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Was Joseph Smith Irish?

How do you figure out Joseph Smith’s DNA profile?  It turns out that Dr. Ugo Perego was actually doing a  lot of genealogy work in before doing these paternity tests.  He has tied these two complex sciences together.  Almost everyone has run into a dead end in their genealogy, and it turns out that the Joseph family is stuck in the United States as well!  Is Joseph Smith Irish, not English?

Ugo:  I was actually looking for his ancestry.  We don’t know where the Smith line came from in Europe, in England.  The furthest back that the Smith line has been traced is in New England.  Around 1620-1630, that’s when the first ancestor of Joseph Smith shows up, and he is 12 years old, and he’s by himself, no mom, no dad, and he comes and he shows up in Boston.  He’s an indentured servant.  His name is Robert Smith, and where does this kid come from?

Then we have all the Smiths.  We have Robert Smith, we have Samuel Smith, Samuel Smith, Asael Smith, Asael Smith (two Samuels, two Asaels), then we have two Josephs.

GT:  Joseph Sr.

Ugo nods:  Joseph Sr. and Joseph Jr, right.  That’s the line, the Smith line.  Genealogists have been looking left and right in England to find a connection with Robert Smith and where he came from.  No one has been able to do that, so I was reconstructing Joseph Smith’s Y-chromosome with the goal to compare that with a Smith in England and see if I could find a connection.

there was a genealogist [who] suspected that the Joseph Smith line to Robert Smith came from a particular town in northern England in Lancashire County.  The town was Turton, so I looked online in the white pages, how many Smiths live in Turton?  There were 1,100.

GT:  Oh my.

Ugo:  So I wrote to all of them.

GT:  No way!

Ugo:  I wrote a letter to all of them.  I sent 1,100 letters to Smiths in Turton… {chuckles}

GT:  That’s unbelievable.

Ugo:  …with a swab inside, asking for their DNA, and I had actually a good number, about 5% replying and sending their DNA back.  That’s a good sample size of a population, 5%.  I found nothing, absolutely no matches whatsoever.

Then I started using some databases and it became very clear as I was exploring this possibility that I was looking in the wrong place.  Robert Smith that first showed up in New England was not from England.

Was Joseph Smith Irish or English?  Check out our conversation…..

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How Do You Figure Out 150 Year Old Paternity?

We’re continuing our discussion with Dr. Ugo Perego.  Before we look into the question of figuring out a 150 year old paternity test, what are his thoughts on Joseph Smith?

Ugo:  So there are still, even in the 21st century many individuals that do not fully embrace the image of Joseph Smith associated with polygamy.  They are totally fine with Brigham Young evidence [having as] many kids and as many wives as he wanted, but when it comes to Joseph Smith I guess unfortunately this idea that he was involved in a lot of things.

They have Joseph Smith on this pedestal which has kind of hurt individuals because he was a great man.  I believe he did extraordinary things.  The Book of Mormon is definitely one of the biggest miracles that has to do with the restoration, but at the end, the Lord purposely chose an imperfect, limited resources and capabilities individual.  Otherwise the greatness of the restoration has to be measured against Joseph Smith’s humble origins.  That discrepancy in my mind, you have to really think about this.  It doesn’t matter if you accept Joseph Smith or not, you have to do a lot of explanation to justify how somebody like him did what he did.  Then you have to faithfully accept that.

But then sometimes you bring Joseph Smith into the grayness.  You think that he had, as a human, he was immune to certain things which is not [true.]  He was not the Savior.  It was like Elder Bednar once said, referring to him and the Quorum of Twelve.  We are ordinary people with extraordinary responsibilities.  That’s how I view Joseph Smith.

Ugo also asks some interesting questions, and explains why Joseph may not have had children with these other women.

How many wives did he really have?  What type of relationship did he have with each one of them?  Because you have to take every single case individually.  There is too much evidence that shows that not all the unions he had were lived in the same way.  Was he having sexual relations with all of them?  Would he have had them if he could?  Maybe he didn’t have a chance because of other surrounding events at that time.  Was he sealed for eternity or for time only or for both?  Were there any children?  That’s the big question, borne from any of these relationships.  We know that one of the reasons to justify the practice of polygamy was to raise a righteous generation.  Definitely Brigham Young worked at that.  He had 50 more children.

