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

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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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