Gaels (Irish) - Marriage and Family



Marriage. A woman's marriage traditionally centered on finding a young man who stood to inherit a farm and then paying a dowry to his parents. Even today, arranged marriages along these lines still occur. It has also long been thought desirable, however, for a farmer's daughter to marry someone with a shop in a nearby town; in this way the woman can hope for a somewhat easier life than if she marries into another farm. At the same time her family can expect little favors from the shop that she helps to run, while her in-laws can expect some fresh farm produce whenever her relatives come to town. This tendency of girls to move to the towns in marriage—or even to migrate to Dublin, Liverpool, or London to work as chambermaids or in other service occupations—has contributed to the steady depopulation of the Gaeltachts during the past century. Since World War II, the tendency for both male and female youths to migrate has been enhanced by the ease of air travel and the knowledge that they can find well-paid jobs in Massachusetts or Chicago. Nowadays everyone seems to have at least one relative in the United States.

Domestic Unit. Six types of household can be found in the Gaeltachts: (1) single-person households; (2) jointsibling households, with unmarried or widowed brothers or sisters living together; (3) widow/widower households, Including married or unmarried children; (4) nepotal Households, defined by Fox as "households consisting of an uncle/aunt with his/her married/unmarried nephew/niece"; (5) extended households, consisting of father and mother with their unmarried children, one married child with spouse, and perhaps grandchildren; (6) nuclear households, made up of parents with their dependent children. In each case the household is viewed as a family and is a labor unit.

Inheritance. A young man whose father owns land and livestock can hope to inherit these at the time of his marriage, rather than at his father's death. A marriage contract thus often replaces a will. If there are more sons, only one will have hopes of getting the small farm, since the land cannot usually be divided among several sons.

Socialization. All children get an informal education in daily activities by helping their parents around the home or on the farm. Gaeltacht children nowadays are usually Educated at village schools provided by local government authorities. The average school-leaving age is 16, and after that boys tend to work on the farm, at least for a while. Girls are likely to emigrate sooner than their brothers. A few of these young people attend universities or theological colleges, in preparation for careers that will almost certainly keep them away from their home villages.


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