Are you a lick away from Granny’s DNA? Forensic DNA For Genealogy ~ Artifact Testing

Update: September 2022: I have no affiliation with the company To The Letter. I follow them from the day they announced their plans to sequence artifact DNA – delightful!!!

During the pandemic, they like all went through difficult times for their service. I follow them via their news emails and on Facebook. If you are on Facebook you can read this update about their schedules going forward.

Written previously:

Oh, I can’t wait. I must have something processed with the new hope, new players for DNA for genealogy testing companies, it might be this will get off the ground this time. Toothbrushes, letters with stamps, hair. My brother-in-law has possession of two of my dad’s wisdom teeth that were pulled. I have two of his letters with stamps and partial flaps, that I have talked incessantly about testing since 2012.

There are so many artifacts of our loved ones and we should stop touching them and place them carefully in an appropriate safe place.

We work to identify family often because we loved granny so much, or never knew great granny, but there are also the very special artifacts that give us hope for the identification of deceased members of the military returning home, and the Jane and John Does and more.

I can’t imagine there is any Skilcraft Pen that was used for an emergency battlefield  tracheotomy, that has survived to get the DNA from, but I would not go without my vintage Skilcraft in my ladies bag, which yes includes makeup.

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“…There are other things these pens can be reportedly used for that weren’t covered in the original requirements. It’s rumored that it can be used for an emergency tracheotomy where the plastic tube is placed in an incision in the trachea to allow breathing from an obstruction…”

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These are photos of my personal skilcraft. – This of course is a dream for future testing.

A necessity for the well prepared person – use at home, on the road, or on the battlefield – it will write too.

The possibilities are many and the questions are growing. What if the DNA turns out not to be the person you hoped for – someone else licked the stamp? When can you use hair shaft for having commercial autosomal DNA?

I rescued a box of letters from one family years ago. I have lots of letters and so on but one family collection in particular. I did find them and gave most of them to the descendant and spouse. I said then there have been a few that I worked with to identify and locate and those were in a shoe box and would have to come later.

The box is found and the possibilities are just wonderful – two generations – really three of letter writers and savers.

In the early 20th century brother Hugh writes to his sister Bessie. Bessie writes to Chris Sr and Chris Sr writes to Bessie. All these have sealed envelope flaps also and there are many. Later Bessie writes to her son in WWII Chris Jr and Chris Jr writes to his Mom. Then Chris has about a dozen letters of girl friends writing to him and another dozen of military friends writing to him from his training through the war.

I was able to find so many people, I need to make findagraves for those who do not have them. They are all gone now – but their DNA might be in amazing pieces of history.

Copy of bessie to chris and chris to later wife

This WWII letter from Chris Jr. to Margaret is marked RETURN TO SENDER. Idle Gossip Sinks Ships and adds ‘sealed envelope’. And it is still sealed, opened from the side, and empty. Could this be the DNA of Chris Jr. on the sealed back flap? There are several envelopes likely to have his DNA

Copy of hugh crane to bessie and friends to chris brown jr wwii

The top letter was from Margaret to Chris Jr.  I am willing to bet her DNA is what sealed the flap of that top envelope – it has S.W.A.K. and her kiss in red lipstick. There are several of them from Margaret S. (also identified) But the bottom letter, maybe there was no censor at that facility that day – but this would be scary to hazard more than a guess whether this will really be Hailey or not, but the back is sealed. It might also have just gotten stuck to itself but it would be a remote chance. Did he come back from the war? I still have not found his descendants to share the letter.

1 1Copy of Copy of bessie to chris father and chris father to bessie

The top love letter was from Bessie to Chris Sr, and the other two are from Chris Sr to Bessie. All the flaps are sealed on the envelopes

1 Copy of hugh crane to sister bessie and to chris jr

The top letter — from Hugh to his sister Bessie — would be priceless for researching Bessie’s father’s family,. The bottom is to Chris Jr and the writer begins ‘to Jr.’ and signs… ‘write son’ and then a terrible scribble of a signature.

totheletter DNA

There is also this exciting Australian company and we are excited to follow the progress of their initial batches of testing artifacts. I am following them also on Facebook and we are expecting to hear in the next weeks about the results. You must follow them there also.

totheletter DNA Facebook page

They will resume. Notice in 2021 from totheletter:


What’s going on behind the scenes at totheletter DNA?
We receive enquiries about our services every day from interested clients. We advise them that we are working on improving our process to get better results before we take their orders again.
There have been advancements and we anticipate accepting orders again before the end of the year.
We expect to offer three tiers of service, which will provide a path to genealogical data from artefacts, depending on the quality and quantity of DNA found in an artefact. Clients will always have the options specific to their case presented to them after extraction. They can then decide whether they wish to proceed down the recommended path(s), or not….”

LivingDNA is said to be taking on testing of artifacts but I am yet to see a price but you can write to them and ask!

The list is growing of all the wonderful letters – possibly with DNA and I guess I have left the trail to mine in this digital record.

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1 Copy of Copy of margaret card 2

Of all the letters, Margaret wrote and wrote countless letters. Chris kept them all and several of the wonderful cards she sent along with a lock of hair.

1 Copy of margaret hair

Soon, we will be testing DNA from everything from hair brushes to toothbrushes but we will have to make sure they were not shared. The desire to get DNA from our deceased ancestors is so powerful that now many funeral homes offer to scrape for a fee. How far back can we go?

I love to share information about the sources for getting the best in information. Blaine T Bettinger also has a website to follow (AND please follow me also) – Blaine’s website will lead you to his many projects that we all must support. His shared cMs project just this week hit 50,000 submissions. He has a teaching site also with fees and he has his wonderful free access page and Facebook group!

Blaine T Bettinger’s site:

To this day the source to go to – with the latest and most comprehensive information on artifact testing and all things genetic genealogy. He has been at this at least as long as I have but his sties have been on not only making this understandable for us all – but he is also mastering the science – creating new features and tools, – and is both learning and teaching.

Testing Artifacts to Obtain DNA Evidence for Genealogical Research

I have no shame – I will ask for your readership also – and on the right you can click and follow me also for the latest I see and hear. I am a short space behind in artifact testing and report but you will have my story on how this works out also in the coming months.

I also want a tradition of music for genealogy – songs for blogs – you will see my music for family history page also with my collection of songs and videos for genealogy, genetic genealogy, history and herstory!

Heirlooms by Amy Grant

5 thoughts on “Are you a lick away from Granny’s DNA? Forensic DNA For Genealogy ~ Artifact Testing

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