We’ve all heard of the centuries old practice and science of husbandry, and most interesting is the science of husbandry on a human scale.
The definition of ‘husbandry’ according to “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language” is:
- The act or practice of cultivating crops and breeding and raising livestock; agriculture.
- The application of scientific principles to agriculture, especially to animal breeding.
- Careful management or conservation of resources; economy.
For the purposes of this article, I am referring to the most well known and specialized area of husbandry – the planning, tracking, and monitoring of the breeding of all varieties of livestock.
At one time, I read an article in “The Globe and Mail” which described a current practice in Iceland for monitoring the pairing and breeding of their human population. Theirs is such a small, isolated population surrounded by a vast expanse of ocean, this database has become a part of their culture that is heavily relied upon to ensure there is no accidental ‘inbreeding’ or, heaven forbid, “incest.”
The citizens of Iceland consult with a web-based database called “The “Book of Icelanders“, or “Islendingabok,” which tracks the genealogies of all the country’s citizens. This database serves a key purpose separate from the most obvious one of tracking genealogies. It allows Icelanders to check to see if they may be unknowingly about to date a relative.
After several years of research into our family genealogy, I have become aware that “husbandry” has been practiced throughout our own history as well.
Quakers, or members of the Society of Friends, as they were also known, had to be cleared by a group of select members, called a “clearness committee,” during a meeting for clearness, prior to the marriage. It was during the clearing that the issue of blood relationship would be addressed.
The Acadians (and the Catholic Church at large) had a similar custom, where the pair wishing to marry would petition the church for the right if they were known to be blood related.
The church would make a decision whether to approve the marriage, based on the ‘degree of consanguinity‘ or the closeness of the blood relationship. The standard was that any couple within the fourth degree of consanguinity were not permitted to marry.
A request could be made for a dispensation, or permission from the Catholic Church to marry. The closer the blood relationship, the harder it was to obtain dispensation.
It was very rare for first cousins to be permitted to marry.
- BBC: Religion: Quakers; http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/subdivisions/quakers_1.shtml#h7.
- Wikipedia.org; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers.