A study finds why marrying a close-but-not-too-close cousin is the right move.
This website is unusually popular with the pro-cousin marriage crowd.
In April of 2009, I published a list on 11 State Laws About Marrying Your Cousins, From Strictest to Loosest. It wasn’t the best way to present the material (it was back when I turned everything into 11-item lists only, even if it didn’t fit quite right), but it became quite popular. And for the 7+ years since, thousands of people still read it every month.
So today, I’m going to lean in on my cousin marriage popularity rather than neglect it.
It’s legal in all 50 states to marry a cousin who’s your second cousin or further. But according to a new study out of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, it’s not just legal, it’s smart. And you’ve got to trust Iceland to really know their cousin marriage stuff; people are at *such* a risk of inbreeding in Iceland that couples check their names in a database before they get married to make sure they’re far enough away from each other genetically.
The researchers found your third or fourth cousin isn’t just safe to marry — they’re your ideal partner. So go start shaking those branches on the other side of the family tree and see what falls out.
Third and fourth cousin marriages are the, quote, “best of both worlds.” They’re breakfast food for dinner. You avoid the inbreeding risks of closer cousins, but your genes are just close enough that they naturally work well together. And as a result, marriages between third and fourth cousins produce more children and grandchildren than other couples.
Also — and we’re going to diverge from the study here and just talk like buddies — once you get to a third or fourth cousin, things get less “creepy” than you’d think. That sounds like a close relative, but it’s really not. A third cousin is someone who only shares great great grandparents with you. It’s the child of one of your parents’ second cousins. (Your fourth cousin only shares your great great great grandparents.)
There’s a good chance you have third and fourth cousins you’ve never even met. (As I’m writing this, I couldn’t name a single one of my third or fourth cousins. Not that I want to marry any of them, I promise; just to illustrate the point.) You may’ve accidentally dated one already. That’s enough distance that the old joke “you’d save money on wedding invites if you married your cousin” barely rings true; the overlap probably isn’t that significant.
That being said, your third or fourth cousins are juuust close enough that dating one will be at least a somewhat rebellious gesture against your parents — it’s “best of both worlds” in that way too.
So it’s settled. We agree you should marry your cousin. Go track down your third or fourth cousin and go out for a cuisine that doesn’t match your heritage (just to avoid potentially awkward conservations about old family recipes).
And finally, here are some notable people who’ve married their third cousins: John Adams… Charles Darwin’s grandparents (and then Darwin married his first cousin)… Queen Elizabeth II… Rudy Giuliani… Thomas Jefferson… Robert E. Lee… and Jerry Lee Lewis. Look, there are some low cards in that deck, but the point stands.