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Beginning in the early 1980s, the Initiative was spearheaded by Project Director Aileen Bock, and centered around the principle of using donated genetic material to explore history; in this theory, any subject could access the memories of the donor's ancestors without needing a direct biological link to the historical figure in question. The Initiative borrowed its first genetic sample from Bock's son Seamus. Using herself as the subject, Bock explored the memories of Miriam Kurtz, her ex-husband's mother, during her imprisonment in Nazi Germany in World War II.
The project was, during the early 1980s, seen by Bock as the "poorer cousin" to the early Animus program, as it received less funding and was reliant on scientific co-operation with Vidic. However, indications that an artifact had been located in one of the memories raised the attention of Abstergo Industries and provided assurances of a tripling in program funding if further information could be obtained.
Initially, the project failed and was suspended following injuries to Bock in 1981. Bock experienced a traumatic event in one of the memories, causing real-life physical reactions. Despite the attempts of Abstergo staff, Bock appears to have suffered trauma and possible brain damage in the course of her research, forcing her "retirement" and the program's suspension. However, at some point between 1981 and 2013, Abstergo reinitialised research in this area; the Surrogate Initiative, coupled with improvements in the DDS, certainly laid the groundwork for the Sample 17 Project that was begun by Abstergo Entertainment in 2013.
Wanting his Animus Project to stay ahead of the Surrogate Initiative, Warren Vidic wire-tapped Bock's office to record the Initiative sessions, transferring the details to a set of 160 reel-to-reel tapes, which were discovered in his home and analyzed after he was killed by Desmond Miles in December 2012. The tapes were then archived in the Abstergo mainframe, where they were eventually found and accessed via hacking by an Abstergo Entertainment research analyst in late 2013.