Irish Travelers - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Irish Travelers are endogamous. There are more females than males within the Traveler communities, so competition for marriage partners is strong. Marriages are still arranged by the mothers, sometimes at birth, although these early agreements are often broken. The young couple may have a say in finalizing the match, and rarely do the mothers arrange a marriage without prior approval from the couple. Traveler men are usually over twenty-one years of age when they marry, but their brides may be as young as twelve with the average being between fifteen and eighteen. An exchange of money, up to $200,000 in cash for the young man, is not uncommon among the more affluent Traveler families. Among the less affluent Georgia Travelers, the number of women marrying outside the group has been steadily increasing. Without a large dowry to offer a boy's family, these girls must choose between the possibility of remaining unmarried for life or marrying outside the group. Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas Travelers do marry across groups, but the growing population of each group contributes to a reduction in the exchange. Marriage between second cousins is allowed by Irish Travelers and is within the law of most southern states. Local officials have adapted to the cultural practices of the Irish Travelers by waiving the requirement for a court order from juvenile court for a marriage involving someone under fifteen. Weddings are usually held after Christmas because of the likelihood of a large number of Travelers being in the villages for the holidays. The holidays provide the Travelers with a chance to arrange marriages and then to organize the Ceremony before the families return to the road.

Domestic Unit. Residential units are usually composed of nuclear family members. Grandparents, even when widowed, may maintain their own residence unless disabled. The grandparent whose health is poor will live with a daughter and her family. The unmarried children continue to live with their parents until marrying.

Socialization. Traveler children from age five are socialized to their future roles in the community. The young girls learn to take care of younger siblings or cousins, clean the home, and manage money. The young boys begin helping their fathers in their occupations at an early age, often traveling with the older men for long periods of time.

User Contributions:

Mike J. Carroll
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Aug 16, 2018 @ 12:12 pm
Please spell our ethnic minority correctly; Irish Traveller or Irish-American Traveller. As an Irish Traveller, I recognize the importance of discussing our culture, traditions, and way-of-life with others. However, I also accept as true that out-and-out lies, propaganda, and rumors must be confronted with the truth. Is it possible to convince someone that a lie is, in fact, a lie when they refuse to consider the accused clarification? The author has introduced several points, and I will try to address those concerns. There is no competition for marriage partners in the Irish Traveller community. Our ethnic minority has and continue to practice arranged marriages which are frowned on by American society. The bride and groom make the final decision to marry. Arranged marriages are an accepted practice in Afghanistan, Africa, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, United Kingdom, and numerous other countries. Underage marriages, brides as young as 12-years-of-age. Irish Travellers are strict Roman-Catholic and at the center of Murphy Village in the state of South Carolina sets Saint Edward the Confessor Catholic Church. It is against canon law for a 12-year-old to marry, a direct violation of church rules. NBC-Dateline (episode: All in the Family) used a picture of a girl wearing her First Communion traditional dress, a rite of passage in Catholicism, and perverted it into something unholy for sensationalism and ratings. A tidbit about the law: (A marriage is a legal binding agreement between two consenting adults, a child cannot enter into a contract; therefore, there is no underage marriage in law or otherwise.) A dowry has been an Irish tradition for centuries. Local officials do not have the authority to circumvent state law and grant permission for underage marriages. Such a union would be a violation of state law, and the union would not be legal or binding. Weddings are traditionally scheduled for holidays to allow everyone to attend.
The topic of socialization would take too long to explain. If you are interested in our culture, traditions, and way-of-life buy my book.
Irish Travellers: “An Undocumented Journey Through History,” available on, Barnes and Noble and many other bookstores
Mike J. Carroll, Irish Traveller

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