Appalachians - Kinship, Marriage and Family

Kin Groups and Descent. The rural neighborhoods of southern Appalachia are kin-based. The "clans" that inhabit the hollows are actually large extended families with a patriarchal authority structure and patrilineal inheritance of surnames. There are no corporate kin groups, and kinship is reckoned bilaterally.

Marriage. Marriages are often contracted when the individuals are quite young, and they are usually locally endogamous, if not within the "clan." Postmarital residence is said to be up to the couple. Some children in every generation move away, but there is a clear preference for residence near kin. Usually the husband's family will offer the couple land; if this is not possible, the wife's family will make the offer, leading to the development of the large, extended family neighborhoods.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the ideal, though there is much variation in actual household composition. There are six or seven children in the average family, although families with ten or more children are not uncommon. Inbreeding is reported to be very common.

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