STEM Current Events: Solving Cold Cases with Genetic Genealogy

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Cracking Cold Cases with Genetic Genealogy

Genetic genealogy is the technique millions of people are using to learn about their family history, and has now become a potent tool for crime solving. But the method has major privacy implications. NewsHour’s William Brangham shares a “cautionary tale” of how one person’s DNA testing can have a wide impact. Read the summary, watch the video below and answer the discussion questions. You can turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript here.



Discussion Questions on Genetic Genealogy

1) Essential question: What are the benefits and drawbacks of DNA testing?

2) How can DNA testing help solve criminal cases, especially cold cases?

3) What are the privacy implications of DNA testing? 

4) “It was a very odd moment to be looking at the name of the person I believed to be a killer, and know that I was the only person in the world who probably knew what he had done, other than himself,” CeCe Moore said. Ask your students: How would you feel in Moore’s shoes? Why did she want to get the information to law enforcement as soon as she could?

5) Do you think DNA testing should be allowed? Explain. Do you know anyone who has had DNA testing? Why did they decide to have their DNA tested? What did they find out?

6) Media literacy: Whose voices were included in this story? Was there anyone not featured who you would be interested in hearing from?


Scientist using genetic genealogy to match dna


Genetic Genealogy Extension Activity

Watch the second story in the series, “A father took an at-home DNA test. His son was then falsely accused of murder,” click hereAsk your students: Should law enforcement continue to use genetic genealogy to solve cases? What privacy rules should govern the use of DNA information?

This article was originally published by PBS NewsHour Extra and can be found here.