Free DNA-Based Genealogy Web Site Reaches Milestone of 2.5 Million Records
-- Non-profit Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation promotes world peace and understanding by proving scientifically how closely related each human being is to every other
“In the past three months alone, we've added the genetic records and pedigrees of thousands of individuals in Asia and Africa”
-- Public Web site offers expanded database and upgraded research tools for the three-quarters of Americans who say they are interested in learning about their family history
Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF), a non-profit research organization building the world's most comprehensive database linking human genetic and genealogical information, today announced that it has expanded to 2.5 million records of DNA-family history data and has developed powerful new search tools for visitors to its free, interactive Web site.
Interest in family history research is booming, and today much of it takes place on the Internet. Molecular genealogy, a relatively new science, is transforming the popular hobby because it solidly links individuals to their ancestors using genetic profiles. This method of ancestry investigation eliminates the guesswork and dead-ends caused by surname changes and missing historical records. Today, a visitor to the SMGF Web site (www.smgf.org) can enter the numerical values from their own DNA profile into the database's drop-down menus and search for likely ancestors. Their personal DNA profile is obtained by an inexpensive cheek-swab genetic test offered directly by many laboratories and through genealogy services.
The foundation's goal of genetically mapping humanity's entire family tree in a free database has an idealistic and visionary purpose. "I believe that if people know how closely related we all are, then we will treat each other better," said James LeVoy Sorenson, who came up with the idea. One of the 60 richest people in America, Sorenson is a medical device entrepreneur whose success allowed him to turn his attention to making the world a better place to live.
The project is a multicultural, multiracial and ecumenical endeavor that collaborates internationally with diverse universities on a database that includes genetic-genealogy information from around the globe. "In the past three months alone, we've added the genetic records and pedigrees of thousands of individuals in Asia and Africa," said Dr. Scott Woodward, who heads the foundation and is one of the world's leading researchers in molecular genealogy. Woodward is renowned for helping to identify the gene markers that led to the discovery of the cystic fibrosis, colon cancer and neurofibromatosis genes.
The SMGF database establishes family links among individuals, families, tribes and populations using information encoded in DNA. "Our project is the only one that links living individuals by DNA to specific names of ancestors going back six or eight generations or further," said Woodward. "The foundation has a different purpose than the recently announced Genographic Project of National Geographic. Our database links an individual's genetic profile to specific ancestors by name, while the Genographic Project links a living individual to locations and broad human migration trends over tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years."
Visitors researching their family tree on the SMGF interactive Web site can now query a database of 13,489 individual genetic profiles, or genotypes. These Y-chromosome genetic profiles are linked to more than 550,000 individual ancestors representing more than 9,400 paternal-line surnames. Foundation records total 2.5 million, but currently only Y-chromosome, or paternal ancestry, searches are available. However, the foundation is working to overcome current research limitations on genetic-genealogy by profiling the DNA markers on mitochondria for maternal ancestry and on autosomes, making this database the only one of its kind in the world to do so.
With this Web site upgrade, the foundation developed a powerful new analysis tool that allows an individual genetic profile to be compared to the entire Y-chromosome database, showing genetic similarity by country back through time. This tool presents a graph of most likely paternal-line membership back to the 1500s, as well as the location and surname of the specific ancestors. Increased functionality also comes from a new "search-by-surname" feature. In addition, improved lineage linking has dramatically extended the number of ancestors available on most pedigrees.
America is a nation of immigrants and tracing family trees is now a national pastime. In a recent 2005 survey, three-quarters of U.S. adults reported they are interested in learning more about their family history, and more than one-in-three U.S. Internet households already have used the Web to research their family history. The study was published by Market Strategies Inc., a national research and strategic consulting firm, and MyFamily.com.
About Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation
Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is a non-profit research organization with the mission: To collect DNA samples within a genealogical context for creating the world's most comprehensive correlated genetic and genealogical database. To provide the funding necessary to construct genetic tools from the information contained within the database for the purpose of family history research. And, to maintain the integrity of the database content and to ensure it is used for purposes that will promote peace, compassion and fellowship among humankind. Visit www.smgf.org.