The modern word ‘family’ can be used to refer to the basic (medieval) domestic unit of parents and unmarried children. However, in its medieval context it could extend to others living under the same roof: servants, slaves, apprentices, other relatives, boarders, etc. Nevertheless, the bonds of family were a basic ligature of society. In the early Middle Ages, up to the eleventh or twelfth century, kinship ties on the mother’s side (agnatic) as well as on the father’s (cognatic) were often considered of equal value in terms of lineage, inheritance, and identity. However, with the general acceptance of primogeniture and the imperatives of ‘the feudal system’, the practical power and the value of ties between kin came to place more emphasis on the father’s line, though the Church – in regulating marriage – counted both sides, along with various spiritual relationships such as god-parenting, in dictating the degrees of kinship within which marriage was forbidden (though dispensations to bend the rules were available). In Northern Europe both men and women, especially the masses of the rural proletariat, tended to marry when in their 20s whereas in the urbanised Mediterranean world the pattern was of older men marrying considerably younger women. Jewish families, scattered across much of Western Europe, saw uncle–niece and cousin marriage as desirable – a further instance of their ‘difference’, and it is possible that some form of contraception was practiced among these familiar outsiders for whom sexual pleasure in marriage was heartily enjoined. By the thirteenth century in Christian society marriage was numbered among the sacraments of the Church, it being accompanied by a call for consent by partners of age as the key to the bond (rather than or in addition to consummation). Alongside secular society the Church developed many aspects of celibate monastic life that can be seen as a mirror or counterpart to the bonds (and even the language) of the secular family.