Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, the founder of Identifinders International, is widely recognized as the founder of modern Forensic Genealogy. She has worked dozens of cold case homicides for law enforcement using genetic genealogy analysis. Most notably, she is credited with collaborating with the Phoenix Police Department to solve the 1992-1993 Phoenix Canal Murders. The team won fifth place in the prestigious 2018 DNA Hit of the Year competition by Gordon Thomas Honeywell Affairs, out of 61 submissions from 14 countries.
Dr. Fitzpatrick is Co-Executive Director of the DNA Doe Project (DDP), applying autosomal SNP analysis to the identification of John and Jane Does sometimes decades old. The DNA Doe Project recently identified Buckskin Girl, a Jane Doe who had defied identification for 37 years. The DDP team used genetic genealogy to solve the case in four hours.
In addition to applying her expertise to cold case work, Dr. Fitzpatrick had been a key member of the teams that have exposed three international Holocaust literary frauds. She had been the Forensic Genealogist on several historical projects including the Identification of the Unknown Child on the Titanic and the Abraham Lincoln DNA Project. Her collaborations include the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, the US Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Office, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, the University of Arizona, Harvard Medical School and other noted professional organizations. She is an Associate Member of the American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS).
Colleen lectures widely in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. She has appeared in hundreds of domestic and international newspapers and magazines, and on international radio and television programs. These include the BBC World News Tonight, RTE Ireland Television’s Nationwide, Radio New Zealand, The Melbourne Sun, CNN, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, More Magazine and Scientific American. She is the author of three books: Forensic Genealogy, DNA & Genealogy, and The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone.
Margaret Press, PhD
To answer her burning question “How can genetic genealogy help identify John and Jane Does?” Margaret Press co-founded the DNA Doe Project in 2017 with Forensic Genealogist Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick. After months of work hunting down labs, experts, bones and donations, they tackled their first case in September 2017 and incorporated as a non-profit the following month. The subsequent success stories have provided the answer: persistence, patience, and a team of skilled and spirited volunteers. That’s how it’s done.
Margaret grew up in Los Angeles, California where at age 15 she inherited a passion for genealogy from her grandmother. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Linguistics and subsequently earned her doctorate at UCLA, specializing in Native American languages and child language development. From her extensive field work she published a descriptive grammar of Chemehuevi, a nearly extinct dialect of the Uto-Aztecan family.
While working most of her life in software development, Margaret also fell into mystery writing. Two published novels set in Salem, Massachusetts were followed by essays and short stories, and a true crime based on a 1991 murder in her own neighborhood. The book inspired several documentaries, including an Unsolved Mysteries segment in 1996 and a 1998 episode in the A&E series City Confidential. She has also taught numerous courses in mystery and crime writing.
When DNA testing redefined the genealogy landscape, Margaret joined the impassioned group of citizen scientists who would propel this new field to where it is today. She began with setting up several Y-DNA surname projects. Once autosomal testing reached critical mass and its potential became apparent for helping in unknown parentage searches, she – like many others – became hooked on the unique challenges of building family trees forward in time, rather than backward. The satisfaction that comes from helping an adoptee is profound and addicting. But extending this methodology to her current mission – returning a name to an unidentified victim – brings a whole new level of reward.
Margaret is a proud parent and grandparent, with descendants of her own to carry her mitochondrial haplogroup C1d and passion for genealogy down her family tree.