Galicians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kin Groups and Descent. Galician descent is generally patrilineal, with children taking their father's family name and appending their mother's. The wife, however, does not add her husband's name to her own, retaining her own name throughout her life. She may choose to use her husband's name after his death so that she is known as "[her name], widow of [husband's name]."

Kinship Terminology. The Galician kinship system is much like that found in the United States. Cousins are distinguished from brothers and sisters, but all cousins are placed in the same category. Aunts and uncles are distinguished from parents and labeled separately according to gender. No other relatives are referred to by the same terms used for members of the nuclear family.

Marriage and Family. Galician marriages are monogamous, and there is considerable freedom in the choice of marriage partners, although social pressures function to keep the economic classes fairly rigid. The nuclear family is usual. Only 10 percent of households could be termed extended or joint. As long as both elderly parents are alive, they tend to stay in their homes. After a spouse dies, the widower may move to the home of a married child, but widows who are accustomed to the daily tasks of running a household generally try to reside alone rather than rely on their children. Also, among adults in Galicia with older children, it is rare to find a couple without most of their children residing either permanently or temporarily away from the village.

Inheritance. The surviving spouse is the automatic heir to the deceased spouse's property, and all children regardless of gender, age, or place of residence divide the property of both parents equally. Because longevity is a feature of Galician society, late inheritance of property forces most children, even those with wealthy parents, to be on their own for long periods. Young women may remain at home to care for their aged parents in return for some advantage when the property is divided.

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