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Ask-the-Pros: Kinship Systems and Genealogy

James L. Tanner

By James L. Tanner

Some of the online genealogy family tree programs accommodate different language naming patterns such as the difference between the pattern used in England and the pattern used in Spain, but few programs support the entry of kinship relationships. Because of this lack of support or even awareness of kinship relationships, there are likely a number of “brick wall” situations that are more apparent than real. For example, using the Choctaw language, if a record showed a certain person as your ancestor’s “father” how could you be sure that the reference was to the biological father?

In our European-American kinship system, as reflected by our terminological system (naming system) we make no distinction between our maternal and paternal relations. For example, if a person is my “uncle,” my reference to this person does not differentiate between my father’s brother and my mother’s brother. Because I hear and see very little discussion about kinship systems among genealogists or in the genealogical writing, I can only assume that there is little understanding or knowledge of the impact of kinship on the way genealogical relationships are recorded and preserved.

Join us this Friday, for a fun look into “Kinship Networks,” During our Ask-the-Pros research guidance session I, James L. Tanner, and Holly T. Hansen will be happy to offer you personal research assistance.

Happy New Year, and start looking at the larger kinship system in your genealogy.