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How not to date a cousin in Iceland

An online database helps islanders determine their genealogy


 

Dating in Iceland comes with unusual perils. The island nation is tiny and isolated, and many of its citizens trace their roots back dozens of generations. Today, if you dig back far enough, most Icelanders are related. But exactly how closely can often be surprising. With just 320,000 citizens, the risk that a new hookup could be accidentally incestuous is always high.

Luckily for the amorous, there’s Íslendingabók, an online database of island genealogy. Icelanders can plug their own names and those of romantic prospects into the free search engine to find out if their love violates the laws of God or man. The site claims to have data that goes back 1,200 years, compiled from church records and other public and private sources. The project is a collaboration between Fridrik Skúlason, an entrepreneur, and deCODE, a genetic research company.

For now, only Icelandic citizens and legal residents with Icelandic ID numbers can access Íslendingabók, which translates as “Book of Icelanders.” But those who do aren’t just checking out crushes, says one deCODE employee. “I do it all the time, but not for dating, since I’m a married man,” he says. “We are really different here in Iceland. We always want to know if somebody is related to us or not.”


 
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How not to date a cousin in Iceland

  1. What is legally incestuous in Iceland? Is it okay if your “main squeeze” is a second or third cousin? The safest thing to do would probably be to not date somebody from your own village, or if you live Reykjavik, somebody from your own neighbourhood. However, there are no guarantees. 

    Maybe Icelanders should seek mail order brides from the nearby Faeroes Islands, or maybe Norway, Sweden or Denmark. For generations, Francophones in Hawkesbury (from which I hail) sought brides from across the Ottawa River in Quebec. However, I haven’t lived in Hawkesbury since 1979.

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