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Monday, February 13, 2006

Forbidden Love Not Always Forbidden

As Valentine's Day approaches, let's take a moment to recognize the creepily close couples from whom we descend. I'm talking about those couples who shared one set of grandparents—or maybe two—and still managed to produce offspring able to walk upright. We have them to thank for lopping whole branches off our family trees, and keeping the number of our ancestors from getting out of hand.

The people at Cousin Couples are all about simplifying family trees. They aim to destroy the taboo of cousin marriage by exposing our commonly held beliefs as myths. Who knew that you can marry your first cousin in 26 states, Canada, Mexico, and anywhere in Europe? Jethro and his cousin Elly MayWho knew that in my home state of Maine you can marry your aunt or uncle's child "as long as . . . the man or woman provides the physician's certificate of genetic counseling"? If my cousins were at all appealing, I'd be tempted to make a move.

The site also lists several famous figures who married a cousin, among them Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Jerry Lee Lewis. In case you don't recognize the names, two of them were geniuses, and the third was a noted scientist.

So, the next time you learn that one of your ancestors married his cousin, don't think of it as creepy—think of it as probably not illegal. And the next time one of your first cousins flirts with you, just ask yourself one question: "What would Jerry do?"

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