Might interfamily marriages in past generations be more common than between cousins?
After learning how common it was for cousins to marry cousins, I decided to research further. How may instances might there be in my family, starting with the very oldest records? But instead of proving the cousinships, I discovered the more common pattern of interfamily marriages among siblings. It was first evident in my study of the Schmitt line. Patterns began to open up when I found that my third great grandmother was part of a siblings cluster of four pairs. As I researched, the cousinships jumped out of the data, as well as a growing number of interlinking marriages between siblings. Surprisingly, the earliest arrange themselves in this chain of relationships. It is safe to assume more are cousins, but I have no earlier data by which to verify.
Starting with Mathias Fichter, his two daughters were born in Solothurn, Switzerland. They both married around 1700 in Hermeskeil (where their husbands were born) and the subsequent generations also center there. This chain connects their grand children together. Sixteen adults, all living in the same area, were related via marriages combined with six sibling pairs. Notably, three in the chain had second marriages. Barbara Nau, as a widow with two children, married Franz Pinck, a widower with eight children. Then they produced two more children together.
From this point, the acceleration of cousins marrying cousins is impressive, and the ancestor loss significant. Less participants makes for more complex charting! Several of my direct line ancestors came from population bottlenecks where only a few survived war or plague. As the generational chart expands back from me, it also shrinks at the same time.
This convoluted chain makes me wonder if the individuals themselves had trouble keeping track!! In an effort to make the complex understandable, I seek to sort it out. As I learn about the numbers and places, the ancestors become both more familiar and more foreign.
Vocabulary is especially lacking to describe this genetic mix. Even the term endogamy, the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group or class, falls short. Then there are parallel cousins and cross cousins. But even these seem clear-cut compared to a chain such as this one! If anyone has more tips or terms out there for sorting all this, I am all eyes!!
—Always inspired, Liane
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Liane Sebastian wears an editor’s hat, designer’s coat, and artist’s shoes.