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For example, House Tully rose to prominence around 300 years before current events, call that 6-10 generations, I would expect to see a lot more Tullys about.

House Stark is 8000 years old, I would expect there would be hundreds of Starks.

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  • 10
    "Everybody dies." - Maester House Jun 19, 2014 at 5:15
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    In this context you should say: "Valar morgulis." ...
    – Raidri
    Jun 19, 2014 at 5:39
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    Just because the distant cousins don't appear "on screen" doesn't mean they don't exist. Do you seriously want GRRM to create more minor characters? The mind boggles... Jun 19, 2014 at 8:12
  • Rhaegar and Robert were (second) cousins. :) They share the ancestor Rhaelle, who Aemon refer to as "Egg's little girl".
    – TLP
    Jun 19, 2014 at 10:36
  • There are many cousins!
    – Möoz
    Jun 19, 2014 at 10:42

1 Answer 1

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There are several houses with cadet branches. The Lannisters have several that we know of, and the Baratheons have a couple as well. As for the others, we don't know for sure but here are some explanations.

  • The cadet branch may have just changed their name. For instance, House Karstark is an ancient offshoot of House Stark founded by a Karlon Stark who has given his own holdings as reward for his service to the Starks of the main branch. Karlon's Hold became Karhold and the Karhold Starks eventually became the Karstarks.

  • The cousins may have just died out. In order to not fragment a House's holdings, only the eldest inherits the ancestral lands. The rest need to find their own way in the world. Lucky ones might be given lands of their own, if their house is rich enough. Others have to marry into another house. Some relinquish their family names and become Maesters. Northerners are known to join the Night's Watch. The rest have to find employment in the service of another Lord, or even a mercenary army. The famous mercenary company The Second Sons is exactly what it says.

  • Westeros is a very violent place. Warfare is constant. In the 300 years of Targaryen rule there have been at least two campaigns of conquest, two civil wars, several uprisings and rebellions, and countless other violent disputes between houses. Nobles of Westeros are expected to take part in these wars, and the result is that many of them get killed. Whole noble houses have been known to go extinct.

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    In real world, the usual would be the non-primogenite sons a minor landed title. That would provide them some income and make them vassals to the main title holders (telling them to just "find their own way" would leave the world too crowded with claimants to the throne with nothing to lose). And, if you gave a Duchy to your minor son, his primogenite would do the same (with your primogenite son inheriting the duchies and the rest getting lesser titles inside the Duchy).
    – SJuan76
    Jun 19, 2014 at 6:54
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    @SJuan76 - Which is why, I think, we only see two houses with lots of cousins: The Lannisters and the Tyrells. Both of whom are very well known for their extreme wealth. Jun 19, 2014 at 6:56
  • There's also the possibility that the author just didn't mention them because they just don't come into the story.
    – user8719
    Jun 19, 2014 at 6:57
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    @JimmyShelter - Ah but in the case of the Starks and the Tullys they do come into the story. A major plot point later on in the books is who exactly gets the Stark and Tully holdings now that it's lords are (presumed) dead or attainted. Jun 19, 2014 at 6:59
  • There must be cousins somewhere, but they are unlikely to share a family name, because these are only passed down through the male line. For example, I only share a family name with one of my four great-grandfathers, one of my eight great-great-grandfathers, and so on. Jun 19, 2014 at 9:04

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