The rise of the DNA detective

96123929_hi038873025A man left abandoned as a baby in a cinema toilet 61 years ago has tracked down his siblings with the help of a so-called “DNA detective”. But what do they do?

“There’s an analogy I like to use: I can crack any safe, some will just take longer than others,” Julia Bell tells. She helps people – many of whom have no knowledge of who their parents or siblings are – track down their long-lost relatives.

Julia recently helped Robert Weston, who was found in a ladies toilet in an Odeon cinema in Birmingham in 1956, find his half-brothers and sister for the first time. Many of her cases involve American soldiers, or GIs, who were stationed in the UK during World War Two, she says.

“It starts with a spit test, a DNA test, which I get people to do,” Julia says. “That’s sent away for testing.” She then uses uses three direct-to-consumer DNA databases to cross-reference the data and then the detective work begins. Julia – who currently is not charging clients – says she begins looking at patterns within the database to try and establish matches. She then uses contacts around the world to try to identify relatives – however distant they may be.

Julia has no genetics background, saying you instead need to be “smart and logical” and know how to work with data. “I have a knowledge of science but my background was in teaching in Singapore,” she says.

Read the full article in BBC News

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