When Did Americans Stop Marrying Their Cousins?

3/1/2018 - Assistant Professor of Science & Technology Studies Emily Klancher Merchant in the New York Times.

Before the Industrial Revolution in the United States, Canada and Europe, you might have ended up married to a fourth cousin. People didn’t travel far to find a spouse, and the closer you were to home, the more likely it was you’d marry within your family.

Then, in the late 19th century, something changed, and people stopped marrying their cousins.

The study is the latest example of scientists using big, crowdsourced data collected by private companies to do research. Last year, one study spearheaded by Ancestry.com mapped North American migrations. There have also been efforts to track food poisoning via Yelp reviewsand drug usage via Instagram.

The trend raises new questions for researchers to think about, such as how representative such data are of populations at large, and whether commercial entities like Geni.com have vested interests, said Emily Klancher Merchant, a science and technology studies professor at the University of California, Davis.

“When private companies control the data and fund the research, they’re the ones gatekeeping what kind of science gets done,” she said. 

Read the full story in the New York Times.