5 Questions with Margaret Press, CEO & Co-Founder of the DNA DOE Project

What made you decide to become a genealogist and what inspired you to start the DNA DOE Project?

I became fascinated with my own family history as a teenager. It opened up conversations with my grandparents and hooked me on history at a very personal level. But adding DNA to my toolbox several years ago allowed me to help friends with unknown parentage — an immensely rewarding experience. In early 2017 I realized that these same tools could be used to identify John and Jane Does. This inspired the founding of DNA Doe Project as a non-profit, all-volunteer organization to do just that. Our first announced identification (Marcia King, formerly Buckskin Girl) was made on April 11, 2018, two weeks before the arrest of the Golden State Killer, whose identification by Barbara Rae-Venter utilized the same methods.

Every day since that first epiphany I feel that same inspiration. It never wanes.

What is the most rewarding part of leading the DNA DOE Project?

Giving a family answers when they have waited in anguish, sometimes for decades, not knowing where their loved one was. Bittersweet moment, for sure. But a moment like no other.

How many cases has the Project solved so far?

We have been involved in approximately 80 successful identifications.

How instrumental has GEDmatch been in helping you and your team solve cases, and why?

Every one of our 80 identifications has been made with the help of GEDmatch. Without the ability to find and analyze DNA matches, use the tools on GEDmatch to infer relationships, and construct trees for them, none of our cases would be solvable. Many have waited decades for answers, with traditional detective work hitting dead ends.

With May being Missing and Unidentified Persons Awareness Month, how can users of GEDmatch help name the nameless?

  • Make sure your email address is current and you check it regularly, in case we need to reach out to you
  • Upload a GEDCOM of your family tree — even just a couple of generations back helps us a lot!
  • Encourage others to upload their DNA results to GEDmatch, even in your own extended family — especially the older generations. (Everyone should read the Terms of Service first, to make sure you understand and are comfortable with them.)
  • Consider making a tax-deductible donation through our website to help defray the lab costs when agencies cannot afford them. Our genealogy work is all pro bono, but the lab work is expensive.
  • Spread the word about our cases — some are solved through family members recognizing them on our website at https://dnadoeproject.org/project/
  • If you are missing a family member, read our page https://dnadoeproject.org/for-families-of-the-missing/ for what you can be doing to help bring them home.

Register to GEDmatch today!

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