Archive | February 2020

Please Help Get More Kits Opted In

I was heartbroken to learn that only about 200,000 of the more than a million kits at GEDmatch have opted in to helping law enforcement (LE). This means that most of the cases that were solved before the opt in requirement went into effect last year could not be solved today.


Dear reader, I am asking you to review the kits you have at GEDmatch and contact any cousins of yours who are not yet helping law enforcement. You might also ask relatives whose kits you do not manage if they are opted in. If you know of deceased relatives who would help if they could, send their obituary and kit number to support (there is now a form for that!) to opt them in.

Here is the email I am sending to all my hesitant cousins tonight and to many of my one-to-many matches whom I had been in touch with before. Feel free to use any of all of it in your own messages. [UPDATE: I have been accused of being too manipulative in the message below. Probably true, apologies to those I offended, but I do feel very strongly about this issue. Please reach out to your matches and relatives who have not opted in and use whatever words you prefer.]

Dear cousin —–,

I am writing to ask a favor of you. I am asking you to be a responsible citizen and bravely opt in to allowing law enforcement (LE) to compare the DNA of victims and criminals to your DNA kit at GEDmatch.com.  LE cannot see your actual DNA, only the parts that match, if there are any, to the person they are looking for. Since I manage your kit, I only need you to respond yes to this message and I will take care of it for you.

[replace that sentance with this one when you do not manage their kit]

To opt in you need to log into GEDmatch, accept the new terms, and then click the police icon next to your kit number; here is a blog post explaining how https://blog.kittycooper.com/2019/05/please-opt-in-at-gedmatch/ (towards the bottom).

It broke my heart to learn that cases like finding the killer of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook, solving the identities of Jane and John Does (unknown deceased victims), or clearing a falsely imprisoned man like Christopher Tapp would probably not happen today because not enough people have opted in at GEDmatch  (click any underlined words to read more about those cases).

The rules have changed so that informed consent is needed before law enforcement (LE) can compare the DNA kits of victims or criminals to yours to see if they are related to you. If they are, the tools of genetic genealogy can be used to triangulate the pedigrees to identify the family of the person of interest. This is only treated as a tip. The actual DNA of the suspect is then collected by LE from their discarded trash and compared to the crime scene DNA. [UPDATED:] Your DNA test usually remains anonymous in this process.

If you have any family members who are violent criminals, do you really want to protect them? This consent is only for violent crimes: perpetrators and victims. Please say yes, and thank you again so very much for testing your DNA which has enhanced my family research enormously.

Love cousin Kitty

UPDATE: I did not make it clear in the above post that you need to click the police icon in your list of DNA kits to opt in to let law enforcement compare their kits to yours.

So if your kit listing in the left column looks like this, click the word POLICE if you want to opt in:

One further point is that you can look up the kits of your relatives in the DNA File Diagnostic Utility to check if they have opted in. If they have not, no browbeating please, gentle persuasion or accept their decision…

I4GG 2020 round up

My favorite yearly conference is the two days of talks that i4GG puts together for us serious genetic genealogists. Thank you CeCe and Lennart for doing this and for making the very professional videos, which are free to conference attendees and available for purchase by everyone else.

One of the highlights of the conference was hearing from Paul Fronczak and his daughter. Paul was the child returned to his parents after the famous Chicago baby-napping case in 1964. In 2012 a DNA test showed that he was not their child. His book The Foundling, about his search for his roots, his missing twin sister, and the real Paul Fronczak, is a terrific read. (click here for the BBC summary of the case)

I have just started using a great tool called Scapple, that I learned about from Michelle Trostler‘s talk. So far I love it! It is an inexpensive mind mapping package that makes it super easy to quickly put together possible family charts for clients. It is always pleasurable to hear about actual cases and how they were solved. Both Michelle and Carol Rolnick obliged.

Chaos ensued when Katherine Borges, the director of ISOGG (whose Wiki is my go to resource), told us about the FamilySearch app with “Relatives Around Me” on its menu towards the end of her epigenetics talk. Everyone was downloading it to their smartphones and running around finding their cousins. I discovered many 12th cousins, including Tim Janzen, from a dubious connection that needs more research, a Thomas Gray who went to Norway and became Graa. Sadly I never did find my real 8th cousin Dixie Hansen in the room!

I presented on What’s New at GEDmatch and also about Automated Tree Building Tools, focusing on DNA2tree, as Dana Leeds was covering Genetic Affairs (GA) which she did quite well. I do have a blog post on GA in progress, it now includes GEDCOMs with the tree building! As always my slides can be found at https://slides.com/kittycooper


The biggest take away from the conference for me was that we all need to be more diligent in getting our relatives to opt in to law enforcement (LE) usage on GEDmatch
. Many of the cases that have been solved with genetic genealogy could not be done today now that the usable database for LE investigations is down to about 200K from over a million before the opt in requirement.

Also perhaps we need a team to identify kits of people who are deceased. GEDmatch will opt them in if presented with an obituary.

I am also putting together a new email message to send to reluctant cousins appealing to their desire to be good citizens.

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