An Introduction to Forensic Genetic Genealogy Technology for Forensic Science Service Providers

An Introduction to Forensic Genetic Genealogy Technology for Forensic Science Service Providers


September 2022


DNA evidence can play a key role in investigations of cold case violent crimes and in cases of missing and unidentified individuals. Searching DNA profiles against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is a critical first step toward finding investigative leads—but these searches may not always yield probative matches. When a search does not result in a CODIS match, forensic science service providers (FSSPs) may identify leads using forensic genetic genealogy (FGG), a technique that combines traditional genealogy research with DNA analysis. FGG use is growing across the United States, but many laboratories lack the capacity to generate the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) profile required for FGG.

As such, the Department of Justice has issued an interim policy that identifies third-party vendors as an option to generate the SNP profile and provides genealogical analysis support. FSSPs collaborate with FGG vendors to identify an appropriate testing strategy for each case, and should advocate for themselves through the FGG process. Thus, understanding how the FGG process works is critical to identifying and prioritizing potential cases to use with this technique.

This brief provides FSSP an overview of the FGG process and factors that they should consider when evaluating potential cases for FGG testing. This brief summarizes information from peer-reviewed literature and conversations with various FGG vendors. The companies interviewed for this brief are not exhaustive of all available vendors; inclusion does not represent NIJ’s or FTCOE’s recommendation, endorsement, or validation.

“The power of this new partnership between genetic genealogy and law enforcement has unlocked one of the biggest, if not the biggest, crime-fighting breakthroughs in decades.”1

 - CeCe Moore | Parabon Genealogist

1: Gearty, R. "DNA, Genetic Genealogy Made 2018 the Year of the Cold Case: “Biggest Crime Fighting Breakthrough in Decades”." Fox News.

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence report was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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