My mother, an avid genealogist, was recently telling me just how homogeneous people used to be in many US cities.
I’d had a general sense that European-settled communities used to be more the same, with occasional waves of immigrants slowly being integrated into the society, but my mother pointed out a detail I’d previously overlooked.
Many small towns were also small families.
Especially as the United States was being settled, many communities were large enough to have a diverse gene pool, but small enough that marrying a cousin was common. In some communities, people weren’t even always aware of how closely they and their spouse were actually related.
Before you think about this too much – just reflect on the consequences: a dispute in the community became a dispute in the family; a fracture in the family became a fracture in the community.
These identities of family and community were far more intimately linked then I’d previously thought of — and probably more intimately linked than I’d like to think!