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No Relation: Cousin Marriage, Birth Defects
San Diego Union-Tribune ^ | January 28, 2004 | Dru Sefton

Posted on 01/28/2004 7:40:39 AM PST by Scenic Sounds

Albert Einstein married his first cousin, Elsa Lowenthal. So did evolutionist Charles Darwin, who wed cousin Emma Wedgwood and had 10 children. The Prophet Muhammad married cousin Zaynab bint Jahsh; Jacob and Rachel in the Old Testament were also cousin-spouses.

Cousin marriage, or consanguineous marriage, is commonplace throughout history and around the world – except in America. Here, many states ban the unions based on the long-held notion that cousin marriages are "inbreeding" that produces defective offspring.

But those laws are based on outmoded social stigmas and incorrect scientific studies, genetics experts say. And cousin couples are increasingly speaking out for their right to marry.

Many of the myths date to one particularly erroneous study issued in 1858, said Martin Ottenheimer, author of "Forbidden Relatives: The American Myth of Cousin Marriage." That study, in the Transactions of the American Medical Association journal, concluded that first cousins were too closely related to safely reproduce.

"The research upon which it was based was very, very, very poor. Absolutely wrong," said Ottenheimer, an anthropology professor at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

But the study gained recognition because it was an era in which Americans were increasingly turning to science for answers. Moreover, Ottenheimer said, the federal government backed the findings, believing that discouraging cousin marriage would more quickly assimilate immigrants.

As a result, many state laws forbidding the marriages date to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Currently:

Twenty states prohibit marriage between first cousins.

Four additionally prohibit unions between cousins once removed (a difference of one generation).

Six states allow cousin marriages only if the couple is above child-bearing age.

One state allows first-cousin marriage but bans "double cousin" unions. (That occurs when, for instance, two brothers from one family marry two sisters from another; if each couple has a child, those offspring are double cousins.)

Nineteen other states, including California, allow first cousins to marry without restrictions.

Because the relationships spark such legal and social turmoil, cousins who fall in love often seek moral guidance.

"My parents had raised me to go to the Bible with any question I had," said Christie Smith of Las Vegas. When she was attracted to her cousin Mark, "I prayed and I studied Scripture. To my surprise, God is OK with cousin marriages."

She found nothing in the Bible forbidding the relationship. Leviticus 18, which details rules regarding incest, does not mention cousins.

Christie and Mark, married five years, host the Web site for CUDDLE International (Cousins United to Defeat Discriminating Laws through Education).

Cousin marriages "aren't nearly as uncommon as people think; they're just kept under wraps," Smith said. Her site at www.cuddleinternational.org gets some 300 hits per day.

Another site, www.cousincouples.com, gets about 600 visitors a day. It's run by Keith Tysinger of Asheboro, N.C., married nearly eight years to his cousin Tammy.

When they announced their plan to wed, "it was terrible," Tysinger said. "My dad said, 'They'll put you in jail in some states for that!' Nearly everyone was against us."

The resentment has slowly faded, he said. Now the two are trying to have a baby. And, contrary to widespread belief, their child will not be at a significantly higher risk of birth defects.

"People in the genetics community know those risks are not high, and they have known that for years," said Robin Bennett, a senior genetic counselor and clinic manager for the University of Washington Medical Genetics Clinic in Seattle.

In 2002, Bennett headed a National Society of Genetic Counselors task force that released an extensive study of consanguineous marriage. It showed that cousin couples were only 1.7 percent to 2.8 percent more likely than a nonrelated couple to have a child with a significant birth defect, such as mental retardation or a genetic disorder.

Ottenheimer said one of the first scientifically sound studies was conducted after World War II by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission – Radiation Effects Research Foundation, under the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

The group was examining genetic problems after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands of Japanese citizens participated.

"In order to determine possible damage, they needed to sift out very carefully the possible contamination of the study due to cousin marriage," because the practice was common in Japan, Ottenheimer said. And at that point, cousin marriages were still thought to produce inbreeding problems.

