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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Marrying A Cousin

As I plug away at my family tree, I can't help but come across people, places, and communities.   Because these people "stuck together", it is probably inevitable that first cousins married, first cousins.  I have come across this more than once and also found a half aunt marrying her half nephew.  So is this a sign of "back woods" thinking?  No, not exactly.

In certain parts of the world, marriage to first and second cousins takes place today and is even encouraged.  It is part of cultural acceptance in certain parts of the world.  Centuries have passed since royalty actively required that marriages be between other royals.  There were probably a lot of generations of kings, queens, princes, princesses, dukes, ladies, etc. related to each other through cousin marriage.

Typically in the West, it is frowned upon socially, culturally, legally, and genetically.  It should be noted here, though, that prior to the Civil War in the United States, cousin marriages were not illegal.  By the 1880s, territories and states had banned marriages to first and second cousins.  The man who wrote about the advantages of marriage between unrelated persons was Lewis Henry Morgan.  He was, in fact, married to his first cousin (1851).

Most of the laws banning cousin marriage are rooted in religious practice.  Medically, there are some disadvantages to cousin marriage.  Recessive traits are much more likely to be shared, some of which could be family birth defects.

Some famous U.S. cousin marriages include Edgar Allen Poe, Albert Einstein, and President FDR.  Also, Charles Darwin was married to his first cousin. 

Our species did have to originate somewhere.  With a small number of humans to start with, cousins had to have gotten together, otherwise, we wouldn't be here today.


  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one whose tree does a loop-de-loop! Thank you for clarifying this for us.

  2. LOL! My tree does a few loops!