DNA from genealogical databases uncover immigrants’ origin


According to GlobalNews.ca, Canadian border authorities have used DNA from genealogical databases to detect immigrants’ country of origin. This special method has recently been used to investigate crime. However, it may not be as effective in uncovering immigrants’ nationality.

It’s soon a 100 million dollar industry to offer DNA tests

To submit a saliva test to reveal ones genetic history is as popular as never before. The industry is recently estimated to be annually worth over $US hundred million. This figure is expected to triple by 2022.

Several of the big companies like Ancestry and 23andme have so far tested the DNA of millions of people mainly in Europe and North America. About 80% of those who submit their DNA also agree that it can be used by third parties for research and other purposes.

Public authorities have taken DNA from family databases

Police authorities from several countries have begun to submit DNA from investigations trying to find a perpetrator. Now Canadian border authorities have also used DNA from family databases to reveal the origin of immigrants they want to deport.

The method is not without pitfalls. The country of origin of an immigrant is not necessarily the same as revealed by a DNA sample. That’s why border authorities use the genealogical databases to uncover relatives of immigrants. They then want to contact them to get a more reliable response to a certain immigrant’s nationality.

Used familytreedna.com to contact relatives of immigrants

The Canadian site GlobalNews.ca has found through legal documents that a Canadian border administration official submitted a test from Franklin Godwin. He was a prisoner in Canada. Godwin had received a permanent residence permit in 1996. Due to his criminal activity, the authorities in Canada wanted him returned to his country of origin.

When Godwin earlier had received a permanent residence permit, he specified Liberia as his country of origin. This is something the Liberian authorities refused to accept. Canadian authorities were therefore unable to deport Godwin.

By submitting a DNA sample of Godwin to familytreedna.com, the Canadian border authorities managed to contact a relative of Godwin and revealed that he was not Liberian, but Nigerian.

Canadian border authorities have also contacted DNA submitters in other countries

The case about Franklin Godwin is not unusual. There are also two cases in the United Kingdom where submitters of DNA material to family databases have been contacted by Canadian border authorities.

It is unknown, however, whether the interview that the Canadian border authorities have had with the relatives from the UK produced any results.