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.