People who were family but you're not quite sure who they were precisely.

Inspired by this thread.

Growing up, my family wasn’t exactly big: about 15 persons on my mother’s side and just a little bit more on my father’s side. You’d think that I’d have a pretty good grip on who they were in relation to me but actually, even now at age 41, the relationship isn’t clear. And since most of them passed away long ago, I’m probably never going to have the answer.

First there was Uncle Martins. He was married to Aunt… I forget and they took care of their… grand-daughter (?) Sammie. Sammie was a year older than me and one of the few people in my family who was near me in terms of age. There’s a picture of me and Sammie exchanging a kiss at age 2 or 3. Sammie grew up to be a bit wild and we lost touch. But who were they? I think that Uncle Martins may have been my grandfather’s brother (my grandfather died 7 years before I was born, I never knew him and his side of the family). I’m pretty sure his wife, Aunt …, also happened to be my grandmother’s best friend from way back when. The two best friends married two brothers. That’s confusing to a child, especially since my grandfather was the missing link.

Then, there was Uncle John and Aunt Anne. The picture is a bit clearer. I’m almost sure that Aunt Anne was my grandfather’s sister. I used to go to their place a few times a year during the holidays when my parents had to work.

Funny how I just took these people for granted and never really wondered how they were related to me until very recently.

There is a nuclear family, a couple and 3 daughters, who came from India who I am pretty sure are not related to my mostly European-American family, but we mutually invite each other to our family events. I asked why that was a while back, I don’t remember if one or both of the couple were exchange students a long time ago or if our families somehow got close in another way. But in general , it’s just taken for granted that if an event is big enough to invite aunts and uncles, we invite them too.

I still don’t know how many brothers my mother has/had. I know her father skipped out when she was very young and they survived thanks to the kindness of strangers who would leave food and coal on their doorstep. I know her mother remarried and her step father was not a good man. And that’s it. All I know is that it is not talked about.

I visited my grandmother when I was nineteen. This weird lady walked up and was solo happy to see me.

Weird Lady: “It’s been so long! Come give me a hug!”
Me: “It’s so good to see you.”
Weird Lady: “Do you have any idea who I am?”
Me: “Not a clue!”

At least she had a good sense of humor about it.

I’ve done some dabbling in genealogy, so I’ve managed to account for all the relatives I met, but I recently discovered an Uncle who died at the age of three weeks. My mother knew of him, but didn’t know his name.

My great grandfather was married twice and there were some children from both marriages. My grandmother was a child from his first marriage, I have met a couple of people from the second marriage but have no idea how they are related. Most of that part of the family didn’t survive WWII. Somehow I have great-uncles and distant cousins or something, I’m not even sure of which generation they are from. The ages of family members in the same generation is very disparate, I’m the same age as one of my father’s first cousins. I really have no incentive to figure this all out since these people haven’t been part of my life.

On my Mum’s side everyone is reasonably clear. My Mum had a lot of Aunts on her own mother’s side, five of them I think, and they all had loads of kids each, so most of those kinds of people are all my Mum’s cousins.

However, my Dad is Maori, and like many Pacific Island-type extended families (and beyond) there were a lot of people we called Uncle and Auntie and Cousin who were only related by third- or fourth-degree complicated family-tree shenanigans. Indeed, my own Dad was adopted by his own Aunt, so he stayed in the family, but now with an adopted step-sister, while his biological bro and sis were now technically cousins.


My mom went and had a couple of grandchildren without consulting my sister or I. She was an inner-city elementary school teacher, and found herself acting as the Responsible Adult in the lives of a couple of her former students (actually, one former student and the student’s sister). They just sort of connected and the relationship grew, and now they’re somehow some sort of family without any blood relation or formal connection whatsoever.

I was taken to a family reunion when I was around 7 years old and there were a couple tables with black people. Well, presumably partially black people. People weren’t being hostile to them but there was some awkwardness. I was quite curious about how they were related to us and never found out.

When I was in high school, there was a tiny great-aunt who lived near us. She would sometimes walk over and chat for a while (didn’t know how to drive). She was unlike any other relative on either side. Very short and homely, fairly dark-skinned, not too bright, never married, worked as someone’s live-in housekeeper. I don’t think she even knew how to read. When she was dying, my parents were the only people who visited her. I assume she was on my father’s side, since everyone on my mother’s side is accounted for. I don’t even know what her last name was. I’m thinking she was probably my paternal grandfather’s sister or sister-in-law, but there’s nobody still alive who’d know.

I’m pretty clear about my own immediate family, but there is no way I can keep my sister’s in-laws straight. My BIL has a huge family full of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and all of their assorted offspring and miscellaneous in-laws, scattered around the country. Apparently if you marry into their family, you and your own extended family become one. It’s very confusing and when my sister talks about her in-laws I pretty much just smile and nod and pretend to know who the hell she is talking about. I don’t know how she keeps them straight.

FWTW - Apparently in there somewhere they are related to comedian Eddie Griffin. He calls my sister Auntie, but I have no idea how he fits into the picture.

