Familial DNA Search

As an ongoing mission to best serve law enforcement agencies in the State of Wisconsin, the Division of Forensic Sciences accepts requests to perform Familial DNA Searches. Familial DNA Search is a tool that deliberately searches for biological relatives of an unknown evidence profile obtained from crime scene evidence. This search is performed with the offender DNA profiles in the Wisconsin DNA Databank. The Wisconsin DNA Databank contains DNA profiles from individuals convicted of felony and misdemeanor crimes as well as individuals arrested of a violent felony crime where probable cause has been established. 


The Familial DNA Search tool was evaluated in a pilot program capacity from 2015-2018 and has been available to law enforcement January 2018. In total, thirty cases have had first time searches completed. In four cases, about fifteen percent, the Wisconsin DNA Databank was able to provide an agency with a new investigative lead which led to the identification and apprehension of a suspect. 


Due to the additional time and resources this tool requires the DNA Databank team is only able to perform six searches a year. Additionally, the tool is only approved for use with unsolved, violent crimes where all investigative leads have been exhausted. Finally, the case needs to have a suitable STR DNA profile searching in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and a Y-STR DNA profile (male DNA testing). If you have a case that you believe may be suitable for familial DNA searching, you may send the case information to Melisa Wittkowske (wittkowskeml@doj.state.wi.us) or to the DNA analyst who worked your case. They will be able to investigate and determine whether the case has met all of the initial science requirements.


Once a case has met the initial requirements, a Familial DNA Search request form must be completed by the law enforcement agency and the prosecutor’s office and submitted to the DNA Databank. The Familial Search committee reviews all requests and triages amongst the other requests based on the public safety threat. Further, because these cases are more challenging and time consuming and because any names (i.e. candidates) provided are not direct matches and instead are potential relatives of the perpetrator, the DNA Databank requires that any agency approved for a search must attend a meeting to receive training on the process prior to a report being issued. 



Wisconsin Identity Resolution Team (WiscIR) Request


Contact Information 

Please direct any questions about the Familial Search Program to or to the above listed contacts.