inbreeding in ireland in modern times

backing up just a bit more in my tour ’round europe’s periphery — here’s more on ireland, only from more modern times.

i could only find one source (accessible to me — well, the abstract anyway) dealing with cousin marriage in more-or-less contemporary ireland: Consanguinity in Ireland. here’s the abstract:

“Ecclesiastical dispensations from the impediment of consanguinity were studied in relation to 190,557 marriages between two Catholics in all Ireland for the ten-year period 1959–1968. The data, based on approximately 71% of all marriages in this period, indicate a first cousin marriage rate of about 1 in 720 for all Ireland. Figures for the Republic of Ireland, based on approximately 91% of all marriages, indicate a first cousin marriage rate of about 1 in 625 for this section of the country. Various aspects of the data, including ‘isolate’ effects and the influence of itinerancy, are discussed.”

so, the percentage of first-cousin marriages in the republic of ireland (i.e. not including northern ireland) between 1959-1968 was less than one percent. much less than one percent — just 0.16%. that’s pretty low. it should be low because ireland is a predominantly catholic country and first-cousin marriage is banned by the catholic church. however, between 1960 and 1964, italy, another predominantly catholic country, had a first-cousin marriage rate of anywhere from 0.89% to 48.74%(!) depending on the region. guess it must be easier to get dispensations when you live so near to the pope. (~_^)

that’s all i’ve got. what we don’t know is if the irish marry their second cousins (allowed by the catholic church) very much. [see update below.] or if, like the greeks, they marry their third or fourth or fifth cousins or very locally (i.e. usually someone from the village). or are the irish more like the english, marrying out a lot?

they certainly were not like the english in the medieval period, so even if they’re outmarrying now, they haven’t done so for as long as the english or the germans. and they sound like they were rather clannish as recently as the mid-1800s — right around and after the time of the potato famine there (1847) [pgs. 57-58]:

“If the conflict of ‘classes’ cannot account for the character of Irish rural unrest, is the ‘family’ a more satisfactory unit of analysis? What roles did familial relationships play in shaping agrarian combination and conflict? How far were changes in the character of the family reflected in the patterns of unrest? Analysts of unrest have given far less attentions to family than to class. Clark affirms that ‘neighbourhood and kinship ties formed the basis of ‘primary’ groups in pre-famine Ireland’ (such as ‘factions’) but concentrates upon ‘social interaction…beyond the primary group.’ After the Famine, though communal and kinship ties continued to influence the composition of ‘collectivities’, ‘associational organizations was clearly predominant…during the entire second half of the nineteenth century’….

Arensberg and Kimball, by contrast, stress the strength and flexibility of kinship bonds among Claremen of the 1930s. Family links took precedence over bonds of class or occupation, while family members were remarkable for their co-operation and mutual supportiveness rather than competitiveness. The cohesion of kinship groups had been strong enough to survive profound changes in economic and social structure since the Famine, and flexible enough to generate the ‘stem family’ system whereby parents and siblings received acceptable compensation upon the succession of a single kinsman to control of the family farm. The development of the stem family was thus a response to the cessation of subdivision after 1852, together with the growth of opportunities for professional and clerical employment after 1870. According to this analysis the Irish family, though changing radically in structure during the nineteenth century, was a powerful agent of cohesion and combination rather than the forum for conflict and fragmentation.

“The outrage reports for pre-famine Cloone confirm the importance of ‘neighbourhood and kinship ties’ in aligning the factions involved in ‘party fights’. Thus at Drimna, in 1838, ‘a faction fight took place between two hostile parties, named Deignan’s and Mullin’s, respecting the right to the possession of a small portion of land’. Other such confrontations were of a ritual rather than material character, providing an occasion for ‘long-tailed’ families to assert their corporate identity and importance through trials of strength. Indeed market-day brawls could be provoked merely by the affirmation of family affiliation, as when a certain Cooke of Carrigallen ‘retreated towards a Public House where a party of his friends were drinking and when near it he called out “Who dared say anything against a Cooke…?”‘ It is clear that the ceremonial grappling of factions became unusual after the Famine, despite occasional reports throughout the century…. Familial networks, though, in less overt fashion, never ceased to lend cohesion to rural associations ranging from the Society of Ribbonmen to the United Irish League or Sinn Fein.”

sounds like clan vs. clan in the mid-1800s to me.

as recently as the late-1980s, the extended family was very important to the irish [pgs. 108-111]:

“It is necessary to explore the specificity of the kinship universe if we are to understand the value contents that kinship infuses into the organisation of labour. Kinship comprises an order of social relations that not only endows the farm economy with a social framework, but also contains its own system of exchanges…. [T]he kinship network also privdes a channel for the circulation of specific obligations concerning the care of elderly parents and, similarly, for the exchange of baby-sitting services….

“Kinship obligations, on the other hand, do not fall only upon those living in the same house. The family unit has a paramount responsibility as regards the care of elders; there are other forms of assistance, however, that ciculate within the kinship network too but well beyond the boundaries of both nuclear and stem families. This is the case of baby-sitting services, which leads us back once again to the female domain. Relative, both kin and affines, take care of each other’s children quite frequently, and the closer they are the better….

“As we will see in the next chapter, the spheres of kinship and neighbourhood overlap on many occasions, but they are far from coincident. There is something distinctively unique in a blood relationship that no other form of arrangement can sustitute for. Take, for instance, the case of fosterage and adoption. No matter how popular these practices are in this region, the sort of fictive kinship that they create is never confused with the real blood relationship. This was so emphatically asserted to me that I cannot fail to note it here.

real, actual, genetically-related family — important to the irish. amazing!

it would be nice to have more data on inbreeding in ireland, but i just don’t have it right now. hopefully i’ll come across some more in future — and that there’s more research being done on the topic.

previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery

update 09/05: i see that has a figure of 0.5% for all consanguineous marriages in the 1970 study i quoted in the post. what i quoted was the first-cousin marriage rate @0.16%. has the 0.5% consanguineous marriage rate based on uncle-niece, double-first-cousin, first-cousin, first-cousin-once-removed, double-second-cousin and second-cousin marriages in ireland. i can’t believe that there were any uncle-niece marriages in ireland during the time period since that form of marriage is really not allowed by the roman catholic church. so, i think it’s safe to say that 0.5% of all marriages in the republic of ireland between 1959 and 1968 were between 1st to 2nd cousins.

(note: comments do not require an email. d*mn irish — always fighting!)


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