WEST VIRGINIA (NEXSTAR) – Can first cousins legally marry in West Virginia? While the topic may be taboo to some readers, the answer may surprise you.

Marriage between cousins was considered a common practice for those entrenched in the same communities throughout several generations, as once detailed in an Inside Edition report. One of the most famous examples, the website notes, was President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, who were fifth cousins once removed.

It’s also widely known that Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married their first cousins.

However, West Virginia has its own rules regarding the practice. The law clearly states it is illegal to marry first cousins and double cousins. Genealogy Explained defines “double cousins” as first cousins who share both sets of grandparents.

On the same topic, it is also illegal for family members with close relations to marry in West Virginia:

  • Parents and children
  • Grandparents and grandchildren of every degree
  • Brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood
  • Uncles and nieces
  • Aunts and nephews

Unlike first cousins and double cousins, other more distant cousins are allowed to marry, since the law only restricts marriages between first cousins. This means West Virginians could marry a first cousin once removed, second cousin, third cousin, fourth cousin, and so on.

Dr. Hanan Hamamy, a professor of human genetics at Switzerland’s Geneva University, has cited the increased risk of autosomal recessive genetic disorders and congenital malformations between consanguineous marriages as evidence that children born from blood relatives (who are second-cousins or closer) may suffer adverse health effects.