Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cousin marriage was legal in all states before the Civil War


The question was asked recently about the census question,  #14 in the 1860 Census


  1. Was the person deaf and dumb, blind, idiotic, pauper, or convict?

The government had received a report by anthropology professor Martin Ottenheimer from Kansas stating that the main purposes of marriage prohibitions were maintaining the social order of upholding religious morality and safeguarding the creation of fit offspring.  


Prior evidence from 1758 writer Noah Webster (1758-1843), ministers Phillip Milledole (1775-1852) and Joshua McIlvaine helped lay the ground work for such viewpoints well before 1860.

By the 1870s Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) was writing about the advantages of marriages between unrelated persons.


All cited reasons why children of sisters and brothers should marry.  It hadn't dawned on them yet that the problem of genetic deficiencies between a widower and his wife's sister was just as bad of a problem if they both had the same parents or one of each person's parents were siblings.

By 1880, 13 states had issued prohibitions on cousin marriages.

An interesting exchange of dialog happened when I put my family tree online and had the opportunity to write with a cousin from Oklahoma.  

My grandfather and her Grandmother were siblings.  One of their siblings had married a cousin and the doctors told them they should not have children.

Her reply to me was, "Oh, no - The Doctor did say they couldn't have children, but they showed him - they had  10 children, but everyone of them were a little touched or off a little and never lived very long.  No one ever knew why."

I laughed and wrote back, "Oh - you misunderstood.  The story on my side is that the Doctor did indeed say they SHOULDN'T have children not that they  couldn't.  The genetic pool was just too close and that caused problems in all the kids.  They just didn't know much about genetics back in 1890."

Her reply, "Well now....that does make sense now."


Going back in your genealogy, you may find loops where siblings married other people and their children married.


John Smith
                                    Robert Smith
Susan Johnson
                                                                      John Smith II    50% chance of                                                                             deformity, deaf, blind, mental                                                                           challenges
James Jones
                                    Cindy Jones
Sandra Johnson


There are new theories being formed that possibly may suggest a throwback link genetically to cousin marriages all the way to the 1800s as a possible theory for autism.


The following link shows a progression to understanding the genetic risk of cousins marrying and producing children.  It is a far cry from the 13 prohibitive states in 1880


More information can be read on this theory at the above links and it is this author's opinion that there are many theories for which autism can be blamed and this is again just another interesting theory.   Just know that if this theory is a viable one, you should take no blame upon yourself.  It's just something that happened because they didn't know any better back then.

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