Article of the Week

Using Science to Answer Questions from Latter-day Saint History: The Case of Josephine Lyon’s Paternity

Using Science to Answer Questions from Latter-day Saint History: The Case of Josephine Lyon’s Paternity

Historians have often speculated if Joseph Smith had any children with his plural wives. The strongest case for a child born through one of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions is that of Josephine Lyon, born on February 8, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois, to Sylvia Sessions, who was sealed to Joseph Smith. Because of previous limitations in DNA analysis, her paternity could not be verified through science until recently. This report summarizes the steps that were taken to establish the biological paternity of Josephine Lyon through the analysis of autosomal DNA from descendants of both Joseph and Josephine. Based on the data presented in this study, it appears that Joseph Smith was not the father of Josephine Lyon.