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A Weird But Great App: No More Kissin’ Cousins in Iceland

May 30, 2013

iceland cousins appThe United States is a melting pot. More than 300 million people live here, and most of us are either immigrants from another nation or the descendants of immigrants who came here within the last 200 years or so, from all over the world. The tiny European island of nation of Iceland is not quite so diverse. Distant and remote from mainland Europe, the country hasn’t expanded its genetic pool much over the last millennium. Result: All 300,000-odd residents of Iceland are related to each other.

The government of Iceland has intricately detailed its national genealogy, setting up a database that lists more than 720,000 people born in Iceland, including 95 percent of everyone born there since 1703, but going back 1,200 years. For example, everyone in Iceland—everyone—is related to a man named Jon Arason, who died in 1550.

With everyone related, that makes dating a little awkward—nobody wants to date their first cousin. Your eighth cousin? Well, that might be okay, but first cousin? Gross. That’s why an Icelandic computer programmer named Arnar Freyr Aoalsteinsson developed an app called IslendingaApp. Essentially an interactive version if the Icelandic genealogical registry, two people who have the app tap their phones together, and the app will tell them how closely they’re related. The app’s slogan: “bump the app before you bump in bed.”

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