Richard Sainsbury baptised 1722 Westbury, Wiltshire

On there are 37 family trees that identify our earliest Somerset ancestor as the Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in Westbury, Wiltshire in 1722:

A prime candidate?

Certainly a Richard Sainsbury born around 1722 is a prime candidate as the ancestor of the Sainsburys of North Somerset — at the head of which is a Richard Sainsbury who was married in Portbury, Somerset in 1745.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of documentation to connect the Richard Sainsbury baptised in Westbury in 1722 to the Richard Sainsbury who married Mary Willis in Portbury, Somerset in 1745.

A best guess

Without good documentation to prove that someone migrated from “Point A” to “Point B” in early 18th-century England, family historians can only make a “best guess” effort. In this case, the owners of those 37 trees on have likely attached this 1722 baptism to the Somerset individual based on the age this individual would have been at the time of his 1745 marriage (23 years old).

However, our Sainsbury genetic genealogy project took a different approach.

Genetic genealogy

Instead of relying on the evidence of parish registers alone, we also used the Ancestry DNA match lists of 20 Somerset Sainsbury cousins to try to identify the place and family of origin of our earliest Somerset ancestor.

In this process, we found 165 matches to other Sainsbury descendants. But only one of those could be traced back to a brother of this Richard Sainsbury baptised in Westbury in 1722.

That single match — compared to the multiple matches we found to Sainsbury families in Heytesbury and the Wylye ValleyChippenham and MelkshamPotterne, Castle Combe, and Urchfont — seems to suggest that the Richard Sainsbury baptised in Westbury in 1722 is not, in fact, the ancestor of the Sainsburys of North Somerset.

A questionable marriage?

Additionally, there is some documentary evidence against the view that the Westbury Richard Sainsbury migrated to Portbury, Somerset.

In 1768, a Richard Sainsbury “of Westbury” married Elizabeth Draper (in Urchfont, of all places). This could have been the Richard Sainsbury baptised in Westbury in 1722, and therefore not the same person who was living in Portbury, Somerset after 1745.

Expert opinion

The opinion of a professional genealogist who specializes in Wiltshire genealogy is also against this 1722 Westbury Richard as the same one who was married in Portbury, Somerset and whose children were baptised in Clapton in Gordano, Somerset in the 1750s and 1760s.

According to a genealogist at Nimrod Research:

I cannot accept that Richard came from Westbury. There would be no reason to make that rather strange journey. At a time when people were heading more to centres of population, I can’t see that Richard would have left the market town of Westbury, bypassed Bath and Bristol, and ended up in Clapton in Gordano. It just doesn’t make sense.

But is it still possible?

  • It’s possible that other members of this Richard Sainsbury’s family had no children, in which case there would be no one for our set of Somerset Sainsbury cousins to match with through Ancestry DNA.
  • It’s possible that other members of this Westbury Sainsbury family had children, but none of their descendants have had Ancestry DNA tests, in which case there would be no one for our set of Somerset Sainsbury cousins to match with.
  • It’s possible that there are Westbury Sainsbury descendants out there with Ancestry DNA tests, but without the linked trees going back to a Sainsbury ancestor. (In which case there would be no way for our set of Somerset Sainsbury cousins to identify them as Sainsbury matches through Ancestry DNA.)

But all of those scenarios seem unlikely given the number of cousins’ tests we’ve had to work with, the volume of Sainsbury matches this project generated, and the very clear clusters of matches we identified in other geographic areas.

At this point, then, there’s not much else to say about the Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in Westbury in 1722 except that, on the face of it, he no longer seems like a prime candidate as the forefather of the Sainsburys of North Somerset.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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DNA Match Profile: The Sainsbury family of Eastcott in the parish of Urchfont

UPDATE: October 14, 2019. The family tree showing matches between this Sainsbury family and the Sainsburys of North Somerset will be updated as additional matches come to light. The current chart is available as a PDF to download here:

Compared to other clusters we’ve looked at in our series of DNA Match Profiles (previous posts examined Sainsbury families in Heytesbury and the Wylye Valley, Chippenham and Melksham, Potterne, and Castle Combe) the Sainsbury family of 18th-century Urchfont has special significance in our quest for the origin of Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset.

