DNA testing widely used and find numerous applications in anything from crime solving and forensic investigations to solving paternity disputes through DNA paternity testing to understanding the pathology of certain diseases. In Ancestry testing and genealogy, DNA testing is also an invaluable tool to trace family trees and establish whether biological relationships exist between people.

We have put together five famous cases that are of great interest

James Brown: The sensational American singer and dancer James Brown, who is amongst the greatest artists of the 20th century and who died in 2006, is at the centre of several paternity disputes. Most of the claims have come in after the death of the artist’s death. The lawyer representing Brown’s partner, Tomi Rae Hynie, have agreed over the DNA sampling required to do the testing. Brown married 4 times and Tomi claims that her child’s father is James Brown. There were a total of 12 paternity testing disputes after the death of the star; however, only 2 of these 12 turned out to be inclusions of paternity. When you have had an affair with someone rich and famous, it may be worth doing a paternity of any children you have…just in case the father of the child is someone like James Brown.

Eddie Murphy: Mel B, the X-spice girl member who dated Eddie Murphy, the comic actor who starred in films such as Dreamgirl and The Nutty Professor, insisted that he has fathered her child, Iris and took her X-boyfriend to court to force him to take a paternity DNA test and acknowledge the child. Murphy refused to take an out-of-court paternity test as he was adamant on the fact the child was not his and that until he had concrete proof, as provided by a paternity DNA test, he would not assume any parental responsibilities. The paternity test, which was done with the inclusion of the mother’s samples along with Murphy’s and his alleged child, proved that he was the father of the child. Melanie Brown claimed that what she did in forcing a paternity test on Murphy was a means of representing the voice of millions of single mothers who bring up children single-handedly and wish for the children’s father to participate in the upbringing of the child.

Anna Nicole Smith: The X-Playboy girl who married J. Howard Marshall, the oil millionaire, when she was a young girl in her 20s and he 89, had a child from her lawyer, Howard K. Stern who represented her in her legal battle after the death of her husband Marshall.  Smith was not included in Marshall’s will and pursued legal action claiming half his estate. Stern, her lawyer, was sure he was the father of Anna Nicole’s baby as the timing of the pregnancy coincided with the time of their affair. However, Smith’s X-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead also claimed that he must be the father of the child and he went ahead to file a paternity law suit. A paternity DNA test promptly followed to solve the issues. When Daneilynn was born, Stern was registered as the father on the birth certificate. The DNA paternity test confirmed that Birkhead and not Stern was the biological father with an inclusion of 99.99%. Birkhead went through legal channels in order to amend the name of the father on the child’s birth certificate and have his name instead of Stern’s.

Marie Antoinette: The Versailles queen (1755-1793), married to King Louis XVI was recently subject of a DNA test.  The test involved very sophisticated DNA testing techniques which involved using Marie Antoinette’s hair. The aim of the test was to establish whether the son of the King and Queen died as a child in prison. The heart of the alleged Dauphin of France was taken out of its burial place; DNA was taken from it and compared with Marie Antoinette’s and descendents of the French royal family, namely the Bourbons. When Louis the XVI was guillotined in the revolution of 1789, the boy was being held in prison and was most historical accounts, state that he was later executed. The tests confirmed the Marie Antoinette was the mother of the boy by means of an MtDNA test (mitochondrial DNA test) using a sample of the queen’s hair. Therefore, contrary to popular belief, the little dauphin had not been taken somewhere safe, got away from the clasps of the French revolution and possibly had a direct line of living descendents in the present day. The remains of the little King are now definitely those of the French King, Louis XVII and are buried in the church of St. Denis outside Paris with the remains of other French monarchs.

Thomas Jefferson: The third president of the United States, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, a seminal work on the American constitution, has had his named marred by rumors that he may have had children from his slave, Sally Hemings, some 200 years ago. Jefferson went against the grain, championing emancipation of black people, however, wrote against marriages between blacks and whites, claiming that it degraded the white race. If Jefferson did father children from his black slave, it would mean he went against his own writings. Sally Hemming’s child, Eston, was exhumed and DNA samples taken and compared to Jefferson’s. The Y-chromosome tests, used to establish the male lineage, concluded that there was a marked similarity between the DNA of Jefferson and Eston and other of Jefferson’s present day alleged decedents. The test did not establish any direct links with 100% accuracy however.

When one considers that DNA testing has been successful on remains dating hundreds and sometimes even thousands of years, we can understand why it finds application in so many fields. DNA contains a wealth of information about us, how we lived, the illnesses we contracted, the society we live in and so much more. DNA testing is reliable and accurate. Moreover, it cannot lie. Unless there is a mistake in sampling, for example submitting the wrong swabs in a paternity DNA test, a it cannot give false results.

Other related articles

Dominique Strauss Kahn; the defense has requested the results of DNA tests. The managing director of IMF (International Monetary Fund), Dominique Strauss Kahn, is facing trial after being accused of the alleged rape of a waitress in a hotel in New York. Several DNA tests were carried out on the scratches and other marks found on the victim and Strauss Kahn.

The birth, life and death of the one of the most well-known historical Kings in the history of ancient Egypt- Tutankhamen– has had his DNA tested using his ancient, 3,300-year-old remains. Historical accounts have always claimed that the king’s mother was Nefertiti but DNA testing has proved otherwise.