Hanging Shingles

There’s been much gnashing of genealogical teeth over the use of GedMatch to develop a list of potential suspects in a series of rapes and murders committed in California years ago. We will leave the gnashing of teeth to the dental experts.

GedMatch is a publicly accessible database. It’s in the fine print of the user agreement. Anyone can submit a DNA sample that matches the parameters set by GedMatch.

There are concerns over search warrants and the use of this data. I’m not a lawyer, but the data is public and has been freely submitted by users.  I’m not certain it is any different from searching twenty-year old newspapers for an article or photograph that, years after the fact, suddenly has bearing on an investigation.

There’s a bigger concern: Shingle Hangers

As it becomes seemingly easier to solve a cold case by “DNA magic,” my concern is is that smaller police departments, with smaller budgets and fewer employees, who are investigating less noteworthy crimes, “hire” a “DNA specialist” who has limited experience in analyzing genealogical DNA results and perhaps has only “played around” with their own results to be reasonably knowledgeable.

Reasonably.

Reasonably knowledgeable does not cut it. Not by a long shot. We don’t want individuals with limited experience hanging out shingles and calling themselves DNA experts because two months ago they spit in a tube and have spent a few hours surfing through their DNA results.

Developing lists of potential criminal suspects carries a different weight than trying to figure out your third cousin. Yes..yes…I know all about the genealogical proof standard, but lets admit how many users of genealogical DNA have never heard of it.

Individuals analyzing this information to develop potential lists of suspects in crimes need to be more than reasonably adept at what they are doing. They need to be quite a bit more than reasonably adept. They need to be experts.

They don’t need to be shingle hangers.

Maybe it’s time for the genealogical DNA community to develop a set of skills and standards by which “genealogical DNA specialists” can be measured and certified.

Before a shingle hanger does more than hang shingles.

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3 thoughts on “Hanging Shingles

  1. Awesome post. So important to be discussing this.
    Someone posted a story to me about them arresting an individual in this case a year go, the wrong man. It made me wonder what, if any, type of professional genealogists were used. Forensic Genealogy is a set of skills and standards that are not “magic” for sure.

  2. I heard on TV about the case you are referring to, that “123 and Me” (I think that is the name) and Ancestry do not make the DNA submitted to them available to anyone else.

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