As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
Doing my gen. research, I have found out that my great grandparents (married in 1899) were first cousins. They are from a small town in S.Italy called Gallicchio, Potenza, Basilicata. The town today only has about 1000+ people in it and doesn't seem to be close to any major cities.
How common was it in late 1800's for cousins to marry? Did they have the same ideas about marrying relatives that we do? What was the belief system at the time?
The following information may be of interest to you:
If a village was so small that a person could not find a potential husband or wife who was not in some way related, they might be allowed to marry despite their kinship. In this instance, dispensation from the church prohibition on marriage between kin was granted fairly easily.
This information comes from an article entitled "Land, Kinship, and Consanguineous Marriage in Italy from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries" written by Raul Merzario. From the Journal of Family History, 15:4 (1990).
From the abstract for this article is an interesting statement:
"Marriages between kin not only served to keep family patrimonies intact over the generations, but often led to hamlets or neighborhoods composed of extended kin."
One previous thread on this forum concerning the subject was entitled Marriage Dispensations and Kinship in Italy
Here are some posts from that thread:
I just found the following statement in a book called Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage by Martin Ottenheimer. In it, he quotes from another researcher named Pettener: "the Italian Kingdom, created in 1861, required no dispensation for civil marriage between first cousins." Pettener, according to Ottenheimer, then goes on to say that parish priests might then solicit dispensations from higher church authorities often mentioning that "the spouses could have recourse to so-called civil marriage."
***So for civil as opposed to church marriages, after the unification of Italy, no dispensations were needed to marry even first cousins.
From pages 90 and 91 of the book I quoted from above:
"Studies of church records have revealed that the predominantly Catholic Mediterranean countries saw a relatively high increase in marriage rates between sanguineal (blood) relatives during the 19th century and then witnessed a sharp decline in these types of marriages after 1900. By the 1950s, only 0.45% of all marriages in Italy were between first cousins,. The highest incidence was in Sicily (1.65%)."
The above were posted by me on that thread.
From mibris on the same thread
Makes sense, because after 1900, people were moving out of their little towns and there was more social interaction with others. Before that time, the pool of possible marriage partners was very limited and arranged marriage probably kept whatever property there was in the family.
misbris wrote:That's how Hemophelia became a problem for many of the royal families, and some historians give this as a secondary cause for the Russian Revolution.
Exactly what I was thinking
I don't think people understood the genetic problems inbreeding presented back then.
Of course, somehow it doesn't seem as, whats the word....creepy, when cousins marry in a little Italian town as it does when they marry in the hills of WV and KY . I can say that because my grandfather's family was from WV, and there was no small amount of inbreeding in his line.
my grand parents were first cousins . also his other cousins married as well they had big famalies 7 children each. no harm to any of them. but from what i have been researching the village of ururi campobasso was very small population back then. so it seems the more names i find i am finding more cousins who married probably to keep land or monies in the family. i think it was more common than people think in the small villages. i know my ggrand mother had arranged my grand fathers marrage to her brothers daughter.
Remember that during the 1800's in Italy, the marriage was arranged by the parents, so boys and girls had not the chance to chose someone to marry, like nowadays.
At that time, parents arranged the marriage, and before the marriage the couple used to go to notary to write down a record stating what is brought in this new born family (properties, lands, houses, furniture, pots, dishes, beds, pillows, chairs, sheets and so forth)
So it was arranged by the parents, so the parents knew that the couple somehow had a solid future.
I hope it helps
ITALIAN GENEALOGY ON LINE -SPECIALIZED