Bloomberg Businessweek

Clues to an Identity

A cousin’s DNA made it possible for a researcher to quickly connect the data to one of our reporters

Using just my DNA, a genealogist was able to identify me in three and a half hours.

It wasn’t hard. I’d previously sent a DNA sample to the genetic testing company 23andMe Inc. and then uploaded my data anonymously to a genealogy website. Researcher Michelle Trostler was able to access my data from that site and spent an afternoon looking for connections that would help her put a name to my data. The task was so easy that in the meantime she rewatched a season of Game of Thrones.

Law enforcement officials are increasingly using similar tactics to find and catch suspected criminals. Crime scene DNA gets uploaded to popular genealogy websites GEDmatch or FamilyTreeDNA that have given officials access to their databases. Genetic genealogists then look for DNA relatives of anonymous suspects, scouring public records

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