So What Exactly Is Forensic Genealogy?

So What Exactly Is Forensic Genealogy?

Do you find yourself asking the question, what is forensic genealogy? It’s a perfectly reasonable query given that this is a professional field that most are unlikely to come into contact with—that is, until the need arises. 

The term itself may even sounds a little intimidating. We tend to associate the word “forensic” with law enforcement or even our favorite TV crime dramas. But this doesn’t mean that your heart should race if you are advised contract a forensic genealogist. Let’s delve into exactly what this profession involves, and how its practitioners can serve you.

What Is Forensic Genealogy?

Genealogy involves the study of families, family history, and the mapping and tracing of lineages. As you might imagine, this means that genealogists are tasked with compiling evidence from historical records, genetic analysis, interviews, and more to demonstrate kinship. 

So where does the forensic element come in? Crucially, this practice becomes forensic in nature when these facts pursued have legal implications. Forensic genealogists will perform their research in such a way as to ensure scientifically and legally sound results that can be presented in court. So we’re not talking about things like fingerprints per se, but a spectrum of evidence gathering, ranging from photographs to local records, historic name changes, DNA test results, common ancestry tracing, and much more.

After compiling the facts, a forensic genealogist will provide research reports, affidavits, and expert court testimony as required on behalf of the client or authority that hired them. Without a doubt, this means that the standards for forensic genealogy is high, and its practitioners should be well versed in every aspect of the legal process and associated obligations.

Who Might Use a Forensic Genealogist?

So who might call upon the services of a forensic genealogist? A common cause to call in this type of professional is when settling matters of estate or probate. A dual genealogy specialist and seasoned investigator is just the expert to identify unknown or missing heirs so that assets can be rightfully assigned. When someone dies intestate, or if local state laws require that all potential beneficiaries are traced before a will can be granted, the testimony of a forensic genealogist may be instrumental.

Other instances that may require forensic genealogy include cases in which kinship must be proven in relation to adoption, foster care, or guardianship; asserting asset rights and royalties; citizenship petitions; intellectual property cases; criminal investigations; and military repatriation. Ultimately, whenever resolving a conundrum relies on demonstrating family ties and lineage, a forensic genealogist is just the specialist for the case. 

  1. The Evolution of Forensic Genealogy

In answering the question what is forensic genealogy, it is interesting to see how far the practice has evolved. We can trace this profession—particularly in relation to heir searches and identifying unclaimed inheritances—back to the 1950s. Even by the 1980s, there were only around half a dozen established firms in the United States, but today, it is a thriving specialist field that has enabled the resolution of hundreds of cold cases in addition to the service of everyday individuals.

While forensic genealogists may be greater in numbers within contemporary America, it is no less important to conduct due diligence when hiring a collaborator for your needs. Look for confirmed credentials, a proven track record, and the capacity and resources to carry your investigation through to successful conclusion in court. 
The forensic genealogy team at Lauth Investigations International are proud to provide an unparalleled and comprehensive service to private clients, trustees, attorneys, law enforcement agencies, and many more entities beside. To learn more about how we can help you in genealogy matters large or small, reach out today for a no-obligation consultation.

Who Can I Speak to for Help With Heir Search and International Estate Matters

Who Can I Speak to for Help With Heir Search and International Estate Matters

When the scope of an heir search crosses international borders, finding the right collaborator becomes key. Ultimately, you need an heir search expert who can deftly navigate a diversity of legal jurisdictions on your behalf and draw together the caliber of documented facts that will ultimately be accepted in a court of law. So who should you speak to? Let’s break down the ins and outs of finding the right genealogist or investigator for resolving international estate matters.

What Are the Qualities To Look For in an Heir Search Expert?

Due to an unfortunate lack of concrete standards laid out for those who can claim to be a professional genealogist in the United States, finding the right support to navigate international estate matters can be something of a minefield. Making the issue all the more complicated is that, when probate is opened and filed with the court, the details of an estate enter the public record. So, bereaved families and those serving them may well find themselves fielding vying candidates.

