Colleen Fitzpatrick

Expert Author

Colleen Fitzpatrick, PHD is a real-life CSI detective who has helped crack the most compelling mysteries of our time. As Consulting Genealogist for the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, she has been recognized internationally in print media and on MSNBC for her work on identifying the remains found in the crash of Northwest Flight 4422. She was also a member of the team that identified the Unknown Child on the Titanic. Her cases include the exposure of two well-known Holocaust literary frauds Misha Defonseca's Surviving with Wolves and Herman Rosenblat's apple story. She has also been a consultant to the Amelia Earhart project. As the world's top forensic genealogist, Dr. Fitzpatrick has been called upon to identify and locate people worldwide, sometimes based on information 80 years old. She is the author of three books on forensic genealogy, and an award winning author and columnist who writes for Scientific American, Games Magazine, and all major genealogical publications. In October 2009, she was featured in a series of four front-page articles in the Orange Co. Register.

Favorite Genealogy Quote

"No matter how outlandish a story may seem, there is always an element of truth in it. If the truth does not lie with the story itself, take a better look at the storyteller." - Myself

What are your specific genealogical interests?

Forensic genealogy, CSI Meets Roots - the application of forensic methods to genealogical mysteries. I've learned so much history from some of the mysteries I've stumbled on. To get good insight into some of them, I've had to research such interesting topics as how to reconstruct 500-1000 year old weather records, child birthing practices of the 1600, and my favorite- ergot, a fungus that grows on rye that was responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, the Bubonic Plague, and for causing the women living in my ancestors village in Alsace in the 1600s to have miscarriages and stillbirths for over ten years. Read my book Forensic Genealogy, and you will share my fascination for much of this.

What got you into genealogy?

Your question assumes there was a time I was not a genealogist. In fact, I was born one.

I was born in New Orleans, and grew up with its rich traditions and being taught the significant role it has played in history. Although I made my first official genealogical research trip to the New Orleans City Archives at the public library at the age of 24, I I did not know about the Family History Library- I didn't need to. I had many of the original documents right there to work with.

As far as my own family goes, I knew all four of my grandparents, and some of their brothers and sisters. From the moment of my birth, I was surrounded by these living histories who spent countless hours feeding me our family story.

Most surprising genealogical find:

That the family stories passed down to me by my grandparents and their sibs passed were true even though they sometimes referred to family members who had died 20 years before my grandparents and grand-sibs were born.

If you could find the family history of any historical great, who would it be and why?

I have no answer for you. Although I love history and often think how interesting it would be to take a time machine and be present at many important historical events, I am so very much more interested in the stories of the anonymous and the humble.

Sign up for a free trial account and begin tracing your family history today.

Start 7-Day Free Trial »