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CSI: Mountain Meadows – Using DNA to Solve 2 Mysteries

Many of you remember the dark day of September 11, 2001 when Muslim terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  It was a dark day in U.S. history.  160 years ago this September 11th is another dark day in Mormon history as Mormon settlers in southern Utah attacked and killed 120 men, women, and children known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Can DNA help solve the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

Mountain Meadows Massacre

It turns out that there has been some DNA tests done to answer some questions about that horrific incident.  It’s a pretty interesting conversation.  Dr. Ugo Perego will introduce a little bit of the massacre, and talk about his tests to answer questions about the DNA of certain people in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Ugo:  The claim was out of this party of 120 people that left Arkansas and were moving to California as they went through the Salt Lake Valley and then down all the way through Fillmore and Cedar City and out into the Mountain Meadows area.  After the ambush was done by local Mormons, local people that lived in the area and Native [American]s, there were 120 people that were exterminated.  They were all killed except children age 8 or younger.

But the number of those children that were spared has never really been confirmed.  That was some early sources.  The first sources say 17, but soon that number became 18, and most documents and books that have been written on the subject carry on with this 18 number.  Why is this important?

The records said that only 17 of these 18 children were identified and returned to relatives in Arkansas.

So who was the 18th child?  What happened to this child?  Who was it?  As years went by there had been rumors that one of these children was the oldest daughter of Bishop Klingonsmith who was involved with the massacre.  He’s there.

GT:  So the daughter was essentially adopted by Bishop Klingonsmith.

Ugo:  That’s what the claim was.  The 18th child was the one that was not returned.  So it’s making something bad into something worse because now you have a child that doesn’t belong to you.  Give it back to the family, right?  So there were all these controversies surrounding [the incident.]  The people involved have already been dead.  Bishop Klingonsmith has been dead.  The daughter died.

So what we have are people in this century in this past 150 years trying to collect information and putting pieces together.  So what we have is rumors that the child, Priscilla was her name which by the way the massacre took place as you say on September 11, 1857.  Priscilla was born in 1855 which placed her at the age group of two being one of the children that could have been spared.  So we have her born in 1855, Bishop Klingonsmith being involved with the massacre, being there so he could be one of the people that took a child in, and there is no birth certificate for this girl, nowhere to be found.

Listen to find out what the results of the test were.

DNA Test #2

But that’s not the only question Dr. Perego answered.

Locals claim, and that’s what’s in the record, the party that was going through poisoned the springs which caused some of the animals to die in an attempt to actually kill the people there.  Now this is absurd because to put poison in a spring, which is running water to the extent that it the poison stayed there, you need a tremendous amount.  At that time there was folk magic, these ideas that things can actually happen without being able to test the possibility that you can actually do something like that.

But the problem was that they gave this cattle that were dead as a gift to the local natives as a right to pass.  Native Americans do accept gifts of dead animals.  They are a little bit, at least this part I’m not an expert in anthropological and cultural Native Americans, but from what I read, they’re kind of a little bit like scavengers.  They will eat whatever they could eat.  At that time it seems like it was an acceptable thing.  They received these dead animals, and the natives died.  They got really sick and they died.

A local child from a family, as he was trying to take the skin off of one of those cows; what’s the name, hive?

GT:  The hyde.

Ugo:  The hyde?  As he was trying to take the hyde off, scratched his face, and within a few days he was dead, devastating dead.  His whole face blew out, really swollen and blood coming out everywhere and he died.

GT:  This was a Mormon child.

Ugo agrees:  A Mormon child in Fillmore.  It was Proctor Robinson, and I think he died at age 16, just a few days after the massacre as the disease developed.  Because of these things, the theory is that escalated the conflict between Native [American]s, Mormons, and the party.

Rick Turley believed that anthrax could have been the reason why these animals died.  That’s just his idea.  He asked me if I could look into that from a scientific point of view.  What I did was I gathered some information with regards to, first of all how anthrax is manifested, how it affects individuals and animals, because at that time anthrax was not known.  It was probably endemic in America.  There were many cases of it but people just didn’t know the cause of it.  It was not yet identified and classified as a pathogen.

Dr. Perego got permission to dig up the bones of Proctor Robinson to try to determine if he died of anthrax!  Check out our conversation…..

