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DNA Test after Death

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 26 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Dna Cremains Ashes Heat Process

Q.My sister was involved in a car crash, and she lost her unborn child. The autopsy report revealed she was 18 weeks and 1 day pregnant. A wrongful death suit has been filed for the loss of her child, however, there is a question of who the father is. My sister chose to have her stillbirth cremated, and I was wondering if there was a way DNA testing could be done since the baby was cremated. If so what are the options?

(Mrs JB, 10 September 2008)

A.

I want to offer sincere condolences to your sister and your family. I wish I could offer you a more hopeful answer but unfortunately, the high heat of the cremation process destroys DNA. This means it is extremely unlikely that you would be able to make an identification of the father through DNA testing of the ashes. When a cremation is properly performed, the heat is extreme to the extent that no living material exposed to the heat can survive it.

Interestingly enough, one part of the body that is weakened but still intact to some degree following cremation is a person's teeth. Virtually all properly performed cremations will ultimately pulverize the teeth though, so there is little chance of intact DNA. However, on the rare chance there was a tooth, it could be possible to use this for paternity identification. Given the age of the foetus at death, there would have been teeth already forming, despite the fact they had not yet emerged.

Generally, DNA testing is quite reliable on a deceased person prior to cremation but it is once the DNA is exposed to the heat of cremation, it does not survive intact. I am not sure if this is any consolation, but I can say that your sister is not alone in her quest to determine DNA from ashes. In fact, the question is a common one heard at funeral agencies but at this point in time, the answer is not favourable to testing.

Still, while there is not yet any reliable, accurate form of testing for DNA in cremated remains, it is not to say that this kind of test won't become available in the future. I can appreciate that your sister may need to put closure on the paternity aspect of her dead child, but the only advice I can provide is to try to find a way to emotionally move beyond the issue, through family and friendship support or through counselling. Your sister can still stay aware of the newest developments in forensic science and DNA testing – perhaps one day testing will be able to include ashes.

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My brother has a son my brother dead could i be the DNA for my brother
N/a - 26-May-18 @ 9:27 PM
My mother passed before I could get her DNA tested.I have some swabs and toothbrushes she used.Can I get her DNA tested from this?
dTexn - 25-May-18 @ 7:39 PM
Lee - Your Question:
My father passed away a year ago. He was found in his home after a couple of weeks so the best thing that we (my mom, borhter, and myself) thought we could do to lay him to rest was to have him cremated. My father was originally from Nigeria, and his family began showing up after they heard of his passing. All of my father's stocks, property, and other valuables are in Nigeria. He did not have a will, and his siblings have been trying (even when he was alive) to take his inheritance from us. My family is very poor, and as his survivors, I feel that we are entitled to his inheritance before they are. I need to prove that he is our father (he did not sign my brother or my own birth certificates). There are a lot of issues here: across seas negotiations, finding a lawyer, DNA/cremains testing, etc. How would I go about tackling this? It's already been a year and my searches here in South Carolina have proved to be frutiless. Any help that you could provide is much appreciated.

Our Response:
Our site is UK based so unfortunately we cannot comment on US based issues as we are not familiar enough with the laws there.
ExploreDNA - 18-May-18 @ 2:21 PM
My daughter's suppose daddy yesterday 5-16-18, I need to do a DNA to see if he is the daddy.....
Crystal - 18-May-18 @ 1:08 AM
My father passed away a year ago. He was found in his home after a couple of weeks so the best thing that we (my mom, borhter, and myself) thought we could do to lay him to rest was to have him cremated. My father was originally from Nigeria, and his family began showing up after they heard of his passing. All of my father's stocks, property, and other valuables are in Nigeria. He did not have a will, and his siblings have been trying (even when he was alive) to take his inheritance from us. My family is very poor, and as his survivors, I feel that we are entitled to his inheritance before they are. I need to prove that he is our father (he did not sign my brother or my own birth certificates). There are a lot of issues here: across seas negotiations, finding a lawyer, DNA/cremains testing, etc. How would I go about tackling this? It's already been a year and my searches here in South Carolina have proved to be frutiless. Any help that you could provide is much appreciated.
Lee - 17-May-18 @ 7:31 PM
If the heat destroys DNA, how was it possible to have so many forensic findings with new technology for pieces of burned bodies?
BigRed - 17-May-18 @ 1:53 AM
Blacky - Your Question:
My brother died some months ago,before his death the lady he married had a child for him which we have doubts about.I have three other brothers from the same parents as he was,how do we conduct a DNA test?

