Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of a DNA Test

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The science behind DNA testing has advanced at unbelievable rates over the last two decades. When DNA first started to be used commercially, it was typically to determine paternity, testing just a handful of specific DNA markers between the alleged father and child. Now, DNA tests are capable of measuring thousands upon thousands upon thousands of markers, matching you to extremely distant relatives based on just a few shared centimorgans of DNA.

The science is incredible.

Not only can we have a digital copy of our autosomal DNA on our home computer, but it’s affordable too. Companies like 23andme and AncestryDNA have been on the forefront of the DNA revolution, but as with anything, there are critics and skeptics out there. Lately, there’s been a lot of videos circulating about why you shouldn’t do a DNA test. Here’s why those paranoias are unfounded.

1. Privacy

One of the biggest issues I seem to encounter when people are concerned about DNA testing is privacy. People are concerned about “just handing over” their DNA. Some are even worse and think it’s a conspiracy for the government to obtain your DNA. I can’t help but laugh about this one.

Our DNA isn’t exactly private. Everything we touch, we leave traces of DNA. If the government actually wanted my DNA, don’t you think they would have it? They’d send some super smooth CIA agent to follow me to my home, pick up my dirty napkins, used coffee cups, dig through my trash, steal my chapstick out of the center console of my car. If someone wants my DNA bad enough, it wouldn’t be hard to obtain. The same goes for anyone else.

Trust me, if the government wanted your DNA, they’d have it.

2.  Insurance

I don’t know where this idea came from, but so many people are concerned that if they take a DNA test and it reveals anything concerning about their health, that they may lose their health insurance. No, just no. There’s so many things wrong with this idea.

For starters, just because you carry a gene does not mean the gene will be expressed. For example, my father and paternal grandmother both carry genes associated with an autoimmune disease. They did not have them, yet I did, carrying the same gene.

Another example; I carry several genes associated prostate cancer. I’m going to go out on a limb and take a wild guess that I’m not at risk for prostate cancer any time soon.

You also have to take into consideration that if this health data was so valuable that an insurance company would deny coverage due to it, wouldn’t they require DNA testing before offering an individual coverage? Really, think about it. If they wanted this data so bad, wouldn’t they require a DNA test as part of the application process? Surely that would allow them to make a better decision as to whether or not you’re a liability?

3. Legal Concerns

Another fear I encounter when talking about DNA tests is the possible legal concerns that could arise from having DNA on file. For starters, if you’re not out raping and murdering people, you shouldn’t be too worried about someone finding your DNA at a crime scene. That aside, tests submitted through AncestryDNA and 23andme are not legally admissible in court because there is no chain of custody.

I have had 8 legal paternity tests done. At each one, I presented multiple forms of identification, I was fingerprinted, photographed, and then swabbed. I wasn’t allowed to touch the swabs nor the bag. I had to sit still and awkwardly stare at the wall while a gloved stranger rubbed a swab on my cheeks just a bit too roughly. Then I watched them seal my sample in a bag with tamper evident tape.

With a genetic genealogy based test like AncestryDNA or 23andme, there is no chain of custody. I could swab my next door neighbor and register the kit under my own name and no one would ever know. If you’re that concerned, register your kit with a fake name and birthdate. Easy peasy.

4. Identity Theft

Believe it or not, people often ask me about identity theft when it comes to DNA testing. I’m not sure what credit card companies and loan companies these people are using, but I have never had to submit my DNA in order to take out credit. And if someone asks you to provide a DNA sample for a credit card or a mortgage, I’m willing to bet you should stay far, far away from that lender. Last I checked, I can’t steal your gum from the trash and turn in a credit card application with it.

5. Research

This one just baffles me. People are concerned about their DNA being used for research, or being sold to other companies (again, for research). Why is there such an uproar over research? Are you concerned your DNA could help researchers find a way to improve someone’s quality of life? Are you concerned your DNA could lead to a cure for debilitating diseases and illnesses? Are you worried your DNA could assist researchers in improving and advancing modern healthcare?

I don’t get it.

In Conclusion

While it’s good to be cautious and thoroughly evaluate the benefits and risks of a particular good or service, most common fears associated with DNA testing are honestly, quite silly. These risks might sound legitimate when you first hear them, but when you really think about it, there isn’t much to fear. While DNA tests may reveal upsetting or alarming information at times (and you should prepare yourself for this prior to spitting), these tests are an amazing resource, offering truth, transparency and empowerment of those who choose to utilize. DNA testing is opening doors that twenty years ago, we were unaware even existed. DNA tests are changing the world as we know it, and this technology is only in it’s infancy.

Won’t you be part of that change?

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UPDATE Re: How to Take an AncestryDNA Test Without Saliva

As some of you may have seen in a previous blog, I recently devised a method to obtain a saliva sample for DNA testing without using actual saliva. (For full instructions, see my blog post: How to do an AncestryDNA test WITHOUT spit) This method has been questioned by many in genetic genealogy circles, however, I have yet to be made aware of it failing. This method has been successfully used with AncestryDNA as well as 23andme.

I originally developed this method in December 2016 after my daughter refused to spit in the vial without immediately gulping it down right after. Geesh… three-year-olds these days… While begging and pleading with someone who can barely count, I started brainstorming how I could possibly get DNA without spit for this test. I knew it was a frequent problem in some of my DNA circles, especially among elderly people. I thought that maybe my three-year-old could be an important part of figuring out how to obtain a sample. Perhaps this experiment could help other people obtain valuable data that they may not have been able to otherwise. So I jumped in feet first and did my best using what I knew already and what I researched after. I was on pins and needles and kept the whole thing hush-hush until I knew if it worked.

