A high school teacher’s viral TikTok breaks down what ‘once removed’ actually means

What does once removed mean, really? If TikTok is any indication, that very specific question is one of the defining mysteries of our time.

The term gets thrown around all the time at family reunions, or when discussing genealogy and family trees. That said, it’s clear a lot of us never actually knew what it means.

Thankfully, Kevin Silberman is here to clear things up. Silberman is a high school social studies teacher and TikToker, who shares quick explanatory videos on his page (@silb0017). In a recent video, which drew over 11 million views, Silberman unraveled the confusion around “once removed” cousins.

Silberman’s video begins with the teacher in front of his whiteboard, a simple family tree drawn behind him. Then, he breaks down the difference between first cousins, second cousins and cousins once removed.

“I had a lot of questions on this TikTok,” Silberman says, referring to his earlier, slightly more confusing cousin breakdown.

As Silberman explains, the child of your aunt or uncle is your first cousin. Meanwhile, the child of that first cousin is your cousin once removed. The key, he explains, is that “removed” really means “down a generation.”

“If my first cousin once removed had a son,” Silberman explains. “He would be my first cousin twice removed.”

So what about second and third cousins? Those relationships, Silberman explains, never exist outside of the same generation. For example, your child and the child of your first cousin would be second cousins.

TikTokers were largely blown away by the explanation.

“Why did I think ‘removed’ means they got divorced?” a popular comment asked.

“I’m almost 39 years old, and this is the first time I’ve heard someone explain the ‘once removed’ thing,” another added.

“I’m just gonna call them all my cousins,” another joked.

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