Home > Ask Our Experts > DNA Test after Death

DNA Test after Death

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 20 Sep 2019 | 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)


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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I need some answer...my son died 24 years ago, August 6,1995, he was born July 29,1995, I just have doubts in my mind, as Fabella Hospital in Santa Cruz Manila, they were known of selling babies, exchanging or swapping kids in this Hospital, I got questions in my mind if that was truly my son they said have died and we buried them, is it possible for us to get sample of him and have him tested?, if how much it will cost us? Very sincerely, Mrs. Mayven Savory
Mhay - 30-Jul-19 @ 10:00 PM
I would like to know if an old baseball cap would have my father's dna.My dad passed away in 2010.
mich - 30-Jul-19 @ 6:26 PM
My grandmother passed and I want to do a DNA-genealogical test. I did the 23 and me test and it was revealed I am 47percent Native American. I know this comes from my grand mother’s bloodline but want some certainties. They plan to cremate so I want to know if we do a blood extraction, hair or mouth swab, will that be enough to do testing to establish our bloodline before our option is gone forever.
Gurl - 26-Jul-19 @ 4:08 AM
hi , my son passed away ,17 years ago in2001 and he had a baby on the way ,she was born in june 2002 , she is 17 years old now ,but we had never had a dna,done so we are not100% that if she is my sons daughter,and to makeit worst my son had only known her mother for3 months,and she was three months pregneat,when he passed,and i always wanted to know for sure whether she was his child, how can we do a dnain this situation
fredab - 27-Jun-19 @ 11:10 AM
My sister was adopted by my Aunty at a very young age. We met for the first time when I was 35 years old and she was 45 years. We were in touch till 2014 when my sister had passed away in India leaving all her property to me in her last and final Will. I have been in Australia since 1968. I am the only living member of the family. How can I prove that we are brother and sister. My sister was buried in India. All I have is some documents, a diary etc. Items that she had handled. Would this be enough to have a DNA test to establish our relationship. Richie
Richie - 25-Jun-19 @ 1:52 PM
Can I text my 4 month old baby ashes, there is pieces of her bone,
Vee - 12-Jun-19 @ 6:28 AM
My daughter was born stillborn and was buried. I don’t want to disturb her resting place. Is there anything the hospital would have saved to run a Paternal DNA test?
Banda - 29-May-19 @ 8:29 PM
I had a dna sibling test done and there seem to be a problem with the test that the lab have not told me about yet and I know that my four kids belong to the decease father we was together 19 years and he was the only one I was with. So is the siblings test different then the parents dna testing
Sherel - 29-May-19 @ 5:50 AM
After 47 years, I have requested the baby disinterred. I know something else happened, because just before the gas mask was forcefully put on by two nurses I heard a baby cry, just before I was out. No doctor, nurse told me the baby died, my parents did. Next day Saturday 09, 1972 a woman with an apron came in and told me to sign these papers; allot about 10 pages. She held her hand on the papers and lifted each page to be signed. I never knew why I signed nor did I get any copies when I was discharged. My parent told me that we will never speak of this again, what is done is done. This was after the funeral in which I was not allowed to go.I have finished my statement to the Funeral home so the request disinterment permit request. Everything else is the responsibility to find out and coordinate with the officials by me. I have research Forensic people in Albuquerque, New Mexico but do not know where to start. State of New Mexico where this is going on.
JR - 22-May-19 @ 7:39 PM
Hello, my father died as a result of a fatal accident. He was struck and killed by several vehicles. I have his belongings. Some of which had his blood on the metal button and fabric. Would it be possible to swab those areas for DNA testing or is it too late to do that? This happened in February of 2019. The garment has been kept in a plastic evidence bag.
Lucy - 18-May-19 @ 2:16 AM
We have ashes and want to check they definitely are my brothers can they be checked against sibling or parent to prove its a relation. Also have some hair can that be checked
Kas - 13-May-19 @ 9:54 PM
My mother died on 26 november 2019 n i couldn't see her funeral so i dont believe that she was dead i think she was in a state of coma or apparent death but she was burnt on 27 nov and now after 5 months i am only having her ashes. How can i find that was she really dead or she was alive when burnt. I am studying medicine also n i found that no postmortem hypostasis and rigor mortis appeared even after 12 hours. The body was also fresh..plz give me a way to satisfy myself that she was dead before she was burnt.
Tina - 11-May-19 @ 1:23 PM
We found a metal chunk and a quarter inside our Dads remains and the metal tag doesnt match the paper on the box
amber m patterson - 5-May-19 @ 7:36 PM
Is there a possibility or how do i get a DNA of my daughters deceased fatherwhom was killed in 2000 & my daughter been shunt after they got a payout and stating my daughter was not his?
KJ - 9-Apr-19 @ 1:49 PM
Hello, I just saw your tests online. Great!! I am wondering my mother died about 20 years ago. I have 1/2 of her ashes. I am trying to find her biological family. She was adopted and then I was adopted. Trying to put my family together. Do you think there is any chance of finding something with the test?
Nikita - 29-Mar-19 @ 11:50 PM
My daughters father passed away on the 17th and was hurried not creamated how can I get a dna test done if he lived in another state is it possible?
A - 26-Mar-19 @ 5:58 PM
