Íslendingabók - Book of Icelanders

The online genealogical database, Íslendingabók Iceland was created attempting to record the genealogy of all Icelanders who have ever lived.
February 21, 2019
Inga Rós Antoníusdóttir

The online genealogical database, Íslendingabók Iceland was created by the biotechnology company deCODE genetics and Friðrik Skúlason, attempting to record the genealogy of all Icelanders who have ever lived in the history of Iceland. It contains genealogical information about the inhabitants of Iceland, dating more than 1,200 years back and takes its name from the first “History of Iceland”, by Ari the Wise (Íslendingabók Ara Fróða). When the website launched in 2003 it received great attention and within a month, more than 30% of the population had applied for access to the database, which is free.

In August 2017 the database contained information on 864,000 individuals, approximately half of the total population of Iceland since the settlement of the island. Coverage among Icelanders born in the 20th and 21st centuries is 100% and the database is estimated to contain 95% of individuals born since 1700. Pretty cool, huh?

When creating the database deCode used various sources and both unpublished and published documents. Most of the genealogical information came from sources such as church records, national censuses, inhabitants registers and other public documents, but in addition to these sources there are chronicles, books of convictions, various publications on genealogy, books about individuals within specific occupations, lists of descendants and ancestral records as well as memorial articles to name but a few.

In 2013 when the website celebrated its 10th anniversary, the founders of Íslendingabók, held an app-creation competition in collaboration with University of Iceland. The winning team, named Sad Engineers Studio, and their “ÍslendingaApp” , received an unexpected, international media attention. The reason? The “Incest Spoiler”. Two users of the Íslendingabók app can tap their phones together and see how closely they are related. If the alarm is on it will either erupt with the sound of a siren, or gleefully tell you to “go for it!” if the relations are vague enough.  

As society as evolved so has “Íslendingabók”, the genealogical database.  Originally, the design allowed only for old school family forms to be listed. Every individual had to have both a mother and a father for instance. Two mothers or two fathers could not be at the head of a family tree. Today, the website accurately represents various family types and gay and lesbian parents in genealogical trees.

Adoptees can now personally decide whether or not both their biological and adopted parents are shown in their family trees. An individual who transitions from one sex to another can also have their record updated to reflect their new name, and gender. All children who are registered in the National Registry are automatically added to the Íslendingabók website.

Genealogy has always been a pastime of the Icelandic nation - since the settlement of the island in the 9th century. The Sagas, dated back to the 10th century tell tales of the heroes and heroines and register life during the settlement in detail. Each of those old scripts contains detailed information on the genealogy of the persons mentioned in the stories. This is the base for Íslendingabók.


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