Sea Islanders - Kinship, Marriage and Family

Marriage and Domestic Unit. Kinship among Sea Islanders generally follows American cognatic descent. A married couple constitutes the basic unit of the household, which may also contain their direct descendants, together or separately, and adopted and foster children and their partners. Formalized marriages are preferred and can be documented as far back as the census of 1880, clearly contradicting the popular notion of African American families as "destroyed" by slavery. Children are considered members of their parents' households until marriage, at which time residence is ideally virilocal. Newly married sons bring their brides into their parents' household until a new dwelling can be provided, preferably in the yard or nearby. Additional household members are added through informal adoption and fosterage and by the tendency of young adults working in mainland cities to send their small children to be raised by grandparents in relative rural safety. Households headed by single women typically represent the end of domestic group cycles and consist of widows living alone or with their grandchildren.

Inheritance. Inheritance descends to all children of a married pair equally, although "outside" children whose parents have not married inherit only from their mothers. The increasing number of off-island heirs who hold rights in small parcels of island property has contributed to the acquisition of formerly African American-owned land by White developers.

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