Our Response:
You would need the mother's consent to have a DNA test done, but the test would establish a relationship between your family and the child.
ExploreDNA - 14-May-18 @ 3:03 PM
My brother died some months ago,before his death the lady he married had a child for him which we have doubts about.I have three other brothers from the same parents as he was,how do we conduct a DNA test?
Blacky - 12-May-18 @ 2:08 AM
Marranda Murphree - Your Question:
My mother's younger sister ranaway at the age of 16, in 1984 my mother as well as the rest of my family my grandmother especially could use some closure on this we don't know if she is dead or what exactly happened she called from various places saying she would be home in 2 weeks after a few weeks of being gone and that was the last anyone had heard from her. if my mother was to submit her DNA is it possible to find a jane doe or track down her sister? any advice would help! thanks in advance.

Our Response:
It's unkikely DNA alone would help in this kind of search as you would need access to DNA database of missing/found persons to compare against. A private investigator might be of more use to you.
ExploreDNA - 11-May-18 @ 1:58 PM
my mother's younger sister ranaway at the age of 16, in 1984 my mother as well as the rest of my family my grandmother especially could use some closure on this we don't know if she is dead or what exactly happened she called from various places saying she would be home in 2 weeks after a few weeks of being gone and that was the last anyone had heard from her. if my mother was to submit her DNA is it possible to find a jane doe or track down her sister? any advice would help! thanks in advance.
Marranda Murphree - 10-May-18 @ 1:06 AM
Madge - Your Question:
My son died 22 years ago now a 30 year old lad has turned up saying my son is his father I dont have any other relatives while there is a resemblance to my son I need some sort of proof that he is my grandson what do I do

Our Response:
If you and this man who says he's your grandson both take a DNA test, the result will show whether or not you are related and therefore whether relationship existed between your son and this man.
ExploreDNA - 8-May-18 @ 12:39 PM
My son died 22 years ago now a 30 year old lad has turned up saying my son is his father i dont have any other relatives while there is a resemblance to my son i need some sort of proof that he is my grandson what do i do
Madge - 8-May-18 @ 11:02 AM
Mike- Your Question:
Hello, I'm 52 years old. Up until recently, I've always thought my father was one person. After 52 years I'm being told it was someone different. Apparently my mother had an affair before I was born. Everyone has since past away, my mother, the man I've always thought to be my dad, and the other man. So, obviously I can't ask my mother. But, I've always wondered why I didn't look like the who my mother claimed my father to be. I just received a picture from a family member and was told this is who you father really was. They also shared the behind everything. Holy cow, I can see a resemblance between me and this man. The man pasted away over 30 years ago, he never had any other kids. I figure I'm out of luck, but wanted to ask. Is there away for me to find out for sure that he was my dad? This really has me curious.

