Charting multiple marriages

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Sat, 11 Mar 1995 00:42:00 CST

Dear Thai Yang:

================ You asked: ======================================

Speaking of kinship charts, I am currently in the process of doing extensive
charting of the Hmong kinship system and would appreciate any suggestions
on conventional methods of charting polygamous marriages with more than 2
wives. I have already waded through the literature available to me and found
only examples with 2 wives.

Thank you, in advance!

Thai Yang
============================== End of quote =======================

I don't know what you have been using as your symbols, but from what
you say I would guess that you indicate a marriage by placing an
equals sign between a triangle and a circle. That works fine until,
as you point out, you have to deal with multiple marriages. Thet
equals sign still works if you only have an occasional person who
marries more than once. You just put another equals sign on the
other side of that person's symbol.

It looks like you're finding, in doing genealogies among the Hmong,
that things are just not that simple. Where I've worked longest
(among Tzotzil Maya speakers in Chiapas, Mexico) I never ran across
anyone over the age of about 40 who had not had children with more
than one spouse. Which makes for VERY messy kinship charts!

The solution is to use an alternative symbol, which I picked up
long ago from reading British social anthropologists. Just as we
usually indicate sibling links by joining two symbols with vertical
lines at the top and joining those lines with a horizontal line, you
can symbolize a marriage with a vertical line going down from the
BOTTOM of a triangle and a circle, joined by a horizontal line. If
any individual has a second marriage (or 3, 4, ....n) you just run
another line down from the symbol and over to the next spouse or
spouses. I find it handy to include a number where the vertical
and horizontal make a right angle, to indicate first, second, third,
etc. marriages. (And different numbers under the other(s) in those
marriages, if appropriate.) This makes for very clear diagrams of
highly complex sets of marriages.

You know, it's hard to make this clear when all I can do is send
text! Let's see:
/^\ (~) /^\ /^\
~~l~~ l ~~l~~ ~~l~~
l 1 l 2 l l
~~~~~~~~~~~~l~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ l
l 3 l
Well, that's the best I can do. Hope it helps.

-- mike salovesh <>