Skip to Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center (IGG) site navigationSkip to main content

Research and Expansion of IGG


IGG Center

Ramapo College

505 Ramapo Valley Road
Mahwah, New Jersey 07430


As an emerging field, IGG is in flux. Part of the mission of the IGG Center is to conduct research into the ways in which IGG is being conducted by practitioners, challenged by critics, and portrayed in the media and popular consciousness. Current research projects include the role of the First Amendment in limiting regulation of IGG, how default bias affects genetic genealogy database users’ willingness to share their data for IGG searching, and the challenges that IGG has faced in the courtroom to date.

Our Research


David Gurney, Investigative Genetic Genealogy and the First Amendment Right to Noninterference with Receipt – Forthcoming in First Amendment Law Review

This paper analyzes the intersection between investigative genetic genealogy and the First Amendment. IGG relies extensively on public records to develop leads. Recently, several states have sought to limit the use of IGG and, as a consequence, regulate who may access and use public records. This paper develops a unique argument that the First Amendment protects a right to noninterference with receipt and applies that right to IGG.

David Gurney et al., The Need for Standards and Certification in Investigative Genetic Genealogy, and a Notice of Action – Forthcoming in Forensic Science International

As investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) becomes a more common tool for investigating agencies to resolve cold cases and provide names to unidentified human remains, there is an urgent need for standards and a certification process for IGG practitioners. There are four broad concerns that give rise to this need: data privacy, public trust, proficiency (and agency trust), and accountability. Yet, while the need is clear, the few discussions of standards and certification thus far have been plagued by misunderstandings of IGG and poor analogs for the profession. Thus, in addition to describing the need, this article analyzes three relevant analogs for IGG standards and certification and describes the strengths and weaknesses of each. 


Expanding the Reach of IGG to Underrepresented Populations

For a variety of socioeconomic reasons, the consumer genetic genealogy databases that are available for IGG searching are made up primarily of individuals of Western European heritage. This means that cases involving Western European “Does” or perpetrators are more likely to be solved, while cases involving other populations often languish since it can be extremely difficult to develop leads when the closest match in a database is a 4th, 5th, 6th, or greater cousin.

One of our goals at the IGG Center is to expand the reach of IGG to populations who are underrepresented in the databases, thus ensuring that the justice IGG can help achieve is available to members of all populations.

To achieve this goal, we are beginning outreach efforts to underrepresented populations. This effort requires strict adherence to ethics – with a particular emphasis on ensuring that individuals who choose to upload their DNA profiles are fully informed of the risks and benefits.

The Effect of Increased Latin American Representation in Investigative Genetic Genealogy Databases on Unidentified Remains Cases

This project seeks to expand the representation of people of Latin American descent in public genetic genealogy databases and track the impact of that increased representation on the resolution of investigative genetic genealogy cases involving unidentified human remains.

Staff from the IGG Center traveled to Tucson, Arizona in March of 2023 to distribute donated FamilyTreeDNA kits to informed, consenting adults of Latin American descent. The impact of the project is being measured by monitoring the DNA match results for over one dozen unidentified Latin American decedents.

We thank Gene By Gene and FamilyTreeDNA for renewing their donation of DNA kits for this project in 2024. Our team of staff and volunteers will return to Tucson Festival of Books in March 2024 to continue distribution of DNA kits for this project.

Click to view our consent forms for this project in English and Spanish. If you are over 18, have at least one grandparent of Latin American descent, and wish to participate, please email