random notes: 02/14/13

cousin marriage rates for german jews living in the prussian province of hohenzollern between ca. 1875-1920 (117 marriages):

– first cousin marriages = 16.2% ± 3.4%
– consanguineous marriage up to and including second cousins = 19.6% ± 3.7%

source [pdf]. original source: Reutlinger, W. 1922. Über die Häufigkeit der Verwandtenehen bei den Juden in Hohenzollern, und über Untersuchungen bei Deszendenten aus jüdischen Verwandtenehen. Arch. Rassenb. 14: 301-305.

a little more on these rates from In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria 1918-1933 [pgs. 234 and 241]:

“On the other hand, there is considerable evidence to back up the impression that village Jews were marrying cousins and other close relatives in increasingly large numbers.[44] …

“[44] In Hohenzollern, there was an 11 percent rate of marriage to relatives (5 percent to first cousins) among Jewish couples who died before 1922; of those still alive in 1922, the rate had increased to 22 percent (16 percent to first cousins. These rates were several times as high as the rates for Christian marriages. See Wilhelm Reutlinger, ‘Uber die Haufligkeit der Verwandtenehen bei Juden in Hohenzollern und uber Untersuchungen bei Deszendenten aus judischen Verwandtenehene,’ Archiv fur Rassen- un Gesellschaftsbiologie 14 (1922): 301-303, quoted by Marion Kaplan The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany (New York, 1991), p. 273 note 206. See also Cahnman, ‘Village and Small-Town Jews,’ pp. 122-23, for an impressionistic discussion of the same phenomenon.”

so, the rates of consanguineous marriages increased for jews in hohenzollern over the period from 1875-1920. that pretty much mirrors the general trend of increasing cousin marriage rates right across europe at the time, only the actual rates for the hohenzollern jews were much higher than for most europeans — well, at least most germans.

this 11% consanguineous rate (5% to first cousins) for jewish couples who died before 1922 is a lot higher than the only other definite rate i have for european jews which is from alsace-lorraine in 1872-76 (so i’m thinking these might be kinda contemporaneous rates) — and that rate was 2.3% (consanguineous marriages).

see also: jewish mating patterns in nineteenth century russia.
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a bizarre story on a case of cousin marriage and inbreeding depression from china that … well, i’ll just let you read it for yourselves. from A Family That Climbed Out of Inbreeding Depression [pg. 1064]:

“In 2008, a family was fortuitously found in Northeast China. Before the 1948 Revolution, this family was wealthy and owned vast amount of land. After nationalization, the family was given a tiny house with a small plot of land. Subsequently, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), all landowning families in the country were severely prosecuted and socially ostracized. The social stigma on the members of former land owning families was so persuasive that any form of association with them was deemed as dangerous. At that time, there were two children of marriageable age. As their parents were unable to find unrelated mates from the society, they arranged an intra-family marriage between available first cousins. The union produced five offspring: three mentally retarded girls, one deaf-mute girl, and one mentally retarded boy who did not survive (Figure 1). The consanguineous (first cousin) parents supported their four disabled daughters throughout their childhood. By the time these daughters were of marriageable age, the Cultural Revolution in China was over and the social stigma of land-owning families was lifted. Thus, the consanguineous parents were able to arrange marriages of their four unfit daughters with four biologically unrelated men. The deaf and mute girl was married to a deaf and mute man from the same village. The three mentally retarded daughters were married to healthy men, of low socioeconomic status, and they resided in their husbands’ homes in the same village. The most severely retarded daughter was married to a poor man who came to their family looking for food; he was offered this daughter and accommodation within the family household. After marriages of their daughters, the consanguineous parents continued to support all four families, and each of the four daughters produced one healthy child (maximally allowed number of children in China at the time). The most severely retarded daughter accidentally lost one child at birth. Today, the consanguineous couple has four grandchildren who are attending regular school and are expected to marry to biologically unrelated mates….”

could the cultural revolution have encouraged cousin marriages during the time period in china? at least in some sectors? weird.
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weregilds. did you know that weregild payments were made directly from one clan/kindred member to his corresponding clan/kindred member in the other clan/kindred (whichever was the aggrieved clan)? i didn’t.

i always imagined that all the weregild payments were sorta pooled together and passed from one clan to the other, but no … the father in one clan paid directly the father in the other clan, the father’s brother in one clan paid directly the father’s brother in the other clan, and so on and so forth. at least that’s how it was done in iceland … at least according to phillpotts [pg. 13]:

