Avoid Dating Your Cousin – There’s an App for That

Iceland is a small island nation with approximately 320,000 citizens. With that many people, you would think you could find a date for Saturday night. However, most people don’t want to date a close cousin. Iceland has a unique problem with cousins. In Iceland, most everyone is distantly related to everyone else.

The majority of people in Iceland are descended from a very small number of Norse settlers arrived in A.D. 874 and, as such, it’s not uncommon to meet a complete stranger who happens to be your third cousin or other distant relative. In fact, almost every Icelandic citizen since the 9th century has been documented and is listed in what is probably the most complete genealogy of any nation. The Icelandic sagas, written about 1,000 years ago, all begin with page after page of genealogy. It was the common man documenting his own history. That tradition of documenting your ancestors has been continued throughout the centuries.

The database Íslendingabók or, The Book of Icelanders, contains genealogical information about the inhabitants of Iceland, dating more than 1,200 years back. The project’s goal is to trace all known family connections between Icelanders from the time of the settlement of Iceland to present time. It presently contains the ancestry of 95% of Icelanders with many of those family trees going back to the 9th century.

To determine if a potential date is a possible cousin, Icelanders often check the Íslendingabók database. Now a smartphone app will do that for you quickly and easily. Three students from the University of Iceland created a smartphone app, The Islendiga-App, that allows you to bump your phone against another person’s phone, similar to how bump-to-push contact exchange features work, and immediately see your genealogical (if any) relation to the person in question. There is even an alarm feature that lets you know if you share a grandparent.

Although the students created the app more as a tool for genealogical inquiry, they were the first to admit that the racier application of figuring out if you were related to a potential date was far more interesting than showing your grandmother how to research genealogy on her tablet and included an alarm system that would immediately alert you if the person you entered into the application was too close to you on the family tree.

Íslendingabók is now available for Android and the developers reportedly are working on an iPhone and iPad version. It is only available in the Icelandic language.

One Comment

I remember being at a family reunion with a first cousin once removed, whom I hadn’t seen for years, raptly going over a family tree I’d recently gotten from a mutual distant cousin. Her Icelandic husband, whom I’d never met before, was sitting quietly and patiently by, watching their two-year-old. Just wanting to draw him into our conversation, I asked him if he’d done any of his own genealogy. He explained to me, without putting me down, how he, like most Icelanders, know their genealogy back for hundreds of years. I should have known that, because I’ve read several of the Norse sagas in translation, but I’d just skipped right over the genealogies, as being no more interesting or important than the “begats” in the Gospels. My first cousin once removed in-law didn’t yet have an app for checking out how he was related to people he met, though.


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