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Reuniting Families: An Online Database to Aid in the Identification of Undocumented Immigrant Remains

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The Reuniting Families project attempts to aid federal, state and local agencies currently working towards the identification of deceased undocumented immigrants. This initiative has created a distributed on-line database, accessible by public officials and private citizens interested in searching for missing individuals based on both phenotypic and genotypic characteristics. This broad effort includes the exhumation of individuals from geographically disparate pauper graves, the classification of their physical characteristics, and the cataloging of observed metric traits in a local relational database, to include associated articles of possession and related metadata. Concurrent with the documentation of physical forensic evidence is the analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences. Computational techniques and scoring parameters are applied to automate the process of discovery and identification as well at to preserve information on the missing. The result is a prototype knowledgebase that may serve as a model for future efforts in international forensic science collaborations.
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Keywords: database; forensic anthropology; forensic science; immigrant death; mitochondrial DNA; undocumented immigrants

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, Forensic Science and Archaeology, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798. 2: Department of Computer Science, Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798.

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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