Kin Groups and Descent. Most Svans were identified as belonging to a "root clan" ( dzirish samkhub ) composed of a number of families, often of remote relationship. The members of a clan usually, though not always, live in the same commune. They are further identified by their ts'æem samkhub (particular clan), a subdivision of the dzirish samkhub, created when brothers split up and divide the family property. The particular clan may include one or more homesteads. Descent is traced patrilineally. One is considered to be more closely bound to one's kin within the samkhub than one is to anyone outside of it, even close relatives (e.g., mother's brother, in-laws). If there would otherwise be no male heir, however, a son-in-law could be adopted ( gezald legne ) into the household and take the clan affiliation of his in-laws. Each clan has its own shrine, burial ground, and special feast days. Marriage within the samkhub, or with other relatives within ten degrees of kinship, was forbidden.
Kinship Terminology. The categories distinguished by Svan kinship terminology are not much different from those of Georgian. For example, one term ( chîzhe ) denotes both son-and brother-in-law, and another ( telghra ) both daughter-and sister-in-law; at the same time, there are words specifically denoting the wife's sister's husband ( mekwshel, cognate with Georgian kvisli ) and husband's brother's wife. The most striking deviation from the pattern of Kartvelian kin terms is in the words denoting siblings, which index the gender of both parties to the relationship: a female Ego calls her sister udil whereas a male Ego calls his sister dachwir; similarly, a male Ego calls his brother mukhwbe whereas a female Ego calls her brother jemil.