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Just Science Podcast: Just Identifying Individuals with Forensic Genetic Genealogy

NCJ Number
Dr. Heather McKiernan; Ashley Rodriguez
Date Published
September 2022

In this first episode of the “Applications of Forensic Science for Human Identification” season of the Just Science podcast series of the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence is an interview with Dr. Heather McKiernan, a Research Forensic Scientist at RTI International, and Public Health Analyst at RTI International, and Ashley Rodriguez, a Research Public Health Analyst at RTI International, who discuss the use of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) in identifying human remains.


Often. unknown human remains are recovered fully or partially skeletonized, with no close biological relatives in CODIS to facilitate identification; therefore, combining nontraditional DNA testing with genealogical methods and research has become a powerful investigative tool to bring closure to families. Dr. McKiernan and Ashley Rodriguez discuss how FGG differs from searching a DNA profile in CODIS, what limitations exist when using DNA technologies to identify unknown remains, and the importance of familial reference samples. CODIS and FGG use different DNA profiles developed by different laboratories. Within CODIS, the searcher needs close biological relatives. FGG, on the other hand, can obtain a match with an initial identification of a very distant relative.