Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project version December 2023

Published: 22 January 2024| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/cc5rh42mf9.1
Tracey Dowdeswell


This research seeks to collect all publicly available information concerning cases that were successfully cleared through forensic investigative genetic genealogy (FIGG), going back as far as possible in time and ending on December 31, 2023. Cases were selected for inclusion in the dataset through internet searches, discussion boards related to genetic genealogy, missing persons, and cold cases, as well as press releases and blog posts from private companies and non-profit organizations known to perform FIGG, publications devoted to advances in forensic science, and published court records. Cases were chosen for inclusion in the sample only if a public authority had confirmed that FIGG was used to clear the investigation, and the investigation met the following definition of FIGG: 1. Investigative Body: The investigation was led by a public, and not a private, authority, such as a law enforcement agency or a coroner/medical examiner’s office. 2. Investigative Techniques: The investigation must use the techniques of genomics, computer database technologies, and traditional genealogy. Cases were included when family lineages were drawn out to at least three or more generations. The sample includes investigations that use Y-chromosome STR profiles and/or mitochondrial DNA profiles to trace the paternal and maternal lineages of persons of interest. Cases solved through familial searching of law enforcement databases were excluded from the sample, as this technique raises separate legal and ethical issues. 3. Investigative Purpose: The investigation must be for a forensic purpose, meaning that the evidence thus produced is relevant to an ongoing legal dispute. Most cases considered here are for the identification of perpetrators of criminal offences or the identification of decedents but can also include the identification of living does. Not included in this data are cases that are of purely historical interest, or the identification of unknown soldiers by military authorities. The term ‘forensic genetic genealogy’ has been chosen for this project in preference to the broader, and more generic term ‘investigative genetic genealogy’, which has also been used, to highlight the fact that these investigations are directed towards an ongoing legal dispute before the public legal system. 4. Causation: This database only includes cases that have been successfully cleared using FIGG. The resolution of any investigation – particularly very large and lengthy investigations as were many of the cases described in this data – has many causes. To be included here, the FIGG investigation must have played a significant causal role in the resolution of the case. More complete information about how the data was coded, as well as an annotated bibliography and a short digest of each case, can be found in the Code Book below. You may read a short digest of each case cleared, including references for all data collected, in the Case Digests.



Forensic Genetics