By: Jeremy Balkin

For the most part, you won’t need to resubmit a sample to upgrade your DNA test, however in the case of a deceased relative lab failures, or an inadequate amount of sample, you may need to.

We have decided to start a series of posts that highlight a common question asked by our customers. Whether it’s a specific question asked with higher frequency over the past month or a recurring question over the years, we want to be able to address everything Customer Service handles on a daily basis.

Our first contender: If I upgrade my account to further testing, will I need to re-submit a new sample kit?

Short Answer: Most likely, no.

Long Answer: Most likely no, but there are always exceptions. Those instances where we may need you to re-submit a sample include:

  • We don’t have enough viable samples left
  • There are no more samples left in storage for a tester

These exceptions may limit our ability to run multiple tests, or even one upgrade test, on what we have.

One of the things that sets FamilyTreeDNA apart from others in our industry is the wide variety of tests we offer. In the beginning, there was Y chromosome testing. You would send your samples to us, and we’d test them. Easy peasy.

As new testing was developed over time, the need for customers to get test results for different areas of their genes became a possibility, such as mitochondrial DNA testing or autosomal testing.

Today, as technology has improved along with the methods that go into commercial genetic ancestral testing, we can run multiple tests* from one sample kit. Back then, when you tested, a world of possibility awaited you. Today, worlds await.

What Happened to the Sample That I Sent?

As with anything that seems too good to be true, there are exceptions. Everyone is different, and everyone’s samples are different. In the majority of cases, if someone tests and later decides to upgrade their account for further testing and results, the upgrade will run on the remaining samples they originally sent to us. However, this isn’t always the case.

One important thing to mention is that, while they are stored in our state-of-the-art facility, your samples will still degrade over time. We do everything we can to ensure that this process happens as slowly as possible, but nothing can completely stop the inevitable decay that comes with the slow passage of time. Although I could have admittedly written that last sentence in a much less dour tone, the fact remains.

As a general rule, the shorter the amount of time that a sample waits in our storage facility, the higher the likelihood of us getting a result.

If you were one of the pioneers of genetic genealogy by originally having your samples tested in the early 2000s, the remaining samples we have for you are less likely to procure a result than if you tested in the past handful of years.

Another very important thing to consider when upgrading your account is the specific test you’re ordering. Some tests, like the Big Y-700, are much larger and typically use more samples than others.

What if I Want To Upgrade a DNA Test for a Relative Who Passed Away?

If you manage the account of a relative or friend who has passed and are not sure if there are samples left in storage to upgrade, let us know! Customer Service should easily be able to tell you if there are additional samples in storage, how many samples there are, and how old they are.

In these cases, if the deceased relative is a biological male, we recommend upgrading the kit one DNA test at a time.
For example, if you’re interested in upgrading a deceased relative’s account for both mtDNA and Y-DNA, it may be best to start by upgrading only the Y-DNA first. Wait until those results are hopefully complete, and then contact us again to see if additional testing remains to upgrade the mtDNA test.

When I Upgraded My Test, They Said There Wasn’t Enough Sample Left to Process.

It’s rare, but it happens. You ordered a test, and we weren’t able to get results on the samples we have in-house. Or, you ordered a test, and we couldn’t begin testing because we have no samples left at all for you in storage.

If we aren’t able to get results on the sample we have in-house we will attempt testing again on your samples, depending on the test ordered. If that still doesn’t work, we have a policy that determines what happens next.

If you order an upgrade and it turns out we don’t have any samples left to test, we will typically mail a replacement sample kit to you to get more. This is why it’s important to keep the mailing address on your kit up to date.

To update:

  • Sign into your kit
  • Click your name in the top right corner
  • Click Account Settings
  • Scroll down to make sure your shipping address is up to date
  • Click “Save” from the very bottom.


While we’re here, above the Save button is an option to check a box if the tester represented by this account is deceased.

If this is the case, check the box and enter the Date of Birth and Place of Birth above it, and be sure to click Save again. If you do this, we will never ship another kit out for this account.

Can I Prevent Needing to Swab Again To Upgrade?

If you order a new test kit, whether for yourself or someone else, and are not sure that the tester may be able to potentially provide additional samples in the future if needed, you are more than welcome to request that we ship out extra swabs and vials to the tester.

In this way, the tester can swab their cheeks with their main two swabs and a couple of extra ones. So, once it’s mailed back to us, we will have additional samples in storage to better ensure future testing has adequate samples.

If and when you contact us, the more detail you can provide about the tester and the situation (i.e., if the tester is older or may be reluctant to swab again in the future, etc.), the more notes we can make on our end to make sure everything runs smoothly moving forward.

We’d much rather ship several extra swabs and vials to a tester upfront than have to ship a replacement kit in the future after an upgrade has already been ordered, causing a delay.

We hate making you wait. Maybe it’s our impatience. Maybe it’s our people-pleasing gene. Maybe it’s because we, as humans, feel inadequate compared to all of the hyper-efficient, automated lab machines here, showing us up every day.

Whatever the reason, we want to get results as soon as humanly (and robot-ly) possible.

Do You Have Questions You Want Answered?

Do you have a common question or concern you think should be addressed more prominently?
Add a comment below!

Jeremy Balkin - FamilyTreeDNA Blog

About the Author

Jeremy Balkin

Customer Service Manager at FamilyTreeDNA

Jeremy Balkin has been active in genetic genealogy for 11+ years and has been writing his whole adult life. Through helping customers daily, helping his team, and continuing to write, he hopes to continue to connect with more people on the subject using his own blend of knowledge and humor.

Working for FamilyTreeDNA itself has shaped the past quarter of his life, and mostly for the better. It has become a part of him, and he hopes to never lose it. In his free time, Jeremy likes to spend time with his nine-year-old son and girlfriend, Gillian.