Why? Because this is the first cluster we’ve looked at that includes a documented Richard Sainsbury — baptised in a year (1708) that would make him of marriageable age when our North Somerset ancestor of the same name married Mary Willis in Portbury in 1745.

Preliminary research into connections between 18th-century Urchfont and the Sainsburys of North Somerset revealed some intriguing (if unproven and far-fetched) economic and social connections. Those were described in earlier blog posts about the Goldney family of Chippenham and Bristol, and the business and legal dealings of Simon Ruddle of Urchfont who had significant property holdings in the City of Bristol.

So let’s take a closer look at the Sainsbury family of Eastcott, Wiltshire.

The Sainsbury Family of Eastcott

The hamlet of Eastcott, separated from Urchfont by Wickham Green, has no recognizable centre and consists of a few buildings strung out along the Market Lavington road and of several cottages scattered along the east side of the lane which runs northwards past Eastcott Manor.

A History of the County of Wiltshire, Vol. 10.
The parish of Urchfont in 1784.

Richard Sainsbury was born in Eastcott and baptised at the parish church in Urchfont in 1708. He was the ninth of ten children of John Sainsbury (1664-1719) and Elizabeth Wilkins (1672-1734).

Richard’s grandfather, John Sainsbury the elder (1633-1710), had been a churchwarden in Urchfont in 1675 — a position that included responsibility for the church and its furnishings, as well as administrative duties at a time when parish churches acted as a form of local government.

John Sainsbury the elder lived on a 70-acre estate in Eastcott — an estate that had been in the Sainsbury family since the 1500s:

In 1546 John Sainsbury (d. 1559) held an estate of some 70 a. in Eastcott in chief. He was succeeded there by his grandson John (II), son of Richard Sainsbury. (fn. 140) The estate was delivered to John (II) when he came of age in 1578, and at his death in 1634 he was succeeded by his son John (III), who died at an unknown date. (fn. 141) In 1696 William Sainsbury (d. 1705), possibly the son or grandson of John (III), had an estate in Eastcott and Urchfont, but thereafter its descent is obscure. (fn. 142) Robert Sainsbury held 34 a. in Eastcott and Urchfont in 1732. (fn. 143)

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10

The descent of this estate is obscure after 1696 because it was around then that the family hit troubled times.

A series of bad loans

More information about this episode in the family’s history is available in an earlier blog post, but it went something like this:

  • In 1706 John Sainsbury the elder, along with his wife (Em Edwards), his son (John Sainsbury the younger) and his son’s wife (Elizabeth Wilkins) entered into some form of agreement with Sarah Goldney, spinster, of Chippenham. The agreement involved a loan of approximately £300 from Sarah Goldney to the Sainsburys, with the Sainsburys offering their property in Eastcott as security.
  • A year later the debt had not been repaid, but Sarah and her widowed mother, Anna Goldney, loaned the Sainsburys a further £120.
  • In 1709, “for the natural love and affection which she bore to the said Sarah who was her Daughter and for other good Causes and Considerations” Anna transferred her portion of the debt to Sarah.
  • Also in 1709, Sarah Goldney married Edward Thornhill, a grocer in Bristol, who then called the loan.
  • In 1710 and 1712, the Sainsburys borrowed an increased amount of money from William Jackson of Bristol to repay the Goldney-Thornhill loan. At this point they owed William Jackson £466 and 19 shillings.
  • In 1714, when William Jackson called the loan, the Sainsburys (John Sainsbury the younger and his mother, Em Edwards Sainsbury) secured a new loan from Thomas Loveday, a clothier who lived in Painswick, Gloucestershire, and Brice Webb, a merchant of the City of Bristol. At which point they owed Loveday and Webb £550 and 6 shillings.
  • When, inevitably, Loveday and Webb asked for repayment, John Sainsbury the younger and his mother manged to borrow £685 from Dame Mary Whetstone of Bristol, the widow of Sir William Whetstone.
  • In 1719, after the death of John Sainsbury the younger (i.e., the 11-year-old Richard’s father) Dame Whetstone sued for repayment or, failing that, she demanded trustees “with all convenient Speed [to] sell and dispose of the said [property] . . . for the most moneys they should get for the same and with the money thereby arising pay and satisfy [the loan of] the said sum of six hundred eighty five pounds and all the Interest then due. . .” (Whetstone v Sainsbury).