But when scientists examined that separate group of Japanese cousin-marriage offspring for genetic disorders, they discovered far fewer problems than anticipated.

Stigma persists

Brandon and Andrew Wagner, 11 and 8 years old, are living proof of the healthy children typically born to cousins. Their parents, Caren and Brian Wagner of New Holland, Mich., have been married 12 years.

"One of our great-aunts couldn't believe there wasn't something wrong with the children," Caren said. "She said, 'They look so normal.' It was rather comical."

Wagner said she still faces prejudiced reactions, such as that of the co-worker who recently told her she'd "better not mention to too many people" that she married her cousin.

"People expect some two-headed, toothless redneck," Wagner said. "Walking down the street, you can't tell us from anyone else. We're a middle-class, Midwestern American family."

The stigma persists, as do the laws.

Phyllis Kahn, a member of the Minnesota State Legislature, in January 2003 introduced a bill to repeal cousin marriage restrictions. It remains stalled in committee; senators are reluctant to co-sponsor the measure.

Some of Kahn's constituent groups, including Somalis from Africa and Hmong from Asia, were shocked to find the marriages weren't permitted, she said.

"If some people stand to benefit, and there's no scientific reason for them not to, it should be allowed," Kahn said.

Statistics elusive

Ottenheimer said cousin marriages in other countries serve specific societal purposes, such as promoting equality.

Many cultures practice patrilocality: When a couple marry, the two live with or near the husband's family. "So incoming women are outsiders," Ottenheimer said. But with cousin marriages, "you have a household of groups of related women and groups of related men, each of which have power within the family."

Ottenheimer said reliable statistics on the number of cousin marriages in America are elusive.

But when his book was published in 1996, he was surprised by the hundreds of notes and telephone calls he received.

"A number of people were very threatened by the idea of cousin marriage," he added. "This touches very fundamental notions about being human."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: health; kissincousins; putsistertothetest; slipperyslope; uncledaddy; westvirginia
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Another site, www.cousincouples.com, gets about 600 visitors a day.

Love conquers all!!

1 posted on 01/28/2004 7:40:39 AM PST by Scenic Sounds
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To: Scenic Sounds
bless their little hearts
2 posted on 01/28/2004 7:42:20 AM PST by cyborg
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To: cyborg
Next on Fox.... WHEN COUSINS MARRY!!!


3 posted on 01/28/2004 7:50:54 AM PST by Hillary's Lovely Legs (Saddam feels so bad for Howard Dean that he has offered him his hole.)
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To: cyborg
LOL!!

~</;o)
4 posted on 01/28/2004 7:52:23 AM PST by EggsAckley (..................**AMEND** the Fourteenth Amendment......(There, is THAT better?).................)
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To: Scenic Sounds
What hypocrits. They bitch and moan when this happens to a couple in the Southeast U.S. (which is very, very rare), but they act like it makes them superior in someway when they do it themselves.
5 posted on 01/28/2004 7:56:10 AM PST by Paul C. Jesup
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
LOL! (won't even start talking about the Kennedys!)
6 posted on 01/28/2004 7:57:11 AM PST by cyborg
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To: EggsAckley
happy monday...I just burned off the McFlurry I ate yesterday by shoveling the flurries that fell last night
7 posted on 01/28/2004 7:58:05 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Scenic Sounds
Einstein's kid wasn't with his cousin, though. It was with a crippled Hungarian physicist, his other wife.
8 posted on 01/28/2004 8:00:50 AM PST by Flightdeck (Death is only a horizon)
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To: Scenic Sounds
After listening to the "experts," one would think eros love was the only love known to man. How does all this new "I can have sex with anyone if I love him/her/them/it" affect the other vital forms of human love? What does it do to family love? When your aunt and uncle come over for Christmas, does it change the whole dynamic if the kids are making out in the bedroom, for example?

How does this new found freedom -- especially the same-sex junk -- affect friendship love? Does it change the meaning of an all girls slumber party? Does it ruin the meaning of a hug from a friend, or at least add suspicion? Should a boyfriend/girlfriend worry about those repeated outings with the same person (yeah, sure you're just FRIENDS)?

