By: Roberta Estes

Thanks to FamilyTreeDNA’s DNA sample freezer, I was able to revisit my mother and her genealogy, even after her passing. Learn how their advanced testing options helped me uncover new discoveries about my family’s history.

Of course, I always think of my mother, both prior to and on Mother’s Day. When our mothers are still with us, it’s tradition to give them a gift on their special day to let them know how much we love and appreciate them. I always tried to find something Mom would really appreciate, like flowers or chocolate, her favorite. What she liked best, though, was to have her children and grandchildren visit and spend time with her.

How We Celebrated Mother’s Day

Sometimes, Mom and I would celebrate by driving through the countryside, spelunking through cemeteries in search of our ancestors, and joyfully discussing genealogy. We made it a family affair by taking my daughter along too. Three generations of mothers and daughters.

My mother has been gone since 2006, so clearly I can’t remember her in the same way anymore. In an ironic twist of fate, it’s now Mom who gives to me every single day through her DNA, which she left behind in the freezer at FamilyTreeDNA.

My Mother’s DNA

Mom took her first DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA in 2003, which was long before autosomal DNA testing was available. However, because FamilyTreeDNA archives your DNA for 25 years, there was DNA available in 2011 when the autosomal Family Finder test initially became available.
Additionally, because we had access to her actual DNA, we could also upgrade her mitochondrial DNA to the mtFull Sequence test. Relatives of men can upgrade their Y-DNA in addition to mitochondrial and autosomal.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to tour the lab at FamilyTreeDNA, hosted by Bennett Greenspan, founder of FamilyTreeDNA

On that day, I wore Mom’s ring, which she had worn every day since she received it from her parents on her 16th birthday, that I received from her.

Standing in front of the freezer, touching her ring, I told Bennett that I was visiting Mom, that she was in there, and there was more of “her” in there now than any other place in the world, except maybe in me. But then again, I only carry half of her DNA. Bennett, a genealogist himself, paused for a moment, smiled, and opened the freezer door for me so I could take this photo.

I could see the robotic arm moving back and forth, and of course, I had no idea where Mom was in this little mini-freezer-cemetery. But she was there just the same, and I visited her.

I stood there for a long minute, peering inside, saying a little private prayer, and trying to hide the tears welling up in my eyes.

I know Bennett probably had no idea just how important it would be to people like me to be able to resurrect a little bit of Mom and, along with her, our ancestors’ history after someone’s death. Had it not been for his foresight to archive the DNA for 25 years and his willingness to purchase a highly customized freezer to do it, I would never have been able to recover Mom’s autosomal DNA and, along with it, the half of her autosomal DNA that I didn’t inherit.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Now, when someone matches both my mother and me, it’s a sure-fire way to know that match is from her side of the family. Thanks to Mom’s Family Finder test, I can use all of her 4687 matches and not just my 1536 maternal matches.

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank Mom for testing with FamilyTreeDNA all those years ago. She not only gave me the gift of life but also the eternal gift of her DNA, and through that, our ancestors.

So, when you’re wondering where to test your DNA, strongly consider the fact that FamilyTreeDNA archives your DNA sample when you order an original test and swab with them. You may not care, but your family just might. Uploading your DNA file from another company is not the same as having your actual DNA at FamilyTreeDNA.

About The Author

Roberta Estes

Genealogy Subject Matter Expert
Roberta Estes, author of the book, DNA for Native American Genealogy, and popular blog is a scientist, National Geographic Genographic affiliate researcher, Million Mito team member and founding pioneer in the genetic genealogy field.

An avid 40-year genealogist, Roberta has written over 1600 articles at DNAexplain about genetic genealogy as well as how to combine traditional genealogy with DNA to solve those stubborn ancestor puzzles. Roberta took her first DNA test in 1999 and hasn’t stopped.