The Y-DNA STR profile of remains in a Slovenian mass grave are known and available for comparison to individuals who are curious whether they may have descended from the same lineage. The story below outlines how the Y-DNA profile of the remains were discovered.
During and immediately after World War II, Armed Forces killed thousands of individuals and many were buried in hidden mass graves. It is estimated that there could be up to tens of thousands of missing persons in Slovenia that were killed during this period. Around 600 mass graves have been discovered in Slovenia, but identification of the remains is a long process as most of the typical identification procedures (fingerprints, dental analyses, clothing, morphological data etc.) are not feasible. Instead, the identification of these remains relies on DNA analyses.
DNA analyses of the remains
The majority of the people killed by the Armed Forces were men. Therefore the best approach for identifying the remains is by determining the Y-DNA profile of each skeleton found in the numerous mass graves. Y-DNA is passed down from father to son along the direct paternal lineage, so the Y-DNA profile of each skeleton will match the Y-DNA profile of an available paternal reference – generally the son of the missing individual.
Partial Y-DNA STR profiles have been obtained for over 40 skeletons from several graves of victims of the Armed Forces. So far, six skeletal remains have been matched to available references and many more will likely be identified as reference numbers increase.
More reference samples are required
Now that it is over 60 years since the deaths of these individuals, living direct reference samples (i.e. sons) may not be available. However, Y-DNA STR markers remain the same from father to son, and hence grandsons and great grandsons of the missing individuals are still excellent reference samples. Although many families have given up hope on finding the remains of their missing family members, a wider media campaign would help more references to come forward and more of these skeletal remains could be positively identified.
DNA Database Comparisons
This study determined the partial Y-DNA STR profiles of over 40 men killed in Slovenia during and after World War II. Only a small proportion of these men have been matched to reference samples, and a much larger database of references is required to identify the remaining skeletons.