How Forensic Genealogy Differs From Regular Genealogy


By: HeirSearch.

Genealogy is the study of one’s ancestors, a process that allows individuals to trace their “family trees.” By meticulously documenting how generations are connected, conventional genealogy establishes relationships between blood relatives, extended families (step-relations), and distant members (cousins).

What is Forensic Genealogy?

Professional heir searchers conduct research and create a report proving heirship that allows for disposition (sale or transfer) of assets. In accordance with state law and court approval, a forensic genealogist begins their investigation with the decedent. This type of research is far more specific than conventional genealogy—instead of tracing family trees to discover ancestry, forensic genealogy is used for legal purposes in order to find living family members for notice or distribution purposes.

The aim with forensic genealogy is to trace “forward” from the decedent to find their living beneficiaries in order to facilitate the legal distribution of their assets. A forensic genealogist establishes kinship for legal purposes in the probate process which is overseen by a court. This process also varies by state and takes place in different courts.

For instance, Florida’s probate process is overseen in the Circuit Court, while in Pennsylvania, one would need to file probate in Orphans’ Court. Those in New York would appeal to the state’s Surrogate Court.

How Can A Forensic Genealogist Help?

By marrying regular genealogy with scientific techniques, forensic genealogy approaches the family tree from a legal perspective, allowing lawyers and trust officials to locate missing heirs, find next of kin, and facilitate asset allocation.

This process combines traditional genealogical approaches, including reviewing available documentation such as photographs and identity trails, with modern database mining and DNA analysis. Forensic genealogy can support estate cases, guardianship (next of kin) cases, land issues, veteran benefits, and civil pension.

Understanding Succession Laws

Depending on the degree of consanguinity (or kinship/generational level), each state’s notice statutes for locating living heirs will vary.

By using forensic genealogy and following the appropriate state’s laws, professional search firms can generate the detailed reports necessary for the disposition of monies and assets to be approved.

Do You Need Help Establishing Heirship?

If you are the executor of a will or an attorney representing an executor of a will and need to establish heirship to satisfy the court, HeirSearch can help. We offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations, even if you are not planning to start a search right away.

Feel free to reach out with any questions you might have — we look forward to connecting!

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As the industry’s leading forensic genealogy experts and heir finders, We Find Missing Heirs a Better Way®. We are equipped to help with even the most complex probate cases, which may span multiple genealogical connections and geographies.


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