Joseph Smith was fertile.  He had nine biological children from Emma plus two that he adopted, so he was definitely interested in posterity.  To some degree like Nephi, was very concerned about his posterity, what they would do and what they would not do.  But no one has ever been able to fully, up to the DNA era, to fully to come forth, we know that these other children was born of him through a polygamous relationship.

There has always been circumstantial evidence that would bring historians to make such claims.  So-and-so is probably Joseph Smith’s son or daughter because of a, b, and c.  Before Josephine, which is the last case that I presented, there are other cases that I am working on, but that’s the last one that we reached a conclusion, an answer.

How do you figure out 150 year old DNA test?

Modern paternity tests are quite different than ones where the potential father is long since dead.  How does that work?

I believe it was 2002-2003 when I started working on some of those cases.  Those cases only involved sons.  Josephine is a daughter.  There is a different approach that you must take genetically to answer the paternity of a son versus the paternity of a daughter when it is something that happened 150 years ago.  Nowadays if you suspect your child is not your child, regardless of whether it is a girl or a boy, you do a paternity test.  You test the mother, the father, and the child.  There are certain markers, there are autosomal markers they are called, that are very unique, the combination of such can only be reproduced within a family.  So either somebody is 100% not your child, or it is 99.99999% your child, which is just another way to say 100%.  DNA is one notch stronger in excluding relationships than it is to include.  There is always a little chance that DNA matches because of chance.  But the markers that you test are so many that the reality that there is really a chance is [close to zero.]

Check out our conversation…..



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DNA 101 with Dr. Ugo Perego

I’m excited to introduce Dr. Ugo Perego all the way from Italy.  This is going to be the first of several conversations where we’re going to talk about DNA.  You can think of this first episode as DNA 101 as we learn a little bit about DNA science, but we will continue to learn more about this big topic over several episodes, so don’t think you’re going to learn everything today.  In our first episode we’re going to get an introduction to Dr. Perego, how he learned about DNA, his mission, and his education.

Ugo:  I’m a native of Italy of course.  I lived there all my youth.  I came to the [United] States when I was 21.  I served a mission in California.  That’s when I first learned English, and I’m still in the process as you can tell.

After my mission I went to BYU.  I came here to the BYU campus.  That’s where we are today.  I did my bachelors, my undergrad here in health sciences, and also did some other studies in scriptures and seminary teaching.  I did other things when I was here.  I got married.  My wife is from Missouri.  I lived here all my married life up to five years ago.

I worked for a large project, a worldwide project for 12 years after my schooling, for the Sorenson companies.  Our objective was to collect DNA samples and link them to family history, and build a large database of correlated genealogical and genetic information, help people trace their past, their history, connect to others through DNA whenever the paper trails would not be sufficient to provide those links.

As I did the work for them during those 12 years, a byproduct of that research was a tremendous amount of data that could be used for population studies.  I’ve learned more about the origin and relationship of different populations, not just individuals.  We had such a variety of data in this database.  During this time I had opportunity to do Ph.D.  I did with professor Torroni.

For those in the field, he’s the first person that used mitochondrial DNA to identify or differentiate a group of people, populations.  In fact the first group of people that he studied were Native Americans back in the early [19]90s.  So he was my graduate advisor, my mentor.  I did my Ph.D. dissertation on his suggestion.  It wasn’t the actual project that I had proposed to him.  I had another project in mind, but he actually wanted to take the one study that he did. It was a post-doc on Native Americans because he wanted to do that using more advanced techniques.  About 20 years have elapsed between the time he did the work and the time I was doing my Ph.D.  So my Ph.D. dissertation was on using this model, more advanced technique to be able to trace the origin of Native Americans through DNA.

So that’s a little bit where my studies are.  I have a Ph.D. in genetics and biomolecular sciences.  That was my Ph.D. dissertation.

I also asked him how identical triplets can have different ancestry.  How does that work?  (It’s not a simple discussion.  You’ll have to listen to hear his explanation.)  He also tells about an unusual case of twins!  Check out our conversation…..

Ugo:  There is also a proven case of a woman that had twins from two different men.  All you have to do is be fertile and having two mature eggs and have sexual relations within a very short amount of time with two different men and one fertilize one egg and the other fertilize the other egg.

GT:  I’ve never heard of that before.

Ugo:  It did happen.  So the woman becomes the vector to bring to life two brothers from two different men.  It’s very unusual but we have a case of that.

What do you think?  Did you learn anything?