My husband is from a working-class inner-city neighbourhood where all the families have been interweaving for centuries. Every single explanation of a relationship goes like this:

‘And that’s my Auntie Mary, well she’s not my aunt, but her mother was married before and then her husband died and she remarried and had my Auntie Mary, and then one of her daughters from the first marriage took in my dad when his dad ran off and his mother was ill, because the daughter’s husband was my dad’s ma’s cousin, and my dad lived with her for ten years while he was growing up, so that’s my Auntie Mary.’

After a while you give up on trying to keep track and just make sure you get Auntie Mary a Christmas present.

My father once sat me down and told me he had some bad news… my cousin Bobby died. I think I was about 12 years old.

Me: Who?
Dad: Bobby. Your aunt Doris’ son.
Me: Doris? Who is Doris?
Dad: My sister Doris!
Me: Who?

Never heard of either of them before. When Doris died a few years later he told me. And he had to reckon back to the prior exchange over Bobby to get me to remember.

Dad: Doris died.
Me: Who?
Dad: Doris. My older sister.
Me: Who?
Dad: Doris. She was Bobby’s mother. Bobby who died a couple years ago.
Me: Uh. ok.

Never heard any other mention of these relatives since. Never met them. Never heard my father’s siblings speak of them. I assume they were real. I heard some years later that my paternal grandmother was the second wife of my grandfather, so perhaps Doris was a daughter from a prior marriage?

That doesn’t happen much in my family. Hindi has a great advantage over English in that the title of the relative tells you at least generally who they are. So when you say “Massi” I know that’s my mom’s sister or at the most, cousin.

But since they are mostly in India, I don’t know a good many of them, so I’m sure people could claim they are related to me, and be right, and I wouldn’t be sure. Still, if they said to me, “I am your bua!” I’d know they were one of my dad’s brother’s wives.

My family mystery is also a Doris. Cousin Doris, whose relationship to us changes depending on who I ask about it. Her father and my great-grandfather were half-brothers? He was a cousin of my great-grandfather? No no, it was a full generation closer and they were full brothers?

Nobody knows. I gave up trying to figure it out.

I had the same problem. Saw most of them only 2 twice a year at best. Add in large family who had large families, divorces, remarries, step parents, unofficial adoptions, stragglers and probably some low level inbreeding…well as a child I just gave up.

I know pretty much all of my blood-related family and how they fit together - uncles, aunts and cousins. There is a female cousin who I see every few years, however, about whom I’m not quite sure. I think she may be the illegitimate daughter of one of my aunts (born in the Fifties when it was considered scandalous), but I’m not sure, and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by asking now. (Plus I’m not all that curious about it). I also have another cousin who I’m not quite sure how we’re related, but he’s a nice guy, I see him pretty rarely and, you know, whatevs.

My maternal grandmother had a relative she always called her “fifty-second cousin.” None of us are too sure how they were related, but it’s probably one of those “second cousin three times removed” type of things. Tracking that side of the family is difficult because my grandparents were immigrants and records are sparse to unavailable in their country of origin.

There was a sibling couple on my father’s side who both joined the Church so they were Sister Delores and Brother Joe. Since that’s what everyone called them, I never really had a grasp on how they were actually related to anyone (no one called them “Aunt Delores” or “Cousin Joe” or anything helpful). As an adult, I think they were cousins of my father… maybe… but I’m still not really sure. I’d only see them maybe once a year so it didn’t come up much.

Hell, I’m still confused at what some the relationships are called, exactly. My parents and my cousin’s parents are both divorced and remarried, and in the case of my uncle, divorced and remarried again. And then on mum’s side, her mom and dad died when she was young, and she was raised by her great-aunt.

Christmas day includes my uncle’s first ex-wife (cousin’s mom) and her husband; my uncle’s second ex-wife (other cousin’s mom) and *her *husband; and uncle’s current girlfriend and her kid (no blood relation).

Other than my uncle, I’m not sure WTH to call any of them. Luckily I’m middle-aged and everyone’s cool with first names. :slight_smile:

My cousin and I had to figure out exactly what relation her daughter is to me. After ten minutes of conversation, uncle’s second ex-wife said that she was taking away our “southerners” card for not knowing that. BTW, it’s first cousin, once removed.

On my mum’s side is a couple I called Aunt Joanne and Uncle Charlie when I was a kid. Then I learned that Jo and Charlie are actually my mum’s cousins, so my first cousins, once removed. So their kids are my, um, second cousins?

Also on my mum’s side was my Nana, who wasn’t my birth grandmother (who died when my mom was 12), but my great-aunt. And my great-uncle had a whole family who I don’t know, except for Huddie, who’s fabulous and lived in Texas. Alas, I don’t know her full name and she’s probably gone now.

ETA: You know, we also had a Doris in my family that I don’t know the origin of. You think she just went to different events at different houses?
tl; dr – my family is confused for the same reasons as billfish678.