How Your Agency Can Solve Cold Cases Using Investigative Genetic Genealogy

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Investigative genetic genealogy, also known as forensic genetic genealogy, combines the use of crime scene DNA and SNP-based relative matching with genealogical research to predict where a suspect or unidentified person may fit in a family tree. Crime scene DNA samples are converted to SNP files by an independent lab and the SNP files are uploaded to two DNA databases—GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA. These two DNA databases offer users the ability to opt in for law enforcement access, and law enforcement SNP files are only compared against users who have opted in. Investigative genetic genealogists then build family trees using the match lists to determine how a suspect or unidentified person is related to their matches. Determining how different genetic networks or clusters of relatives connect can oftentimes narrow the search down to a small number of family members or to a specific person. These investigative leads are then given to the law enforcement agency, who must then confirm the leads with DNA STR testing by a government forensic lab.
Steps for investigative genetic genealogy submission:
  1. Confirm that your case is an unsolved violent crime that is permitted by the GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA terms of service (homicide, non-negligent homicide, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and unidentified human remains).
  2. Confirm that your unknown suspect’s DNA has been submitted to CODIS and there are no hits, or confirm there are not hits in CODIS on your unidentified human remains.
  3. Confirm that a suitable DNA sample exists in your case (varies by lab).
  4. Send subsample to a lab that can perform SNP analysis.
  5. Obtain SNP file for upload to GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA.


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