Particularly in the case of international estate matters, it is crucial to choose the right genealogist or investigator to assist. Not only should they be fully credentialed and forthcoming about their pricing and processes, but they should also offer the robust resources required to handle a broad investigation efficiently. This should include a weight of experience in conducting searches overseas, including the capacity to carry out vital record searches and the connections to obtain key records internationally.

For multi-faceted international estate matters, is it wise to identify an heir search expert within a company that affords them the support of multilingual research staff and investigators ready to go boots-on-the-ground abroad where necessary. Crucially, an under-qualified genealogist, while seemingly an enthusiastic option at first glance, can lead you down a road of time wasted, poor communication, and lacking results. Of course, the final puzzle-piece in identifying the right heir search expert is court-related experience. Don’t forget that they must be able to document and evidence their findings to a legally sound standard and may be called upon to testify to that effect.

Turn to an Heir Search Expert From Lauth Investigations International

Lauth Investigations International is a sizable multi-disciplinary firm that takes great pride in an exemplary 30-year track record for uncovering truth and serving clients in complex, multi-jurisdictional cases. Because—in addition to providing heir search services—we also specialize in locating missing persons, asset fact-finding, conducting corporate investigations,and much more, we are uniquely positioned to draw from countless resource pools in the name of setting international estate matters.

Our heir search expert services span locating missing, unknown, or estranged parties for notice of fund distribution in probate or intestacy matters. We can aid in the determination of beneficiaries abroad ahead of trust termination, reconstruct family trees, and provide expert witness testimony in court. In certain instances, we also pick up where a lesser-skilled genealogist has left off, verifying and completing third-party searches to bring them to a swift and rightful conclusion. 

Whatever your heir search needs, we invite you to discover a trusted collaborator and a team capable of seeing international estate matters through to successful closure. Connecting with an heir search expert from Lauth International Investigations comes with no obligation and can help you shed light on the best way to proceed. Why not learn more about our comprehensive Heir Search Service, or reach out to our team today for tailored advice? 

What Exactly Do Heir Search Firms Do?

What Exactly Do Heir Search Firms Do?

It’s a thrilling thing to imagine: Out of the blue, one day you receive a phone call to say that you’re entitled to a substantial inheritance that you knew nothing about. It may seem like a far-fetched idea but, surprisingly, data suggests that as many as one out of every ten individuals has unrecovered assets somewhere out there in the ether. These may be in the form of an estranged estate, life insurance proceeds, uncashed dividends, or dormant accounts—and many more examples.

When it comes to tracking those who are rightfully entitled to unclaimed assets of some form or another, heir search and genealogy firms are the ones who take up the task of connecting the dots. In the case of estates, trusts, or guardianships, an attorney or administrator may be diligently endeavoring to locate and identify the heirs in question—but they often have their work cut out for them.

Looking back across the last fifteen years, of the billions of dollars worth of unrecovered assets that wait patiently in America to be united with their rightful owners, only around 5% have been released. When the scope of the task exceeds the capacity of those on the front lines, an heir search investigator may be called upon to step in.

What It Means to Conduct and Heir Search

When discussing heir search assistance, the term investigator is certainly on the nose. This is because conducting a successful heir search usually means sleuthing through all manner of documentation, and chasing leads wherever they may carry the case at hand. Valuable capacities such as intricate training in investigative research and the licensure required to delve into databases—those usually reserved for authority agencies—mean that qualified heir search investigators can quickly pull together jigsaw puzzle pieces that their clients cannot access.

Of course, an heir search usually has two facets. The first is to identify any and all heirs or beneficiaries to which an unclaimed asset rightfully belongs. The second is to successfully locate and initiate communication with that person or those persons. In the name of the former an heir search firm will likely conduct a genealogy investigation. In the case of the latter, making a connection may be simple, but at times, conducting geographical—and sometimes even international—searches for heirs can become complex.

What is a Genealogy Investigation?

