I'm looking forward to all the DNA tests.
Results could have legal implications, including any evidence for possible statutory rape, which includes individuals below a certain age deemed legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity.
In Texas, 17 is the minimum age, making it illegal for anyone under the age of 17 to engage in sexual activity with another who is at least three years their elder. (An individual must be at least 16 years old to enter into a legal marriage in Texas.)
"Now not only can we look at alleged relationships between parents and their children," said Robert Allen, a professor of biochemistry at Oklahoma State University, "but now we can look at alleged sibships [siblings], alleged half-sibships [half brothers and sisters]."
To find a male child's father, researchers will look for match-ups in DNA
markers found on the Y sex chromosome, which is passed down from fathers to their sons.
"All males descended from a common male and female ancestor would have exactly the same Y chromosome passed unchanged from generation to generation," said Allen, who is also director of the Human Identity Testing Laboratory. "So I will have the same Y chromosome as my brother, father, son, paternal uncle, paternal cousin."
Mothers can be linked to children with DNA found in the cells' energy-producing structures called mitochondria.
The mitochondria hold a separate set of genes passed down from mothers to their offspring.
Based on the age of the child, officials could then figure out how old the mother was at the time of conception and the age of the father.
The information will be news only to officials, as the mothers and children within this Mormon sect know who's who.
"It's not a free-love community. These children are being raised by their mothers. It's the father who may be having multiple wives. All these children know who their father is and who their mother is," said Stuart Wright, a professor of sociology at Lamar University in Texas.
"The question is whether some of these women were under legal age when they were either married or impregnated," he added. "I think that's what the DNA tests are probably going to try to show."