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Tech by VICE

Is This Incest? There's an App for That

Cousin alert cousin alert cousin alert ...

by Daniel Stuckey
Apr 21 2013, 5:48pm

My grandparents are Mormon. They joined the church a while after my Dad took off to Berkeley. So, besides staying with them for a couple weekends as a four-year-old, and fuzzy memories of visiting their temple, the LDS had little to do with my upbringing. As you may know, the Mormons are obsessed with roots, and my Grandpa began a massive genealogical project a couple decades ago.

Hunched over his desk, pursing his lips, he clicks through some 5,000 people in Broderbund's Family Tree Maker. His neatly labeled labelling kit sits at his elbow, fresh out of a bin labeled, "labeler," he slowly and methodically leaves its stickers on binders full of Stuckeys. He tells me stories of Stuckey migration, from Düsseldorf, and from the Southeast to the Southwest. He explains how I'm related to an NFL quarterback, which is cool. But my favorite story is incest, or, the revelation he made in his studies of some cousinly love in the family, five or six generations ago.

We'd always share a chuckle over that story, and brush it off as the way things were, and that it doesn't really matter at all. Bach, Einstein, Darwin, Rachmaninoff, John Adams, they all got down with their cousins. Big deal. Of course there are naysaying genetic experts, like Joan Scott, a counselor who once explained to NPR, the biological complications that can arise from inbreeding. But for most, those worries pale in comparison to shame of society and the criminal consequences that canoodling cousins can face.

Of course, you might not even know it was your cousin you were after. A new app has the solution, at least if you're from Iceland.

At its core, ÍslendingaBòk, or "App of Icelanders," is an Android app for genealogical discovery. Claiming to contain some 95 percent of Iceland's last 300 years in genealogical data, it's a new way for folks to trace out which branches of the Viking tree they come from. But the surface issue that is mostly circulating about it is one of its features: an incest alert.

An alarm alerts two people who have the app and 'bump' their phones together and share a common grandparent. While it seems most people in a country of only 320,000 ought to know who their first cousin is, the feature is, nevertheless, a seed to further development.


Image: "yes"