In the past year genetic genealogy has gained momentum as a tactic to solve violent crimes and identify human remains. Most of the cases solved had been cold for years, when all other investigative efforts had proven inadequate. In genetic genealogy the potential exists to close previously unsolvable cases where biological evidence is available; whether that be to exonerate the innocent or identify the perpetrators.
Law enforcement, victims of violent crimes, families of murder victims and the community as a whole has just suffered a devastating set back as the public genealogy DNA database GEDMatch has become unavailable for use by law enforcement. Whether or not this is a temporary setback or something more permanent depends on everyone who has already uploaded a DNA profile to the public database and how future uploads are handled.
On July 7, 1982 a woman's body was found near a hiking trail at Lake Tahoe. She was found raped and shot to death wearing a blue bathing suit under her t-shirt and denim shorts. She appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties. For decades, not much more would be known about who she was or who killed her.
There has been much discussion lately about law enforcement using public DNA databases that consumers use for genealogy. In the past, law enforcement was limited to their own databases of DNA profiles. Since law enforcement already has their own databases that contain DNA profiles what is the big deal? What purpose do genealogy databases serve for law enforcement if they already have their own databases?
Before delving into forensic genealogy, let’s talk a bit about genealogy in general. Genealogy is your family history and the methods used to trace that history back through generations. Your family tree starts with you, grows into your parents and their parents’ parents. Genealogy is a hobby for many people seeking to build a family history. However, to be considered a credible depiction of your ancestry, each relationship and fact for members of your family tree must be proven using vital and historical documentation.
Family tree gaps happen when people dive deeper into their biological family roots and hit a wall where they feel they cannot find any more information. There are three ways in which people can trace their family history. There is oral history passed down through generations, archival sources, and DNA evidence. Databases like the National Archives can help start family research through census, military, immigration, naturalization, and land records. Cross-checking oral traditions and archival sources can reveal inconsistencies that require further research and turn people towards genealogists.
There are many factors that contribute to your overall health, which can include your environment, lifestyle, habits, adaptability to stress, genetics, and your family health history. Genetics and family health history make up the biological aspects of your health assessment, and while you can get genetic testing by yourself, you need to have the ability to communicate with biological family members in order to access family health history. Investigative genealogy can help you find birth family so you can ask important questions regarding family health history.