Forensic genealogy and probate search is different
Traditional genealogy research usually begins with the client or his/her ancestor and works back in time to discover earlier generations. Forensic research begins with the decedent. As forensic genealogists, we examine the immediate family including spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings and parents. If no potential heirs at law are yet found, we continue back to the grandparents and then research their descendants until all possible potential heirs at law, according to the laws of succession for the appropriate state, have been identified. As forensic genealogists, we employ census records, probate records, obituaries, newspapers and vital records such as birth and death certificates; the same records used in any other genealogical research. However, as forensic genealogists, we also search a host of more current records as well. These additional sources might include social media, public record databases, property assessment databases, records of arrests and inmate locators, and community and club newsletters. Sometimes we need to be creative in finding sources that will reveal family relationships.
We get in touch with the local authorities, the police and other governmental organisations in order to assist us with the search.
It is important to recognise that forensic genealogists are not licensed private investigators. Private investigators are often employed to find missing, but known, individuals. They use skills, techniques and proprietary and/or legally protected data to find a person who has been previously identified. As forensic genealogists, we use publicly available and not legally protected records to research families. Forensic genealogical research defines relationships, uncovers unknown heirs and provides biographical data needed to locate and contact interested parties.