Beginning Monday, the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation of Salt Lake City will open its database of more than 5,000 samples of mitochondrial DNA to the public. (Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to both sons and daughters. Men never pass it on to their children, however. The result is very accurate tracing of maternal lines, if DNA data is available.)
At no cost, people who have had their mitochondrial DNA tested will be able to type the information into a database at the foundation's website, smgf.org, says Scott Woodward, the foundation's executive director. The software will then report matches or near-matches to the family histories that already have been collected.
For a discounted fee, the foundation will arrange testing for amateur genealogists who have not had their mitochondrial DNA tested. The test results then can be searched.
It also will add a family's genetic profile and history to its database for no charge, allowing genealogists to be matched to samples that are added later by others.
Unlike Y-chromosome DNA, which sons inherit from their fathers, mitochondrial DNA passes from mothers to both male and female children. Mitochondrial DNA thus is especially valuable to women, who have no other direct method to search their family histories through their genes.