Mingrelians - Kinship

The most important kinship group in Mingrelia is the extended-family household. Common lineage or a common last name were also traditionally important; each clan or common-name group had its own patron saint and icon. Mingrelian surnames are distinguished by their - ( a ) ia, -ua, and -ava endings. Mingrelian society is patrilocal, patriarchal, and patrilineal. Lineage structures are based on male kin relationships and are exogamous. In addition, there are important fictive-kin relationships such as blood siblinghood, milk siblinghood (nonrelated children who were breast-fed by the same woman), sworn siblinghood (which can also take place between women), and godparenthood, although only the latter two are still observed to any extent. Although women often keep their own maiden name when they marry, descent remains agnatic. Children adopt their father's name. Some scholars suggest elements of a former "mother-right" culture can still be detected in Georgian and Mingrelian society, as reflected in certain religious customs and language patterns. The patriarchal aspects of Mingrelian society have been somewhat weakened, especially in the urban areas. The lack of male heirs is no longer a social tragedy, bilateral kinship is slowly replacing the exclusivity of male kin relationships, and residence with the bride's parents may take place without social stigma.

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