Kin Groups and Descent. All Tiv reckon patrilineal descent from their earliest ancestor. They see themselves—all one million of them—as a single patrilineage. Tiv had two sons, the ancestors of the major division of the group. They divide themselves at every generation, thus forming an immense lineage system. The genealogies collected in the early 1950s were from fourteen to eighteen generations from Tiv, the original ancestor, to living elders. Obviously, to get that number of people in that number of generations, there has to be a "correction factor." The eight senior, hence largest, levels of lineage form the core of the political organization; they are probably resistant to change. The most recent four or five generations are relevant to exogamy and land tenure; their genealogy is generally known. Where the political and domestic systems overlap, there is likely to be a dispute about ancestral names.
The Tiv see their large-scale patrilineal genealogy as the basis of their land-tenure system. Every Tiv male has a right to a farm beside that of his full brother; their collective farms belong beside those of their half-brothers. The sons of their common father have farms beside the farms of their father's brothers' sons. So it continues, through the generations. All geographical locations that do not accord with the genealogy are given special explanations.
A lineage is called a nongo ("line"). The Tiv call their own patrilineal lineage, at all levels, their ityo. Their mother's patrilineal lineage is their igba. The more distant in the genealogy their ityo and their igba, the greater number of people each contains; this factor can be important in computing political influence.
Kinship Terminology. The major distinctions made by kinship terms are between lineals and collaterals. Ter means father, both grandfathers, and all male ascendants. 1f Tiv want to distinguish the generations, they say "great ter" for the older generation and "little ter" for the junior one. Ngo means mother, both grandmothers, and all female ascendants. Wan means child and all of one's descendants. The word is also used for all male members of one's agnatic lineage (ityo) younger than oneself and all female members of any age. "Child of my mother" ( wanngo ) is anyone with whom I share a female ascendant. "Child of my father" ( wanter ) is anyone with whom 1 share a male ascendant. People who share both a father and a mother at any level are called wangban —as is anyone with whom a kinship relationship can be traced by two paths. There is one word for all affines—it means "outside." The words for husband and wife are the words for male and female; a co-wife is a wuhe.