A forensic genetic genealogist is also sometimes referred to as an investigative genetic genealogist, and in general, this field is relatively new. This is primarily why many people may not know about it in-depth, although they’ve probably heard about it thanks to the increasing frequency of old cold cases being solved through forensic genealogy, like the Golden State Killer case.
Simply put, forensic genetic genealogy is the use of genetic genealogy in criminal cases. This essentially involves using DNA from crime scenes and comparing it with the DNA test results available on online databases. This helps narrow down the pool of suspects and find leads to potential criminals. As of now, forensic genealogy has helped crack at least 400 cold cases here in the US with more cases from a wide range of jurisdictions in the news almost every day. This is incredible because many of these cases had remained unsolved for decades!
Learn As Much As Possible About Genealogy Research In General
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need multiple degrees and certifications in science to become a forensic genetic genealogist—those are required for geneticists, which is an entirely different field of study.
However, what you do need is a keen interest in genealogy and genealogical research. You need to have a clear understanding of how DNA works, and how it determines relationships between individuals. You also need a fair grip on some basic research methods, what sources you can typically use for genealogical research, and how and where to access these.
And of course, you also need to learn about the various DNA databases, especially CODIS, and the ethical guidelines you need to consider before accessing any of these for a cold case.
Some Education and Training Suggestions Worth Considering
Some people always know what they’re meant to do, and others figure it all out as they go. No matter what life stage you’re at, here are some educations and training that are worth considering if you hope to become a successful forensic genealogist someday.
High School Courses and Classes
If you’re still in high school, you have the perfect opportunity to build the skills that’ll help you in this career. For knowledge, you can study anatomy, physiology, chemistry, genetics, and health. While these subjects aren’t necessary for you, they will definitely help you build a better knowledge base.
Also, take classes like social studies and history. These will help you build your critical thinking skills which will help a lot as a researcher.
If you’re in college, consider taking genetics courses and attending conferences and workshops focused on genetic genealogy. You can also consider completing a degree in genetic science or family history.
Certifications for All Levels
If you’re already done with your formal education but are interested in starting a career in forensic genealogy, that’s still an excellent idea. You can check out certifications, workshops, and training offered by universities globally. These are focused on genealogical research and related fields and are a great opportunity for aspiring forensic genealogists to start with a stronger foundation.
While these training and certifications help, it’s vital to understand that, as a forensic genealogist, there is only so much you can learn in a classroom. Your real training start on-field. This is why working with other experienced genealogists like the ones at DavisDNA and Family Research is a good idea.
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