Certainly it changes the meaning of the mens/ladies restrooms, dressing rooms and locker rooms. I mean, why separate them anymore?

9 posted on 01/28/2004 8:01:06 AM PST by King Black Robe (With freedom of religion and speech now abridged, it is time to go after the press.)
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To: Scenic Sounds
Thanks! Most people would be surprised by the number of cousin marriages in their family's history.

I know in my own, there are many...some because of love, others to maintain property in the family, others because of the limited choices...1600s Nantucket!

10 posted on 01/28/2004 8:01:25 AM PST by Molly Pitcher
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To: cyborg
As, so it's Monday where you live. Very interesting.


LOL!
11 posted on 01/28/2004 8:01:48 AM PST by EggsAckley (..................**AMEND** the Fourteenth Amendment......(There, is THAT better?).................)
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To: EggsAckley
Right after I sent that, I said to myself 'isn't it FRIDAY?' bwahahaha
12 posted on 01/28/2004 8:02:42 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Scenic Sounds

"YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHAWWWWWWWW!"

13 posted on 01/28/2004 8:04:50 AM PST by KantianBurke (2+2 does NOT equal 5)
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To: cyborg
Um......it's Wednesday here. But then, you've always been ahead of the pack.....

~</;o)
14 posted on 01/28/2004 8:06:22 AM PST by EggsAckley (..................**AMEND** the Fourteenth Amendment......(There, is THAT better?).................)
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To: EggsAckley
I give up LMAO
15 posted on 01/28/2004 8:09:03 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Molly Pitcher
1600s Nantucket!

It never got much wilder than that!! ;-)

16 posted on 01/28/2004 8:10:52 AM PST by Scenic Sounds (Sí, estamos libres sonreír otra vez - ahora y siempre.)
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To: Scenic Sounds
My wife is from the Appalachian hills. She was talking about her great-grandmother one time and I asked "Which side?". She just stared at me.
17 posted on 01/28/2004 8:11:40 AM PST by AppyPappy (If You're Not A Part Of The Solution, There's Good Money To Be Made In Prolonging The Problem.)
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To: cyborg
Or maybe you're the product of a "cousins" marriage..........

(just kidding, heheheh)

18 posted on 01/28/2004 8:12:23 AM PST by EggsAckley (..................**AMEND** the Fourteenth Amendment......(There, is THAT better?).................)
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To: Scenic Sounds
Truth is a hard thing to get at.

On the surface, this presents a good arguement (maybe) but I think it is the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation that the problems begin.

You solve the problem by stopping it at the first generation.

We always went to the neighbor to borrow the bull.
19 posted on 01/28/2004 8:12:23 AM PST by PeterPrinciple
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To: AppyPappy
My wife is from the Appalachian hills. She was talking about her great-grandmother one time and I asked "Which side?". She just stared at me.

ROFL - The post of the day!!

20 posted on 01/28/2004 8:13:00 AM PST by Scenic Sounds (Sí, estamos libres sonreír otra vez - ahora y siempre.)
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To: EggsAckley
could be :P
21 posted on 01/28/2004 8:13:02 AM PST by cyborg
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To: Scenic Sounds
Just how do they explain the "royal family" in GB?

22 posted on 01/28/2004 8:14:13 AM PST by WhiteGuy (Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...)
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To: Scenic Sounds
Yes, but I read through the whole article, and I STILL DON'T KNOW whether cooking at 325 degrees for 50 minutes or 400 for 30 minutes makes for a more tender, tastier squirrel.
23 posted on 01/28/2004 8:15:38 AM PST by hispanarepublicana (Mr. Fox, give us our water!!!)
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To: Scenic Sounds
My wife is from the Appalachian hills. She was talking about her great-grandmother one time and I asked "Which side?". She just stared at me. ROFL - The post of the day!!

