen." My Great-grand Uncle Chris Ehmen" does not really describe the relationship of Ehmen to me--which great-grandparent was he a sibling to?

Writing needs to be about clarity and relationships in genealogical writing need to be stated precisely. I'm not certain "grand" and "great" as modifiers for aunt and uncle do that.

Any thoughts?

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