Elizabeth’s defense

In her defense, Richard’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Sainsbury, said the property in question was actually hers through a marriage settlement drawn up in 1692. In which case, of course, her late husband and mother-in-law had no right to offer it as collateral on any loan.

Moreover, although Elizabeth had signed these loan documents throughout the years, she did so “upon the severe threats of her said husband and upon his assuring her that it [the deception] would not hurt her or [words] to that effect.” Her husband also told her not to let anyone know about the marriage settlement “and severely threatened her” if she ever did.

In her defense, Elizabeth also said she had no clue how much money was owed, that the property in question was only worth about £30 per year as a rental, and as a widow with seven living children “she hath not nor ever had any other provision for her maintenance or liveleyhood.”

The outcome of the case is not known. But the results could have been catastrophic. At worst, the widow Elizabeth Sainsbury could have been sent to debtor’s prison:

In England, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, 10,000 people were imprisoned for debt each year.[11] A prison term did not alleviate a person’s debt, however; an inmate was typically required to repay the creditor in-full before being released.[12]


Whether or not she served a sentence, Elizabeth died 16 years later and was buried in Urchfont on March 9, 1734:

Urchfont parish register. Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre; Chippenham, Wiltshire, England; Reference Number: 645/5.

Finding DNA matches

By searching the Ancestry DNA matches of about 20 Somerset Sainsbury cousins for anyone with a Sainsbury or Saintsbury in their online trees we identified three documented descendants of the Urchfont Sainsburys who each shared DNA with a Somerset Sainsbury.

Those trees provided other surnames that we used to find additional DNA matches to people who had an Urchfont Sainsbury in their ancestry, but who hadn’t yet traced their trees far enough back to include the Sainsbury ancestor. (And who were therefore not identified through a search for the surname Sainsbury or Saintsbury.)

The Oslands of Australia

Like the surname Berrett for matches to descendants of one of the Potterne Sainsburys, and the surname Sparey for descendants of one of the Heytesbury Sainsburys, the surname Osland among Australian Ancestry users became a “gateway” surname that enabled us to find many more DNA matches between Somerset and Urchfont Sainsbury descendants. (See family tree, below).

A family tree of DNA matches

We have so far identified nine 10 descendants of the Urchfont Sainsbury family who share DNA with nine 10 Somerset Sainsbury cousins. This chart shows connections identified as of October 9, 2019 but an up-to-date chart is available for download at the top of this post:

Names in bold along the bottom of the tree are descendants of Richard Sainsbury and Mary Willis, married in Portbury, Somerset in 1745. Arrows indicate Sainsbury descendants on Ancestry with whom they share DNA.

The family trees of the other DNA clusters we’ve looked at (in Heytesbury and the Wylye Valley, Chippenham and Melksham, Potterne, and Castle Combe) do not include a Richard Sainsbury — someone who could be the earliest documented ancestor of the North Somerset clan.

This cluster is worth a closer look because it does include a Richard Sainsbury.

Richard Sainsbury of Eastcott

John and Elizabeth Sainsbury’s ninth child, Richard, was baptised in 1708 and was still alive at the time of his mother’s legal proceedings with Dame Mary Whetstone in 1719.

But in the next 30 years (according to the parish registers) he did not marry in Urchfont, nor was he buried in Urchfont or the surrounding communities.

As possible marriages, there are only:

  • the 1768 Urchfont marriage of a Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont to a Jane Maggs of Shrewton, and
  • the 1771 Urchfont marriage of a Richard Sainsbury of Westbury to Elizabeth Draper of Urchfont.

In both cases, the Richard baptised in 1708 would have been about 60 years old — not impossible, but also not likely at at time when the average age at marriage was around 26.

So what became of this Richard Sainsbury?

In short, we don’t know.

However, Richard’s brother Francis (1706-1777) likely had two sons, John (1732-1810) and Richard (1738-?).

