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…and just the facts

For nearly two years, the genealogical community has been rocked by news that the DNA testing databases we use to find cousins and (sigh…) consider if we want to trade our lederhosen for kilts have sometimes been used by law enforcement in criminal investigations — initially without our knowledge, even today in some cases without our informed consent.

And most of the time when someone like The Legal Genealogist has written about it, it’s been in response to a specific issue — and usually a specific problem — that’s cropped up along the way.

And, because the discussion has been in response to a problem, it’s usually anything but dispassionate. Those who believe crime-solving should be a priority can’t listen to those who think each individual has to have the right to choose personally whether to allow that use his or her data, and vice versa.

We haven’t had a chance to sit back, take a deep breath, and look at the facts of law enforcement use of genealogical databases — and just the facts.

Until now.

This past week, at RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City, Blaine T. Bettinger gave us just that look at the facts, and only the facts, in a straightforward dispassionate way, without taking a position in any way.

In his talk DNA, Genealogy, and Law Enforcement: All the Facts, Blaine reviewed the responses of five of the major players in the DNA testing universe — the four big testing companies 23andMe, Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, and My Heritage, and the third-party database GEDmatch, now owned by the forensic company Verogen — and walked the audience through exactly what the story is with law enforcement use of these genealogical databases: what they allow, what they don’t allow, with a good explanation of the overall issues.

The singular purpose of the talk was to educate. To allow each and every person, individually, to make our own informed choices about DNA testing in today’s legal environment.

And we can all watch it, free, from home. Just click on the image below:

If for any reason the link on the image doesn’t work, try this link to the RootsTech video page, and if all else fails point your browser to, hit the link for the video archive link there and drill down to the RootsTech 2020 RootsTech Sessions to locate this talk recorded February 27th.

Everyone who has tested for genealogical purposes should watch this. Everyone who is thinking about doing DNA testing for genealogical purposes should watch this. Everyone who is asking a cousin to test should make sure the cousin watches this.

Because it gives us the facts, and just the facts, so that each of us, individually, can make our own informed choice.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “All the facts…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 1 Mar 2020).

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