In an exploration of the life and customs of the Hungarian nobility, this text compares historical reality and legal literature on the example of one noble kindred: the Elefanthy of northern Hungary (present-day Slovakia). The text begins by outlining the customary laws regarding noble status, inheritance and marriage, as summarized in the famous code of Stephen Werboczy (1514). The author then compares these norms with the documentary evidence and establishes that the legal literature differs in regard to social mobility and kindred solidarity. With regard to this information, the fate of the Elefanthy family is traced through several generations, enabling the author to draw conclusions on the inheritance, the rise and fall of various branches, marriage strategies, and the "survival skills" of the kindred. In his summary, the author outlines some of the avenues for further research, including the peculiar Hungarian form of retainership (familiaritas), and the relationships between noble families and between the nobility and local communities.