Abstract DNA markers are routinely used to reveal both simple and complex family relationships. Likelihood based approaches have been traditionally used to estimate relationships using relatively few unlinked markers. However it is widely recognized that when using such limited numbers of loci distant relationships between two individuals cannot be distinguished from the average level of allele sharing found in random pairwise comparisons in the same population. As a real example, we demonstrate the usefulness of genome-wide SNP genotyping to analyze a claimed second cousin relationship that could not be resolved using standard forensic markers, confirming theoretical expectations for very distant relationships. Genome profiles derived from Affymetrix 6.0 SNP arrays obtained from the claimed second cousins were compared to profiles obtained from unrelated individuals and simulated data. Significance of the high estimated probabilities in favor of the second cousin relationship hypothesis was proved from the results obtained with both real and simulated unrelated pairs. As a final cautionary note, it is important to consider that successful identification of the claimed distant relationship reported here is largely due to a well-founded hypothesis being compared to the alternative hypothesis of the claimants being unrelated, but where there are several possible alternative hypotheses, the approach we outline here can yield false indications of unfounded alternative relationships.