Gender (genealogy)

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In family history research ( genealogy ), gender (from Old High German gislahti "to guess ", see origin of the word ) refers to a very large and old extended family whose members are descended from a common ancestor through different degrees of consanguinity and have the same family name: the gender name (see also patrilinearity ). Generally speaking, families with a long-standing and extensively preserved list of their ancestors ( ancestors list ) transfer the name to their own family tree and see themselves as "one gender", even if not all relatives have the same family name.

In this context, one can only speak of a " parent line " if only male descendants are included, as in the old Roman legal conception of agnates ( Latin for "added / later born"), in which all female descendants within the line are considered to be only cognatic ( co-born) (see also linear and collateral relationship ).

Word origin

The word “gender” is a collective term that emerged as an abstract from the Old High German verb for “to strike”, meaning “to develop in a certain direction, to guess someone, to have someone's style, to behave”:

  • Old High German (750-1050): gislahti "which strikes in the same direction"
  • Middle High German (1050-1350): Gesleht (e) "gender, tribe, descent, family, genus", in the meaning of Latin genus : species, genus, sex, the related (noble) family, the offspring, the (noble) Descent, the people, humanity
  • Late Middle High German (1250–1350): in the meaning of Latin sexus : male or female gender
  • from around 1400 in the meaning of grammatical gender (Latin genus )
  • from the 17th century as a noun: "gender word" , in the translation from Latin articulus (part of speech " article ")
  • from the 18th century as adjective: "genderless", meaning "not belonging to any gender"; as a noun: " Genital part ", in the translation from Latin pars genitalis
  • from the 19th century as adjective: "sexual", meaning "regarding gender, sexual"

The genealogical meaning of the word as a family has developed even before the other meanings that have arisen from the root of the word.

Differences: gender, home, family

A large and old family, which is referred to as gender or sees itself as such, is divided into individual lines (main line with secondary lines ), also called "houses"; the individual small families are part of such a house. In the aristocracy , when the father (as head) died, the main line was continued by the eldest son ( primogeniture ), while his younger brothers and their descendants could each establish new subsidiary lines, which as a single "house" were assigned to the entire sex. Genders with many houses are also referred to in the plural as " the Bourbons " or as the gender " those of Schulenburg ".

Sometimes entire families of the high nobility are referred to as "house", especially dynasties (rulers), for example the House of Bourbon . The basis of this importance were the own " house rules " that aristocratic families gave themselves to regulate their succession; in the historiography of the Middle Ages these were taken up and led to the designation of large families as "one house".

In this tradition, houses and entire genders were generally referred to as “family”, and conversely, non-noble families also tried to understand themselves as “gender”. The connotation as noble sex was derived from the connection with ruling dynasties and added to the word meaning.

The multi-volume genealogical handbook of the German Gender Book (216 volumes from 1889) provides a further framework : Aristocratic families consistently refer to themselves as aristocratic families, as do comparable large bourgeois families, for example in Hamburg's Hanseatic community . Accordingly, a distinction is made in 1910: “The family only understands the next children of a father. You can therefore call the children with their father and mother a noble family, but not yet a noble family if the father has only received the nobility. "

Even the Roman historian Tacitus (58–120 AD) made a distinction between the two names when he remarked about the Germanic tribes : “They especially encourage bravery that it is not chance and arbitrary combination, but families and genders, the cavalry or the Form battle wedges "- but he could also have understood the name in the sense of the Roman gens (clan or large family with the same family or clan name). In later sources, however, the aforementioned use of the designation can be found without a doubt, when it says, for example: "27 men of the noblest generations of the nobility and the bourgeoisie ... were ... executed".


  • Christine Kanz (Hrsg.): Zerreissprüfung - double bind: Family and gender in German literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. eFeF-Verlag, Bern / Wettingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-905561-72-2 (collection of articles).

Web links

Wiktionary: Gender  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Digital dictionary of the German language : Gender.
  2. ^ A b Johann August Eberhard: House, gender, family. In: Synonymic concise dictionary of the German language. 1910.
  3. ^ Tacitus: Germania . AD 98 Chapter 7.
  4. ^ Gerhard Krause, Gerhard Müller (ed.): Theologische Realenzyklopädie. Volume 6, 1977, ISBN 3110081156 , p. 764.