Tory Islanders - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kin Groups and Descent. Kinship is reckoned bilaterally and the main category of kin is the dann (pl. clanna ). These are all the descendants, over five to seven generations, of a known ancestor, and are known after him (for example, clann Eoghain, the descendants of Owen [Eugene]). Obviously, as with all cognatic descent groups, these clanna overlap. Four major groups dominate the genealogical scene and account for 80 percent of all living members. In the recitation of genealogy, these are given first in full, even where they overlap, and then the other 18 or so are "referred" to them. The ultimate ancestors date from the 1780s and seem to have been holders of land. The system of personal naming (kinship terms are very little used) parallels this descent system. Thus individuals are known by a first (baptismal) name and then the names of lineal ancestors, male and female. In Genealogical theory, all names should converge on the clann ancestor, and this means that a person will have as many sets of names as recognized ancestors. This is not realized, however, and people take the names of the clann to which they have the strongest allegiance, while recognizing that other "strings" are possible. For practical purposes an individual will use only a few of the names. The other major kinship category is muintir, an Ego-centered bilateral kindred including affines. This would be "kinship" as the majority of the islanders know it, precise genealogical knowledge belonging to specialists.

Marriage. Marriage is governed by the Catholic church and is therefore monogamous and without divorce. Because of the parental resistance to marriage—they regret the loss of a family member—and unless there is an illegitimate child (a not unusual occurrence) it is often late (average 29) and surreptitious. Marriage is rarely celebrated. A couple will drop their work, go to the church with the witnesses, and then come back and resume where they left off. Until recently Marriage was largely endogamous to the island, but now there are more out-marriages. Men, but rarely women, marry into the island from time to time.

Domestic Unit. The ideal household on Tory is nuclear, and some 50 percent of marriages achieve this ideal. But it often conflicts with another ideal of sibling solidarity. Because marriage is late, many siblings already have established households by the time at least one parent dies, and they do not want to leave these on marriage. Thus, it was (and is) the custom, for the couple to remain in their respective natal homes. This form of natalocal residence is not fixed, since couples move in and out of this state, but older marriage partners tend to stay thus separated, with the husband becoming a privileged "visitor." Children stay with the mother. Up to 40 percent of marriages involved natalocal residence in the past, and some 20 percent were still so as late as 1970. The husbands in these marriages farm their wives' land, and contribute to their upkeep.

Inheritance . After the land, the house is the most Important item of inheritance. Ideally the house should go with the land, but a compromise often occurs. Thus a son who marries a woman with a house will surrender the parental house to his sister(s); or a brother will take the house and his sister's husband will build on the land she inherited. A compromise is not always reached, however, and bitter disputes very often occur. Written wills are virtually unknown on Tory and old parents will usually make a disposition of property before death.

Socialization. Child rearing is very relaxed. Until nurses interfered, weaning was as late as three years, and children still suckle casually until that age. The relationship with the mother is very close and dependent. Nowadays children go to school at age five; in the past they would have gradually assumed adult responsibilities at a very early age. Young Children are mostly unsupervised and corporal punishment is used rarely.


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