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What is a Great-Grandparent?

A great-grandparent is the parent of your grandparent. Both the mother and father of each of your grandparents is a great-grandparent, and is often referred to as a great-grandfather or great-grandmother.

Many people grow up knowing at least one of their great-grandparents, though they might not know exactly how their elderly relative is related to them. Since people are living longer than ever, more people will get the opportunity to know their great-grandparents.

What is a Great-Grandparent

For example, some estimates show that in the year 2030, about 70% of children who are eight years old will have a great-grandparent who is alive.

I was lucky enough to know two of my great-grandparents while I was growing up. They were an amazing source of stories about the past, and family information.

Plus, they were like extra grandparents! Grandparents are wonderful, and great-grandparents are fantastic.

What is a great-grandparent?

A great-grandparent is the mother or father of your grandparent. Your great-grandparent is your direct ancestor, along with all four of your grandparents, as well as your parents.

What does great-grandparent mean?

The origin of the term great-grandparent can be traced through Anglo-French to its Latin roots. Both the prefix “great” and the “grand” from the word grandparent come from Latin and came into use into modern English sometime around the 13th century.

Old English, which was Germanic in origin, had a different way of describing the great-grandparent relationship. For example, the great-grandfather would have been called a third father, or þridda fæder.

How many generations back is a great-grandparent?

Great-grandparents are three generations back from you in your family tree. They are third degree relatives, since they are the parents of your grandparents, who are second degree relatives.

Your grandparents are three generations back because your parents are the first generation, and your grandparents are the second generation back. Finally, we arrive at your great-grandparents, who are the three generations removed from you in your family tree.

Even though your great-grandparents are three generations back in your tree, they are still considered to be close relatives. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, many people know some of their great-grandparents and even have a close relationship with them.

How many great-grandparents does a person have?

Most people have eight great-grandparents. This is because each of your four grandparents has two different parents, effectively doubling the number of ancestors at the third generation.

The number of great-grandparents a person has is equal to the total number of parents their grandparents have:

  • Paternal grandfather: 2 parents
  • Paternal grandmother: 2 parents
  • Maternal grandfather: 2 parents
  • Maternal grandmother: 2 parents

Total: 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8 great-grandparnets

Can you have less than eight great-grandparents?

Yes, there are scenarios in which a person could have fewer than eight great-grandparents. For example, if your parents are first cousins, then you would have only six great-grandparents.

This occurs because the same great-grandparents would occupy more than one spot in the family tree. In the past, it was more common for first and second cousins to marry, but we still do see this happen occasionally.

When people are descended from the same ancestors in more than one way, we call it pedigree collapse. Pedigree collapse occurs when the same ancestors occupy multiple places on the family tree.

Example of great-grandparents in a pedigree chart

Do you want to see where your great-grandparents would be in your family tree? The pedigree chart below shows exactly where your eight great-grandparents should be located:

Example of a pedigree chart going back three generations to the great-grandparents.  This chart uses generic relationship names (mom, dad, grandma) and is black text on a white background

As you can see, your great-grandparents are three generations removed from you in the sample pedigree chart above. A pedigree chart is another word for a chart displaying your family tree.

If you were to make a chart similar to the one above, you could simply replace my generic names with the names and dates of birth of your actual ancestors.

What are people who share the same great-grandparents called?

If you share the same great-grandparent with someone, but you don’t have the same parents or grandparents, you and your relative are second cousins. Second cousins have grandparents who are siblings, and share their great-grandparents as their most recent common ancestor.

Are you blood related to great-grandparents?

Yes, you are genetically related to your great-grandparents. In fact, if you and your great-grandparents all took DNA tests, they would show up as DNA matches to you.

You inherited, on average, about 12.5% of your DNA from each of your great-grandparents. This means that if one of your great-grandparents was from Poland, for example, then you would likely have about 12.5% Polish DNA.

How to find your great-grandparents names

Most people didn’t get the opportunity to meet all eight of their grandparents, yet want to learn more about them. If you didn’t grow up knowing details about your great-grandparents, don’t worry.

Fortunately, modern record keeping has existed since the births of most of our great-grandparents, and we can usually find out details about them through locating their vital records and other types of genealogy records.

You can also speak with older family members, such as parents, aunts, uncles, and even older cousins, in order to learn more about your ancestors.

If the identity of our great-grandparents is unknown, we can often find out who they were by taking a DNA test and researching our DNA matches.


I hope that this post has helped you understand more about great-grandparents, including the definition of a great-grandparent, how you have, where they are in your family tree, and whether you are genetically related.

If you have any questions about something that you read in this post, or if you would like to ask a specific question about great-grandparents, I would love to hear from you in the discussion below.

Thanks for stopping by today!

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