DNA testing is the single means for knowing whether there are biological links between people. It has found a wide range of applicability, helping to identify the remains of great names in history or even disproving the identity. Perhaps paternity DNA tests are the mostly used test to solve paternity claims amongst the famous and non-famous alike. However, you will also read about other DNA tests.

Have a read through the following cases that have featured extensively in world media.

The French Revolution: the last Dauphin

The French revolution brought about the fall of the French monarchy in 1789. Louis XVI was beheaded first, and Marie Antoinette, his wife, closely followed after accusations of incest. The young king-to-be, who was barely 10 years of age, was kept imprisoned and left to die. A doctor at the time removed his heart and this is today buried in the church of St. Denis outside Paris. For many years, people questioned whether the young Dauphin had in fact been rescued from the revolution and taken somewhere safe. This would mean that there may be his direct line of descendent with us today. DNA analyst had to establish whether the heart preserved in the church was really the heart of Louis XVII. DNA samples of the heart itself and of the aorta were taken as well as a sample of hair from the mother of the Dauphin; Marie Antoinette. The DNA fragments extracted were not of optimal quality and more DNA samples from living and deceased relatives were taken. The hair sample of Marie Antoinette provided enough DNA to conclude an MtDNA test (mitochondrial DNA test) as did the DNA samples from the heart. The tests proved that the heart belonged to the young King because the MtDNA profile extracted from the hair sample from his mother and the DNA sample from the dauphin’s heart matched. Louis the XVII had not escaped the French revolution and had, as historical accounts have it, not escaped his imprisonment.

The Godfather of Soul: James Brown

James Brown has influenced many artists and proved to be a great impetus in the evolution of soul music. The artist died in 2006 at the age of 73. Brown married Tomi Rae Hynie in 1991 and she gave birth to his child. Legal problems surfaced when the marriage between Hynie and Brown was declared invalid as Hynie was married at the time she married Brown. Hynie, however, declared that the marriage between her and her first husband had been annulled. After his death, a DNA paternity test was needed on James Brown II – the son the iconic James Brown supposedly had with Hynie. The results show the 6-year old boy was the biological son of James Brown. The genetic markers on the DNA profiles showed a match. Family members contested the paternity test on the grounds that Hynie and the child were not included in the Brown’s will but paternity tests results overruled their claims.

Anna Nicole Smith- who is the father?

Anna Nicole Smith, the Playboy bunny chosen by Hue Heffner in 1992 went on to marry J. Howard Marshall after the oil billionaire spotted her in a New York club; she was 26 and he 89. The Playboy model said she wanted to be the next Marilyn Monroe. Smith’s life drew a lot of criticism and she eventually died of a drug overdose. After Marshall’s death, Smith was left nothing by her billionaire husband and went through a legal battle with Marshall’s son in the pursuit of half Howard Marshall’s estate. Howard K. Stern was the attorney who fought the battle for Smith and the two also had a secret relationship as the legal battle unfolded. Smith soon fell pregnant. Stern was glad to have fathered a child with Smith, or at least he was sure it was his child. Things changed when Smith’s X boyfriend came forward, Larry Birkhead, who claimed he was father to the child. A paternity DNA test was an inclusion for Birkhead and therefore, he was the biological father. Further court proceedings were required to change the father’s name on the birth certificate as Smith had registered Stern as the child’s father.

Thomas Jefferson and his salve, Sally Hemming

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the USA is famous for writing The Declaration of Independence and for driving away the forces of Imperialism imposed by the British Empire. Thomas Jefferson spoke out against slavery, which was rampant at the time; this was a daring move in times where it was considered normal to buy black slaves as they were believed to be no better than animals. Despite the fact he did not support slavery, he still owned slaves and was against mixed racial marriages as he believed blacks to be inferior to whites.
His affair with his black slave, Sally Hemings has been at the centre of much dispute for around 2 centuries. Moreover, Jefferson had a number of children from the woman. Two of the children they allegedly had together – Madison and Eston – maintained that Jefferson was their father. A number of DNA tests were carried out between living descendents of the president. The male lineage could be traced by means of the Y-chromosome test. DNA analysts found the genetic links strongly supported the claims that Jefferson had fathered children from his slave. However, a committee commissioned in 1998 by the Thomas Jefferson Society declared that Jefferson had not had any children with Sally Hemings and that she played a very marginal role in his life. The committee claimed that is anyone father a child from Sally, it was the president’s brother, Randolph, who may have father one of the Hemings children.

DNA paternity test Eddie Murphy

The British X Spice Girl Mel B, known as the former ‘scary spice’ had a relationship with Hollywood actor Eddie Murphy in 2006. However, the affair was short lived and Mel B claimed she had given birth to the actor’s child who she named Angel Iris. Brown filed a paternity suit and Murphy was forced to take a DNA paternity test. Melanie Brown said she would seek sole custody of the child and child support. The paternity DNA test results confirmed that Murphy was the father with 99.99% accuracy. This means the Murphy will have no option but to maintain his child and abiding by his legal responsibilities towards her.

Genetic testing is constantly challenging new boundaries and new discoveries are made. Many DNA tests have reached the peak of accuracy and reliability. Paternity DNA testing, MtDNA and Y-chromosome testing are just some of the extensive list of DNA tests available today.


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