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Wells Family DNA Project

What's it all about?

One of the most exciting things to come along ever in genealogical research is the Molecular Genealogy Project originally started at Brigham Young University and currently being conducted through the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation.

Because of the breadth and extent of the Wells research all the thousands of Wells researchers have been doing for over 150 years we were able to become involved in this project as a special study for our Phase I. We have high expectations that this will finally help many Wells researchers break through the obstacles that they have been facing trying to identify their ancestors.

This project and special study will probably take a considerable amount of time to realize, so we hope no one will expect immediate results.

How will the project work?

The samples for the Wells DNA project will be collected from volunteers around the world.

During phase I of the project we collected a sample of blood from which the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) was extracted and analyzed. During subsequent phases of the project, the DNA is being collected by means of a buccal swab which resembles a large Q-tip used to collect cheek cells.

The results of phase I are currently available in the results section of this site.


and the baseline families can be seen here also


A table of all the families included in the project currently can be seen at the following link


As results are available, they will be shared with the participants and the Wells Family Research Association as well as with other interested Wells researchers through this website. Details related to specific participants will only be shared with the written consent of the participants.

Each participant in the Wells DNA Study is being encouraged to give a second sample for the Molecular Genealogy study because their scope is much broader than the Wells study. In the primary study they will be examining many more ancestral lines.

Security concerns:

Samples collected for this project are coded and the names of the participants are not associated with the samples. Only the project leader and the coordinator at the processing laboratory have the information to identify the participants. Even the coordinator at the processing laborator does not know the codes applied to the samples on this web site.

What are the researchers looking for?

Each individual who has children passes DNA information on to his/her children. In the case of the males, they pass a "Y" chromosome on to each son which contains specific DNA markers that are conveyed by that individual only though unique combinations, mutations etc. These markers, once identified, can be used to identify direct line male offspring. Similar markers are passed on by both the male and female parents to children on other chromosomes which can also be traced but with less precision than the y-Chromosome. The object of the project is to identify the unique markers that have been passed on by Wells ancestors and through this identify the family to which descendants belong.

For example. If we study two descendants of a Wells individual whose only common link is that ancestor, such as being descendants of two different brothers, then it should be possible to find the characteristics of the DNA markers that were contributed by that ancestor. Expanding this by studying multiple descendants from each of the brothers it may be possible to identify the characteristics of the DNA markers that were unique to them, etc. This is a bit oversimplified, but provides an idea of what the project is attempting to achieve. In the reality, changes in DNA markers occur so seldom that most descendents of a common ancestor will continue to carry exactly the same DNA pattern for hundreds of years. We have already identified one Wells family where the pattern has not changed for most descendents leading back about 500 years.

BOTH male and female descendants of Wells families will be encouraged to participate. We hope to be able to map the ancestry in both cases and benefit will be derived by identifying markers contributed by the crossing of two lines through the offspring of a union. There are no guarantees we will find the answers that everyone is seeking. At the very least we will be able to isolate the markers for each primary Wells family and confirm to which a particular descendant family is connected IF they connect to a known line. It is also possible that some genealogy is inaccurate in that someone may have connected to the wrong family while researching, such as picking the wrong John Wells in a location. It is also possible some adoption has happened in a family that is not currently known, a name change may have happened or what some people call "a non paternal event" (where the assumed father was not the biological father). Participants should be prepared for these possiblities. You should be interested in the truth if you participat as the DNA always tells the truth.

How do you participate?

Anyone who is a descendant of a Wells ancestor is invited to participate. You MUST coordinate through the Wells Family Research Association

To participate, you should subscribe to one of the various Wells Lists and keep an eye on what is happening.

Wells Lists

OR, contact us at the Wells Family Research Association to make us aware of your interest.

e-mail: Wells Family Research Association

What we will need from you:

We will ask you to provide either a GEDCOM file of your known Wells ancestors to help us build up the Wells database to support this effort or send us your family group sheets if you do not use a genealogy program that can generate a GEDCOM file. We will ask for this when it is needed, so don't send this until it is requested.

We will need your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address (if you have one) for our files so we can advise you of progress and when something related to your ancestry is found during the course of the project.

We will post the dates and locations of the BYU events and they are posted on the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation website so that participants can find a convenient place and time to go and participate in that study.

How about relatives?

In the cases where the Wells researcher is a female or a male who does not carry the Wells surname, we encourage all researchers to try to get their relatives to participate, especially those who are direct line male descendants named Wells. The more participants we can get, the more complete the results of the project will be.

Extended family and other researchers:

Not everyone will learn about this project through our direct efforts. We will need to depend on your help to reach your extended Wells families and other researchers and get them to participate. If others have no interest in family history and refuse to participate, there is nothing we can do about it. But it never hurts to try.

Volunteers needed:

We need volunteers to help us set up collection efforts in overseas locations (England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand in particular). The volunteers would serve as the focal point for the in-country collection. Once the subjects have signed up a set of DNA collection kits would be sent from the lab to the participants who will send them directly back to the testing company. The project will reimburse the volunteers for any out-of-pocket expenses on behalf of the project.

We may also ask volunteers to contact other known researchers in their areas and get them involved. We have addresses for over 6,000 Wells researchers. We can not contact them all directly without your help.

We may also ask for volunteers to call anyone named Wells in their local area to see if we can find others who are interested in family history and/or are willing to participate in the study. I have been doing this and everyone I have contacted is friendly even though sometimes they might have no interest in this project or family history. Others readily put me in contact with the people in their family who are interested. Again, the broader the sample base, the more accurate the results of the study will be. If you are not comfortable making these contacts, we will understand.

When do we start?

We have started and are currently collecting samples for the second phase of the project. We currently have nearly 300 tested samples from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Scotland and the UK.

Please connect with one of the Wells lists or check back on the WFRA website frequently to see what is happening. We will be posting the information as we go.

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e-mail: Wells Family Research Association