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Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation

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Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation
Abbreviation SMGF
Formation 1999
Purpose/focus The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to building the world's foremost collection of DNA and corresponding genealogical information.
Headquarters Salt Lake City, Utah
Location USA
Website (from the Wayback Machine)

The Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF) was a DNA and genealogical research institution with the goal of demonstrating how the peoples of the world are related. SMGF collected DNA samples and genealogical information from individuals across the globe to establish these connections. Although it operated as a not-for-profit foundation it was a wholly owned subsidiary of Sorenson Companies, and was funded entirely by James LeVoy Sorenson.

The assets of the SMGF were acquired by AncestryDNA in March 2012.[1] AncestryDNA initially promised that the Sorenson database would continue to be available to researchers for the 'foreseeable future'.[2] However, the website was taken down by Ancestry on 14 May 2015 after it was used for "purposes other than that which it was intended" and there are no plans to reinstate it.[3]

The SMGF database included all the testing performed under the non-profit umbrella. Some of the SMGF personnel (Natalie Myres, Scott Woodward, and Norman Angerhofer) are now employees of Ancestry, part of the scientific team Ancestry recruited during the process of developing its autosomal test. Myres et al have published a number of technical articles based on research done while at SMGF.[4]


SMGF originated in 1999 and was inspired by several conversations between inventor and philanthropist James LeVoy Sorenson and professor Dr. Scott Woodward.[5] Mr. Sorenson envisioned the development of a genetic genealogical blueprint of all humankind. This blueprint, as developed by Dr. Woodward, would show how closely humans are related to one another, demonstrating the familial relationships between unique individuals. The collection of DNA samples and associated family pedigrees began in 2000, beginning first with Brigham Young University students, and quickly branching outside of Utah, then to the rest of the world.

In 2003, SMGF moved its operations from the Brigham Young University campus to Salt Lake City, Utah. SMGF also outsourced all of its laboratory work to Sorenson Genomics, freeing researchers to create a publicly available online repository. This repository was known as the Sorenson Database.

By 2012, SMGF had collected more than 100,000 DNA samples and familial pedigrees from donors around the world, all of which were available in the Sorenson Database.

Sorenson Database

The Sorenson Database contained more than 100,000 DNA samples and familial pedigrees, encompassing 2.8 million genealogical records and 2.4 million genotypes.[6] The database was last updated in July 2012 at which time all of the Y-chromosome and mtDNA haplotypes that were generated by SMGF over the course of its operations were included.[7] New updates to the SMGF and pedigree databases were discontinued as of July 2012.[8]

The Sorenson Database matched genetic information with familial surnames. A person searching through the database was able to find both genetic and genealogical matches, but could search using either DNA haplotypes or familial surname. The average family pedigree contained six generations of pedigree information (more than 150 years) with over six million genetically linked ancestors.

The Sorenson Database had two areas for individuals to search: a Y chromosome database and a mitochondrial DNA database. The Y-DNA database allowed males to search their direct paternal line; the mtDNA database allowed both males and females search their direct maternal line.

The SMGF also had large X chromosome and autosomal STR databases, but these databases were never made publicly available. It is not known if AncestryDNA have any plans to release this data.[9]


One of the missions of SMGF was to connect any two individuals in the world, showing both individuals how they are related.[10] In order to accomplish this goal, SMGF collected DNA samples and correlated familial pedigrees from participants around the world. The stated goal of SMGF was to collect samples from more than 500,000 individuals.

Another one of the goals of SMGF was to advance research in the scientific field of molecular genealogy. SMGF conducted research to identify additional DNA markers which link an individual to their genealogical family, however direct or distant.

DNA collection for the project initially involved drawing blood samples. From August 2002 onwards the SMGF used a mouthwash-based collection method (GenetiRinse), which has the advantage that it can be mailed to participants living in remote areas.

SMGF in the news

Blog posts

Further reading

Official sites


GNU head This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation".