DNA solves a Joseph Smith mystery

Published: Saturday, July 9 2011 11:00 p.m. MDT

"I am a scientist. I look at the data objectively. I don't care if the results are positive or negative. It doesn't affect my trust in religion or in science," Perego said. "If I were to find a child from Joseph Smith from a plural marriage, I would think that was cool because we would learn something more about what was going on."

It was a simple matter for Perego to compare the DNA profile of the descendant of John Reed Hancock to Joseph Smith's profile and Levi Hancock's profile. "It could have been that it didn't match either one of them. There could be an error in the genealogy."

He had 46 DNA markers to match up.

He compared it to Joseph Smith first.

"It is not a match at all to Joseph Smith," Perego said. "There is no biological relationship within the historical timeframe of these two individuals."

He compared it to Levi Hancock.

"It is a perfect match to all the other Hancock males in my database — including his brother Mosiah," Perego said. "Case solved."

But not every case can be solved. A few alleged children of Joseph Smith died as infants and their burial places are not known. Descendants of daughters are particularly difficult to test conclusively because the easy-to-identify Y chromosome signature only works to identify male descendants.

But for now, one more piece of the puzzle has been solved. Perego is working on a detailed scientific analysis of the case that he hopes will be published soon in the Mormon Historical Studies journal.

"Through DNA we will not be able to test 100 percent of the cases. But if we test 70 percent of them and they are all negative, does that provide some insight on the topic that we did not consider before?" Perego said. "That is not for me to answer."

Email: mdegroote@desnews.com. Twitter: www.twitter.com/degrootedegroote

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