MAY 05, 2021 7:30 AM PDT

Keynote Presentation: Forensic Genetic Genealogy, a Revolutionary New Tool for Solving Cold Cases



Genealogist have long supported the legal system through probate work, heir searching, and by identifying next-of-kin of servicemen. Even though DNA was first introduced to genealogists over 20 years ago, it has only been recently that genetic genealogy has been applied to forensic identification. The first known case successfully solved using forensic genealogy was the 1992-1993 Phoenix Canal Murders, solved in 2015 by comparing a Y-profile from a crime scene to online public genetic genealogy databases to obtain the surname of the killer. This was possible because the Y-STR markers used by the genetic genealogy community for researching family pedigrees were the same as those developed for forensic Y-STR amplification kits. More recent cases like Buckskin Girl and the Golden State Killer have been solved using autosomal SNP testing, similar to what is provided by direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies such as Because DTC companies refuse to accept forensic cases, it has been necessary to create autosomal SNP datasets using private laboratories, and to search for matches using Gedmatch, a public genetic genealogy database. This has created issues for the both the forensic and genealogical communities. SNP testing was borrowed from the biomedical industry so that forensically accredited laboratories are unable to produce the required SNP data. This has raised legal questions concerning the use of private labs and crowd-sourced genealogical data that is not as the result of peer-reviewed scientific research. Genetic genealogists are also divided in their opinions about law enforcement use of their personal data. This talk discusses how genetic genealogy developed into a tool for forensic identification. It also presents its limitations and capabilities, along with the more important issues faced by the legal system and the genealogical community in their efforts to work together to balance the privacy of the individual with the requirements of public safety.

Learning Objectives:

1. To understand the development of genetic genealogy as a forensic tool

2. To understand the basic forensic genetic genealogy identification methodology

3. To review practical forensic genetic genealogical case studies

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