Wrong. It would have been the post of the day if it had said:

"...She was talking about her great-grandmother one time and I asked "Which side?". She just stared at me-----with all three of her eyes."

24 posted on 01/28/2004 8:18:58 AM PST by hispanarepublicana (Mr. Fox, give us our water!!!)
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To: WhiteGuy
Just how do they explain the "royal family" in GB?

Res ipsa loquitur.

There's gotta be at least one horse back there somewhere. ;-)

25 posted on 01/28/2004 8:19:31 AM PST by Scenic Sounds (Sí, estamos libres sonreír otra vez - ahora y siempre.)
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To: PeterPrinciple
We always went to the neighbor to borrow the bull.

True, and I am with you.... but many in-breedings, or line breedings went into development of most breeds of cattle, dogs, horses.... etc. That is how outstanding examples of a trait were used to improve a characteristic of a breed.... by repeating it a few times in the line. Of course, the weaknesses and faults of that animal were also magnified, and that sometimes did not become apparent till later.

So of course there is no real problem with cousins breeding once, unless they both carry a fault that is harmful. It is the repeated breedings of generations of families without new blood that leads to problems.

26 posted on 01/28/2004 8:21:24 AM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: Molly Pitcher
Most people would be surprised by the number of cousin marriages in their family's history.

I know in my own, there are many...some because of love, others to maintain property in the family, others because of the limited choices...1600s Nantucket!

We've got some in our family, it's been a while, but looking at our family tree, we had our fair share. A large part of my family came to the Texas area from Spain, and the choices were limited, either marry cousins or end up in a marriage arranged by somebody else back in Spain and hope you get lucky. Marrying one of the natives/indians was out of the question for various reasons (mostly having to do with money and to be blunt, racism). Once more people from Spain that weren't connected to the missions came in and more Anglos started showing up in the area the family tree began to branch out a bit more ;-) Not something that is openly discussed among the family, but some of us do find it amusing and see the logic behind it.

27 posted on 01/28/2004 8:22:14 AM PST by af_vet_rr
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To: Molly Pitcher
You're right. Many, many of my ancestors in my father's line were cousins. Three of his four grandparents were cousins. When he died at 84, he had hardly been to a doctor or had taken medication in his life. He was one of the youngest of his siblings to die. IOW, his is one tough family line.
28 posted on 01/28/2004 8:25:00 AM PST by twigs
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To: Scenic Sounds
I was a teenager when my dad retired from his job in Washington DC and we moved to rural West Virginia. Talk about culture shock!

The prevailing attitude among the teenagers in the area seemed to be cousins were good "practice". Although living with or marrying a cousin was frowned upon. Nobody seemed to think it out of the ordinary that cousins of around the same age fooled around, in fact it was almost expected. When I questioned one of my friends once about his "relationship" with his cousin, he just shrugged and said "Whats the problem? It's not like shes my girlfriend..."
29 posted on 01/28/2004 8:27:20 AM PST by apillar
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To: WhiteGuy
At least two English monarchs were married to their first cousins: Mary I (1553-1558) and Mary II (1689-1694). Both died childless; Mary II had at least two miscarriages but no children born alive.
30 posted on 01/28/2004 8:28:12 AM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: AppyPappy
What are the highways like in your area right now? I have family driving through there on the way to Maryland.
31 posted on 01/28/2004 8:28:12 AM PST by KC Burke
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To: KC Burke
They are OK. We are having 50 mph gusts that are blowing snow back onto the highway. That's worse than falling snow because they don't know where to scrape. But the sun is out now and it should melt off most of the snow on the roads.
32 posted on 01/28/2004 8:31:24 AM PST by AppyPappy (If You're Not A Part Of The Solution, There's Good Money To Be Made In Prolonging The Problem.)
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To: twigs
Back in Kentucky in the 17th century, my husband's ancestors and my ancestors were both marrying cousins. It was called a "braided" family. In his family, Parkers and Todds married cousins for about five generations. Of course they ended up with Mary Todd Lincoln but hey. We did find one couple (not direct but colateral) who didn't marry cousins. My husband's 1st cousin six times removed married my 1st cousin 7 times removed in 1800. LOL.
33 posted on 01/28/2004 8:35:07 AM PST by Mercat
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To: Scenic Sounds
Another site, www.cousincouples.com, gets about 600 visitors a day. It's run by Keith Tysinger of Asheboro, N.C., married nearly eight years to his cousin Tammy.

