Impact of Investigative Genetic Genealogy

The Impact of Investigative Genetic Genealogy

Whether you are trying to find out more about your family history, or looking into the possibility that your family member was a victim of crime, you may come across genetic genealogy.

Impact of Investigative Genetic Genealogy

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing and public databases to help people find relatives and solve crimes.

It has been used in thousands of cases so far, including some famous ones like the Golden State Killer case.

But what exactly is genetic genealogy?

How does it work?

And how can you use this new technology for your research?

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What is investigative genetic genealogy?

Investigative genetic genealogy is the use of DNA to find family members, solve crimes, and identify missing persons.

It is also used to identify victims of human trafficking who have been sold into sexual slavery or forced labor.

Many people try to search for their ancestors to uncover any diseases or genetic problems they were suffering from e.g. cancer.

This trick has helped many people know about the genetic problems in their family for generations.

What are the limitations of investigative genetic genealogy?

While DNA testing can be an amazing tool for unlocking secrets about your ancestors, it is not a perfect identifier.

There are some limitations to the information that can be gleaned from DNA tests.

DNA is not a perfect identifier

Even if you match someone on 23andMe or AncestryDNA, that doesn’t mean that they are related to you.

It just means that they share some of your genetic markers. And even then, only one of them may match yours!

If two people share no common relatives in their family trees, (and thus no common ancestors), there is still a chance that they could be related through distant cousins who haven’t been added yet, or whose family tree hasn’t been uploaded to one of these sites at present.

Testing cannot tell us everything about someone’s life

It can only tell us what happened before their death.

For example: Did they have children? Were those children born out of wedlock? Was one of those children adopted? What diseases did they have later in life? How did they die? How old were they when they died…etcetera…etcetera…?

How did it start?

The first case of using genetic genealogy was in 2005. A woman who was adopted as a child wanted to find her birth parents, so she used DNA from her father’s side of the family to find them.

This is how it all began!

Now people can research their ancestors, uncover their traits, and unearth lots of interesting information about their lives.

However, many people expect DNA genealogy to tell everything about a person e.g. if he ever went for testosterone booster shots or what he/she used to eat often, etc.

These people don’t realize that genetic genealogy has much more to offer than these silly questions!

How has the field advanced?

Over the years as more research has been conducted DNA testing has become more accurate. Not only that but testing kits have become very affordable for the family historian.

DNA testing is now available for living people. You can now get a genetic profile from your parents, or other relatives.

The field of investigative genealogy has advanced to the point where it can help identify specific ancestors. This can even apply to distant relatives who haven’t yet been identified by traditional genealogy methods, (such as census records).

Finally, forensic genealogy has developed advanced techniques that allow investigators to use DNA data to identify unknown remains. This can even help with solving cold cases.

What types of cases have investigators used this technique in?

In addition to missing persons’ cases and cold cases, there are some other areas where genetic genealogy has had a real impact.

Human trafficking

In one recent case, investigators were able to identify an underage victim of sex trafficking by using genetic genealogy to match her with her father. This led them straight to the trafficker’s door.

Paternity disputes

Genetic genealogy can also be used in paternity disputes between parents who want proof that their child belongs biologically with them before agreeing on custody arrangements, or child support payments.

Crime scene identification

Forensic anthropologists use DNA evidence in crime scenes throughout their investigations. However, it can be difficult for them if they don’t know what kind of person they are looking for.

This is because there are multiple races present in every scene, (white supremacists often target minorities).

With the help of genetic genealogy databases like 23andMe and AncestryDNA (among others), forensic anthropologists can now narrow down their search based on geographical location, or even eye color!

How far can DNA testing take us towards finding answers?

DNA testing can help find missing relatives and solve crimes. It can also be used to identify victims of human trafficking, or even cold cases that have gone unsolved for decades.

While this technology is still in its infancy, it’s easy to see how powerful it could become if used correctly by law enforcement agencies around the world.

Reuniting family members

So far there have been thousands of cases where family members have been reunited with long-lost relatives using genetic genealogy.

The most important thing in making these connections is to have the right information.

