K is for Kith and Kin

April 12, 2014 at 8:08 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Society, Ways of Living | 7 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]



Kith: Old English cȳthth, of Germanic origin; related to couth. The original senses were ‘knowledge’, ‘one’s native land’, and ‘friends and neighbours’. The phrase kith and kin originally denoted one’s country and relatives; later one’s friends and relatives. This is the only way ‘kith’ is used nowadays.



Familial relationships used to be the basis of community in past times, and still are in small village societies where people still live in smaller groups. Such communities are mostly made up of ‘kith and kin’, who depend upon each other for security and support, especially in difficult times.

Grandparents would often care for children so that parents could provide for their families. But as societies grew larger and more sophisticated, this interdependence lessened, especially with the industrialisation of western societies. People paid others to do what family normally would have done.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,, periods of huge waves of international migration, families lost that cohesiveness. They were split apart and millions never saw their children or their parents again

That was the case for my father when we migrated from England to Australia in 1954. Dad never saw his parents again. Mum only did because her parents and brother followed us out here. I have never seen any of the relatives we left behind, and most of them are now gone.

Rodney Holland Baptism Grandparents &g'chn Jan.1981


There has also been considerable migration in the past fifty years within countries as family members have to move to find work. My own five sons were scattered across Australia at one time. Four of them have settled closer together now, though one still lives overseas. But they all live too far away for me to see them more than two or three times a year.

Most of Thompson clan 24 June 2001

There do appear to be indications that families are again having to rely on kith and kin for support. With the high cost of childcare, and the need for both parents to work, relatives, especially grandparents, are increasingly taking on the role they traditionally had.

I just wish my sons lived close enough that I could, at least occasionally, be a minder for my grandchildren.



How much contact do you have with your family? Are they scattered, like mine, or are they close by? Is it better to have some distance between you and them, or would you prefer they were close by?


© Linda Visman 12.04.2014  (360 words)


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  1. Both our sons and daughters-in-law live in England. They don’t have any children as yet, but Jane and I are going to find it extremely difficult when that happens. I don’t know how we’ll cope with grandchildren so far away. Such a good post Linda. Thank you.

    • Thank you Don.
      It will be difficult for you when you do have grandchildren and you are far away from them. They grow so quickly, and I miss out on so many of the stages of their lives. Even a couple of months can make a difference.
      My eldest son lives in Japan, and I have only spent time with my young granddaughter on two occasions in her five and a half years.

      • Wow! Linda – so sad, but what can one do. Must be incredibly difficult for you.

  2. Hi Linda – I can quite see what you’re saying .. I lived in South Africa for a while and felt the need to return to England to be near my mother and uncles on my father’s side and I’m so glad I did. But I’m single and had no ties in SA .. and so I’m an independent ‘lass’ who can be with friends and family as and when .. I hope you get a few extra chances each year to see your grandchildren .. cheers Hilary

    • It would be wonderful to have that freedom Hilary, but I suppose one has to balance whether to have children or not. With my Catholic upbringing, there was never likely to be a choice. But I am glad I have my kids and grandkids, even if I don’t get to see them as often as I would like.

  3. I’m always back and forth as to which is better – having your family really close so that you can depend on each other (which also means that they would depend on me and I find that thought overwhelming in my current state of mind) or living far as I do, having moved to another country myself as well. I guess it’s easier for me at the moment until my mum is well and healthy but once it changes, I don’t think it’s gonna be a choice any more.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!
    Andrea, #atozchallenge Mighty Minion Asset

    • It is often difficult Andi. Hope things settle down and you are able to make that choice yourself.
      Many thanks for dropping in and commenting. 🙂

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