I have only 3 words to add to this discussion:
EEEWWWW!
EEEWWWW!
and
EEEWWWW!
34 posted on 01/28/2004 8:36:36 AM PST by MaryFromMichigan (We childproofed our home, but they are STILL getting in)
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To: Scenic Sounds
Well, I can't help noticing that each of these new scientific "discoveries" or demands for legal and social change results in more opportunities for unlimited sexual gratification and self indulgence.

When I watch all my grandchildren playing together during the holidays, the last thing I would want is to introduce something like sexual awareness. I hope they would continue to think of each other as something special because they are all family.
35 posted on 01/28/2004 8:37:22 AM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: AppyPappy
That totally made my day! Thanks
36 posted on 01/28/2004 8:39:28 AM PST by highnoon (Revenge is a dish best served cold.)
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To: Mercat
Genealogy is my hobby and it's surprising how many couples you meet that find, after intensive research, that they share an ancestor. I know one couple, husband from PA, wife from TX, met in college, who discovered they shared an ancestor from a little village in Germany hundreds of years ago. My theory is that a little bit that we inherit is attracted to same in the person we marry. My married name is the same name as the one line in my ancestry that I have never been able to trace... And that line of my husband's came from that general direction. We wouldn't be surprised to find a common ancestor. Would explain how we are so different and get along so well. Usually.
37 posted on 01/28/2004 8:40:07 AM PST by twigs
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To: apillar
When I questioned one of my friends once...

LOL. You have to be careful what you ask and where. I enjoyed the people in most of Arkansas when I have been there on active duty in my youth and on business later.

But I had a young girl and her sister who reported to me on one assignment and one of them remarked, "The only virgins down-here are twelve year-olds that can run faster than there cousins and uncles." I was floored as she was apparently using a flip colloquialism to excuse a sad reality, at least in her mind.

It was there where I also heard the nasty remark along the lines of "well, if it ain't good enough for your own family, who's it good enough for?"

I imagine that similar scientific studies will soon show how bestiality is not all that unhealthy in reality. Little harm to the typical subject and few diseases actually acquired compared to natural relations. It is all in the realm of ignoring cultural standards and defining deviancy down and lowering the moral tone and strictures.

38 posted on 01/28/2004 8:41:22 AM PST by KC Burke
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To: AppyPappy
I don't mind winter driving under almost any conditions with a properly equiped vehicle. But I do acknowledge that ice is the factor that throws all the odds and care out the window.

The other driver can get in trouble soooo fast and sooo drastically that they become impossible to avoid. Over here, we have such narrow and unobstructed medians, in some cases, that it is fairly commonplace to see the accident start in the west bound lane and end in the opposite.

39 posted on 01/28/2004 8:47:03 AM PST by KC Burke
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To: KC Burke
defining deviancy down and lowering the moral tone and strictures

You mean, down to the Biblical standard?

40 posted on 01/28/2004 8:50:33 AM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: Tooters
Well if you can't keep it in your pants, keep it in the family...
41 posted on 01/28/2004 8:52:59 AM PST by RolandBurnam
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To: Scenic Sounds

Cousins make dozens.

42 posted on 01/28/2004 9:32:19 AM PST by SquirrelKing (a href="http://www.michaelmoore.com" target="_blank">miserable failure)
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To: RolandBurnam
Once again, EEEWWW! :)
43 posted on 01/28/2004 9:45:25 AM PST by MaryFromMichigan (We childproofed our home, but they are STILL getting in)
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To: Hillary's Lovely Legs
She has he mother's "lovely legs", I see.
44 posted on 01/28/2004 10:12:27 AM PST by Blood of Tyrants (Even if the government took all your earnings, you wouldn’t be, in its eyes, a slave.)
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To: twigs
Genealogy is my hobby and it's surprising how many couples you meet that find, after intensive research, that they share an ancestor.