“Each class pays to the corresponding class of the opposite side, thus the father, son and brother of the slayer pay to the corresponding kinsmen of the slain. It is to be observed that the slayer pays nothing, the assumption being that he was exiled and his goods forfeited.”

huh.
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i mentioned over here that edmund i (922–946) seems to have been one of the first anglo-saxon/english kings to have really tried to put an end to the traditional blood feuds in england (which were tied to the weregild payments — see above — if the weregild wasn’t paid when someone was slain, the aggrieved clan/kindred had the right to exact revenge on the slayer’s clan/kindred). re. one of his law codes (from phillpotts – pgs. 218-19):

Eadmund’s secular laws mark a notable advance in one respect: private warfare between families, as a result of a slaying, is to be stamped out, and the slayer alone is to bear the feud, if feud there is to be.

“II. 1. ‘If henceforth anyone kills any man, let him himself bear the feud, unless with the help of friends he pays full wergild within 12 months, whatever the birth (of the slain man,’ i.e. however high the wergild be).

“It must be remembered that a slayer is not involved in a feud unless he cannot or will not pay wergild; and if he can pay wergild there is no feud. So here we must assume that the slayer has not been able to produce the sum out of his own pocket, and that his kinsmen have been unable or unwilling to help him. That even this secondary liability of the kinsmen is purely voluntary is seen from the next clause:

“1. ‘If the *mægð* [kindred/extended family] forsakes him, and will not pay for him, then I will, that all the *mægð* be without feud, save the actual delinquent, if they give him thereafter neither food nor protection.

“2. ‘If however thereafter any one of his kinsmen shelter him, then let him be liable to the king for all that he possesses, and bear the feud with the *mægð* (of the slain), for they (the kinsmen) had before forsaken the slayer.

“3. ‘If however one of the other *mægð* takes vengeance on any other man than the actual delinquent, let him be outlaw to the king and to all his (the king’s) friends, and lose all that he possesses.'”

so edmund is the earliest example i know of in england of the state trying to position itself in between all of the homicidal lunatics in order to put an end to the violence. he (or the crown, i suppose) would pay the weregild if a clan/kindred wouldn’t in order to stop a blood feud from erupting.

edmund didn’t live very long though — he died (heh) in a fight when he was just 26 — so i don’t know how well-enforced his edict ever was.

(note: comments do not require an email. lotr weregild.)

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5 Comments

  1. It’s interesting that the system of the weregild or similar (główczyzna in Polish) was common amongst all northern barbarians: germanics, baltics and slavics. And it was always paid as a form of “I pay you not to compensate for the death of your relative, but I pay you rather so you would not claim your right to kill me in revenge”

    Reply

  2. “And it was always paid as a form of “I pay you not to compensate for the death of your relative, but I pay you rather so you would not claim your right to kill me in revenge”

    Interesting distinction.

    Reply

  3. @szopen – “And it was always paid as a form of ‘I pay you not to compensate for the death of your relative, but I pay you rather so you would not claim your right to kill me in revenge.'”

    yes, interesting — and important — distinction. thanks!

    seems like almost everybody on the planet invented the notion of blood money (or the idea spread everywhere anyway):

    – i see from the polish wikipedia (or wikidictionary) that główszczyzna was around in poland until the 1700s — the 1600s in germany.
    – there were the welsh and the irish, too.
    – they’ve got diyya in the arabic/muslim world (middle east), all the way over to the punjab and including groups like the kurds (they pay/paid a horse + a girl). the bedouins, too, of course.
    native americans.
    – the border reivers (northern england/southern scotland) in the 1600s.
    – at least some africans.
    – jared diamond (The World Until Yesterday) talks about compensation paid from one family to another in papua new guinea when a young boy was accidentally killed when he was hit by a truck. he doesn’t mention whether or not blood money is paid in relation to feuds there, but i bet it is.

    Reply

  4. I had to find the book when I read that, but the consequence of this distinction is that the money quite often (I can’t remember, if always) went to male relatives of the victim, not to the wife, daughters etc.

    Reply

  5. @szopeno – “I had to find the book when I read that, but the consequence of this distinction is that the money quite often (I can’t remember, if always) went to male relatives of the victim, not to the wife, daughters etc.”

    yes. that’s the case with the germanic wergild right across the board, too — from the anglo-saxons to the icelanders and continental germans. interestingly, as phillpotts points out, just as the importance of the germanic kindreds and their wergild systems start to fade, that’s when you see wives (and heirs) starting to receive wergild payments — during this sort-of transitionary stage.

    Reply

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