How Can a Genealogy Hobby Help Police Catch a Killer?

Most people take up bowling or pottery for hobbies, but there is a group of people who enjoy genetic genealogy to help them to relax. Thanks to these hobbyists, breakthroughs have been made in some of the most famous cold cases in the United States. 

You may remember hearing about the Golden State Killer’s arrest back in April. Since that arrest, police have uncovered more cases that were thought to be dead-ends, thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic DNA amateurs.

Using Genetics to Catch Killers

Law enforcement is able to use the findings of hobbyists to close in on killers whose cases have been cold for over 20 years. More cases are being solved because the willingness to use genetic genealogy has grown since April. It’s a process that requires cooperation from both law enforcement and enthusiastic amateurs.

How Does a DNA Hobby Solve Crimes?

There are several steps in the process of finding a genetic link that will solve a cold case.

  1. Police collect DNA from a crime scene. At the same time, a member of the public, John Doe, sends his DNA to be analyzed using a genetic DNA test.
  2. The DNA from the crime scene is analyzed and converted to a data file while John Doe uploads his DNA raw data to GEDMatch.
  3. The legal DNA raw data file is also uploaded to GEDMatch.
  4. GEDMatch analyzes both files and finds that the suspect’s DNA and John Doe’s DNA have markers that indicate a relationship.
  5. A family tree is then built to determine the identity of the suspect based on John Doe’s extended family history.
  6. Law enforcement retrieves samples from John Doe’s extended family.
  7. An arrest is made when DNA from the Doe family tree matches the DNA found at the crime scene.

GEDMatch is an open-source website where anyone can upload their raw data files. The founders of the website started in in 2010, inspired by their love of genealogy.

The Future of Crime Fighting

It’s important to note that GEDMatch provides a list of extended family members, but not the DNA raw files. At the moment, allowing law enforcement to freely access a DNA database is an ethical gray area. 23andMe or, two major genealogy sites, openly resist law enforcement requests. However, the founders of GEDMatch make sure that users can opt-in if they want to allow police to use their DNA in police investigations. As long as access to the extended family profiles can help solve crimes, GEDMatch is cautiously happy to help.

Test Smartly Labs provides confidential and accurate DNA tests. To learn more about our DNA Testing Services, contact Test Smartly Labs today at (816) 800-9699. We have five lab locations in the greater Kansas City area!

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