Forensic Genetic Genealogy
A “Game-Changer” to the way Forensic Genetic Genealogy is processed is on the horizon. Verogen, the parent company of GEDMatch, will introduce their new Genetic Genealogy assays in November 2020. The new Genetic Genealogy assays is a more targeting approach to identifying matches and will require a smaller input compared to the standard Whole Genome Sequencing. Simply stated, cases that were deemed in the past to have insufficient DNA samples can be re-tested and successfully solved due to smaller amounts of DNA needed for new processes by Verogen. Our lab will be at the forefront beta-testing the new Verogen genetic genealogy assays to validate the results. Law enforcement agencies from several states are optimistic and have already begun submitting DNA evidence in anticipation of positively identifying perpetrators to unsolved cases.
DNA Databases hold the key to solving crimes. There are two types of DNA Databases; CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) and GEDMatch. Once lab work is completed, the results are uploaded into CODIS for a one-to-one comparison. “STR” or “YSTR” testing has been the standard for nearly 20 years. STR test results can be uploaded to CODIS, and then compared to DNA from criminal defendants collected over the years. If there is a “hit,” the result is confirmed through a second test and police can narrow their investigation. In many cases, however, the unknown subject’s DNA does not match anyone in CODIS. Due to that reality, law enforcement are increasingly seeking out “SNP” testing, often referred to as “ancestral” or “familial” testing. This test produces a profile that can be uploaded to a public genealogical database such as GEDMatch, populated by private researchers who consent to have their DNA compared by law enforcement. Our Forensic Genealogists then narrow the subject’s identity by tracing relatives located in the database.
Familial genealogical research has been proven to be very effective in solving current cases, cold cases, rape and doe cases. Since the launch of the first commercial genetic genealogy testing in 2000, millions of people across the world have purchased DNA tests to explore their ancestries. DNA databases have been created to match segments of DNA to DNA contributors. Based on the number of matching centimorgans, a DNA contributor can determine that other DNA contributors in the database are related. The DNA matches generated from the database is only a starting point. Researching public documents then becomes the method of tracing familial lines to the perpetrator who has left his DNA at the scene of a crime. The resulting conclusion provides a lead for law enforcement to continue their investigation with a narrowed focus, saving them time, resources, man hours, and expenses.
Many cases have been solved using familial genetic genealogy, including the “Golden State Killer” case from California in 2018. The “Golden State Killer” eluded law enforcement for more than 35 years. Today, this killer and over 100 more perpetrators have been arrested because of the science of familial genetic genealogy.