Cousin Explosion

Both of my Carey grandparents were one of eight siblings, which was not unusual during that time, particularly among “good” Catholic families. They had six children of their own, and those six produced thirty grandchildren, who then brought another sixty-seven more Carey cousins into the world.

When my aunts were all expanding their families, it was said that they reproduced in three’s, meaning that when one announced they were expecting a child, another one, two, or sometimes even three more announcements followed. As their families grew in size, I imagine that they all began to eye each other with suspicion, wondering who was next to announce an impending bundle of joy.

In honor of my cousin Tim’s birthday today, I decided to investigate whether this family story was fact or fiction. My analysis showed only three instances when just a single birth occurred during a nine-month period. The only cousins without a match were Tommy, Billy, and Tricia. This changed as soon as all six siblings were married, and then the cousin explosion began!

There were four occasions of “cousin twins”: Nancy and Lois; Janice and Rosemary (the first four grandchildren); Sue and Dan, who were the children of my twin uncles, Bob and Don; and Uncle Dave and my cousin Chris, the last Carey cousins.

I was part of the first set of “cousin triplets”, sharing that honor with my cousins Maureen and Tim Carey, children of Grandma’s brothers Larry and Rich. Before the last notes of Auld Lang Syne were sung in 1955, another pregnancy was announced. However, Aunt Marian’s pregnancy with my cousin, Alan, did not occur within the same nine month period as the other three. (It’s complicated, but do the math. Alan’s February 1956 birth could only align him with Tim’s August 1955 birth, so I guess he and Tim could be considered “cousin twins”)

Two years later, my grandma was blessed with “quadruplet cousin grandchildren”, and what was even more amazing, three of those babies—Gail, Bobby, and Laurie—were all born during a single week in June. Someday I will track down the new article which reported that unusual Boonton event. The final baby of the 1957 Carey “cousin quadruplets” was Don, born five months later.

The second set of “cousin triplets” occurred two years after the quads, and consisted of cousins Cathy, Richard, and Arlene. Carey cousins were all over Boonton!

Aunt Ellen was part of another set of “cousin triplets” along with my cousins Allison and Jimmy. Jimmy was also a “cousin twin”, born just four months before my other cousin Jimmy. Technically, Allison could also be bundled in with the two Jimmies as another set of “cousin triplets.” (It’s getting way too confusing!)

The fourth, and last, set of “cousin triplets” occurred in 1963, consisting of Uncle Mart, and cousins Debbie and Johnny Carey, children of Uncle Bob and Uncle Don (the twins). Eileen was born nine months after Debbie and seven months after Johnny, so that cousin overlap, like with Allison, could make Eileen part of a cousin triplet. (Are you minds exploding yet?)

In 1960, “the pill” was approved but was still illegal in many states until a 1965 ruling by the Supreme Court– Griswold vs. Connecticut–upheld a married couple’s right to practice birth control. It is still banned by the Catholic Church today, but at that time, four of the aunts were under the age of forty (one under thirty) and the last grandchild was born in 1965. Hmmmm!

Cousin birthday celebration- 1959-ish?

Cousin birthday celebration- 1959-ish?


4 thoughts on “Cousin Explosion

  1. And it continued into the next generation! Janice & Tim had twin cousins, Kevin & Tim, Daniel & Erin, Michael & Brian. Jim & Chris followed with Lizzy & George and Yanni & Catie…


    • I didn’t even mention our twin-ness, both sharing the same birthday but not the same year. Chris and John Carey also share birthdays two years apart like us. Then there is Ellen, sharing the same birthday as Uncle Bob and Don, but separated by 31 years. With so many in the family, there must be a lot more.


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