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Who and why

We are a team of professional historians, researchers and scientists with a passion for genealogy, using DNA to grow family trees even further.

Launched in July 2018, we are the first company in the world to offer commercially-available testing of envelopes, postcards with stamp/s, aerogrammes and other artefacts from deceased relatives for genealogical purposes. We are based in Brisbane, Australia, and have clients from all over the world.

Our current focus is to generate an autosomal DNA (atDNA) text file compatible for use with GEDmatch, a free genealogy database where people who have tested across any of the commercial DNA genealogy providers upload their DNA file. If we are able to obtain sufficient quality DNA from our client’s sample, they are then able to use DNA from a deceased ancestor to understand more about their genealogy and family tree. 

We also offer services to funeral directors to enable next of kin to store a decedent’s DNA, or undertake further processing. Funeral directors should contact eternalDNA@totheletterDNA.com for password access to more information and pricing at our Funeral Directors page.

We also offer Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) which is a proven method to deal with older, degraded DNA samples - typical of our sample types. While we have successfully genotyped atDNA files for a number of our clients on Illumina’s Global Screening Array (GSA), it has been challenging to deliver consistently good results with this approach.

The very first step in our process is to assess if human cells are present on an item. This has an upfront cost of $180AUD (around $120USD as at August 2019). From there, if sufficient material is found, we then undertake further processing to enable either genotyping or WGS - we discuss options first with each customer.

The process is as follows:

  1. We assess the sample for DNA present ($180AUD). If sufficient DNA is found, we then undertake quality checks (QC) to determine suitability of the sample for genotyping or Whole Genome Sequencing ($120AUD).

  2. If suitable for genotyping, we genotype on the Illumina Global Screening Array chip ($531AUD) - a total price of $831AUD (around $565USD as at August 2019). This process generates an autosomal DNA file.

  3. If the sample is not suitable for genotyping, we can store the sample to await technology improvements, or for the price of Whole Genome Sequencing to drop. We can also progress to Whole Genome Sequencing ($3460AUD / approx $2385USD which includes the already paid assessment and QC cost of $180AUD + $120AUD*. This provides an autosomal DNA file, as well as the full WGS data file.

*Customers who placed orders before 20 January 2019 are offered Option 3 for $2766AUD / approx $1909USD.

WGS is clearly more expensive than the GSA. The advantage to WGS is that it will provide both chromosomal (including Y-DNA in the case of males) and mitochondrial DNA data. We do anticipate that the price of WGS will reduce over time and therefore a customer may prefer for totheletter DNA to hold the DNA on their behalf until the price has reduced.

The reason why some vendors are able to provide WGS at a much reduced cost to our pricing is that due to the DNA we find invariably being degraded and low yield, a different approach is required to the standard “saliva in a tube” approach. We also perform bioinformatics analysis on the output from WGS in order to create an atDNA file. These factors contribute to the higher cost for WGS for artefacts.

We advise our customers that there is always a possibility that DNA will not be found in the sample (this is determined after assessment), or that the DNA will be degraded to the degree that it cannot be progressed (this is determined after QC).

There is also the possibility that the DNA will not belong to the person the customer anticipates. As we extract DNA from under the flap or stamp, and take extensive precautions to remove any external DNA from a sample, as well as undertake extractions using forensic procedures in world-class accredited laboratories, we do our best to remove the possibility of contamination. Customers accept these risks when placing an order.

Our progress and new product offerings can be followed on our FaceBook page totheletter DNA, or the News page of this site.

We are committed to providing our services at a fair and reasonable price. Pricing in Australian Dollars (with an estimate in US Dollars) is advertised on our buy page. You can pay in any currency which will be automatically converted to Australian Dollars.

Customers can also pay in their own currency into our bank accounts in USD, Euro, GBP, NZD or AUD.

Any changes to pricing will be published here and on our FaceBook page. We anticipate that WGS will reduce in price and will ensure our customers benefit from any reductions in our costs.

We are also able to advise and assist coroners with the use of genetic genealogy to assist in the identification of unidentified human remains. Please visit our Genetic Genealogy page and email info@totheletterDNA.com for further information on this service.

Our business is conducted in accordance with the ethics prescribed in the Genetic Genealogy Standards 2015. To read these, click here.

We are an Australian-registered company ACN 626 042 028 / ABN 97 625 793 808 and operate in accordance with Australian laws and legislation.

*Please email us for specific pricing on other artefacts including hair brushes, shavers, spectacles, teeth and other items.