Assembling the Costanza Family Tree
Researching your own family tree can be a major pain. It takes time, costs money and comes with the risk that you’ll find out that you’re related to a universally hated historical figure, or, worse... Thankfully, delving into the genealogical history of a fictional person is a tad less fraught. Which today brings us to George Costanza.
Beyond George’s father’s Festivus grievances and mother’s creepy dolls, Seinfeld’s Costanza clan contains arguably one of the most confusing (and surprisingly tragic) pop-culture lineages we can recall. How well do we know the family that gave us the guy who ate an éclair out of the garbage as casually as he knocked senior citizens to the ground to escape a grease fire? Well, we can trace it back to…
We don’t know all that much about George’s grandparents; he mentions visiting them in the third episode of the show but never again. Meaning that they likely died off-screen at some point, and George seemingly didn’t care enough to ever mention it, which, to be fair, is totally on brand. The only time the subject came up again was when George brought up his late maternal grandmother, purely to question whether or not she was “bosomy.”
As for Frank’s grandparents’ generation, we learn in “The Doll” that when the Costanzas came to America, “one brother stayed behind” in Italy, although his name is never mentioned.
The First Generation in America
The first generation of Costanzas to be raised in America included Frank, and, presumably, his sister Baby, who tragically died at the age of seven due to ill-defined “internal” problems, which is a pretty intense detail to casually throw into a series that normally focuses on rude soup peddlers and masturbation contests. Frank also had a brother, Moe, who “died a young man.” And Estelle’s sister Henny seemingly also met a grim fate.
As for the Costanzas who remained in Italy, Frank attempts to track down his long-lost cousin Carlo, who he fondly remembers playing with “every day until the age of four.” But when Frank makes the trip to Tuscany, the man he thought was Carlo turns out to be named Giuseppe. He’s still most likely related to Frank, though, because A) they look exactly alike; and B) as fans have pointed out, Giuseppe is an importer-exporter, just like his first cousin once removed’s go-to fake persona.
We meet two of George’s cousins over the course of the show; first, there’s Shelly, who comes to visit Estelle when she’s in the hospital following the Glamour magazine incident. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn much about Shelly’s life, or who her parents are, as George is immediately distracted by a nearby sponge bath.
Then there’s Rhisa, George's cousin/girlfriend, from one of the show’s grosser Constanza storylines. George states that Rhisa is Frank’s brother’s daughter, but it’s unclear if he’s talking about the ill-fated Uncle Moe or an entirely different brother.
One of the most beguiling missing pieces of the overarching Seinfeld mythology is George’s mysterious brother. In the episode “The Suicide,” George tells a psychic that he has a brother who “once impregnated a woman named Pauline” (suggesting the possibility that the Costanza bloodline may continue), and in “The Parking Space” George says that his brother, like his parents, refuses to pay for parking.
The brother’s conspicuous absence in later seasons spawned the show’s most depressing fan theory — that Frank and Estelle's other son took his own life, thus explaining their long-standing resentment toward George. Then again, maybe George’s brother is living on a private island somewhere with Jerry’s forgotten sister.
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