Irish Travellers - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kin Groups and Descent. The basic structural unit as well as the primary unit of production and consumption is the nuclear family. Descent is bilateral with individuals having equal rights and obligations toward both their maternal and paternal kin. The importance of cognatic kinship is reflected in the use of Eskimo kinship terminology; in flexibility and choice in residence patterns, with households alternately affiliating with either the husband's or the wife's kin (although a preference for husband's kin is evident), or with nonkin, or else living on their own; and the absence of corporate kin groups.

Marriage. Travellers marry at an earlier age than the general Irish population. In the past, most marriages were "matches" or arranged marriages negotiated by the couple's parents, typically between families who traveled in the same counties. Today, in urban areas, individual choice is much more common. But initially with the move to the city, the number of arranged marriages between close kin—first and second cousins—actually increased, as parents responded to the new experience of living in close proximity to Travellers from other parts of the country whom they barely knew.

Domestic Unit. Traveller families range in size from 1 to 19 persons. The median family size is 6, but 36 percent of Travellers live in families of 10 or more persons.

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