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Thread: Iceland’s ‘Incest Alarm’ for Dating Couples – New Smartphone App Checks 1,200 Years Of Genealogy

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    Iceland’s ‘Incest Alarm’ for Dating Couples – New Smartphone App Checks 1,200 Years Of Genealogy

    Iceland’s population has been relatively isolated since the island was first settled by the Vikings and their (mainly Irish and Scottish) slaves in the 9th century. Consequently, the majority of modern Iceland’s 320,000 inhabitants are inter-related. The question for prospective couples has always been, just how closely? A new smartphone app can now discreetly provide the answer.

    Nearly every Icelander knows of someone who has accidentally fallen for a not-so-distant cousin, and the frequency of such genetic faux pas isn’t helped by Iceland’s family naming convention. The language and customs of Iceland have remained a last bastion of Old Norse heritage and the country still retains the old Scandinavian patronymic system of surnames, which reflect the immediate father of a child and not their historic family lineage. For example, if a man named Grim Thorbergsson has a son named Erik, Erik’s surname will not be Thorbergsson, but Grimsson. Similarly if Grim Thorbergsson has a daughter named Gudrun, her surname will be Grimsdottir. Vestiges of this patronymic naming system are still very common in England, as they are around the world, in surnames like Stevenson.


    With their lineages effectively hidden, modern Icelanders flocked to sign up for free access to the Ķslendingabók (Book of Icelanders) website, launched in 2010 by genetic research company deCODE and software entrepreneur Frišrik Skślason. The Book of Icelanders traces all known family connections between Icelanders from the time of the first settlement to the present day and registers the genealogical information in a database. As well as being a genealogy research tool allowing users to uncover their exact lines of descent and view full information on anyone with whom they share common ancestry, the site has become a popular resource for young native Icelanders anxious not to inadvertently date close family relatives.


    Now, the Book of Icelanders is available in a mobile format thanks to a new smartphone app, ĶslendingaApp SES, made by Icelandic developers Sad Engineer Studios. The app, which won a competition launched by the website owners, can cross-refer the genealogy of two Android smartphone users and warn them with a discreet ‘incest alarm’ if a potentially embarrassing family reunion is about to happen. It is a modern upgrade to the traditional Icelandic pre-courtship question: “Hverra manna ert žś?” (Who are your people?).
    https://www.abroadintheyard.com/icel...ating-couples/

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    I believe this kind of app has been existing for some years now. I wonder where they draw the line, though. Even if a couple are second cousins, their risk of their offspring experiencing birth-defects from inbreeding is quite small. At the level of third cousins and beyond, they risk diminishes to very negligible.

    They have it worse off in the Faroe Islands, though, with a population of around 45.000 people, and having had very little new population input the last thousand years. They have a genetic disease there which kills around one person each year, which they believe is caused by too high levels of homogeneity in the population.
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    https://www.scientificamerican.com/a...is-best-kissi/

    It is not quite incest. And though it will increase your chances of birthing a healthy baby, it is a bit unorthodox, to say the least. Still, scientists at Icelandic biotechnology company deCODE genetics say that when third and fourth cousins procreate, they generally have scads of kids and grandkids (relative to everyone else).

    It has long been wondered exactly how kinship influences reproductive success. Previous studies have uncovered positive correlations, but the biological data has been clouded by socioeconomic factors (such as average marrying age and family size) in those populations in which consanguineous marriage is commonplace, such as in India, Pakistan and the Middle East. The new study, however, was able to shed light on the biological reason for the earlier findings.
    Scientists came to their conclusions after studying the records of more than 160,000 Icelandic couples with members born between 1800 and 1965. "The advantage of using the Icelandic data set lies in this population being small and one of the most socioeconomically and culturally homogenous societies in the world," the researchers report in Science, "with little variation in family size [and] use of contraceptives and marriage practices, in contrast with most previously studied populations."


    The results of the exhaustive study are constant throughout the generations analyzed. Women born between 1800 and 1824 who mated with a third cousin had significantly more children and grandchildren (4.04 and 9.17, respectively) than women who hooked up with someone no closer than an eighth cousin (3.34 and 7.31). Those proportions held up among women born more than a century later when couples were, on average, having fewer children.


    Despite the general pattern for reproductive success favoring close kinship, couples that were second cousins or more closely related did not have as many children. The most likely reason, scientists say: offspring of such close relatives were likely to have much shorter life spans, because of the chance of inheriting harmful genetic mutations.


    "With close inbreeding—between first cousins—there is a significant increase in the probability that both partners will share one or more detrimental recessive genes, leading to a 25 percent chance that these genes will be expressed in each pregnancy," says Alan Bittles, director of the Center for Human Genetics at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Australia, who was not involved in the study.


    Interestingly, one evolutionary argument for mating with a relative is that it might reduce a woman's chance of having a miscarriage caused by immunological incompatibility between a mother and her child. Some individuals have an antigen (a protein that can launch an immune response) on the surface of their red blood cells called a rhesus factor—commonly abbreviated "Rh." In some cases—typically during a second pregnancy—when a woman gets pregnant, she and her fetus may have incompatible blood cells, which could trigger the mother's immune system to treat the fetus as a foreign intruder, causing a miscarriage. This occurrence is less probable if the parents are closely related, because their blood makeup is more likely to match.

    "It may well be that the enhanced reproductive success observed in the Iceland study at the level of third [and] fourth cousins, who on average would be expected to have inherited 0.8 percent to 0.2 percent of their genes from a common ancestor," Bittles says, "represents this point of balance between the competing advantages and disadvantages of inbreeding and outbreeding."

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    This is not really 'incest'. I have carefully researched my late father's ancestry. Via his mother he is deeply rooted in the North Meols area of Lancashire-an area of Norse settlement. I find the same surnames cropping up many times as it was a small gene pool. I find also that I am descended from the same individuals multiple times. One ancestor in particular I am descended from through three of his children and through two of the children of one of his children so 4 lines of descent from the same man! Very common for distant cousins to marry without realising that they were related. The only time to be concerned would be if it were a full sibling.

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