The type of genealogical research conducted by an heir search firm is also sometimes known as forensic genealogy. It involves accessing an array of verified genealogy and record databases in order to build a complete and comprehensive family tree. In the case of heirships, this allows all who are entitled to inheritance to be successfully identified.

When families have become estranged, assets have sat in trust or under guardianship, or they have been held as lost assets for some time, the path that leads to rightful heirs or claimants can be anything but clear. In inheritance cases, a genealogy investigation can shine a light on who might reap the benefits of the release of those assets—this can be particularly pertinent in adoption cases. When a rightful claim is due outside of the family, an heir investigator will instead strive to fully document the thread that ties that individual to the estate in question.

With Puzzle Pieces in Place, What Happens Next?

Once an heir search investigator has uncovered all of the information required, more still remains to be done. A prosperous claim requires absolute due-diligence, and an air-tight case that presents the facts in a clear and legally versed manner. This is the juncture at which heir search assistance transitions into forging a well-rounded presentation of intelligence that will meet the requirements of probate, of the entity holding assets deemed lost, or of the court overseeing an heirship or beneficiary claim.

In this phase of the heir search process, fluency in the legal ins and outs of succession are essential. An heir search investigator should be able to provide any attorney with absolute confidence in the integrity of their casework, and may be called upon to provide expert witness testimony before a judge. When acting on behalf of a client hoping to inherit, they may also serve as a liaison with law firms and officials, or provide high-caliber referrals to ensure that the final stages of the asset return journey are met with just reward.

Discover the Return Assets Division of Lauth Investigations

Lauth Investigations is proud to provide an umbrella-like scope of investigative services, including heir search assistance, captained by seasoned private investigator Thomas Lauth and his wife Rain. With a phenomenal track record spanning more than three decades, the Lauth empire encompasses Missing Person Investigations, Private Investigations, and all manner of Corporate Investigations. In 2012, the couple launched their Return Assets Division with the intent that they would be able to make that very thrilling idea—getting that unexpected phone call—a reality for individuals and families across America.

Since the inception of the Return Assets Division, the Lauths and their highly skilled team have aided rightful owners and heirs in the retrieval of more than $15 million of assets, with a 98% rate of success. In testament to these credentials, the Return Assets Division often work on a contingency fee basis, so the client only pays for their services after receiving the assets they are due.

Drawing upon their exceptionally broad skill set and the broader Lauth pool of resources, the Return Assets team are able to scale every heir search investigation as needed, both in terms of man-power and locational scope. Simultaneously, their extensive investigative experience ensures an ever-swift, communicative, and adept service—as reflected in their glowing A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. If you’d like to know more, explore their Heir Search Services further, or contact the heir search team today.

What to Look For When Hiring an Heir Search and Genealogy Firm

What to Look For When Hiring an Heir Search and Genealogy Firm

Whether you are an attorney or administrator seeking assistance in tracking down an heir, or you are simply someone who has recently been notified that you may be entitled to unclaimed assets, how can you be certain that the firm before you possesses the skill and integrity to warrant your trust? An heir search investigator can be a huge investment for your business, but do you know what to look for in a potential firm?

In recent years, an increasing number of heir search companies have popped up advertising their services. However, the fully-rounded toolkit required to complete comprehensive heir searches and genealogy investigations is not something that can be built overnight. Here, we will delve into the indicators that set a reputable firm apart from the rest. With these points in mind, you will be able to choose a collaborator that will provide heir search assistance upon which you can rely.

A Proven and Public Track-Record

If the task of identifying and locating heirs was always a simple one, then the world would not see the scale of unclaimed assets that it does today. Staggeringly, tens of billions of unclaimed assets sit in limbo because those initially assigned to identifying their rightful owners were unable to see their role through to completion.

This may indicate that a lack of initial resources drew the search to a premature close, or it may simply indicate that those responsible for completing the task have come up against substantial hurdles! These are the moments within which an heir search investigator might step in—but, as you can no doubt imagine, that means that an extensive level of experience and understanding will be required in order to achieve success where others have not.

