Using DNA to Find Family and Felons

Voluntarily submitting your DNA to services like, MyHeritage and 23andMe initially sound like a great way to learn about your ancestors and some people have voiced privacy concerns to protect your DNA results from being shared with the public, your employer and law enforcement.

In this recent article (Old razor, new DNA technique lead to suspect in 1970s cold case murders), a cold case detective sent an unidentified DNA profile to the California Department of Justice’s DNA Data Bank Program to conduct what is called a “familial” DNA search.

The goal of a familial DNA search is to find a “partial match” — a relative — to help investigators at least genetically to narrow down the pool of possible suspects.

This idea could go in multiple directions in a story. A young, naieve member submits her/his DNA to a service like not knowing that investigators are looking for a partial DNA match to identify multiple crimes linked to her/his family.


A brother or sister submits DNA and the result is that their sibling is arrested.


What about in the case of twins? If their DNA is identical, how do you determine which one is guilty?


What if someone who is fascinated with learning about their family tree and through her/his research starts to uncover some suspicious or horrifying information about their family and helps solves a cold case that leads straight to a living family member? Maybe when this character submits her/his DNA, it is the break in the case that investigators have been waiting for.

Who wants to talk more about how you can use this idea in your current or next story?

[Credit: flickr/Tony Edge]

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