Our Response:
If there are no other living relatives and your supposed father has also passed away, there is not much you can do.
ExploreDNA - 4-May-18 @ 3:30 PM
Hello, I'm 52 years old. Up until recently, I've always thought my father was one person. After 52 years I'm being told it was someone different. Apparently my mother had an affairbefore I was born. Everyone has since past away, my mother, the man I've always thought to be my dad, and the other man. So, obviously I can't ask my mother. But, I've always wondered why I didn't look like the who my mother claimed my father to be. I just received a picture from a family member and was told this is who you father really was. They also shared the behind everything. Holy cow, I can see a resemblance between me and this man. The man pasted away over 30 years ago, he never had any other kids. I figure I'm out of luck, but wanted to ask. Is there away for me to find out for sure that he was my dad? This really has me curious.
Mike - 3-May-18 @ 4:05 PM
My father passed away in 1984 at age 79. He was adopted at age 5 and after he was grown he had found some of his mother's distant relatives, but his mother was deceased. His parents were divorced after he was born. I wonder what happened to the other family members of his Dad's.I have my father's hairbrush with some hair in it. Is there a way to find his family?
Miriam - 30-Apr-18 @ 4:28 AM
Hi, my name is Chris Bennett and I am 57 years old. Two years ago my adopted son died in a car crash and now a month ago a man turned up at my house door claiming himself my son. According to him, he had amnesia and recently he started remembering about his life again. How do I find out that this person is my son or not? Do I go for DNA testing? If yes then what kind of DNA test should be done?
Chris - 25-Apr-18 @ 7:47 PM
Hello, my sister was adopted when her biological mother gave her up at 5 by my mother and father.Both my parents are now decreased and my sister was killed du to domestic violence last week. Her biological mother wants to do a DNA test on my sister's dead body so she can have paperwork to prove she is the mother...pleas help..is this possible and does this make sense.
Ton - 25-Apr-18 @ 12:48 AM
Kiyyah- Your Question:
Hi I'm 21 I got pregnant last year in February but I don't know who the father is cause it's three possible guy's and one just got killed yesterday night if the other two are not his father how can I get DNA from the third guy if he's now dead.

Our Response:
If you have DNA from the other possible fathers, then by a process of elimination, if neither of them is the father, the deceased one is.
ExploreDNA - 11-Apr-18 @ 2:22 PM
Hi I'm 21 I got pregnant last year in February but i don't know who the father is cause it's three possible guy's and one just got killed yesterday night if the other two are not his father how can I get DNA from the third guy if he's now dead.
Kiyyah - 10-Apr-18 @ 10:35 PM
I was just wondering if I could do a DNA test on my grandsonand me to prove paternity for the birth certificate as my son was killed and he was creamated so I’m his only living relative. Will that work so she could put his name on the original birth certificate.
Tj - 8-Apr-18 @ 1:19 AM
Bear - Your Question:
My son was born not breathing on the 28th of March. It's now the 31st can a DNA test still be done? I am also though only person on his death certificate & he has my last name. Do I have a right to not let the possible dad know about the funeral & could he get a lawyer if I didn't tell him about the funeral. Especially cause he's not on the death certificate & he has my last name.

Our Response:
It's not about rights, it's about your choice. We can't really help with this.
ExploreDNA - 4-Apr-18 @ 10:09 AM
My son was born not breathing on the 28th of March. It's now the 31st can a DNA test still be done? I am also though only person on his death certificate & he has my last name. Do I have a right to not let the possible dad know about the funeral & could he get a lawyer if I didn't tell him about the funeral. Especially cause he's not on the death certificate & he has my last name.
Bear - 1-Apr-18 @ 7:31 AM
N/A - Your Question:
My name is Janice Williams and I'm 56 years old I just found out through ancestry papers that its possible that my mother and my father might not be my parents and they both are deceased. And it's a possibility that my older sister could be my mother and this is the question that I have asked her but she won't give me an answer can I summons her to court for a paternity DNA please if there's any way that I could find out from a brother or sister that I am their sister what could I do to find out this information if none of them are willing to take a DNA test for me

Our Response:
Unfortunately it's not likely that a court will agree to ordering a DNA test unless this is for a vital medical reason etc.
ExploreDNA - 28-Mar-18 @ 10:22 AM
Vanessa - Your Question:
I am currently almost 8 months pregnant with my boyfriend's child. In late February, he passed away. It was sudden. He was only 29 years old. He was adopted from Peru so DNA from his parents is not an option. Toxicology is still being done. He has been cremated, but the medical examiner cut some of his hair because the mother stated she needed some for a DNA test. My question is I know you need a follicle to get DNA from hair right? The medical examiner just cut his hair.and he was embalmed for his service. if the hair sample isn't viable, can they use blood from the toxicology for DNA? Do they take extra samples of blood? I need to prove that my baby is his so I can get survivers benefits for the baby. I also want to prove to his parents that my baby is his son. I'm not sure what the right path is here.

