By Sharon Ugolini
Some people collect stamps, others collect baseball cards and some BYU researchers collect DNA samples.
The BYU Molecular Genealogy Research Group has been gathering DNA since Feb. 2000; in an attempt to build what Public Relations Director Ugo Perego calls a “DNA map of the world.”
Using tablespoon-sized blood samples and pedigree charts from project participants, the MGRG is piecing together a worldwide genealogical genetic database.
When it”s finished, Perego said, the database will help people link themselves to their ancestors by tracing family lines back to their ethnic origin.
“In your DNA, it can tell us that you are from a certain area or from a certain race,” said project member Lucas Odahlen, 26, a senior from Rapid City, S.D., majoring in zoology.
This type of project is broadening the horizon in genetic research.
“It”s a kind of a testing stage because a lot of what we are doing hasn”t been done before,” said lab worker Mike Seitz, 23, a senior from Portland, Ore., minoring in chemistry.
So far, researchers have collected more than 20,000 samples.
However, Perego said it will take four more years and 80,000 more samples from all ethnicities before the database is finished.
“Right now, we are just looking to find those areas to make sure we know where they are and what they are,” Odahlen said.
The downside to the database is that it doesn”t contain any names; all the samples are listed by place of birth and birthdate, Perego said. Without names, the database can”t be specific, he said.
“We won”t be able to tell you who your parents or your grandparents are,” Perego said, adding the information can only tell people where their ancestors are from.
“By matching up someone”s DNA to their genealogy, it allows us to attribute a certain gene to a certain location,” Seitz said.
Besides linking people to their predecessors, the database can also help genealogy enthusiasts connect with the living.
If two or more people have completed their pedigree and found there might be a relation between them somewhere in their lineage, the database could verify such a connection, Perego said.
As stated in a recent news release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States. For the 80 million Americans actively searching out their roots, the MGRG database will help firmly establish the genealogical past.