Pedigrees and perpetrators: Uses of dna and genealogy in forensic investigations

Sara H. Katsanis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In the past few years, cases with DNA evidence that could not be solved with direct matches in DNA databases have benefited from comparing single-nucleotide polymorphism data with private and public genomic databases. Using a combination of genome comparisons and traditional genealogical research, investigators can triangulate distant relatives to the contributor of DNA data from a crime scene, ultimately identifying perpetrators of violent crimes. This approach has also been successful in identifying unknown deceased persons and perpetrators of lesser crimes. Such advances are bringing into focus ethical questions on how much access to DNA databases should be granted to law enforcement and how best to empower public genome contributors with control over their data. The necessary policies will take time to develop but can be informed by reflection on the familial searching policies developed for searches of the federal DNA database and considerations of the anonymity and privacy interests of civilians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-564
Number of pages30
JournalAnnual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics
StatePublished - Aug 31 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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