Our Response:
If you're unable to obtain a DNA sample from the evidence that's left, you could ask your boyfriend's parents to take a test. That will establish a relationship between your baby and them (and hence their son too).
ExploreDNA - 27-Mar-18 @ 12:10 PM
My name is Janice Williams and I'm 56 years old I just found out through ancestry papers that its possible that my mother and my father might not be my parents and they both are deceased. And it's a possibility that my older sister could be my mother and this is the question that I have asked her but she won't give me an answer can I summons her to court for a paternity DNA please if there's any way that I could find out froma brother or sister that I am their sister what could I do to find out this information if none of them are willing to take a DNA test for me
N/A - 26-Mar-18 @ 2:30 AM
I am currently almost 8 months pregnant with my boyfriend's child. In late February, he passed away. It was sudden. He was only 29 years old. He was adopted from Peru so DNA from his parents is not an option. Toxicology is still being done. He has been cremated, but the medical examiner cut some of his hair because the mother stated she needed some for a DNA test. My question is I know you need a follicle to get DNA from hair right? The medical examiner just cut his hair..and he was embalmed for his service... if the hair sample isn't viable, can they use blood from the toxicology for DNA? Do they take extra samples of blood? I need to prove that my baby is his so I can get survivers benefits for the baby. I also want to prove to his parents that my baby is his son. I'm not sure what the right path is here.
Vanessa - 24-Mar-18 @ 2:34 PM
My question i would like to know if i can do DNA test on my husband ashes. i have doubts that i was not given my husband ashes?
NIk - 13-Mar-18 @ 11:58 PM
Joshua Bennett - Your Question:
I never got to meet my father and only recently found out I have a brother and two sisters from him. Now my siblings mom is saying that she doesnt believe Im his and wont believe me until I get a DNA test done. My father died back in 2007 and was buried what is the best way for me to get do a DNA test. Can I do it through one of my fathers brothers or would one of my siblings be better? He was also in the army and someone told me that they should have a record of his blood sample somewhere.

Our Response:
A DNA of one of your (newly found) siblings will establish whether there's a relationship between you and therefore your/their father.
ExploreDNA - 5-Mar-18 @ 2:56 PM
I never got to meet my father and only recently found out I have a brother and two sisters from him. Now my siblings mom is saying that she doesnt believe Im his and wont believe me until I get a DNA test done. My father died back in 2007 and was buried what is the best way for me to get do a DNA test. Can I do it through one of my fathers brothers or would one of my siblings be better? He was also in the army and someone told me that they should have a record of his blood sample somewhere.
Joshua Bennett - 2-Mar-18 @ 8:56 PM
EH - Your Question:
My father passed away on 2002 and my cousin claim he is not my father. I have his glasses , wool hat and clothe that he was wearing in hospital and never been washed since , is it possible to get DNA test from it ?

Our Response:
It's unlikely that DNA on clothing from over 15 years ago could be used, especially if it's not be stored correctly. You should check with a laboratory that provides DNA testing.
ExploreDNA - 2-Mar-18 @ 2:22 PM
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Latest Comments
  • N/a
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My brother has a son my brother dead could i be the DNA for my brother
    26 May 2018
  • dTexn
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My mother passed before I could get her DNA tested. I have some swabs and toothbrushes she used. Can I get her DNA tested from this?
    25 May 2018
  • ExploreDNA
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    23 May 2018
  • Judy
    Re: DNA Testing for Pets
    Hello. I wonder if is possible to identify a deceased animal if I have a sample of the fur and attached skin. I lost my dog and found an…
    22 May 2018
  • ExploreDNA
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Lee - Your Question:My father passed away a year ago. He was found in his home after a couple of weeks so the best thing that we (my mom,…
    18 May 2018
  • Crystal
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My daughter's suppose daddy yesterday 5-16-18, I need to do a DNA to see if he is the daddy.....
    18 May 2018
  • Lee
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My father passed away a year ago. He was found in his home after a couple of weeks so the best thing that we (my mom, borhter, and myself)…
    17 May 2018
  • BigRed
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    If the heat destroys DNA, how was it possible to have so many forensic findings with new technology for pieces of burned bodies?
    17 May 2018
  • ExploreDNA
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Blacky - Your Question:My brother died some months ago,before his death the lady he married had a child for him which we have doubts about.I…
    14 May 2018
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