Kin Groups and Descent. The nuclear family was the primary kin group in traditional Abenaki culture. At the end of the nineteenth century, local lineages were often identified with specific animal totems. Those with aquatic totems Usually had trapping territories toward the coast and were known as saltwater families. Those with terrestrial totems were found in the more remote interior. Unlike true clans, the common ancestries of these family units were often known, or at least discoverable. Moreover, the ancient trading functions of true clans appear not to have given rise to the totemic groups of the Penobscot. The kinship system was bilateral, with some preference for the patrilineal side. Family (lineage) identities were usually inherited patrilineally, but a young couple who chose to reside with the wife's family would assume that Family identity over time.
Kinship Terminology. One's mother and father were distinguished from their siblings, but there was a tendency to lump cousins and siblings together.