Inbreeding In Eastern Kentucky

According to Wikipedia Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents. Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. Inbreeding happens all over the world, but I was shocked when I heard this word being used to describe “mountain people” in the Eastern part of Kentucky. Being that I am from Florida where this word is not used very much, especially not to describe people in a part of the state.  So naturally I had a few questions when I heard the word being used to describe this group of people. How true are these accusations, and in how many communities in Eastern Kentucky does inbreeding really exist? How remote do these communities have to be located to consider inbreeding? What are the side effects of inbreeding?  What kind of an emotional toll does this take on the children who are inbred?

The first question that comes to my mind when I hear people using inbreeding to describe “mountain people” of Eastern Kentucky is, How true are these accusations?  Believe it or not these accusations are true to a certain extent. Inbreeding in Eastern Kentucky dates way back to when people where first coming to the state of Kentucky in 1750. There were many people who moved here and founded the state but they were secluded from the outer states. Many families were secluded from surrounding towns which then forced them to inbreed. They did not know the mental and physical effects it would have on their children. Inbreeding mainly consisted of cousins marrying cousins, and occasionally brothers and sisters would get married (this was not as common). As time went on and more people moved to Kentucky, more towns evolved and inbreeding became less common. The percentage of inbreeding in Kentucky had dropped 18% from 1870 to 1930, and then there was a plateau in numbers from 1930 to 1950. Since the 1950’s the numbers have continued to gradually drop each decade. So not all communities is Eastern Kentucky have families that inbreed within their communities like everyone seems to assume. Laws were passed in the late 19th and early 20th century which made  marriages, and inbreeding to the first cousin level within family illegal in the bulk of the United States. Nevertheless there are still at least four known communities in Eastern Kentucky that do have families that have inbred children. One particular county still has quite a high inbreeding rate of 95%. These particular children have been reported with severe medical problems.

The second inquiry that comes to my mind would be how remote do these communities have to be located to consider inbreeding? Studies show that 70% of inbred families live in desolate areas that are hard to reach by car, truck, or even horseback. Places like valleys between mountains, difficult and dangerous to reach from the “outside world.” This is why inbreeding/intermarriage occurs. Families move to these remote areas for the affordable living or sometimes just to start a new life not thinking that other outside families may never follow them to these remote living situations. Then they don’t have the money to travel back out of the hollers or rarely ever want to. Their children then get older and want to save their family name/race, so they inbreed. In most cases inbreeding occurs because the children were never taught any different by their parents, and they don’t know the effects it will late have on their own children’s health.  It then turns into a viscous cycle of brothers, sisters, cousins, seconds cousins reproducing the same gene’s over and over. In the other 30% of cases the families do not live in remote locations, but the children do not know any better and live in a community where inbreeding is a common occurrence.

My greatest concern would have to be what are the actual side effects of inbreeding? Now there can be both health and physical side effects with inbreeding. Not all cases have either; it just depends on how closely they are related in the family tree. First-generation inbred individuals like father/daughter, mother/son or brother/sister are more likely to show physical and health defects; such as including reduced fertility, increased chance of genetic disorders, lower birth rate, higher infant mortality, slower growth rate, smaller adult size, and loss of immune system function (Wikipedia). But children with parents that are first cousins may not have any defects, but will get worse if the child decides to inbreed later in life. Side effects or defects occur because both of the parents carry the same or similar ancestral gene.  This gives the child a 100% chance of getting this gene twice.  This then goes one to create health and physical defects because the child has all of the same genes.  From here the child could have a variety of health or physical defects.  In one severe case the children’s skin turned blue because of all of the closely related genetics.

Along with medical defects there is also an emotional effect this has on the child’s life.  People in general tend to be extremely cruel to one another; in most cases just to make their own self look better. The public stereotypes people in Eastern Kentucky to all be inbred (which we have discovered is not completely true). So you can imagine some of the rude comments adults and other children make about children that are inbred. This is wrong because they are victims of this situation. One anonymous child stated, “I wish everyone would let me live my life, and stop judging because of a choice my parents made.”  A young woman named Samantha said, “Why are people so mean? I just don’t understand no one is perfect, so why do they think they can pick on me?”  Another young man named Michael said, “I love both my parents. It used to bother me what other people would say, but not anymore.  Both of my parents made me who I am today, and I don’t care what other people say.”  Here are some more examples of the cruel comments theses children deal with day to day:

May 28, 2011

Anonymous Person (Forum Called: Everyone on Mud Creek is an inbred, ignorant, jack-ass):

 “Everyone on Mud Creek is an inbred, ignorant, redneck, Jack-ass, they are most of the reason why Eastern Kentucky has a bad name for being Hillbillies and dumba55es, if you’re from Mud Creek not sorry you have the option to move but I understand you need to be with your dadbrouncle lol.”

 

Oct 16, 2011

Justin (Forum Called: Everyone on Mud Creek is an inbred, ignorant, jack-ass):

 “Outsider are not welcome in Magoffin and everyone marrys within the family. There is many counties this way, keep the wealth in the family. The family tree has no branches. Parents don’t teach their children NOT to marry kin folk. Then they wonder why so many of these children have mental & physical problems. Can’t marry blood and have normal children.”

 

Oct 16, 2011

Jeff (Forum: Appalachains are INBRED) Somerset, KY

“Well, joke about it all you want but I’m f@cking offended by this uneducated bullsh!t. I don’t think it’s funny at all & the reason why people continuously poke fun at us & make demoralizing comments about us is because the majority of us allow them to do it. I say we hit them where it hurts and stockpile our coal & place trade embargo’s on those who don’t want our coal & let them figure out what their gonna do without our resources. I am ashamed to read some of these posts. It’s not like they are from NY or LA readers; these posts are from right here in our region…. maybe that’s why we’re losing, maybe we are that stupid? I don’t think we are but a man has a h@ll of a time proving otherwise. Where’s our pride?”

Oct 16, 2011

Kel Tech -32 (Forum:  Appalachains are INBRED) Somerset, KY

Jeff Wrote:

“Well, joke about it all you want but I’m f@cking offended by this uneducated bullsh!t. I don’t think it’s funny at all & the reason why people continuously poke fun at us & make demoralizing comments about us is because the majority of us allow them to do it. I say we hit them where it hurts and stockpile our coal & place trade embargo’s on those who don’t want our coal & let them figure out what their gonna do without our resources. I am ashamed to read some of these posts. It’s not like they are from NY or LA readers; these posts are from right here in our region…. maybe that’s why we’re losing, maybe we are that stupid? I don’t think we are but a man has a h@ll of a time proving otherwise. Where’s our pride? “

Kel Tech -32 wrote in response:

“Who cares what they think! We live in the garden of eden. Appalachia is the most diverse ecosystem in the world. They live in the cesspool and armpit of the united states. I suppose they are covetous of our ecosystem. We have inbreads and so do they…They are everywhere.”

So as you can see most children who fall victim to inbreeding do carry some kind of emotional burden. Then again for some it doesn’t bother at all they are proud of who they are and who their parents are.

It is a fact that inbreeding does happen across the World, United States, even in Kentucky but inbreeding rates are higher in Eastern Kentucky than in any other part of the state. During the time I spent doing my research I found that the stereotype of everyone in Eastern Kentucky is inbred… is not true! There are at least four known counties that have high percentage rates, but not the entire eastern part of the state. Just goes to show you that you can’t believe everything you hear.

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