Education Week: Genetics, genealogy and Joseph Smith

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Ugo Perego tells his Education Week audience about principles of genetics that can be applicable to everyone’s family history and focused on the genetics of Joseph Smith.

Science is capable of providing an in-depth exploration of where someone is from using DNA analysis. That same technology is capable of identifying who is related to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Ugo Perego, who claims to be 99.7 percent Italian, combined two classes into one in his Education Week lecture on Thursday. He described the principles of genetics that can be applicable to everyone’s family history and focused on the genetics of Joseph Smith.

“Our DNA is not ours,” Perego said. “We have received that DNA from people that lived before us and so we are a living, breathing, walking record of our ancestors. Even if we have genealogical records, we can still learn something about who we are through DNA.”

There are four types of DNA for genetic genealogy. The three main ones are the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA.

Y chromosome profiles and mitochondrial DNA trees are created to evaluate where a person comes from.

“Eventually, regardless of where you want to place the first man in history, every single male on the earth will tie back into a single man at some point because of the Y chromosome,” Perego said.

Evaluating Joseph Smith’s DNA yielded surprising results. Five males were supposedly sons of the Prophet, yet when Perego performed DNA analysis to determine the veracity of this, none of the five were his sons.

“And so history books that made these claims, for whatever historical assumption that they based those claims on, need to be rewritten and corrected because we know that from genetic data this is inaccurate information,” Perego said.

Because females do not have the Y chromosome, Perego cannot determine who may or may not have been daughters of the Prophet.

Josephine Rosetta Lyon Fisher was told by her mother, Sylvia Sessions, while Sessions was on her deathbed, that she was the daughter of Joseph Smith.

One member of Thursday’s class was the great-grandson of Fisher, and said he believes Joseph Smith to be his ancestor.

But Perego said Fisher cannot be proven as his daughter through DNA, though history indicates that the claim is accurate.

“It is a critical time to do this type of work because two or three generations from now, you might not have anybody carrying sufficient DNA, or any DNA at all, to trace,” Perego said.

Perego publishes work on his website. There is also a GoFundMe account for reconstruction of the Joseph Smith genome.

 

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