Through whakapapa, relationships are established in line with Maori rules.
Whanau today translates as family, and is often refered to in Pakeha as extended family, but the whanau is more wider than the extended family.
Whanau encompasses not only your: – grandparents – parents and their siblings – your brothers and sisters and cousins – your nieces and nephews but also everyone who is connected to you through blood, be they your cousins children, your great uncles and aunts desendants, your 3rd cousins, your 99th cousines, everyone.
If a connection can be made, then whanau is established.
In the pakeha world, your first cousins’ children are your first cousins (once removed). However, this is not the Maori view.
In traditional Maori, the words for cousins are the same words for brothers and sisters. Just as your brothers’ and sisters’ children are you nieces and nephews, so are your cousins’ children. Yes, you have just inherited more nieces and nephews!
Your parents cousins are your aunts and uncles, so you have just gained more aunts and uncles.
This applies to, not only your first cousins, but 2nd, 3rd, 4th …nth cousins and their children and now your whanau has grown to many people.
Generation is the term used to define what relationship people are to you and is not tied to age.
Your brothers and sisters and your first cousins are the same generation as you.
Your parents, their brothers and sisters and their first cousins are the generation above you.
Your grandparents, their brothers and sisters and their first cousins are 2 generations above you.
Your children and nieces and nephews are the generation below you.
Sometimes you can have Aunts or Uncles that are younger than you. This usually happens when there are many years between brothers and sisters.
For example, There may be 20 years between the oldest and the youngest brother or sister. By the time that the oldest has their first child, their youngest brother or sister may be born after that.
Within the writer’s own whanau, the first cousins on one side range in age from mid 70’s to early 20’s. All first cousins from parents who are siblings, but spanning 50 plus years.
Keeping the bloodlines strong in whakapapa.
Every few generations the lines married back in. For example, your great great great grandparents on your father’s side could also be your great great great grandparents on your mother’s side.
Brothers and sisters of one whanau married brothers and sisters of another whanau. Again this was done to keep the bloodlines strong or to form strong allegiances with other iwi.
Sometimes when a person lost their spouse, they would marry another sibling of their deceased spouse.
This is one of the reasons why “pedigree” charts are so limiting when it comes to whakapapa, for it only shows tahuhu, or direct lines and not all of the inter-relationships.
It is also for the above reasons why it is so important to know for example, not only your great grandparents, but their siblings and who they married, their children and who they married all the way down, for there may be ties there.