I have copied a sizable chunk from The Will of William Bond [Clothier in Ladock, Cornwall], dated 7 April 1747, below, and would like to draw your attention to the parts that I have highlighted in bold:

I Give and Bequeath to my Trusty and beloved Brothers in Law William Courtenay and Thomas Courtenay Taylors and my dearly Beloved Brother John Bond Clothier Joyntly all of the parish of Laddock aforesaid all my Goods Chattells Money Security for Money and all other my Effects of whatever kind they be in Trust nevertheless for the Sole Use Benefitt and Behoofe of my Beloved Wife Ann Bond That is to say that they do and tis my Earnest desire and Order and Appointment from time to time and at all times during her Natural life take especial Care of and provision make for my said Beloved Wife Suitable to her wants and as the Exigencies and Necissityes of her case shall or may require out of my said Goods Chattells and Effects and tis my Further Will and Pleasure that immediately after the Demise of my said Wife Ann Bond That whatever of my Goods Effects or the produce of them be left unspent in her maintainance and Buriall be in and remain forever to my Beloved Cousing John son to Thomas Courtenay abovesaid and tis my further Will and pleasure That if my said Cousin John Courtenay shall appear at the death of my said Wife to be worth Fifty Pounds Clear and free of all Demands and Incumbrances whatsoever That then out of the Overplus I do give to my Brother John Bond Ten Pounds to my Brother Phillip Bond Ten Pounds To my Sister Joan Courtenay Fifty Shillings To my sister Mary Jolly fifty shillings to my sister Grace Williams to my Cousin Grace Daughter of my Brotherinlaw Matthew Courtenay

Only one Thomas Courtenay is mentioned in the will and he is clearly described as being a brother-in-law to William. However Thomas' son John is described as being a cousin to William when I would have called him a nephew. Thomas' wife being called Joan (they are my 2nd great grandparents) fits with what I know of them, and they had a son John.

Further on in the will, Grace, the daughter of his Brother-in-law Matthew Courtenay, is described as being a cousin too, whereas I would have called her a niece.

Were such nephews and nieces sometimes referred to as cousins at that time and place?

1 Answer 1


According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) one meaning of cousin is:

  • A collateral relative more distant than a brother or sister; a kinsman or kinswoman, a relative; formerly very frequently applied to a nephew or niece. Obsolete.

The last quotation applicable to this meaning is dated 1747 (S. Richardson Clarissa I. vi. 36). (I only just noticed that's the perfect match to your will's date!)

The strict modern sense is instanced as early as circa 1290, so the term spends some time meaning just about anything (presumably this is why the term Cousin-German was used - to denote a full cousin in today's sense as distinct from other sorts.)

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