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artefacts and dNA testing

Scientists have been able to extract DNA from envelopes, stamps and other artefacts for some time. But it's been difficult, expensive and time consuming. Results have been used for forensic crime solving rather than genealogy. We are working to optimise our processes to extract sufficient quantity and quality DNA from envelopes from your loved ones. We are now also offering extractions from other types of artefacts including hair brushes, razors, teeth - and will consider any artefact type - please email info@totheletterDNA.com for further information.

We do not guarantee we will be able to extract DNA from the artefacts our clients provide. In the case of an envelope or stamp, some people do not have sufficient DNA in their saliva. If the item has been exposed to moisture or sunlight the DNA will be impacted. The older the item, the more difficult it will be, as DNA may degrade over time. You also can't even be sure who you think sealed the item did indeed lick the envelope, seal or stamp, or was the only person who used the hair brush or razor. There is also a very real risk of contamination of the DNA after years of handling by others. You can minimise this risk by using surgical gloves when handling your item and store it in a paper bag in a cool, dry place. We also have stringent procedures in place in our labs to reduce this risk.

Clients are welcome in the first instance to email a photo of the envelope, postcard with stamp/s or aerogramme (front and back), or artefact to us at info@totheletterDNA.com. We will do a visual assessment of the item. If it appears suitable for attempting to extract DNA, we will notify you via email.

We do not always extract sufficient DNA from every item we test. There is no way to determine from a visual inspection whether the item will yield sufficient DNA - we have success and failure on items that appear pretty much identical in age and condition. We have, however, introduced a new step through which we can visual any human cells on the item. This means that we can target those cells during the extraction process. Nevertheless, some items simply will not have suitable DNA to enable progressing to the step of creating the file you need for genealogical purposes. You should be aware of this prior to placing an order with us.

You will pay $180AUD for the assessment (when we visualise the DNA) regardless of whether we are able to progress your item. If we do not find DNA at this point, that will be the end of the road for your item.

If we do find DNA, we will then ask you to make another payment ($120AUD) so we can check the quality of the DNA. After this step we will be able to advise you whether your item is likely to perform on the Illumina Global Screening Array, or via Whole Genome Sequencing. Some customers may prefer to undertake Whole Genome Sequencing in any case given this will provide both chromosomal and mitochondrial data. In the first instance, you will only pay the assessment fee and will be able to consider your options after the results have been provided to you.

In the case of envelopes, postcards and aerogrammes, you can either prepare the item at home and send us the portion we will test - click here for guidelines. If you prefer, we can return the remainder of the item to you via registered post for $30AUD after we have prepared the item for extraction. For other artefact types, there may be a further cost for both the extraction (as it may be more complex) and the return of your item. If this is the case, you will be advised of this during the visual inspection phase.

Click here to check out our Artefact FAQs.