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DNA sample from an old tooth

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  • DNA sample from an old tooth

    I saw a question on another board I frequent. She has an old tooth from her long deceased father (about 100 years old) and wondered if there was a way to get a DNA sample from it. He was the last male in the line.

    Thank in advance for any help


  • #2
    You may want to read this old thread, from the FTDNA forum (subject: Forensic Extraction). The last few comments in that thread discuss the problems with teeth, but if the person's father's 100 year old tooth had not been handled, and was preserved well otherwise, it might be possible to get some type of DNA from it. Contamination and costs are the main factors.

    What I get from the posts in the above thread is that (at least back in 2012) FTDNA would have you use another lab to do the DNA extraction, as FTDNA would not do it. The catch is, even if you do get a sample from the tooth from another laboratory, FTDNA would not use it for Family Finder results; presumably they might be able to use it for mtDNA. I think Y-DNA would be the hardest to extract. Additionally, using another lab to get DNA from the tooth will no doubt be very expensive, if it is indeed possible.

    You could try phoning FTDNA, or submitting a customer support request, to see if things have changed. I would think that other companies may have the same issues.

    Roberta Estes wrote a blog post, in which subjects about testing various items (as well as the exhumation topic!) are discussed. Near the end of the post, she gives the main conclusions in a nutshell:
    So, what’s the upshot of this?
    • Forensic genetics is expensive
    • Exhumations are extremely expensive and fraught with all kinds of legal and technical landmines
    • There are very few labs, if any, that will process private forensic samples
    • When DNA is retrieved from a forensic specimen, it may be contaminant, not the DNA of the person you think it belongs to
    • When DNA is retrieved from a forensic specimen, you still have to pay for the DNA testing, in addition – and it may not work
    • When DNA is retrieved from a forensic specimen, if it does amplify, it will most likely be mitochondrial DNA
    • Using today’s combined genetic genealogy tests, there is almost always a way around the lack of a particular DNA donor, making exhumation and or forensic testing unnecessary


    • #3
      Thank you so much. I will relay the information. I knew that the knowledge would be here.

      Again, many thanks



      • #4
        If the person with her father's tooth (I will call her "Tooth Lady" here) has any siblings, paternal cousins, or paternal aunts/uncles still living, or known descendants of those, it would be easier and cheaper to test them. That would be the way to get around the cost and uncertainty of getting DNA from the tooth. She might need to consult some relativity charts to know which relatives to test. Here is a colorful one, based on Alice J. Ramsey's original, which might work well for her.

        To select appropriate relatives, she needs to know her goals. Does she want to know what Y or mt-DNA haplogroups her father had, or was she hoping to use autosomal DNA to discover matches with cousins?
        • A paternal uncle would have the same Y-DNA as her father, as would the uncle's sons (or grandsons from the sons). These would be her first cousins, or first cousins once removed, etc.
        • A paternal aunt or uncle would have the same mtDNA as her father.
        • Children of a paternal aunt would have that same mtDNA, but only the daughters would pass it on to their children (the aunt's grandchildren). Again, first cousins and first removed, etc.
        • Any paternal relative would help to filter autosomal matches, if the Tooth Lady has tested at one of the main DNA genetic genealogy companies.
        Do you know if she has siblings? For autosomal matches, testing as many of them as she can will help to get as many paternal (and maternal) matches as possible, because each sibling has some different DNA inherited from the father.
        Last edited by KATM; 25 June 2019, 12:03 PM.