Pursuing a successful claim against assets that are currently adrift means building a clear and unquestionable picture through information gathering and documentation. An heir search investigator will work alongside a genealogy specialist who can research and form a full family tree, so that no heir is left unaccounted for—or they may possess the skills to perform both tasks, depending on the magnitude of the investigation.

The firm you choose should hold state licensure that will enable them to dive into the verified databases used by law enforcement and government agencies to uncover the information that will aid in the completion of that picture. Your partnership with a heir search investigator should also serve as a direct connection to any third-party specialists that your unique case may require. Finally, the credentials of the firm of your choosing should extend far beyond their own website. Look for reviews and testimonials, a wider online presence and, crucially, an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

The Capacity to Scale Investigations as Necessary

An heir search can, at times, become more complex that it at first appeared. Beyond identifying those to whom assets may be due, an heir search investigator’s role may extend to carrying out field work on a national or even international scale. It may also require liaising with a broad range of legal entities and authorities.

Of course, heir search assistance should always be enacted with efficiency in mind, but there is value in knowing that your firm of choice is not only ready and able to scale if you require it, but also highly experienced in doing so. Consider factors such as the scale of resources at your chosen firm’s fingertips, their capacity to dispatch investigators, and to provide multilingual support staff where necessary.

A Complete Understanding of Legal Aspects

The act of making a successful claim upon any asset is fundamentally a legal one. Knowing that you or your client are a rightful heir is not enough—proof is required. As such, a key aspect of any heir search and genealogy firm’s spectrum of talents must be carrying out due-diligence when it comes to providing every necessary piece of documentation.

Going further, not only should your chosen collaborator be ready to collate and present all information in a format that suits court proceedings or the filing of a claim with an asset holding entity, but they should also be adept at providing witness testimony in court, should the need arise. The better your heir search investigator understands the specific requirements that the presented case must meet, they better able they will be to ensure a just reward for you or your client.

A Transparent and Integral Approach to Communication

From the moment your relationship begins with any heir search investigator, you as their client should perfectly know the lay of the land. This begins with transparency in regard to the costs associated with proving heirship, and no upfront fees for core services rendered.

Reputable firms will work on a contingency basis, absorbing costs as the case progresses, and only receiving the pre-agreed fee upon successful recovery of the asset or successful identification of all heirs sought. Depending on the nature of the investigation, costs may be charged at a flat rate, an hourly rate, or on a percentage basis—whichever may be the case, you should be able to enjoy the confidence of knowing where you stand from day one.

The heir search assistance you require may simply come in the form of geneology research and records searches, or it may span into the realms of expert witness testimony or far-flung field investigations. Whether a single investigator or an entire team are working busily on your behalf, updates should be forthcoming at every step of the journey.

Heir Search and Genealogy Investigations from Lauth’s Return Assets Division

Drawing upon decades of investigative experience, the skilled operatives here within the Return Assets Division of Lauth Investigations place due-diligence and integrity and the forefront of everything we do. We work tirelessly to restore assets to their rightful owners, providing peace of mind for heirs, attorneys, and administrators alike as they navigate the successful dissemination of estates, trust and guardianships. Learn more about our Heir Search Services, or contact our team today.

Why Are Heir Search and Genealogy Specialists So Essential?

Why Are Heir Search and Genealogy Specialists So Essential?

heir search

For those who have never directly experienced how complex inheritance and asset distribution can become, it’s easy to imagine that the process is always straightforward. A loved one passes away, and their nearest and dearest receive a bequeathed portion of the estate left behind—seems simple enough. However, in a surprising number of cases, heirs can remain undiscovered and assets unclaimed, gathering dust when they might be helping a family to put youngsters through college or complete a much-needed home renovation.

