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Hutterite Families

Kinship Structure

All Hutterites are descended from eighteen families. Four names have since died out, so only fourteen Hutterite surnames remain. The society is patriarchal, and kinship is patrilineal and patrilocal, so men have lifelong association in the same community while women usually leave their colony of birth at marriage. They have maintained the extended family, with three or four generations in the same community, but not necessarily under the same roof.

They believe in a hierarchy of relationships that is ordained by God. Men have higher status than women, and the elderly deserve the respect of the young. The gender and age ranking is seen in all settings, be it church, school, work, or meals. Men typically are assigned to the outdoor farm work; women are in charge of the kitchen and the nursery. Males sit on one side of the room and the females on the other, with the oldest in the back. After church services, for instance, the males file out first, with the oldest woman following the youngest boy (Hofer 1991, 1998).

Due to the high intermarriage that occurs, a colony might have only one or two family names, but consist of eight to fourteen extended families all related to each other to some degree. Others may have as many as seven family names. The three Leut have been endogamous—marrying only within the group—since 1879. However, Hutterite children stand in a field on the Forest River Colony near Fordville, North Dakota. Members of the colony live a communal life and share the responsibilities of their farm. KEVIN FLEMING/CORBIS within these groups, an incest taboo is maintained that includes up to first cousins on both sides (Peter 1971).


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsHutterite Families - Kinship Structure, The House Child, Kindergarten, School, Adolescence, Marriage, Fertility, Later Life