Organization and Degree of Familial Relationships in Hispanic Cultures
Parentesco refers to the links or relationships between members of a family. Understanding how these are organized and measured is important in genealogical research.
These links are organized as lines (líneas) and measured in degrees (grados). There are three types of line,
- Blood lines (consanguidad)
- The links that exist between descendants of a a common ancestor (e.g., grand parents, parents, children, grand children, great grand children, nephews, cousins, etc.).
- Affinity (afinidad)
- The links that, through marriage, each spouse has with the other's blood relations (i.e., mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, etc.). In general, the blood relations of one spouse does not acquire a legal relation with the blood relations of the other spouse (e.g., consuegros and concuños are not legally related to each other).
- The links between the adoptee and the adoptive parents and their blood relatives. This varies from country to country.
From the point of view of a person, named the root (tronco), these lines are labeled as follows (e.g., for purposes of inheritance):
- Straight (Recta).
- A straight line of ancestors and descendant.
- Descendant line (línea descendiente).
- Children, grand children, great grand children, etc.
- Ancestor line (línea ascendiente).
- Parents, grand parents, great grand parents, etc.
- Collateral (Colateral o Transversa).
- Relationships between blood relatives not related by direct descendance or ascendance.
- Prefered (Preferentes).
- Siblings and nieces and nephews (i.e., two and three degrees apart, respectively).
- Ordinary (Ordinarios).
- Uncles, cousins, etc. (i.e., four to six degrees apart).
Parentesco is measured in degrees (grados), where each generation counts as one degree. Along the straight lines the distance between two members of a family is simply counted as the number of generations between them. For example, a father and his child are one degree apart, and a grand father and his grand child are two degrees apart).
In the collateral lines, the distance between two relatives is counted as the sum of the generations that separates each from their common ancestor. For example, a brother and a sister are two degrees apart, one from the brother to their parents and another degree from the parents to the sister. Between an uncle and his nephew there are three degrees of separation: one degree up between the uncle and his parents and two more degrees between them and his nephew.
This scheme is used, among other things, to determine heirs and the distribution of inheritance. This makes wills and related documents very valuable in genealogical research. In this article, Mariano Nájeraurriola, Esq., explains how this is used in the determination of contested wills and non-assigned inheritance[i].
This systems comes from antiquity[ii] and it has been instituted in law in Puerto Rico[i], Mexico[iii], Argentina[iv], Chile[v] and many other Latin American countries.
Below you'll find two tables that should help to illustrate this system.