The Internet has made advances in the way attorneys and individuals do forensic searches. Genealogy has become a hobby for some people, but forensic genealogy requires a professional since it can have legal ramifications. Traditional genealogy is a search for ancestors and relatives, which made Ancestry.com a popular website. Forensic genealogy is backed by more money-driven requirements including estates, missing heirs, titles, rights, citizenship, and adoptions.
Types of Forensic Genealogy
A search for lineage usually starts with a request from an attorney or judge. A forensic genealogist works for attorneys who need to find relatives or heirs for a specific legal case. The most common forensic genealogy task is finding a missing heir or relative. An attorney is assigned a legal case regarding an estate, and the attorney must find the heir. The search can be especially challenging when the heir moves to another country or has siblings and relatives who no longer speak to each other.
Forensic genealogists search for family of military service members. The member might not have much local family, which makes it difficult to locate the closest relative. The genealogist locates the closest relatives to allow them proper burial honors. This type of search is also done to match DNA of a fallen soldier with his family.
Citizenship is also a part of forensic genealogy. The researcher must find US citizenship as well as dual citizenship with other countries. This search is particularly beneficial when US citizens move to other countries and travel between locations.
Finally, missing persons are held at the coroner’s office until a match is made with the deceased DNA. Some coroner bodies are unknown, and the genealogist is used to find missing family members to return lost or stolen property found on the deceased.
What are the Challenges of Forensic Genealogists?
Forensic genealogy can be stressful. With it being a part of lawsuits, the genealogist must adhere to deadlines. The stressful part is that there is no guarantee you will actually find any results. The search function on each website is all you have unless you have contacts within other organizations. When dealing with deadlines, you will have stress related to short deadlines and the requirement to perform even when there are no guarantees that you can find the information you need.
There is a human factor when performing forensic genealogy. Forensic genealogists must talk to siblings, parents, or other relatives who might not want to contribute or communicate. Uncooperative relatives make it more difficult to find people, and there are numerous reasons why a person won’t talk to you.
Forensic genealogists face issues with privacy. Some countries have different privacy laws that require search engines to remove information about people who ask to be forgotten. HIPAA laws in the US require certain industries to keep data private and secure, which means the genealogist needs special permission to access records. If you’re working with a court case, you might need permission from the judge to access private records. In addition to country-specific laws, each US state has its own privacy laws and standards. It takes time to learn the laws, and a mistake can increase the timeline it takes to find a missing person.
Tools of the Genealogist Trade
With the Internet, you have access to thousands of resources when performing a search. Most genealogist start with a basic, standard search in the major search engines such as Bing and Google. From there, they can use more specific search engines. For instance, WhoIsHostingThis has a number of search tool listed that you can use to find specific people. Notice that the searches are US-specific including government websites and libraries.
Every state has its own search function that you can use once you have a location for the missing person. Some states ask you to mail documented requests or go to the government location in person. Some universities have search functionality, and you can use the college website to search for alumni.
Forensic genealogy is a research intensive career that has its stress, but it’s a great career if you like the mystery of search. With most searches available online, you can also work from home and find people without traveling.
Duke Ludwig Herzog von Württemberg – Wikimedia Public Domain
Guest Author Bio
Ruth Hatchett has a great passion for family history research. As an archivist and genealogist, she enjoys blogging about the steps and tips for discovering stories from the past.
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