What's an Indirect Descendant?

In genealogy, the phrase “direct descendant” is used regularly. Isn’t that redundant? Either you are a descendant of a particular person or you’re not.

Some genealogy reference books attempt to define indirect descendant as “descended from a common ancestor but through different lines” which, in my opinion, means you are potentially distant cousins, but you are still each (direct) descendants of a common ancestor.

You’re an indirect descendant of Ben Franklin if you’re a direct descendant of his sister.

It’s an imprecise term, and I avoid it in my genealogical discussions, but lots of others employ it.

If I’m a descendant of Ben Franklin’s sister, I am a descedant of their father, but am I not a decesdant of Ben, at least not in a biological sense.

Sounds like “indirect descendant” is way for some people to try to claim a relationship that doesn’t exist - e.g. I’m an (indirect) descendant of George Washington.

Oh, the relationship exists, all right. It’s one of collateral relations. And kingships have turned on such things. How do you think the German-speaking George I ended up King of England?

I also posit that “indirect descendant” sounds better to a lot of people than claiming Ben Franklin as a “cousin”. He would be one, something like first cousin 7 times removed.

Personally, I’d opt for cousin. Heck, Prince William of England is 27th cousin, 9 times removed.

George W Bush is an indirest descendant of Franklin Pierce the 14th President of the United States through his mother Barbra Pierce (Bush).

Ah, but George I got the nod because he was a direct descendant of the Electress Sophia (his mum), who in turn was a direct descendant of James I & VI (her grandfather).

Consider the following three sentences:

A. I am a descendant of George Washington.
B. I am a direct descendant of George Washington.
C. I am an indirect descendant of George Washington.

B = A, therefore “direct” is redundant and can be left out.

For C, if George is a great-great-…-parent, then it is the same as A.

If I am related to George through a sister, cousin, brother, etc., then I am not his descendant, but we are, of course, relations.

What’s wrong with just being cousins or a grand-grand-…-nephew? Why the rush to claim descendancy from someone who isn’t your ancestor?

Of course, since George Washington had no children, no one is his direct descendant… :slight_smile:

Zev Steinhardt

No. No one is his descendant. :wink:

While I agree with you, we are now faced with semantics. Some people recognize indirect descent to mean what was described. I know what they’re talking about when the term is used, even if I think it’s silly. But so far they’ve refused to change for my benefit.

I agree. Since my OP asked what an “indirect descendant” is, I think you have answered the question.

Direct Descendant: a biological descendant of a person.

Indirect Descendant: a blood relation, but not a biological descendant of a person. Used by some people because it sounds better than “third cousin, twice removed” or similar relationships.

Thanks everyone. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, then we’ll just have to agree to… um, agree, I guess.