The second most important thing is to be able to use DNA to find a missing relative in your family history or even just someone who shares some of your DNA traits, like hair color or eye color!

The introduction of Next-Generation Sequencing to the forensic community:

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a technique for sequencing DNA. It was introduced to the forensic community in 2005 and has since become an important tool in identifying family relationships.

The introduction of NGS has made it easier to identify distant relatives and even determine whether two individuals are related through the same generation.

The development of a new discipline

Investigative genetic genealogy is a relatively new field, and it’s evolving quickly. As the techniques used in this discipline become more advanced, they are being used more frequently in the real world.

This type of research has already had some major successes:

  • A man who was convicted of murder was exonerated after his daughter used DNA to prove that he wasn’t her father, (and thus could not have committed the crime).
  • Another man was exonerated after his son used 23andMe to prove that he didn’t match his supposed biological father’s DNA profile.

These cases highlight how far we have come since 2013. Back then researchers at Boston University were able to use commercial DNA tests from AncestryDNA and 23andMe to identify criminals by comparing their profiles with those from crime scenes.

Success was limited to if they had access to both sets of data.

Future developments

It’s hard to say what the next big breakthrough will be in investigative genetic genealogy. But as more and more people are tested and their results posted on GEDmatch, we will likely see some amazing cases solved by this new technology.

Limitations of this type of research include:

  • The size of the database, (not enough people have been tested).
  • The limited availability of raw data from companies like AncestryDNA, 23andme, and Family Tree DNA.
  • A lack of understanding about how to interpret genetic results.

Genetic genealogy will continue to grow in importance and impact as time goes on

As time goes on, we will see more people take DNA tests and upload their results to public databases like GEDmatch.

We will also see an increase in the number of people who share their DNA results with family members, who then use those results to find long-lost relatives.

These developments are important because they increase the number of people who can benefit from investigative genetic genealogy.

As more people use these tools and learn about how they work, the impact of investigative genetic genealogy will grow.

Genetic genealogy and the Golden State Killer case:

The Golden State Killer case is a prime example of how genetic genealogy can help law enforcement solve crimes.

In April 2018, authorities arrested 72-year-old Joseph DeAngelo and charged him with murdering at least 12 people across California between 1978 and 1986.

He also raped more than 50 women during this period, according to court documents.

The arrest came after investigators uploaded DNA samples from crime scenes into GEDmatch, and found relatives who were also using the site’s autosomal test (which traces both maternal and paternal lines).

The investigators then cross-referenced those users’ names against other public databases until they made a match.

DeAngelo was identified as their common ancestor thanks to his father’s surname being passed down through generations of his family tree via male lineage only.

How does it impact people?

While the impact of IG is still being debated, some things can be said with certainty:

  • It is changing the way we think about our identities and history.
  • It is bringing people together who never would have found each other otherwise.
  • And it may very well be helping solve crimes that would otherwise go unsolved.

A greater impact on individuals than you realize

You may have heard about a recent case in which a man was charged with murder based on genetic evidence provided by his son.

Although this is an extreme example, it is important to remember that people’s lives can be affected by investigative genetic genealogy in ways both large and small.

It is easy to underestimate the impact that your DNA results could have on someone else, especially if you don’t know them personally and aren’t aware of their history or circumstances.

For example, if you are adopted and decide to take part in an investigation into your biological family tree, then there is no way for anyone else involved in the process (including yourself) to know what information might be revealed about yourself or other parties involved with your adoption.

Even if those facts are not shared publicly online, or through social media channels like Facebook or Instagram where anyone has access!


I hope that this article has given you a better understanding of this subject and its impact on society.

I know it can be confusing at first glance, but once you understand how it works and what types of cases it has been used in, I think that you will feel more confident about using this technology yourself.

Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this guide discussing the impact of investigative genetic genealogy. If you have any questions or comments please leave a comment below.

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Impact of Investigative Genetic Genealogy
Article Name
Impact of Investigative Genetic Genealogy
Genetic genealogy is a great resource for the family historian to uncover their family's past. It can also be used to solve criminal cases. Read on to find out.
Publisher Name
The Genealogy Guide

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