Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Response to "What Is Forensic Genealogy?"

Photograph courtesy of Colleen Fitzpatrick

Prior Use of the Term Forensic Genealogy

On Wednesday, my inbox included a blog posting from Michael Hait about forensic genealogy in which Michael Hait interviewed Leslie Lawson, President of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy[1] What struck me was that the council’s approach negated the prior use of the term “forensic genealogy.” We have discussed this term in the Forensic Genealogy group on LinkedIn (disclosure: I manage the group). When the narrow definition of the term was used there, many genealogists stepped forward to defend the prior and broader use of the term.[2] In other words, the council's definition doesn't hold water with many in the field.

As background, please understand that genealogists have been aiding in probate work and missing heir work for decades. During that period of time it was called probate or missing heir work. The first use of the term “forensic genealogy” was in a book title for a work by Colleen Fitzpatrick, Ph.D.[3] Colleen was an explorer in previously uncharted territory. She used extreme analytic skills in discovering information in photographs, DNA, and databases. Colleen was not narrowly discussing probate work when she coined the term Forensic Genealogy. When my friend Sharon Sergeant broke a few fraud cases involving the publishing industry, she was being a forensic genealogist. She analyzed photographs and documents in different languages to discover the truth.[4]