inbreeding in nineteenth century alsace-lorraine (including jews)

another bit on nineteenth century european consanguineous marriages from joseph jacobs [pg. 53]:

“Consanguineous Marriages — I have previously given reasons for believing that English Jews marry their first cousins to the extent of 7.5 per cent of all marriages as against a percentage of about 2 per cent for England generally, as calculated by Prof. G. H. Darwin (Fort. Rev. July, 1875). The only other detail on this point that I have been able to find is given by W. StiedaDie Eheschliessungen in Elsass-Lothringen 1872-76‘ (Dorpat 1878) who gives the proportion of consanguineous marriages among Jews as 23.02 per thousand against 1.86 for Protestants, and 9.97 for Catholics.

so, here we have figures of 0.186% consanguineous marriages for protestants and 0.997% for catholics in nineteenth century alsace-lorraine. dunno if the assumption would be correct or not, but i’m going to guess that the protestant figure goes for ethnic huns german alsatians, while the catholic figure goes for the ethnic froggies french. for the jews in alsace-lorraine, stieda has a figure of 2.302%.

jacobs doesn’t make clear what “consanguineous marriages” means here — is it just first-cousin? up to second-cousin? dunno. i also don’t know how stieda arrived at these figures ’cause i haven’t seen the original publication (drat!), so i don’t know how reliable or not they are. for comparison, the consanguineous marriage rate for spaniards (presumably all catholics) up to and including second-cousins between 1874-1884 (similar time period) was 3.44%.

and speaking of reliability, the more i think about the way jacobs calculated the cousin-marrying rates for english jews, the more i don’t like it. jacobs based his calculations on g.h. darwin’s calculations. g.h. darwin had worked out the rate of cousin marriage amongst the english by looking at the rate of same-name marriages. BUT, he had worked out what percentage of same-name marriages were actually cousin marriages via a little survey (i.e. he contacted a certain percentage of same-name couples and asked them if they were cousins). so, his rate for the english is prolly pretty right. but then jacobs uses the english rate to calculate the jewish rate? meh. that’s exactly what he was trying to figure out — how many jewish marriages were between first-cousins — but then he based his calculation on what the english were doing.

i have to say that, unfortunately, i don’t think jacobs’ numbers are very reliable.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: cousin marriage rates amongst nineteenth century english and english jews

(note: comments do not require an email. alsatians!)


  1. Interesting. Unfortunately I doubt there was ever such a study of the masses of Jews in Eastern Europe.


  2. @ihtg – “Unfortunately I doubt there was ever such a study of the masses of Jews in Eastern Europe.”

    yeah, too bad. i haven’t actually seen this study, tho, so i don’t know what the guy’s (stieda’s) methodology was. i’ll have to try to get my hands on it at some point. not a very high first-cousin marrying rate at all. higher than the surrounding population, apparently, but otherwise not that high.

    not really surprising ’cause jack goody in “The development of the family and marriage in Europe” drops a hint that european jews also got caught up in the don’t-marry-your-cousin movement of the middle ages. unfortunately, he only drops a hint and doesn’t say more than this [i quoted him here]:

    “We find it difficult to comprehend today just how preoccupied the era was with the fear of incest — and not only in the various Christian churches but in Jewish circles as well….”



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