See B. D. Inglis, Family Law (2d ed., 2 vol., 1968-70).
Kinship characterized by the sharing of common ancestors (derived from the Latin consanguineous, meaning “of common blood”). Kin are of two basic kinds: consanguineous (sharing common ancestors) and affinal (related by marriage). Today consanguinity is a genetic concept that influences the probabilities of specific combinations of characteristics, called genotypes. The probability that two consanguineous individuals will share the same traits depends upon the mode of inheritance (dominant or recessive) and the degree of penetrance or expressivity of the causative gene. Higher rates of mortality and rare diseases and disorders are more common in the offspring of consanguineous unions. While consanguineous marriages of various degrees have been practiced, all societies have incest taboos prohibiting marriage or sexual relations between certain kin.
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Consanguinity ("con#Italian (with) sanguine (blood) -ity") refers to the property of being from the same lineage as another person. In that respect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person. Consanguinity is an important legal concept in that the laws of many jurisdictions consider consanguinity as a factor in deciding whether two individuals may be married or whether a given person inherits property when a deceased person has not left a will.
The degree of relative consanguinity can be illustrated with a consanguinity table, in which each level of lineal consanguinity (i.e., generation) appears as a row, and individuals with a collaterally-consanguineous relationship share the same row. See, e.g., table of consanguinity
Several volumes of Smith's Laws, enacted from 1700 through 1829, contain certain public and private laws of the Province and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Several laws with a prescribed punishment against adultery, bigamy, incest and fornication and all combinations of those crimes were enacted in 1705. They are found in volume I of Smith's Laws along with a table of Degrees of consaguinity and affinity
In regard to the law of intestate succession (when a person dies without a will), under the Uniform Probate Code of the United States section 2-103, after a surviving spouse receives his or her share, the descendants (depending on the circumstances this may include children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren, either biological or adopted) receive the remainder of the intestate estate. If there are no children, the decedent's parent(s) receive the remainder of the estate. If there are neither descendants nor parents, the decedent's estate is distributed to descendants of the decedent's parents (again, depending on the circumstances, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews and great grand nieces and nephews). If there are no descendants, parents, or descendants of parents, then the deceased's property passes to descendants of the grandparents of the decedent (uncles and aunts, first cousins, or first cousins once, twice, or thrice removed).
The connotations of degree of consanguinity varies by context (e.g., Canon law, Roman law, etc.). Most cultures define a degree of consanguinity within which sexual interrelationships are regarded as incestuous (the "prohibited degree of kinship"). In the Roman Catholic Church, unwittingly marrying a closely-consanguineous blood relative is grounds for an annulment, but dispensations were granted, actually almost routinely (the Catholic Church's ban on marriage within the fourth degree of relationship (first cousins) lasted from 1550 to 1917; before that, the prohibition applied to marriages within the seventh degree of kinship). The general rule was that while fourth cousins could marry without dispensation, those more closely related needed dispensation, with it becoming harder and harder to obtain the closer the couple were related.
Adoption may or may not be considered at law to create such a bond; in most Western societies, adoptive relationships are considered blood relationships for these purposes, but in others, including both Japan and ancient Rome, it was common for a couple with only daughters to adopt a son-in-law, making the marriage one between adoptive siblings.
Among the Christian Habesha highlanders of Ethiopia and Eritrea (the predominantly orthodox Christian Amhara and Tigray-Tigrinya), it is a tradition to be able to recount one's paternal ancestors at least 7 generations away starting from early childhood, because "those with a common patrilineal ancestor less than seven generations away are considered 'brother and sister' and may not marry." The rule is less strict on the mother's side, where the limit is about four generations back, but still determined patrilinearly. This rule does not apply to Muslims or other ethnic groups.
The offspring of consanguinous relationships are at greater risk of certain genetic disorders. Autosomal recessive disorders occur in individuals who are homozygous for a particular recessive gene mutation. This means that they carry two copies (alleles) of the same gene. Except in certain rare circumstances (new mutations or uniparental disomy) both parents of an individual with such a disorder will be carriers of the gene. Such carriers are not affected and will not display any signs that they are carriers, and so may be unaware that they carry the mutated gene. As relatives share a proportion of their genes, it is much more likely that related parents will be carriers of an autosomal recessive gene, and therefore their children are at a higher risk of an autosomal recessive disorder. The extent to which the risk increases depends on the degree of genetic relationship between the parents; so for incestuous relationships where the parents share 1/2 of their DNA the risk is great, but for relationships between second cousins where the parents only share 1/32 of their DNA the risk is less (although still greater than the general population).