 

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Was Emma Licentious? Would it matter? Addressing Ugo’s DNA Critics

In this episode, we’ll discuss Ugo’s DNA critics. Of course there are critics of Dr. Perego, as well as Joseph Smith.  At Wheat & Tares, commenter Mike posed a question wondering if Emma had sex with one or more of Joseph Smith’s brothers, would that affect Dr. Ugo Perego’s test results?  (Apparently he is parroting questions popping up in ex-mormon rumor mills.) The simple answer is it would have zero impact on Dr. Perego’s results.  Here’s why.

For the record, I don’t like Mike’s assertion, but for a moment let’s assume that Mike is right:  Emma was fooling around with Joseph Smith’s brothers.  Even if this were the case (and there isn’t a hint of historical evidence to think this was remotely true), it simply wouldn’t matter with regards to Dr. Perego’s DNA test results, which state that 0% of Smith DNA has been found in any of the potential children.

Let me repeat, even if Emma had sex with Joseph Sr., Hyrum, Don Carlos, William, Samuel and gave she gave birth to a child of Joseph’s brothers (or even father for that matter), all the while Joseph Smith is completely clueless (or somehow didn’t care) to this improbable scenario, 0% of Smith DNA was found in Josephine Lyon, John Hancock, Oliver Buell, etc.  That rules everyone in the Smith family out.  It simply doesn’t matter if Joseph’s DNA is confused with his brothers because 0% of Smith DNA is in the suspected children.  None.  Not only has the entire Smith family been ruled out as father of the potential children in Dr. Ugo Perego’s test, but the real father has been identified (Parley P. Pratt, Levi Hancock, Windsor Lyon etc.)  It is not simply ruling Joseph or the Smith family out, it is ruling Parley in, Levi in, etc.  It simply doesn’t matter if Emma had sex with anyone outside of Joseph.  Smith DNA is nowhere to be found, and the father of Josephine Lyon has been identified, and it is Windsor Lyon.  The father of John Hancock has been identified as Levi Hancock.  The father of Moroni Pratt has been identified as Parley P. Pratt.  Cases closed.  There is no question about who the fathers are.

So even if this highly unlikely scenario is true, Emma’s sexual habits simply don’t matter at all since the entire Smith family has been ruled out and the real fathers have been ruled in and identified.

What’s bothers me that most in this ridiculous conspiracy theory is that it seems to be an attempt (1) to discredit Dr. Perego’s results by throwing up a diversion while (2) impugning the Smith family as sexually licentious.  I know that several in the ex-Mormon community have no problem throwing Joseph under the bus, but it seems especially insidious to accuse Emma of being licentious as well.  There isn’t even a hint of Emma having sex with any of Joseph’s brothers (or anyone else) in any journals, records, newspapers, etc.  None.  I find such “brainstorming” extremely distasteful and beyond ridiculous.  The science is settled.  If you don’t understand the issues, read them.  They are published and these questions are not only distasteful, but the issues are completely settled.  If you still have questions it is because you are too lazy to read the articles.  (I posted links in my previous show notes.)

Ugo Discusses Smith’s Critics, and his own

This leads into my next episode.  Dr. Perego discusses a particular critic who said several derogatory things about Dr. Perego, as well as the Smith family.

Ugo:  You have to understand that there are people here.  No matter how curious you are about history, and how much of a National Geographic experience it is for you, or a Discovery Channel, whatever it is, there are real people involved.  People that are alive, people that are descendants of these individuals, and they have a relationship with their ancestors that is a lot different than you have with them.  You look at them as historical figures that you can trash, play with, speculate, say whatever you want about them.  But to some people, that’s family.  They feel very tender about their ancestors.  They are here on the earth because these people existed.  You have to have that respect.  You have to build that trust.

Very likely I met individuals who introduced me to other individuals to be able to—and I feel very much part of the family with regards to [be] more than a friend.  They welcomed me with regards to Josephine descendants and the trust that they had bestowed on me, but also with Joseph Smith descendants.

I always try to be very respectful and think about besides the DNA that you see on a computer or the kit, or the history that there are actual real people alive with sentiments, with feelings, with concerns, with worries about privacy, about misuse of data.  All it takes is one bad example or occurrence and then you kind of ruin their trust, and I value that.

So when Scott was working and had this approach, his approach, and this is what the Josephine descendants told me, his approach totally turned them off.  They were absolutely not interested in working with him because of the way he approached the research, the project.

Find out more of who Scott is, and what his issues were with Dr. Perego.  Check out our conversation…..

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Who’s the Daddy of Josephine (Part 2)? Joseph Smith or Windsor Lyon?