For international heir search specialists Thomas and Rain Lauth—the couple behind the multi-faceted Lauth Investigations family—the reality of the number of people left unaware of their rightful assets was a shock. Curiosity revealed the extent of the problem: today, over $58 billion of unrecovered assets wait patiently to be reunited with their destined owners, held by various entities across the US.

The simple fact is that in more complex cases, those overseeing probate and trust distribution lack the heir search and genealogy resources to track down distant and oblivious heirs. Meanwhile, the amount of unrecovered assets continues to increase year-by-year. This makes the skill set of seasoned investigators who are able to locate and unite all relevant parties an indispensable asset of an entirely different kind.

Providing Essential Services for Complex Estates and Trusts

For administrators and attorneys at the helm of complex estates or trusts, unidentified or unlocated heirs can make the assistance of an optimally versed heir search investigator essential. In these cases, asset return specialists will perform tasks such as conducting in-depth genealogy research—sometimes referred to as genetic genealogy—to build a comprehensive, documented, and confirmed family tree so that no heir is left unaccounted for.

As heirs are revealed and the investigation comes to a close, all of the evidence gathered will be presented with the specific stipulations of the legal process in mind—and heir search assistance may extend to providing expert testimony before a judge. This ensures  provision of not only the information required for vested parties, but also the peace of mind that comes with assured due-diligence, well-rounded casework, and a legally versed collaborator.

Fulfilling a Vital Role for Heirs Left Unaware

There is some comfort in knowing that dedicated estate overseers may be searching for you when there are assets in the world that are rightfully yours, but what happens when resources have been exhausted, and the search is discontinued? In this area, when heir search and genealogy firms become aware of assets that remain unanchored, they make it their mission to find and notify those who have been left in the dark.

In these cases, the heir search investigator is hired by the heir, rather than the estate in question, and performs the role of demonstrating the legality and validity of their claim. Extending far beyond reaching out to estranged heirs, high-caliber heir search assistance will also include identifying the unique claim requirements of the entity holding the asset, the gathering and notarizing of documents or court-certified approved records; the provision of necessary legal referrals; and liaising with courts, property administrators, and probate lawyers on the client’s behalf.

The Task-Specific Skills of a Qualified Heir Search Investigator

A  fully licensed and qualified investigative firm of this nature should of course be able to dip into a toolkit that their clients simply cannot. This will include having the state licensure required to explore leads within the same verified databases that are used by law enforcement and government agencies, as well as access to an extensive network of third-party specialists, ever-ready to meet the evolving needs of each case. When the case calls for it, your investigator should be ready to head out into the field—be it to confirm an asset’s location or status, or pursue locating an heir either nationally or internationally.

It is also important to note that the navigation of asset distribution can be laden with emotional weight for those impacted—even when their outcome is both favorable and unexpected. The years of experience drawn upon by true heir search and genealogy specialists means that they can offer an objective and integral presence within any asset search case that holds every stage of the process to an ethical and impartial standard.

Choosing an Established and Trusted Heir Search and Genealogy Investigator

In 2012, Thomas and Rain launched the Return Assets Division of Lauth Investigations in response to what they had discovered. Through this, they unfurled a new branch of investigative specialization, building upon a decades-long background in searching for Missing Persons internationally, and carrying out both Private and Corporate Investigations for a vast array of clients
Since the inception of the Return Asset Division, the Lauths and their team have aided in the recovery of more than $15 million in assets on behalf of heirs, attorneys, and estate or trust administrators, with a staggering 98% success rate. This can be attributed to the mature skill set with which they entered this niche investigative field, and their determination to retain a deeply person-oriented approach to clients and team alike, no matter how far their investigative family grows. If you would like to know more about what the Return Assets Division of Lauth Investigations can do for you or your client, learn more about their Heir Search Services, or contact the team today.




By Carie McMichael

joseph-deangeloCalifornia law enforcement are celebrating a break in a thirty year old cold case this week, as an an arrest has been made in the case of the Golden State Killer. However, the methods investigators used to identify the suspect have civilians debating whether or not the suspect’s civil liberties were violated.

