South Africa: The Gene Genie - Family Tree and Genetic Data Privacy


In April 2018, genetic genealogy helped solve the case of the 'Golden State Killer', behind at least 50 rapes, 13 murders and 100 burglaries in California, US, committed over a decade in the 1970s and 1980s. How did they do it? Authorities used DNA samples collected on the scene, a free genealogy and DNA database called GEDMatch, and a simple family tree.

The question about where we come from has fascinated humans for centuries: long before written records, oral stories passed from one generation to another served as a window into our beginnings, a fragile thread between people. Genealogy, which comes from two Greek words, "race" or "family" and "theory" or "science," the study of someone's lineage, formalised the ancestral process.

Anne Lehmkuhl is a South African genealogist and history researcher who has been involved since 1986; she was involved on two episodes of Who Do You Think You Are?, a BBC documentary about celebrities' ancestry, and participated in an Al Jazeera English documentary - People and Power: Colours.

"I've seen [genealogy's] popularity grow over the years, especially once the internet became more accessible in South Africa. The main audience used to be older people, usually in their retirement years,...

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