In the last 10 years, forensic genetic analysis has been extended beyond identification tests that link a suspect to crime scene evidence using standard DNA profiling, to new supplementary tests that can provide information to investigators about a suspect in the absence of a database hit or eyewitness testimony. These tests now encompass the prediction of physical appearance, ancestry and age. In this review, we give a comprehensive overview of the full range of DNA-based ancestry inference tests designed to work with forensic contact traces, when the level of DNA is often very low or highly degraded. We outline recent developments in the design of ancestry-informative marker sets, forensic assays that use capillary electrophoresis or massively parallel sequencing, and the statistical analysis frameworks that examine the test profile and compares it to reference population variation. Three casework ancestry analysis examples are described which were successfully accomplished in the authors’ laboratory, where the ancestry information obtained was critical to the outcome of the DNA analyses made.

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