CeCe Moore is a self-trained “genetic genealogist” who is the subject of a new ABC true-crime show called The Genetic Detective. On the show, Moore “uses her unique research skills to transform the face of crime-solving,” according to the ABC News press release. “By working with police departments and crime scene DNA, Moore is able to trace the path of a violent criminal’s family tree to reveal their identity and help bring them to justice.”
Here’s what you need to know about Moore ahead of The Genetic Detective’s season premiere, which debuts Tuesday, May 26 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
1. Moore Grew up in Southern California and Studied Theatre at USC
According to a blog post Moore wrote memorializing her father, Moore is the third of four children born to Anthony “Tony” Moore and Janis Proctor. They met and married in the Seattle, Washington, area, but soon relocated to Southern California, where they settled down in Rancho Bernardo and Vista. Moore’s siblings are Erin Huffer, Ann Gingrich, and brother Anthony Moore Jr.
Her father worked in management for JC Penney until, in 1988, he and Janis started their own business — Earl Labs Hearing Aid Centers, which they ran until 2005 when they retired.
The 50-year-old Moore attended the University of Southern California for college where she studied theatre. Over the years, she appeared in professional productions of West Side Story and Phantom of the Opera, along with numerous television commercials. according to her bio on her official website.
2. Moore Got Her Start in Genetics in 2000
According to an interview Moore did with Family Tree DNA, she became interested in genetics in 2000 when she was doing a family tree project for her oldest niece as a wedding present. Then in 2003, she started reading about Family Tree DNA and really began studying genetics in earnest.
“In about 2003, I became very interested in Family Tree DNA after reading something about it online in a genealogy forum, so I started following the company’s progress and learning about DNA testing for genealogy, but I didn’t feel like I had the financial ability at the time to start testing. I sure wish I had just bit the bullet and ordered a test, since I really wanted to test my grandmother then and she has since passed away. It wasn’t until a few years later that I tested my father at FTDNA to see if I could unravel the mystery surrounding my surname line and myself to try to break down the brick wall on my maternal grandmother’s Finnish ancestral line,” Moore said.
She added, “I have tested approximately 35 family members on various tests … In early 2010, I began my Known Relative Studies, which has primarily focused on mapping the portions of DNA that I inherited from my great-grandparents by testing the autosomal DNA of second cousins and third cousins from all of my ancestral lines. As a genealogist, it has been an extremely meaningful experience to be able to see specifically what I inherited from my beloved ancestors that I have spent so much time researching but was never able to meet.”
Moore now lives outside San Diego and her living room sofa is the primary location of where she conducts her genetic research, she told Technology Review in 2018.
3. She Founded the Genetic Genealogy Services
Moore told Haaretz that at first, her work primarily dealt with “unknown parentage cases,” “helping people find their biological families when they don’t know who they are.”
But she quickly found herself wanting a new challenge, so in 2018, she partnered with Parabon Nanolabs to create the Genetic Genealogy Services for law enforcement. It has over 100 successful identifications in its first two years, including the 2019 solving of the oldest cold case to be resolved using genetic genealogy — the 51.6-year-old case of Susan Galvin’s murder and sexual assault. DNA testing via the Parabon Nanolabs Genetic Genealogy Service confirmed that Frank Edward Wypych was responsible for the murder in 1967.
She also founded The DNA Detectives, which creates “educational resources for the genetic genealogy community.” Its site says whether you are “a hobby genealogist, a seasoned genetic genealogist, adopted and looking to discover unknown parentage or just curious,” there is something for you at the DNA Detectives.
4. Moore Has Worked With Many TV Programs
According to Moore’s bio, she has been a “core production member” for PBS docuseries Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. since 2013. She has also consulted and collaborated with ABC News program 20/20, and appeared as a guest on 60 Minutes, The Dr. Oz Show, The Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Nightline, CBS This Morning, PBS NewsHour, Fox News, CNN International’s Smerconish, Dr. Phil, The Doctors, and Canada’s The Fifth Estate.
In 2017, she did a Q&A for Finding Your Roots where she talked about how oftentimes, they can’t show all the details of her research on the show, so she wanted to give more information about that.
“There are four big DNA companies that I use in my research. We use Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA, and the newest one, which is My Heritage DNA. So when somebody takes a DNA test, they are compared to the millions of people who have already tested their autosomal DNA. So I’m using commercial DNA databases in order to analyze celebrity DNA.”
5. The Genetic Detective Methodology
Now she has her own television program, The Genetic Detective, Moore is bringing her unique brand of crime-solving to primetime. For this, she uses GEDMatch to compare DNA from a crime to that database, looking for a genetic relative. According to a mathematical analysis by geneticists at the University of California, Davis (via Technology Review), GEDMatch is big enough that the chance of finding a relative at least as close as a second cousin to an American of European background is 25 percent.
Once Moore has a match, she works backward to locate the ancestor from whom the suspect and the match are both descended. Upon locating the possible ancestors, Moore then moves forward in time to locate every child and child’s child until a family tree forms. She then can eliminate people based on being the wrong age, the wrong gender, or being in the wrong location, and present a small list of suspects to law enforcement.
The Genetic Detective will be showcasing Moore’s methods to solve cold cases. The first such case is the 1987 double homicide of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, which is featured in the premiere episode, “The Case of the Missing Lovebirds.”
Over its first season, The Genetic Detective will also examine the murder of 8-year-old April Tinsley with Indiana’s Fort Wayne Police Department; the double homicide of mother and daughter Sherri and Megan Scherer with the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Department in Missouri as well as the murder of Genevieve Zitricki with the Greenville Police Department in South Carolina; the 1996 murder of Angie Dodge with Idaho Falls Police Department in Idaho; the Ramsey Street Rapist with North Carolina’s Fayetteville Police Department; and the 2018 rape of 79-year-old Carla Brooks with Utah’s St. George Police Department.
The Genetic Detective airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.