Sure enough, her results came back perfect. At that point, I decided to do another test to demonstrate my method for others to replicate. Jacob was my (super adorable) model and volunteer. Sure enough, just like his cousin’s results, his results came in perfect and exactly as we expected them to.

Additionally, a woman commented on my previous blog that she tried my method with a 23andme kit (and her own mouth) and the results came back correctly, showing her second kit as an identical twin to her first kit!


Now, here’s where I need help. If you used my method, PLEASE comment here on my blog or on my youtube videos and let me know what the outcome was. So far, I am 2 for 2 in the tests I have done using artificial saliva, but that’s not a very large sample size. If you’ve attempted my method, let me know! I’d love to be able to keep track of successes!

So far, the running tally for my method is;

Ancestry: 2/2

23andme: 1/1

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How to do an AncestryDNA test WITHOUT spit

I haven’t written my reviews on the three big ancestral DNA companies, but I plan to soon. When I do, it will become glaringly obvious how obsessed I am with genetic genealogy. The science behind it is amazing, and in many cases (like mine) it can be completely life-altering. There’s one issue though; two of the three companies require saliva samples and not a cheek swab. While this might not seem like a big deal, it can be when you’re trying to test older generations as the elderly often have difficulty trying to produce enough saliva. Sometimes certain medications can also affect spit production. So, while a teaspoon of spit might not seem like a lot, many people have had to forgo testing at their company of choice due to difficulty producing saliva. On individuals who are searching for biological family using genetic genealogy, this is a huge blow and can dramatically reduce the odds of finding good matches. Fortunately, this hasn’t really been an issue for me, but I discovered the solution to this problem doing a “just for fun” test.

I originally developed an interest in genetic genealogy for the purpose of identifying my biological father. It quickly spiralled out of control into a full-blown hobby/addiction. I manage a couple dozen DNA tests for friends and relatives. I tested my daughter in 2015 and when Ancestry had their Black Friday sale (Hello, $69 DNA tests!) I decided to test my remaining children. The 7 year old did fine. The 5 year old did fine. The 3 year old, however, did not. She is strong-willed and refused to let me hold the vial. Problem was, she would spit, then drink it, spit, then drink it, over and over. And if I tried to hold it, she would refuse to even attempt to spit and throw herself on the floor in a tantrum. I was getting stressed once we hit two hours of attempting to collect a sample from a bratty toddler and I gave up.

The spit-drinker and I.

After complaining about it to my husband, he asked me “Well, is there a way to do it without her spitting into the tube?” I tried explaining that the topic comes up frequently on my DNA group, but as far as I am aware, no one has figured out how yet. He suggested I figure it out.

Challenge accepted.

I did a lot of research and learned that saliva is approximately 99% water and the remainder is electrolytes, enzymes and other naturally occurring substances. I kept researching how to make artificial saliva and after a few days, I was pretty sure I had a theory figured out. My biggest concern was that I would accidentally create a hypotonic solution and the cells would burst, but at this point, what would it hurt to at least try? If it fails, it fails. If it succeeds, I could help a lot of people in much more serious predicaments than a strong willed toddler. If my ridiculous amount of biology courses prepared me for anything, it was for this moment. I took a leap of faith, created an artificial saliva solution and guess what? It worked. Perfectly. I was on pins and needles the entire time her sample was processing, but as soon as those results came in, I knew I had figured it out! I was shocked. I was sooooo sure the test would fail. So here’s the information YOU will need in order to re-create my artificial saliva test kit.

If you have the time, PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO. It can be so much easier to understand with the visual/audio explanation versus the written! Please watch the video before asking me questions! I know it’s long, but bear with me!


You will not need a lot of supplies, but you will need more than if you were to just spit in the tube.

1: Create Your Artificial Saliva Solution

  1. Pour a fair amount of distilled water into one of the clean cups.
  2. Spray a small amount of saline into another clean cup until it pools in the bottom.
  3. Measure 99ml of distilled water into the third clean cup.
  4. Measure 1ml of saline into the third clean cup.
  5. Discard the two unmixed cups.

2: Take Your Sample

Now the fun part! You will need to obtain your sample.

  1. Measure approximately 5ml of your artificial saliva and fill the test tube 2-3mm ABOVE the fill line. As you remove swabs, liquid will be removed from the container, so overfilling it very slightly will not be a problem.
  2. Swab the GUM brushes on the cheeks 10-20 seconds, then place tip down into the DNA tube to soak for another 10-20 seconds. You may “stir” them in the tube as well. Remove the swab carefully allowing the liquid to drip off of it and into the vial, and scraping the swab along the edge to ensure as much is left behind as possible.
  3. Repeat above until all 8 swabs have been used. While swabbing, it is best to leave the previous swab in the solution to soak.

Note: If the mouth is especially dry, dip the swab tip in your excess solution before swabbing.

3: Proceed as normal

At this point, your saliva sample should look identical to actual saliva. It’s actually pretty cool. If you tilt and swish it near a light source, you should be able to see debris from the cheeks and it should be thick and slimy just like actual spit. Screw on the cap with the stabilizing liquid, place it in the pouch, seal the box and ship it in!



This method was very successful for me. I used it to obtain DNA results for my bratty strong willed 3 year old who kept drinking her spit, despite my pleas and attempts at bribery. Her results, despite my doubts about my methods, came back perfectly and took the normal amount of processing time when compared to other kits obtained through normal spitting.

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