Was marrying your cousin normal in the 19th century?
In the English upper and upper-middle classes, the prevalence of first-cousin marriage had remained steady at between 4% and 5% for much of the 19th century. However, after the First World War, there was a sudden change, and cousin marriage became very unusual.
In Europe and North America, cousin marriage used to be pretty common. People like Charles Darwin, Edgar Allan Poe, and Albert Einsteinall married their first cousins.
Marrying your first cousin was perfectly acceptable in the early 1800s, and the practice certainly offered some benefits: Wealth and property were more likely to remain in the same hands, and it was easier for young women to meet and be courted by bachelors within the family circle.
US prohibitions on cousin marriage date to the Civil War and its immediate aftermath. The first ban was enacted by Kansas in 1858, with Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Wyoming following suit in the 1860s.
Physician Samuel Merrifield Bemiss of the American Medical Association wrote a highly influential report that “inbreeding does lead to the physical and mental depravation of the offspring.” By the 1880s 13 states had passed laws against marrying one's cousin, and that number doubled in the 1920s.
Must first cousins be forbidden to marry? In the Bible, and in many parts of the world, the answer is no. But the answer is yes in much of church law and in half the United States.
The vast majority of children of first cousins are healthy and do not have problems due to their parents' relatedness. It is important to keep in mind that even for an unrelated couple, there is an approximately 2-3% chance that their child is born with a birth defect, genetic syndrome, or disability.
According to experts, cousins are sexually attracted to each other because blood relatives are raised in the same environment. They become so familiar with each other that even if they appreciate one another's physical appearance, there is a feeling of repulsion if they think about having a sexual relationship.
This switch in cousin-marriage's acceptance began in earnest in some parts of the Western world in the mid-19th century. Specifically, until the 1860s or so, first cousins commonly married in Europe and the U.S. In fact, Charles Darwin, Mr. Natural Selection himself, was married to his first cousin Emma Wedgwood.
What culture married their cousins?
Cousin marriage occurs more commonly and is customary to varying degrees among people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Middle Eastern origin, and also among some groups of Indian origin, Irish travellers, and some refugee populations.