What Is A Fifth Cousin?

If you’re building a family tree, then there’s a good chance you’ll need to know what a fifth cousin is.

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Or, perhaps you have been contacted by a relative claiming to be a fifth cousin, but you don’t know what that is.

Or maybe you’re just curious about genealogy and want to know more! Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you! 

We know how confusing family trees can be, especially if this is your first time researching one. You can be led down many different paths where the answers seem further and further from reach.

While trying to find out about your ancestry and lineage, you can end up learning about distant relatives you’ve never heard of.  And while that is a fantastic way to fill in your family tree, you start to wonder more about these relatives.

Who are they? How are they related to you? You start to hear phrases like fifth cousin and wonder what it means and how it relates to you. Read on to find out fifth cousins, where to find them, and how many you might have!

What Is A Fifth Cousin?

What Is A Fifth Cousin?

Did you know that you could have over 17,000 fifth cousins? Find out who they are!

Let’s get straight into it! A fifth cousin is someone with whom you share great-great-great-great grandparents (so that’s four “greats”). You and your cousin would have come from different children (two different siblings) of that grandparent, though.

In total, we have sixty-four great-great-great-great grandparents (crazy, right?). You can imagine how this would make for a LOT of faith cousins along your family tree—even if not all of your ancestors had children.

Now that we have covered what a fifth cousin is, let’s look at learning more about them and how they fit into your family tree.

Are Fifth Cousins Considered Distant Relatives?

Your fifth cousins are distant cousins. While there isn’t a formal definition of “distant” relatives, we typically refer to anyone who is a third cousin or great than that as a distant cousin.

Since we share great-great-great-great grandparents with our fifth cousin, it’s easy to see how there would be MANY degrees of separation between two fifth cousins.

How Separated Are Fifth Cousins?

So how separated are you? Fifth cousins have 12 degrees of separation between them. Where does this number come from though?

Remember, fifth cousins are related through great-great-great-great grandparents.

So, count up from yourself until you get to your great-great-great-great grandparents—that would equal six generations: 1.) your parents, 2.) your grandparents, 3.) your great grandparents, 4.) your great-great grandparents, 5.) your great-great-great grandparents, and finally, 6.) your great-great-great-great grandparents.

Then you do the same thing in reverse, counting back down to your fifth cousin. In total, that equals 12 generations—12 degrees of separation.

What Is A Half-Fifth Cousin?

A half-fifth cousin happens when the fifth cousins share only ONE great-great-great-great grandparent instead of both great-great-great-great grandparents. How is this possible? Simple, actually!

This happens when the children of the great-great-great-great grandparents that you and your fifth cousin each descended from were half-siblings. Your great-great-great grandparents (that’s three greats, not four) were half-siblings, making you half-fifth cousins.

Did you know that you could have over 17,000 fifth cousins? Find out who they are!

What Does Fifth Cousin Once-Removed Mean? 

If your fifth cousin is once-removed, they would either be the child of your fifth cousin or your parent’s fifth cousin. The once-removed part simply refers to the cousin coming from a different number of generations from the MRCA (which stands for most recent common ancestor) than you do. 

If both you and your fifth cousin have children, then these children are sixth cousins. Since they are the same number of generations away from each other, there is no “once-removed” involved.

two cousins smiling

How Many Fifth Cousins Do I Actually Have?

Each person has roughly 17,300 fifth cousins on average, although the exact number will be different for everyone and will depend on how many children there are throughout each generation.

It sounds like a crazy-high number, but remember, there are 12 degrees of separation between fifth cousins and family trees grow in an exponential manner.

How Can I Find My Fifth Cousins?

There are a few ways to get started finding your fifth cousins.

The first is to make the most of DNA testing. This will allow you to find other people on your family tree. With DNA tests, you’ll have a good chance of coming across some DNA matches that are fifth cousins.

Once you have the names and dates of birth, it can be easier to track these fifth cousins down through the likes of social media and connect with them. 

For those who don’t want to take a DNA test, researching your family tree using sites like Ancestry can help you track down your fifth cousins.

You should be able to find at least a few other descendants of your great-great-great-great grandparents who are researching their own family trees and have made them publicly available on Ancestry.

While you may not gather as much information through this method as you would with DNA testing, this should still help you to fill in gaps on your family tree and make connections with them.

Don’t forget to make the most of other living relatives too. You never know what phone numbers or addresses are lurking in a grandparent’s home that could help you track down other relatives with ease!

Did you know that you could have over 17,000 fifth cousins? Find out who they are!

It’s important to note that sharing DNA and being genealogically related do not mean exactly the same thing. It’s possible to NOT share any DNA with someone on your family tree!

So, while fifth cousins are genealogically related, there’s a good chance you won’t share any DNA. In fact, there is around a 70% chance of no detectable DNA relationship between fifth cousins.

If you’re part of that roughly 30% that DOES share some DNA with their fifth cousin, it will be an extremely small amount.

The percentage of this and the blood relation often depends on your family. If there have been remarriages or stepchildren on the family tree, not all of your fifth cousins will likely be blood-related.

But as we know, blood relation is not the only factor when considering a family. There are some cases where fifth cousins are very close and it is the relationship with the people that is important, not necessarily the relationship stated on a family tree. 

Final Thoughts 

And there you have it, your fifth cousin is someone who shares your great-great-great-great grandparents!

While there are likely to be thousands of fifth cousins out there, you can track some of them down with ease thanks to DNA and family tree sites out there and fill in the blanks in your knowledge.

Why not give it a go today and see what you find out about your family?

Did you know that you could have over 17,000 fifth cousins? Find out who they are!


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