It is also my hobby, but I've only found one certified instance of cousins marrying each other - but they were 3rd cousins.

As for sharing common ancestors, if you go back far enough it wouldn't be uncommon to find them at all. Think about it: go back one generation, and you and your spouse have 4 parents between you. 2 generations = 8 grandparents, etc. Keep doubling this, and in 30 generations you are looking at over 2 billion possible ancestors - IF there are no common ancestors. However, 30 generations ago (roughly 750 years at 25 years per), the entire population of the world was considerably less than 2 billion. Additionally, you could probably discount certain entire populations existing at that time from your family - I'm a European-descended Jew, as is my wife, and I sincerely doubt that either of us has ancestors among those living in Australia, sub-Saharan Africa or the Western Hemisphere 750 years ago. This means that the distance you have to go back to find a common ancestor is lessened considerably. My own personal (and very unscientific) guess is that if a couple is from the same ethnic group, it would be unlikely not to have common ancestors as recently as 10 generations back.

45 posted on 01/28/2004 10:41:03 AM PST by Ancesthntr
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To: twigs
It is also my hobby, but I've only found one certified instance of cousins marrying each other - but they were 3rd cousins.

In my family, that is.

46 posted on 01/28/2004 10:42:00 AM PST by Ancesthntr
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To: HairOfTheDog
So of course there is no real problem with cousins breeding once, unless they both carry a fault that is harmful.

While I don't condone cousin marriages, and I think that the latest interest is more in line with "defining deviancy down," your statement echoes what one of my Biology teachers said. Specifically, when someone in class joked about the product of a cousins union having 3 eyes, he said "the prejudice against such unions assumes that there's a meaningful genetic defect in the common ancestral line, which ain't necessarily the case." However, he was quick to assure us that he wasn't his wife's 1st or even 5th cousin.

47 posted on 01/28/2004 10:48:31 AM PST by Ancesthntr
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To: Ancesthntr
It is also my hobby, but I've only found one certified instance of cousins marrying each other - but they were 3rd cousins...In my family, that is.

Amazing...I've found lots in my family, although none of those in my direct line were first cousins...so far, anyway...

48 posted on 01/28/2004 2:30:28 PM PST by Amelia
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To: Ancesthntr; All
I always find these kinds of threads amusing. At some point in human history we lived in small tight knit groups. We can all trace common ancestry. There's only so many eye and hair colors, for example.

And who would find it disgusting, if the need arose, to have a blood transfusion? Or to find a tissue match for an organ transplant?

Everything's relative….
49 posted on 01/28/2004 4:31:10 PM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population - have them spayed or neutered. ©)
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To: KC Burke; All
I've been pondering this for a few hours, the "defining deviancy down" angle.

I'm a Southern man, and have heard more than my share about the cousin thing. But what really struck me was how a couple of years back a Berkeley punk, one of those dime store "homophobe" sloganeers, actually called me a quote "cousin f****r".

There's been a few other articles of cousin marriages the last couple of years that mentioned those two "cousin couple" sites, and I've gone there and looked them over. From what I've gathered 99.9 percent of the posts are from heterosexual couples, of a man and a woman. Some of them, just as here at the Freep, appear to be Conservative and church going, and even have prayer threads.

So what if they're cousins? I'd rather see cousin marriages take the world by storm than see the Homosexual Agenda being pushed in elementary schools like it has been the last few years. I just can't see the connection of "defining deviancy down", of comparing heterosexual cousins to homosexuals in this manner, and especially considering we all share more common ancestry than we realize. The "ignored" cultural standard for thousands of years had favored cousins. Until lately.

Cousin marriage is no Sodom and Gomorrah.


50 posted on 01/28/2004 8:56:05 PM PST by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population - have them spayed or neutered. ©)
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