John and his second wife, Mary Chandler, migrated west to Maiden Bradley near the Somerset border.

And now here’s the’s the strange part. . .

In 1851, one of John and Mary (Chandler) Sainsbury’s great-grandsons, John Sainsbury (1845-1929?), was likely living in Congresbury, Somerset with the 70-year-old grandson of Richard Sainsbury (of Somerset):

Household of John and Mary Sainsbury in the 1851 census of Congresbury, Somerset showing (third line down) a 6-year-old “grandson” named John, born in Wales. John and Mary did not have a Welsh-born grandson named John.

So first of all, we don’t know how this 6-year-old John Sainsbury — descendant of Francis Sainsbury of Urchfont — was actually related to John and Sarah.

Secondly, he likely married Martha (possibly Jones) in Wales in 1872, had eight children, and was living in Romford, Essex in 1911. However, we have not identified a genetic match among our Somerset Sainsbury cousins to any of his descendants.

It’s possible, of course, that none of his descendants have taken an Ancestry DNA test. (In doing this project it’s easy to forget that most people haven’t!)

But back to Richard

But getting back to Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont.

If he was, in fact, the same Richard who migrated to North Somerset, married Mary Willis in Portbury in 1745, and began the large family of descendants that this project involves, then maybe he maintained some connection to his brother Francis.

And maybe that connection lasted into subsequent generations.

It seems unlikely.

But until we have DNA and documentary evidence to explain this mysterious “grandson” John Sainsbury, all we have are theories.

Ongoing research

As with all the genetic clusters we’ve identified, the research to conclusively establish (or rule out) a family connection between our earliest Somerset ancestor and this Sainsbury family is ongoing.

Can you help?

Are you a descendant of the Sainsbury family of Urchfont? Would you like to be part of this research project by visiting archives or sharing your DNA results? Please use the Comments section or the Contact button at the top of this page to get in touch!


A P Baggs, D A Crowley, Ralph B Pugh, Janet H Stevenson and Margaret Tomlinson, ‘Parishes: Urchfont’, in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1975), pp. 173-190. British History Online [accessed 1 October 2019].

Debtors’ prison. Wikipedia.

National Archives (UK). Short title: Whetstone v Sainsbury. Document type: Bill and three answers. Plaintiffs:…. Reference C 11/317/7. Record details

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A Day of Coincidence: Urchfont Connections

The next cluster of DNA matches we’ll investigate in our series of DNA Match Profiles is one centred on the Wiltshire parish of Urchfont.

But before we get to that post in the next few weeks, it’s worth considering some connections that have come to light from wills and other documents that link individuals in 18th-century Urchfont to others in the Bristol area where our Somerset Sainsburys lived.

A documented Richard Sainsbury

Compared to the other clusters we’ve looked at in the past few DNA Match Profile blog posts, and as will be seen in an upcoming blog post, there are more matches among our Somerset cousins to descendants of the Sainsburys (or Saintsburys) of Urchfont.

In addition to more DNA matches, the Sainsbury family of 18th-century Urchfont is also worth an in-depth look because it includes a documented Richard Sainsbury.

Richard Sainsbury bap. Urchfont 1708

A Richard Sainsbury was baptised in Urchfont 1708. He did not die as an infant and he was alive in 1719 when he was named in a court case involving a debt his widowed mother claimed she could not pay.

After that, we know nothing about him. There are no area marriages or deaths of a Richard Sainsbury in the years following.

One unproven possibility (described in the Wild Weekend Theory post a few months back) is that he was, in fact, the Richard Sainsbury who appears near Bristol in 1745 and marries Mary Willis.

It’s true that a 1708 baptism would make the Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont a bit old (at 37) to be the same person who marries near Bristol in 1745 (at a time when the average age at marriage was closer to 26). But it would make him a reasonable age (77) when he died in 1785.

