I have a deceased cousin that has a yDNA-12 test from 2004. I would like to upgrade their test to yDNA-111, BIG-Y, and Family Finder Autosomal.

I'm concerned that their sample is twelve years old and may not be a good one, plus I don't have access to their login on FTDNA. Also, how long are these samples retained by Family Tree DNA?

How should I approach this with FamilyTreeDNA to get permission and maximize the information we can get out of this sample? Should I instruct them to upgrade in a particular order? Should I inform them of the goal and let them drive the process? Can the Big-Y be done together with the upgrade of the STRs to 111? Or perhaps it is better to do Big-Y on other distant cousins and based on results of those do targeted testing?

  • 1
    @PolyGeo Regardless of whether the sample is viable or not, I think the more important question here is whether William has any right to upgrade a cousin's test at all. Given the sample is from a deceased person, surely FamilyTreeDNA has policies in place to prevent strangers from purchasing tests on other people's samples without permission from the either the individual before their death, or their next of kin.
    – Harry V.
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 3:24

2 Answers 2


First of all, I'm very sorry for your loss.

I asked a very similar question as My Father passed away - next test(s) on what remains of his DNA sample? a few months ago and the answer was extremely helpful. I'm happy to say that I was able to perform everything on my Father -- mtFull, Family Finder, Y-111 and Big Y all successfully. Everything but mtFull was done after he was deceased. However, a big part of the reason for that was because my Father had four vials of samples as opposed to just two. This is because he tested through the Genographic Project originally and at that time they handled his maternal and paternal lines separately, which thankfully yielded four samples.

Anyway, that doesn't help you much if you only have two vials of sample to work with. Do call FTDNA and find out how much sample is left for your cousin and see what they suggest. Not always, but in general I've found their staff to be very helpful.

There are other people here who know far more than I do, but if after doing the Big-Y you take it over to YFull, they can usually give you a pretty good Y-111 using their granular system, without using up any more sample. If a Family Finder from your cousin would be very relevant to you, you may want to do that and a Big-Y, knowing that YFull can help in terms of a Y-111. Of course if there is any sample left over after doing those two, you may be able to do a Y-111 anyway at FTDNA.

You really need to think about what would be the most helpful to you and important to get. If there is truly no other living person who can provide a Y sample, that would be pretty important in my book. At the same time, Family Finder from the right person can be invaluable. Definitely choose which test you're going to do very carefully.

Another note: whatever you order, do it by phone with FTDNA and make sure that they know that the subject has deceased. I did that with my Father and so every time I spoke to them at the different stages of testing, they were well aware that he was deceased and I'd like to think that they took extra care at the lab, etc. because they knew that fact.

Anyway, best of luck. It's a big decision and I certainly can sympathize.


I spoke with Family Tree DNA and was told to do the following to get permission to upgrade:

  • Provide a copy of the Death Certificate
  • Get permission in writing from the executor of the estate to take possession of the DNA.

Once Family Tree DNA gets these and confirms them, the DNA ownership can be transferred and additional testing performed.

I also asked how long samples are kept and was told 25 years.

  • Fascinating that FTDNA essentially considers a person's DNA a part of their estate. This raises the question of who owns the DNA sample if there is no executor; is it simply the next of kin (however that is defined)?
    – Harry V.
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 23:40
  • @HarryVervet ftDNA is the only testing service that I have seen that has a designated beneficiary configuration. While it is not ownership deceased individuals who gave permission to Project Admins to fully administer their account also have a lot of access to the sample and in some cases can order additional tests. Project Admins cannot however download the raw data unless the user has provided them their username and password to their account.
    – CRSouser
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 16:48
  • Wow -- I'm very surprised that FTDNA took such a stance, though I guess it makes some kind of sense. In the case of my.late Father, they requested none of those things. However, the FTDNA account was associated with my email address (and my postal address) to begin with (as is every kit for every individual I've had tested at FTDNA), so it should be glaringly obvious to them that I'm the one managing it and always have been. Perhaps that makes a difference.
    – user4707
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 6:23
  • @Peter_Chamdo4Ever Yes, if you can log into the account, there is no issue.
    – WilliamKF
    Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 19:00

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