We’re continuing our discussion with Dr. Ugo Perego.  Last year at the Mormon History Association meetings he made a lot of news when he announced the official test results of his test on paternity of Josephine Lyon.  Sylvia was married to Windsor Lyon but sealed to Joseph Smith, and there has been some question as to whose daughter she really was.  Was it Windsor or was it Joseph?

Ugo:  It was a difficult test to do.  It was a difficult question to answer.  Josephine is a girl, so you have the strongest historical case because Josephine’s mother made a confession made a confession on her death bed….

[Josephine] does not have the Y-Chromosome with Joseph Smith.  That’s all I had to play with.  I only had a very accurate Y-Chromosome profile and I used it to answer six cases of sons.  Five of them were published.  One of them is not published; actually there are two of them that are not published but one of them is a little bit iffy.  I don’t know if it will get published or not.  Don Bradley was the one that was working with me then.  We kind of dropped the ball on it, and now I’m doing another one, the one I was [talking about] yesterday.  They are all sons, Orson Hyde, you know the one I told you?  They are all sons, Y-Chromosome.

GT:  Can you briefly mention who these sons are?

Then we have Mosiah Hancock; Mosiah, Oliver [Buell], Moroni [Pratt], Orrison [Smith], and the fifth one is?  I can’t remember the fifth one. [It was Zebulon Jacobs. [1]]

GT:  That’s good.

Ugo:  But they’ve both been published.  One was published in the John Whitmer Journal,[2] and the other one was published in the Journal of Mormon History[3]; three cases in one and two cases in the other, single articles, two articles you get five of them.

Problems with the Test

But when it came to testing a possible daughter, Dr. Perego ran into some big problems when testing Josephine.

I had 120 descendants of Josephine that gave a DNA sample and their genealogy.  I knew how they were connected.  Josephine had a lot of children and I had many different lines represented, very beautiful results of family.  It would make a great genetics study, but not technology to do it.  We were stuck at the Y-Chromosome and mitochondrial DNA at that time.

Then when the technology finally started coming around, all the sudden the data was sold to Ancestry.com and I was given word at that time by some individuals that were involved with that process that I could still access that information, that data that was moved.  Because these are samples that were collected and frozen but not the genetic data has been produced so you still need to run the data.  It’s not as if I have the data saved on a hard drive.  We didn’t have the technology to run and process that data yet.  So all at once, I lost all the samples that I had, all of it, 10 years of work of collecting these samples.

GT:  Because the company was sold.

Ugo:  The company was sold.

GT:  Oh that must have been heartbreaking.

Ugo:  It was.  So at that time, two things happened.  I lost control of the data.  It was given to Ancestry.  Very soon I understood that it was going to be very difficult.  I tried a lot of different approaches to get the data back.  In the meantime, I’m no longer working with Sorenson.  Sorenson Company doesn’t exist anymore.  I do not have access to a lab through them anymore, and I’m relocating to Italy, so I had a start anew everything with my family in a different country.  It’s been probably 2, 3, or 4 years that I absolutely did not even touch this case study anymore.  I mean I had no data, right?  What do I do with it?

At that time, Josephine’s family approached me, and I have a letter from one of the daughters because she was writing me.  I feel bad because she was writing me emails at that time and I wasn’t very quick in answering them because I didn’t know what to tell her.

There’s not much I really can do, so finally she actually wrote me a letter to Italy, and I got this letter, and she’s like, “we really want to know, what is it going to take?  Can we talk about it?  What is it going to take about money, samples?  Who’s going to run them if we get the samples?  Can you be our researcher for this?”  So at that time I became their personal researcher.  I gave my free time, my expertise and they paid for the testing.  I told them we’re going to build it, what we didn’t have.

GT:  You had to rebuild what you didn’t have.

Ugo:  Exactly.  Who’s still alive?  Who of the oldest descendants are still alive?  Can we get the DNA from them?  I pulled out my old genealogy, my old chart and asked, who do you have from this line?  3 guys from there, 3 guys from there.

(Don’t forget to listen to our previous paternity test!)  Check out our conversation…..

[1] Digital version can be found at http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1078&context=mormonhistory Retrieved Sept 3, 2017

[2] A summary can be found here:  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695226318/DNA-tests-rule-out-2-as-Smith-descendants.html

[3] Digital version can be found at http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1078&context=mormonhistory Retrieved Sept 3, 2017