Re: Are we there yet? Are we there yet? #dna


At the risk of complicating the business of figuring out family trees, I must
point out that not everyone has (or had) eight great-grandparents. My
parents were first cousins, as were my maternal grandparents: my mother's
mother was a younger sister of my father's father (they were full, not half,
siblings), and my maternal grandmother's mother was a sister of my maternal
grandfather's father (also full siblings). My paternal grandmother was
unrelated to my other three grandparents, and to the best of my knowledge, my
maternal grandfather's mother was unrelated to her husband prior to their
marriage. Result? I had six great-grandparents: my paternal grandmother's
parents (2), my paternal grandfather's and maternal grandmother's parents (2,
not 4), and my maternal grandfather's parents (2).

It may sound trite and picky of me to mention that set of relationships, but
in Central and Eastern European families of earlier years, first-cousin
marriages were more common than many of us think. Jewish tradition certainly
didn't preclude such unions (in fact, I believe they were encouraged), and
people forced by such factors as edict, climate, finances and a lack of easy
means of communication and transportation (i.e. planes, trains and
automobiles) to live only in certain areas might find it difficult to seek
partners (or spouses for their children) elsewhere. If they came >from large
families (like mine) whose children tended to be hardy and long-lived, they
might at some point find that many of the people they knew were related to
them in some way anyway!

In the United States, first-cousin marriage is permitted in some states but
not others; yes, it was quite legal in my parents' case as well as my
mother's parents'. And no, I am not a medical anomaly, although the Red
Cross says I have the world's rarest red-cell factor. (A colleague of mine,
who's a bit of a wag, says I have a family tree that doesn't branch!)

Barbara Pilvin

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