Albanians - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. Gheg clan society lasted until the 1950s in northern Albania. Those who claimed descent from a common, sometimes mythical or fictitious male ancestor were organized in an ideally exogamous patrician or fis found in many villages with lineages at the village or mehala level. Understood as a "brotherhood" or vellezeri, these included a variable number of communal extended households, called shpi or shtëpi (literally, "house"), each consisting of the nuclear families of a number of brothers, with up to ninety Individuals in some cases. Genealogies, understood as a tree, were carefully remembered and handed down through the generations through epic songs and tales as origin myths.

Kinship Terminology. Kin ties were defined by blood given to the children only through the patriline. A wife's or mother's kin were her parental family; her father and brothers were responsible for her until she married. Accordingly, mother's brother and mother's son had special terms, but apparently there was no specific kin terminology for their Children. AU matrilateral cousins, cross as well as parallel, were potential marriage partners but not any patrilateral cousins, relations with whom constituted incest. In the traditional extended household, patrilateral cousins of any degree were called brothers and sisters, patrilateral uncles of any degree fathers or uncles. When the actual father and mother became very old, the eldest brother and sister were given the terms for father and mother. Thus the terminology was at least partly classificatory, with bifurcate-merging features.

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