SMGF originated in 1999 and was inspired by several conversations between inventor and philanthropist James LeVoy Sorenson and Brigham Young University professor Dr. Scott Woodward. 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. 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.
SMGF collected more than 100,000 DNA samples and familial pedigrees from donors around the world, all of which were available in the Sorenson Database. This database was acquired by Ancestry.com prior to its launch of AncestryDNA when they purchased GeneTree in 2012. Genetree was SMGF's commercial arm.