How can I DNA test my dying grandfather in a remote village in Mexico?
August 5, 2020 6:21 PM   Subscribe

My grandfather in Mexico is indegenous blood, and very ill. He and our family want to 23andMe test his blood to find out what tribes his blood is from. I can order a kit on amazon but they don't deliver to his village. I can send it myself USPS to him, but it will take weeks and I fear his saliva might go bad, or he may pass before the kit arrives. In case he passes in the next few days, would spitting in a ziplock and freezing it be good enough? Can he get a 23&me in Mexico somehow? Any advice would be great.
posted by maxexam to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
23andme does not accept samples from the deceased. Sorry to hear about his health.
posted by Seeking Direction at 6:32 PM on August 5, 2020

I've seen kits in stores recently (I think CVS?), if cutting out the delivery time for the kit to get to *you* first is helpful.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:48 PM on August 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok great, maybe we can test him while he is alive, how can I get him a kit fast?
posted by maxexam at 6:50 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Before you go through all of this, check and make sure that any of these services can give you information as specific as what you are looking for. Otherwise, your investing a lot of time and money and you'll be disappointed in the end.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:57 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My family members have used the service. It's what we want.
posted by maxexam at 7:01 PM on August 5, 2020

UPS, DHL, or FedEx are about the only reliable ways to ship to Mexico that i'm aware of.

if you think the USPS is struggling, the Mexican postal service effectively barely exists. i was told not to bother sending postcards out of the country. did anyway - arrived in six months.

apparently trying to send stuff into the country by USPS is just as bad, since it then gets handed off to the Mexican postal service.

source: have lived there and considered the logistics of shipping to and from the USA.
posted by squiddish at 7:03 PM on August 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Not sure how current these sources are:
Another look at DNA: life after death [Collecting DNA samples at death] (The Legal Genealogist, Jan 28, 2018)
How to DNA Test a Parent Who’s Passed Away (Family Tree Magazine) (Family Tree DNA also has this Mexico DNA Project.)
I'm sorry your grandfather is ill. If he has biological offspring in the US, it may be easier to test them.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:32 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

If all else fails:
See if you can get a sterile swab and test tube from the local clinic (human or veterinary). Do some cheek swabs with Q-tips and place into sterile saline. Do 2.5ml of spit into empty sterile tube. Keep everything in the fridge (not the freezer).

The 23AndMe kit provides a DNA stabilization buffer that helps extend the stability for up to 6 months in a wide range of temperatures.

In this case, you can collect the sample, keep it cold, mix it with the buffer as soon as possible, send it in, and hope for the best.
posted by dum spiro spero at 7:35 PM on August 5, 2020 [9 favorites]

Our business has always used DHL only for important documents going to Mexico. Send the kit to him using that. The sample should stay preserved for months once it’s taken and hopefully your family can get it back to you within that time frame.
posted by quince at 8:08 PM on August 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Echoing everyone who has said to not even try to use USPS to Mexico.

I find UPS to be a little uneven in the Yucatán, but DHL and FedEx are both very quick and reliable to the U.S.

I would suggest getting the kit, overnighting the tube to spit in, overnighting it back, and you handling everything from there on.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:46 PM on August 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

23andme does not accept samples from the deceased.

That discussion (which is clarified a bit more in the linked podcast at around 32 minutes and 35 seconds) appears to be about their inability to process samples that were collected from deceased people's remains, not a statement of policy about accepting/processing samples that were collected from a living person who died before the sample's submission.
posted by solotoro at 7:55 AM on August 6, 2020 [7 favorites]

Thank you, solotoro - I stand corrected.
posted by Seeking Direction at 9:28 AM on August 6, 2020

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