Differences Between DNA Testing for Genealogy and for Catching Criminals

When genealogists consider DNA testing, they are usually seeking information about things like where their family came from. Recently, DNA testing results are being used to catch criminals. There are differences between DNA testing used for genealogy and DNA testing used for solving crimes.

DNA Testing for Genealogy

Starts when a genealogist decides to purchase a DNA testing kit from a company of their choice and sends a sample of their DNA to that company’s labs.

Results include information about the countries the genealogist’s ancestors came from, and may also include information about the genealogist’s health risks.

Uses: to discover more people the genealogist is related to; to identify an adoptee’s biological parents; to help confirm or deny the information the genealogists has in their family tree (which was built from the genealogist’s research); to find out what percentage of Neanderthal DNA the person has.

DNA Testing for Catching Criminals

Starts when police (or other investigators) have DNA evidence from an unsolved crime that does not match any of the DNA samples that are in the FBI’s database of DNA profiles. The investigators put that DNA onto GEDmatch. It is a website where genealogists upload and analyze their DNA.

Results could, potentially, identify the person who the DNA evidence belongs to. Typically, the DNA evidence is matched with a person who is not the criminal, but is a close or distant relative of the criminal. Investigators then build a family tree based on the unknown criminals relatives.

After that, they narrow it down based on age, location, and other characteristics. Investigators can then try and obtain DNA samples from the suspected criminal, and compare that with the DNA sample from the crime scene.

Uses: to solve a “cold case” by using the DNA sample to identify the criminal; to use that information as evidence and begin the legal process that may result in an arrest or sentence.

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* Police Used DNA to Identify the Golden State Killer

* Things to Consider Before Taking a DNA Test

* DNA Testing and Informed Consent

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