DNA tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants

Scientific advances prove no genetic link

Published: Saturday, Nov. 10 2007 12:00 a.m. MST

While Y chromosome DNA is passed from father to son and is most accurate in identifying living people, mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to daughter and is more often used in paleontology and archaeology, Perego said. As a result, there are distinct limitations on the testing that can be done to date because such testing on a living — and cooperative — male descendant requires an unbroken male line.

Perego has mapped Smith's DNA by retrieving samples from living descendants of two sons he had with Emma Smith — Joseph Smith III and Alexander Hale Smith. "Their Y chromosomes were identical, so we know for 100 percent sure what Joseph Smith's Y chromosome looked like. We can now use that standard to verify any other alleged sons," which he did with those who have been eliminated as possible descendants.

"For 160 years people have been writing in books or speculating that these people could have been Joseph Smith's children. When people write something in a book, many people refer to that almost as a fact. Brodie went on and on about Buell, talking about the timing and the picture — everything seems to indicate Buell was Joseph Smith's son. But the DNA says otherwise."

Perego said he was not only able to eliminate Smith as their father, but also was able to confirm that the men who were married to Hancock's and Buell's mothers were actually their biological fathers.

As he finds living descendants of people in question, Perego said he will be happy to continue to test them. "I think this will always be a work in progress. Hopefully, someday we'll be able to test some of the girls as well, when genetic testing is developed to accurately conclude if some of these girls were or were not his descendants."

Plural wife Sylvia Sessions Lyon left a deathbed affidavit for her daughter, Josephine, telling her that her father was Joseph Smith. In terms of circumstantial evidence, "that is probably the strongest case out there, but it involves a daughter. I've collected maybe 120 samples from descendants of Josephine, but as of today, there is not an accurate method" to prove parentage.

Perego's work is an independent project that Sorenson has allowed him to work on, rather than something the foundation does full-time, he said. His motive, he said, is truth, not glory.

"As a scientist, I like to look for truth. If there is a book that says this person was Joseph's son, and I have evidence that's not right, it's important for me to offer an alternative explanation from science that people can refer to. New authors in the future can then take that new genetic evidence into consideration.

"My goal is not at all a crusade to prove or disprove either that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy or that he had children from women other than Emma. I have no agenda to prove or disprove.

"There are legitimate cases of individuals studying family history who have a pedigree chart in front of them that shows" Smith as a third-great-grandfather.

"Because there is some evidence like a book or a rumor in the family, individuals don't know who to put on their pedigree chart. We're talking about real people who want to know who they are descended from.

"Most have told me they don't really care if they come from Joseph Smith or from someone else. They just want to know which one."

For information on DNA testing for family history research, see Sorenson's Web site at www.SMGF.org.

E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

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