Friday, December 23, 2011
Family Friday Colonial America
Imagine yourself a young person residing in the sparsely populated woodlands of Eastern Virginia, Colonial America. One might speculate that as you approach adulthood you imagine the pleasures and responsibilities of establishing a family of your own. But the availability of suitable partners is somewhat limited.
Thus it is that you find yourself thinking more and more about your first cousin who lives on the neighboring plantation, a fine, upstanding, even attractive person of the opposite gender with whom you are well acquainted. Verily, a match made in heaven, or at least on the fringes of this New World continent.
Too, the happy young couple reflects, there is precedent within the family for just such a match, for our Grandfather and Grandmother Venable are first cousins as well!
Thus it is that my great great great great grandparents Jacob Michaux Venable and Mary Venable were wed on August 23, 1785. The Venable family would continue on another generation! Their grandfather, Abraham Venables II had married his first cousin, Martha Davis in 1723. They were grandchildren of Captain Hugh Lewis.*
Before you form a judgment about my heritage, reflect on these things.
1. If it is true that genetic similarities may magnify weaknesses, it is also likely that they may enhance strengths. Something must account for how we got so smart.
2. Careful about summary dismissal of other peoples' choices. It is legal yet today (2011) for first cousins to marry in exactly half of our states and the District of Columbia. There are some restrictions in six of those states.
Apropos of nothing: It is legal in two states, Colorado and Minnesota, for an uncle to marry a niece, if it is the tradition of the aboriginal tribe of which they are members. (And I believe there is just such a connection in my family, a good many generations in the past.)
*Genealogical assertion without documentation is like a horse with no legs. Nothing to stand on. Legless horse.