Shirt-tail relative
PRIOR TO when most folks had computers and access to the internet the research into family genealogy was more difficult. Now days we can more easily obtain the names, their birth date, when they died, where they lived, where they were buried of individuals we may have family connection. In my own research on the internet I worked-up a family tree of nearly 500 names. I spent many hours obtaining that information over a considerable period of time. So don’t make the mistake I did by not obtaining an online data backup service.

Recently I had what is commonly called a “computer crash.” My hard drive went out and I lost over 2400 documents. This included articles on colloquialism (old sayings) that I have provided for six newspapers. I had just about got enough of them in one file on my computer for my second book on old sayings. Other data included genealogy of our family tree. Some of that information I was able to recover from some data stored on disk. I now have over 1600 data back on my computer. Much of our genealogy should be obtained from print-outs that I shared with relatives. A niece has already let me know that I can obtain a copy of what I gave her.

Up through the 1950s family history research did not always come easy. Even to this day some information is hard to come by. During the 1950s the expression “shirt-tail relatives” was often heard. Just what does that expression have reference to?

“SHIRT-TAIL RELATIVES” are those in whom we are distantly related. Two people who have the same grandparents, but are not siblings are cousins. They are referred to as first cousins. Generations on down become second cousins, third cousins, etc. At that point they become more distantly related. In explaining cousins of different generations the term “removed” comes in. For example Johnny is a first cousin once removed to a first cousin of one of his parents.

The expression “shirt-tail relative” can not only refer to those in whom we are distinctly related, but also to those related unto us by marriage of someone in our family or close family friends. It might be that we want to claim someone as a relative who in reality are not related by blood or marriage. We may simply want to honor them by referring to them as a “shirt-tail relative.”

Dub Mowery is a Gospel preacher in the Church of Christ. A native of Southeast Oklahoma, he is the author of Colloquial Sayings & Expressions (Morris Publishing, 2008)

© 2013