Investigators used DNA obtained from ancestry and genealogy platforms to locate a suspect matching the profile of the perpetrator. Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested Tuesday morning, officially charged with 8 counts of Homicide committed in a decade span, across 3 California counties. They hope to eventually link DeAngelo to 12 murders and 45 rapes committed between 1976 and 1986.

DeAngelo worked as a police officer for 6 years during the original investigation—a relevant detail, as investigators suspected the perpetrator had law enforcement knowledge.

At the end of 1986, when the string of assaults and murders attributed to the Golden State Killer officially ended, the science behind DNA forensics in crime scene investigation was in its infancy. The first case in which DNA evidence secured a conviction in the UK in 1986 not only led investigators to the true perpetrator, but also cleared an innocent suspect whom had been previously implicated. In the last thirty years, the technology has become so ubiquitous DNA kits are available over-the-counter in drugstores all over the country. The technology has matured so immensely, the genetic profile of a single football can be identified to prevent counterfeiting during the Super Bowl. And now, the newest trend in DNA technology may have helped Sacramento authorities identify the infamous Golden State Killer.

636560071434423354-GettyImages-912389900Websites like and have made it easier than ever for people around the world to find out more about their ancestry and genetic makeup. A buccal swab mailed off to a genetics lab can return results of information on everything from the palette of colors in your ancestors’ lineage to the medical problems running in your immediate genetic line. Sacramento authorities have released information advising the DNA provided to these services for informative purposes was one of the chief investigative tools in identifying DeAngelo as a suspect.

According to lead investigator, Paul Holes, GEDmatch was the database utilized leading them to DeAngelo. GEDmatch is a research tool using a database of voluntarily supplied DNA samples for researchers and genealogists. “We were able to generate a DNA profile we uploaded into [a] … database of other similar types of profiles,” Holes told KGO. “And then from there, we get a match list of how much DNA these various other individuals share with the crime scene DNA. The more DNA they share, the more closely related they are.” After obtaining information from the GEDmatch database, they placed him under surveillance. They collected several samples of his discarded DNA, which they were able to match to a DNA profile compiled from samples collected at the plethora of crime scenes, subsequently leading to DeAngelo’s arrest.

Familial DNA searches are becoming more common in forensic science, and as such, more and more controversial. As was the case in identifying DeAngelo, investigators often submit a finite number of genetic markers into a database of genetic samples and the database will return a list of possible results. Results are then cross-referenced with other databases and records to thin the suspect pool. These practices are controversial because large percentages of the country’s population share the same genetic markers, yielding ambiguous results for investigators. Many civilians feel as if the method leaves their civil liberties vulnerable, as though their genetic profiles might make them guilty by association. Currently, the only legislation preventing an individual from being discriminated against, based on their genetic information, is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.

dna-forensic_2070437bAt a press conference on Wednesday, April 25th, local law enforcement did not release specifics about how the DNA obtained from GEDmatch was used to locate DeAngelo. Instead, they focused on how a more comprehensive DNA databank in California could have led investigators to DeAngelo sooner. The existing legislations, Proposition 69, was passed in 2004 and allows law enforcement to collect DNA and fingerprints at the earliest stages of criminal proceedings—beginning when the suspect is arrested, as opposed to post-conviction collection. Despite controversy, the law was upheld earlier this month.

According to Thomas Lauth, Lauth Investigations International Inc., whose firm specializes in unsolved homicides and missing persons, “Our firm must always pivot to innovative ideas and think of ways to gather DNA from a potential suspect.” Lauth further said, “Search warrants are required for human samples. However, if you can retrieve a sample from a discarded cigarette or beer can, it may prove positive. Sometimes though, obtaining positive-testing samples can be tricky. The labs could require numerous samples to finally get a positive and readable match.”

On April 28th, in his first court appearance, Joseph James DeAngelo was formally arraigned on two of the eight counts of murder with which he is formally charged. He did not enter a plea and bail was denied. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 14th, 2018.