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Forensic Genetic Genealogy Has Solved 545 Cases – and Counting

by Douglas Ankney

According to Tracey Leigh Dowdeswell, forensic genetic genealogy (“FGG”) has solved 545 cases as of December 31, 2022. Dowdeswell is a professor of criminology and legal studies at Douglas College in Canada and is the first to put a number on cases solved using FGG. Dowdeswell is also the first to construct a sufficient sample frame for further research into FGG.

The birth of FGG is often tied to the arrest of Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo in April of 2018. Since then, investigators across the globe have repeatedly turned to FGG in attempting to solve some of their coldest cases. But FGG is not limited to only identifying perpetrators of crime. Unidentified deceased bodies have been identified, such as Joseph August Zarelli who was previously known as the Boy in the Box and
America’s Unknown Child.

Dowdeswell wrote in her paper (the “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project V. 2022”): “I hope that this research will assist in our understanding this burgeoning investigative technique, and provide information to academic and public authorities seeking to better understand forensic genetic genealogy and formulate public polices surrounding its development and use.”

The Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project can be found on Mendeley Data. There are published profiles on all 545 cases, and there is a user’s manual to explain how the data was collected and coded.

Cases were chosen for inclusion only if a public authority confirmed that FGG was used to clear the investigation and if the investigation was led by a public authority, such as law enforcement or a coroner/medical examiner’s office, and used 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. Cases using Y-chromosome STR profiles and/or mitochondrial DNA profiles were included. 


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