Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Developments in Genealogical DNA Testing
Recently there has been a constant stream of news stories about the use of genealogical DNA testing, primarily from using, to solve "cold cases" or criminal investigations that have previously gone unsolved. Here is a quote from the above news article,
Last year, detectives contacted Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company whose work with genetic genealogy analysis has helped police identify 55 suspects in cold cases nationwide since May 2018, according to the company. Parabon uploads DNA from crime scenes to GEDmatch, a free, public genealogy database with about 1.2 million profiles, all voluntarily submitted by people who've used consumer genealogy sites like and 23andMe.
 However, DNA test results are not only helping to solve cold cases, but new technology also has increased the speed at which DNA test results can be used in current investigations. Here is a quote from a Utah news article dated May 30, 2019, entitled, "New DNA technology helped police get quick results in Elizabeth Shelley case."
Rapid DNA machines allow police officers to test a DNA sample from a suspect or victim right at the crime scene. This helps them get more timely results. 
But while Rapid DNA tests are good enough to establish probable cause, the test results will have to be verified before they could be presented as evidence in court.
You might have missed the fact that the U.S. Legislature passed the Rapid DNA Act of 2017 last year. Here is a link to a summary of the provisions of the Act. See "H.R. 510 (115th): Rapid DNA Act of 2017" Here is a quote from the summary.
Labelled S. 139 in the Senate and H.R. 510 in the House, the legislation was introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI5). 
Former FBI Director James Comey cited a real-life example of how the technology could be used effectively. “[It will] allow us, in booking stations around the country, if someone’s arrested, to know instantly — or near instantly — whether that person is the rapist who’s been on the loose in a particular community before they’re released on bail and get away or to clear somebody, to show that they’re not the person,” Comey said in testimony. 
Rapid DNA was used for the first time ever in a criminal investigation in 2013, to nab burglars who stole more than $30,000 worth of items from an Air Force Member’s Florida home while they were serving in Afghanistan. Presumably more such cases would be solved and quickly with expanded use of rapid DNA.
What does all this mean for genealogists? What is happening in the world of criminal investigation will have a direct impact on the procedures and availability to genealogical DNA testing. It is very likely, as has already happened with some websites, that the use of DNA testing for genealogical purposes will start changing and may likely become more complicated. For example, read this article.
What this means is that if one of your relatives is involved in criminal activity, it is possible that the investigative agency could use your family tree information to match DNA obtained from the investigation. There will undoubtedly be some further legal developments in this area.

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