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Good News Everyone!

Icelandic Web Site Helps Icelanders Find Out If They Are Committing Incest


While it has produced the larger-than-life personality of Björk, Iceland is not a very big country. With a population of just 300,000 people, a common problem when two people decide to pursue a romantic relationship is how closely related they might be to each other. And not like “What if our ancestors had sex on the Mayflower?” More like, “What if our great-grandparents are the same?” Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But, apparently, it’s not that unusual to find yourself dating your own third or fourth cousin, and some Icelanders are finding that a bit too close for comfort. But now, Íslendingabók is here to help the people of Iceland stop themselves from becoming the next accidental Lannisters!

According to The Next Web, it’s not a question of if you’re related to the person you love, it’s “how far back” the familial connection is. (Though, there is still a pretty good chance that two Icelanders in love are not related at all.) All joking aside, this is merely an occupational hazard when there is less than half a million people in your country. And while not everyone using Íslendingabók is using it for the purpose of preventing incest, it is there to give people the information they need to trace their family trees back more than 1,200 years. Some users have found out that they have famous Icelandic relatives (yes, including Björk). But it the “Book of Icelanders” was also designed to provide several other genetics-based services.

It’s the result of a collaboration project between a genetics company, and an anti-virus software entrepreneur, and aims to trace all known family connections between Icelandic citizens. …

The site isn’t new but it has helped users trace their family ties to chart the spread of disease through generations, also providing research to suggest that fertility rates increased if couples were third or fourth cousins.

And that’s great, if you want to have sex with someone that closely related to you. (You and your third cousin have the same great-great-grandparents.) But at least now, you’ll know!

(via The Next Web)

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  • Anthony Neves

    This has to be the hottest thing I’ve read all day …

  • http://www.facebook.com/cabaretcarousel Fífa Hafstað

    Íslendingabók has been around for a while. It was developed by deCODE, a research company in the field of medical genetics, and according to the website: “The project’s goal is to trace all known family connections between Icelanders from the time of the settlement of Iceland to present times and register the genealogical information in a database.” Tracing lineage has traditionally been very important to Icelandic society, as the culture celebrated many Viking-era heroes and personalities that people then felt honored to be descended from.

    When Íslendingabók came out, the idea behind it was first and foremost to facilitate research with genetic diseases, though there’s naturally great fun in seeing how you’re related to various celebrities. I’ve personally never – nor have I ever known about anyone here – used this to definitely make sure a potential lover is related to me. What you call ‘a common problem’ (an occupational hazard? incest? really, guys?) is… well, honestly, I can’t even remember it ever having been an issue. It definitely isn’t keeping us up at night.. or on our minds at all, really. Please don’t make a 1000-year old culture out to be some conglomerate of hillbillies – portraying our entire culture as backwards and incestuous – it’s weak, it’s racist, and quite out of character for this site.
    The website has an English summary over at: http://www.islendingabok.is/English.jsp .

  • Anonymous

    If you use a family reuinion to get a date…

  • Anonymous

    I don’t knw what you read but I didn’t see anything suggesting that anyone would WANT to commit incest. All the article stated was that yours is a small country and as such incest may be a bit more common (accidentely, of course) than it would be in a place that wasn’t so small. Though I can see how you might have taken offense. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/UQKCKFUZ3GLZEB66BYPEV6DI74 Jóhanna

    The one thing I didn’t see in the article was a definition of incest. By that, do you mean sex between first cousins? Second cousins? Third cousins? How distantly related do people have to be to for a relationship not to be incestuous by your definition?

    As for dolph’s idea that accidental incest may be a bit more common in Iceland than in other countries because of the small population, it depends on the definition. Is, for example, a relationship between fifth cousins incest? In many countries first cousins can legally marry each other (including, I think, most states of the USA), so in the
    legal sense such a relationship is not incestuous, although I think most
    people would find it to be so in the moral sense. Once you get past third cousins I think most people would agree that it could hardly be called incest, even in the moral sense.

    If we agree that fourth cousins and beyond is not incest, then Icelanders are actually quite good at avoiding it. I have never come across a people who were so aware of who their relatives are as Icelanders, so “accidental” incest is unlikely. However, it is a small population and it is not uncommon to find fifth or sixth cousins who are married to each other. There is even a joke (with some truth in it) that all Icelanders can trace their lineage back to a common ancestor in the 16th century, and none are more distantly related than tenth cousins. If that’s incest, then everyone is incestuous.

    Lastly, if you look at it logically, large societies with a relatively mobile population are much more likely to have incidents of accidental incest than a small country where, if you don’t know somebody and how you’re related to them, you will know someone who does.

  • Frodo Baggins

    Like Code 46? Wild.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fridriks Friðrik Skúlason

    As I am the “anti-virus software entrepreneur” referred to above, I wanted to mention a few things.  This project initially started back in ’89, and I thought it would take me 50 years or so to complete, but then deCODE came along, and as they needed the data earlier, an agreement was reached, where I provided the database I had at that time, but deCODE paid for a number of people to enter the remaining data.   At the peak there were over 20 people working on the project, but that is down to two now, as the project is just in a maintenance phase (mostly involving adding deaths and births every month).

    On a per-capita basis, Islendingabok is the world’s most popular database, with more than half of the entire population of the country being a registered user.

    There is also an Islendingabok Facebook app, which will tell you how closely you are related to all your Facebook friends (provided you and they are in the database, and didn’t lie about your date of birth, of course)

    Now, while the incest-avoidance angle certainly makes a good story, I have to say I am not aware of the database ever being used for this purpose.  In fact, the only real-life case of accidental incest I know of (involving half-siblings, who were not aware of each other) was discovered not through Icelendingabok, but rather when the couple went to visit the girl’s grandmother).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Haraldur-Egilsson/643975403 Haraldur Egilsson

    lol… this is so funny!! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003170463305 Jónas Haraldsson

    And a lot of us Icelanders discover “new” relatives. I found a brother and a sister when I was surfing the “book”. Had never heard of them before. My dad was “fucking” around several years ago.

  • Bronwyn Mroz

    Both my sister and I (and our mom and grandma, etc.) were added to the Islendingabok.  We both went to Iceland with the Snorri program, I in 2007 and my sister just last year.  It was really fascinating seeing how we were related to the other people in the program, the head of the program in Iceland, as well as people like Bjork and the Icelandic President.  It’s really fascinating! :)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VFEUM5J7QSH5SBOSL44BDONIPI Sgt Duncan PI

    This is definitely funny. When I do marriage searches for people at sites like 
    http://www.findoutifsomeoneismarried.org I have on more than one occasion found that they are actually distant relatives of the person they are wanting to date! 

    I guess the question becomes what is too close for comfort?