When Peter the Poacher died, his six direct descendants all came to the funeral, each being a son, grandson or great-grandson of the old reprobate. The "Chippings Post" sent a man to compile Peter's family tree. He spoke to each of the six, who said:

  1. Peter was my father. Cox is not my son. I have no grandsons.
  2. I am Frank's uncle. Ben and Enoch are brothers. Cox is my uncle.
  3. I have no brothers. Ben is my great-uncle. Dan is my father.
  4. I am Alf. Peter was my grandfather. Cox is Dan's son.
  5. I am Cox. Alf is my uncle. Dan is my brother.
  6. Alf and Dan are brothers. Frank is my grandson. Ben is my brother.

Now Peter always told the truth and passed this virtue on to the next generation. But any grandson of his has made one false statement in his three and any great-grandson two.

So what is Peter's family tree?

(Puzzle 30, p 45, "Tantalizers: a book of original logical puzzles" by Martin Hollis, 1970)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ lol I was looking forward to "who murdered Peter"... $\endgroup$
    – WhatsUp
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 17:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @WhatsUp there are numerous whodunnit puzzles in this book $\endgroup$
    – Laska
    Commented Oct 9, 2020 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


Here is a systematic way to work through the statements.

Firstly, let us just look at the three statements uttered by each person and see if we can infer anything.

1 is either a son, a grandson (who lied about Peter being his father), or a great-grandson. The statement "I have no grandsons" is definitely true in any case.

2 is either a grandson or great-grandson. If he is a great-grandson, then the statement "I am Frank's uncle" is definitely false.

3 is either a grandson or a great-grandson. If he is a grandson, then the statement "Ben is my great-uncle" is definitely false, so the other statements must be true.

4 is either a grandson or great-grandson. Regardless, one of the statements "I am Alf" and "Cox is Dan's son" must be false, with the other being true.

5 is either a grandson or great-grandson.

6 can be a son, a grandson or a great-grandson.

We know there must be at least 1 son, 1 grandson, and 1 great-grandson. So the only candidates for being sons are persons 1 and 6. If 6 was a son, then his third statement implies that there must be another son (Ben). So, 1 is definitely a son. From 1's third statement, he doesn't have a grandson, which means in order for there to be a great-grandson, Peter must have had another son. This can only be 6. So, regardless, Peter must have had 2 sons. Combining 1's and 6's statements, we can deduce that 1 is Ben and 6 must be either Enoch or Cox.

The next step is to deduce whether the brothers, Alf and Dan, are grandsons or great-grandsons. Let us consider that they are great-grandsons. They cannot be Ben's grandsons, so the only possibility would be

Family tree

Looking at 2's statements, the statements "I am Frank's uncle" and "Cox is my uncle" must be false. So, the statement "Ben and Enoch are brothers" must be true and Cox must be Enoch's son. We then need to find one person from 2 to 5 to fit Cox. However, Cox would have at least 2 false statements if he was any person from 2 to 5 and this would be a contradiction. So, Alf and Dan cannot be great-grandsons and must be grandsons. They are either Ben's children or 6's children.

Let us revisit 4’s statements. If 4 was a grandson, his second statement, “Peter was my grandfather” would be true. Hence, the false statement must be either “I am Alf” or “Cox is Dan’s son”. If 4 was a great-grandson, his second statement “Peter was my grandfather” would be false. His second false statement must be either “I am Alf” or “Cox is Dan’s son”. Regardless, in any case, one of 4’s first and third statements must be true with the other being false.

If we consider that 4 is NOT Alf, then the third statement, “Cox is Dan’s son” must be true and Cox must be a great-grandson. If Cox is Dan’s son, then 6 must be Enoch. Since Ben does not have any grandsons, Alf and Dan must be Enoch’s sons instead.

Let us now look at 5's statements. 5 cannot be Cox, since 2 of his statements would become true, which is a contradiction for being a great-grandson. 5 cannot be Alf or Dan as well, since they are grandsons and can have only 1 false statement. Hence, 5 must be Frank. From his statements, only "Alf is my uncle" can be true since the other two are false. So Frank and Cox would have to be brothers. The family tree diagram at this point would look like


However, out of the 3 remaining people (Alf, Cox, and Dan), none of them can fit person 3. If it were Alf and Dan, they would have no true statements, and if it was Cox, then he would have 2 true statements. This means the entire scenario we just discussed is not possible. So, Alf has to be person 4 and Cox is not Dan's son.

Dan must be either person 2, 3, or 5. However, he cannot be either person 3 or 5 or else all three of his statements would be false. So, he must be person 2. If his first statement "I am Frank's uncle" were to be false, then the other two statements cannot be true at the same time. So, that statement must be true and Dan must be Frank's uncle. Frank cannot be Ben's grandson, so Dan cannot be Ben's son and must be Ben's brother's son. If Ben's brother is Cox, then Dan's second and third statements both become false. Hence, Ben's brother must be Enoch.

So, our findings currently look like

1 - Ben, 2 - Dan, 3 - ?, 4 - Alf, 5 - ?, 6 - Enoch

So, we are only left with Cox and Frank to match persons 3 and 5. We still have not figured out whether Cox is a grandson or great-grandson. Cox can neither be Ben's son nor grandson, so he must belong to Enoch's side of the family. If Cox was to be Enoch's son, then he can only be person 5. That means Frank has to be person 3, but that would result in him having 2 true statements ("I have no brothers" and "Ben is my great-uncle"), which is a contradiction. So, both Frank and Cox must be great-grandsons.

Looking at 3's statements, the second one is definitely true, so the first statement (" I have no brothers") must be false. Therefore, Frank and Cox are both brothers. Since Dan is their uncle, Alf must be their father. The only statement that can be true for 5 is "I am Cox", and thus 5 is Cox and 3 is Frank. So the final family tree looks like


  • $\begingroup$ This is really systematic and accurate, with great diagrams. For the first half it was very easy to follow the logic. I found myself getting lost after the bit "If 4 is not Alf..." Is it possible for you to maybe add another diagram or two? E.g. eliminate the possibility that Alf/Dan are sons of Ben, then can show them as sons of 6. But I will give you the tick anyway thank you so much $\endgroup$
    – Laska
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 5:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Laska I added some additional explanation concerning the bit "If 4 is not Alf..". I think you might have been confused as to why "Cox is Dan's son" is true in that particular case. Hopefully, this clears it up. $\endgroup$
    – Alaiko
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification. No that wasn’t what confused me. I considered 3 scenarios in turn: A&D as great grandchildren, then as sons of Ben and finally and correctly as sons of 6. You did the first but then changed tack. But no matter: great work and thanks so much $\endgroup$
    – Laska
    Commented Oct 11, 2020 at 11:03

I get the answer via trial and error:

B1, E6 are sons of P;
A4, D2 are sons of E;
C5, F3 are sons of A.

Not too much to say about my approach. Just keep trying until it all fits...

Nevertheless, one crucial assumption that I made is

Nobody calls himself by the name, thus e.g. D can only be 1 or 2.

And I guessed correctly from the very beginning that

B is a son of P

which implies e.g.

B is 1.

  • $\begingroup$ Your ingenious “crucial assumption” seems to work out in finding a solution! However still looking for a logical proof of uniqueness which doesn’t rely on that. $\endgroup$
    – Laska
    Commented Oct 10, 2020 at 0:13

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