Genealogy Studies Program

Fight Crime with Genetic Genealogy

As an evidence-driven enthusiast, you may have an interest in police procedural television series. Whether it is the adrenaline rush you get from solving the crime before the police, or the chance to use your problem-solving ability, it is easy to get drawn in by the storylines.

And while becoming a law enforcement officer might not be what you dream about, you can still follow your passions and solve crimes, even cold cases, using genetic genealogy.

In fact, genetic genealogy is exactly what led police to the arrest of 55-year-old William Earl Talbott II, a prime suspect in the 1987 killing of Tanya Van Cuylenborg. Working together with Parabon NanoLabs, law enforcement officials were able to generate DNA data from crime scene samples that were then uploaded to the GEDmatch system, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) genealogy database. That information revealed two second cousins who were related to the killer.

“But at that point you really need a lot of painstaking genealogy research to find out who they are, who their family members are,” says Dr. Ellen Greytak, director of Bioinformatics Parabon NanoLabs, in an interview with NBC.

The police turned to CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist and cofounder of the Institute for Genetic Genealogy, who is considered to be an innovator in her use of autosomal DNA. After thorough research and some piecing together of the puzzle, Moore was able to build a family tree that connected the DNA back to Talbott.

And that is not the only case in recent weeks that has been given a second look via genetic genealogy. Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, who is believed to be the Golden State Killer, and Gary Hartman, suspected of the 1986 rape and murder of 12-year-old Michella Welch, were also arrested after similar genetic genealogy work. According to NBC, “Parabon NanoLabs has already uploaded DNA from 100 other crime scenes to GEDmatch,” with 20 of the cases looking very promising. This means that many cold cases might finally be resolved.

In an increasingly technological world, individuals like yourself, who are studying genealogy, and the meticulous research you perform are invaluable in solving mysteries in the crime world. At Boston University, genealogy students are exposed to forensic and DNA research and are well prepared to assist in solving these mysteries.



“How Genetic Genealogy Can Help Solve Decades-Old Crimes.” How Genetic Genealogy Can Help Solve Decades-Old Crimes, NBCUniversal News Group, 23 June 2018,

Moore, CeCe. “Your Genetic Genealogist.” Your Genetic Genealogist,

Robinson, Sean. “Another Decades-Old Tacoma Murder Solved? Suspected Killer of 12-Year-Old Michella Welch Arrested.” Thenewstribune, The News Tribune, 20 June 2018,