Faroe Islanders - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kin Groups and Descent. Descent is traced bilaterally. An agnatic bias is expressed in the terms æett or, colloquially, fólk, a patriline of indefinite depth often associated with an ancestral homestead. An ancient system of patronymics was formally set aside in 1832 in favor of surnames passed from father to child and husband to wife, but it survives informally in a modified form. A person is said to be hjá ("of," "at the home of") his or her father, except that a married woman may be hjá to either her father or her husband. In informal usage, a person is often identified by reference to his or her natal homestead. There are no corporate kin groups larger than the nuclear family.

Kinship Terminology. Most kinship terms are (or may be) descriptive—for example, pápabeiggi (father's brother), mammubeiggi (mother's brother), beiggjakona (brother's wife), etc. All first cousins are called systkinabørn (sing. systkinabarn, sibling's child). The terminology is thus bifurcate-collateral in distinguishing all uncles and aunts, and Eskimo in lumping all first cousins together. Grandparents are called omma (grandmother) or abbi (grandfather), and depending on the sex of the speaker a grandchild is called ommubarn/-dóttir/-sonur (grandmother's child/daughter/son) or abbabarn/-dóttir/-sonur (grandfather's child/daughter/son). Firstdegree affines may be identified by combining a pair of nuclear terms, or by prefixing ver - to one of them (e.g., versystir, konusystir, sister-in-law) ; but the term svágur covers wife's brother, sister's husband, and daughter's husband (the last of these may also be called mágur ). Within the nuclear family, a married couple is a hjún, siblings are systkin, and a father and son together are feðar.

Marriage. Marriage is generally neolocal (occasionally patrilocal). Divorce is very rare.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is the nuclear family.

Inheritance. Except for leaseholds, inheritance is Generally equal among male and female heirs.

Socialization. Children are allowed considerable freedom. Depending on their ages, children are looked after by their mothers or by an older (female) relative, or play in roughly age- and sex-segregated groups. Sibling rivalry is discouraged. Corporal punishment is virtually unheard of. Schooling begins at age 7.


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