My son was killed n 2018 and was buried can or shall I say could we get a good enough DNA to see if a child who's going on 10 next month belong to him, please let me know the mom/grandmother
Lannette - 14-Mar-19 @ 9:30 PM
My uncle died in March 2017 and there is a probable theory that he was murdered by his wife due to the fact that his reason for being sent to the hospital was unknown. His wife knew he was deathly allergic to anesthetic medicine and she told the nurses to give it to him anyways. I was devastated to find out that my uncle's wife won the case and was not only able to burn his newest will before the court case, but was able to take valuable family possessions and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please is there ANY way to prove there being poison in my uncle's 2 year old ashes??!!
Emilina C. - 14-Mar-19 @ 9:02 PM
My daughters father just died yesterday he hasn't been buried or cremated is there any way that we could still do a DNA test to prove he is my daughter's father please help
Brat - 9-Mar-19 @ 7:58 PM
I heard that my dad had to wait on being cremated, until there were at least 4 morebodies to fire up the incinerator. Is this even legal?
Tina - 2-Mar-19 @ 8:02 AM
Can cremation ashes be tested to be sure the ashes are human and male? Except relatives took ashes without authority which had to be returned but now family are wondering if the ashes are infact our relative.Thank you for any info Kay S
Kay - 28-Feb-19 @ 5:31 PM
My dad passed away Oct 27th of 2018.He did not have a living will nor did he sign my birth certificate. I must prove that I am his child. I need some help please
KIKI - 21-Feb-19 @ 9:39 PM
my biological father died 36 yrs ago. he was adopted we are trying to trace our family tree. My sister, brother and I did DNA test and found out that we are all half siblings. different fathers. I have his old upper denture and was wondering if it can be tested for his DNA.Thanks Jannette
jan - 18-Feb-19 @ 8:12 AM
Hello everyone. I really need help my father pasted away last October I need documents proving I'm his daughter.my dad's name was not on the birth certificate.but I did move in with him when I was 12 to 15 I guess I could get school records? Doctors letters? Could I get DNA testing if he had cremation? ...I don't know the first step on what to do...please help
Carolb - 15-Feb-19 @ 6:36 PM
Can I get a dna test done on a recently deceased family member? What would this involve and which companies would be able to do it? The family member was the last of his generation form both sets of his grandparents (around a hundred grandchildren) so his dna would be a valuable family history research resource revealing hidden dna matches to myself and my mother (both tested).
treeleafer - 12-Feb-19 @ 1:52 PM
A woman adopted at birth is trying to find her bio parents. The path seems to be leading to my deceased partner.
Stellargramma - 26-Jan-19 @ 2:29 PM
My son father died in 2009 we were never married and I want prove he was his dad?
Rew - 18-Jan-19 @ 6:01 AM
I have a brother that is cremated.. but I do have his baby teeth... can it be tested as my father is deceased and I need to at least try?
Doc - 14-Jan-19 @ 1:46 AM
My son AIDEN passed away 2 days after birth cause of death: Trisomy 22 . His father still denies him and doesn’t acknowledge the fact of his very first child passing away. It may seem weird to some but I saved cotton swabs on my sons blood as it poured out of his nose and mouth during his death. I have it placed inside a plastic zip lock bag inside of his memory box . I also cut some strands of his hair. It’s been 2 years now and I’ve been searching on ways I can get a DNA test done. I know for a fact who his father is , but he made me look stupid which left me humiliated and he never once apologized. I just need closure. This is the only part that I can’t move on from without my proof in BLACK & WHITE!! Any suggestions?!
Dijah - 22-Dec-18 @ 9:13 AM
I think someone has done my sis wrong.But she was cremated and she visits saying i was wrong i should have gone for an autopsy.Is there any way her ashes can tell a tale?
rosygirl4 - 16-Dec-18 @ 11:44 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Ankesh
    Re: The Properties of DNA
    Please explain the properties with diagram...it helps to understand the topic Easley
    19 September 2019
  • Kitty
    Re: Using DNA and for Immigration Purposes
    I have 3 children for my ex partner he came to me and told me that immigration have asked for birth certificate of my…
    28 August 2019
  • Laverne
    Re: Using DNA and for Immigration Purposes
    Hi..i am a USC. I petition for my stepchildren who are in Jamaica and the petition has been approved. I have since…
    9 August 2019
  • Mhay
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I need some answer...my son died 24 years ago, August 6,1995, he was born July 29,1995, I just have doubts in my mind, as Fabella Hospital in…
    30 July 2019
  • mich
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I would like to know if an old baseball cap would have my father's dna. My dad passed away in 2010.
    30 July 2019
  • Gurl
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My grandmother passed and I want to do a DNA-genealogical test. I did the 23 and me test and it was revealed I am 47percent Native American.…
    26 July 2019
  • fredab
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    hi , my son passed away ,17 years ago in2001 and he had a baby on the way ,she was born in june 2002 , she is 17 years old now ,but we had…
    27 June 2019
  • Richie
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My sister was adopted by my Aunty at a very young age. We met for the first time when I was 35 years old and she was 45 years. We were in…
    25 June 2019
  • spearmannbails
    Re: DNA and Criminology
    no. deoxyribonucleic acid is to be for biology, and biology only.
    24 June 2019
  • Casey
    Re: DNA Testing for Pets
    Hi, I was wondering if there was any chance you could do a DNA test on my dogs ashes, for a long time we suspected he wasnt full Siberian…
    18 June 2019