Richard Billet Sainsbury

When we started this research, one of the intriguing clues to our Sainsbury ancestor’s origin was the middle name he gave his fourth child, Richard Billet Sainsbury:

Richard Billet son of Richd. & Mary Saintsbury – Bpd. Octr. the 14 1753. Clapton in Gordano, Somerset.
Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records, 1538-1914; Reference Number: D\P\

Billet or Billett was not an area surname. In fact, a search of parish registers in the Portbury area between 1700 and 1750 turns up only one record, the marriage of Gilbert Billet and Mary Skeats in Long Ashton (a parish beside Portbury), in 1711:

Search results for any Billet or Billett baptism, marriage or burial in Portbury or 100 additional places within 12 miles. (

(Side note: A little over a decade later, in November 1725, Gilbert was declared bankrupt. The notice in the London Gazette described him as a cider merchant and chapman who lived in Lacock, Wiltshire.)

Middle names, of course, were often family surnames from earlier generations. So was Billet or Billett the surname of Richard Sainsbury’s mother or grandmother?

Did a Sainsbury marry a Billet?

A search for any marriages between a Sainsbury or Saintsbury and a Billet or Billett in all transcribed English parish records turns up only one, in 1736, between a Robert Saintsbury and Mary Billet, which happens to be in the same time period we’re investigating:

Search results for any marriages between a Sainsbury or Saintsbury and A Billet or Billett. England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

As it turns out, the Mary Billet who married this Robert Saintsbury in 1736 (at about the same time our ancestor, Richard, was starting his family in the Bristol area) was the daughter of Gilbert Billet and Mary Skeats.

However, as can be seen from the location of their daughter’s 1736 marriage (Corsham, Wiltshire), neither Gilbert Billet and his family nor Mary Skeats (or Skeate) or her family were from Somerset. They were from Wiltshire.

Who was Robert Saintsbury?

Robert Saintsbury was an innholder in Calne, near Corsham. When he died in 1775 he left multiple legacies to many cousins and associates in various parts of Wiltshire.

However, he doesn’t seem to have been a near relation of either the Richard Sainsbury who was born in Urchfont in 1708, or the Richard Sainsbury who married in Portbury in 1745. He was from a Sainsbury family that originated in Devizes, Wiltshire to which we’ve found no DNA connections:

Immediate family of Robert Saintsbury (b. Warminster 1717 d. Calne 1775)

So the investigation into a possible connection with these Saintsbury and Billet families came to an end. Or maybe just a pause. There’s still something compelling about both the 1711 Gilbert Billet – Mary Skeats (or Skeate) marriage in the parish next to Portbury, and the 1736 marriage of Gilbert and Mary’s daughter, Mary, to a Robert Saintsbury.

Ruddle v Weston

In 1741, five years after the marriage of Robert Saintsbury and Mary Skeates, depositions in a legal case were taken in the Bristol-area village of Brislington. This was part of a case known as Ruddle v Weston.

We don’t have the original documents, but the plaintiffs were Simon Ruddle, John Clark, and Thomas Hayward.

The defendants included a Samuel Sainsbury (junior), and given the time and place of these depositions, it seemed possible this Samuel Sainsbury could have been a relation of Richard Sainsbury who was living in nearby Portbury.

Who was Samuel Sainsbury junior?

However, just like the lead provided by the Robert Saintsbury who married Mary Billet, an investigation into the family of this Samuel Sainsbury junior didn’t lead to any discoveries about our Bristol-area ancestor.

The immediate family of Samuel Sainsbury junior (b. 1718 Market Lavington, Wiltshire d. 1778 Bristol)

In short, there was no Richard Sainsbury in Samuel Sainsbury junior’s immediate family and (so far) no identified DNA connections between Samuel’s family and any descendants of Richard Sainsbury North Somerset.

So if there’s no identified connection between Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset (who gave his son the middle name “Billet”) and either Gilbert Billet of Wiltshire, or the Robert Sainsbury who married Gilbert’s daughter, or Samuel Sainsbury junior of Bristol, is there any connection to Gilbert Billet’s wife, Mary Skeate?

The answer is a qualified “maybe.”

A Skeate family connection?

The defendants in the case of Ruddle v Weston include four siblings: Emanuel, William, Elizabeth, and Mary Skeate. A bit of research revealed they are, in fact, Gilbert Billet and Mary Skeate’s nieces and nephews, descended from William Skeate and Alice Ruddle:

The Skeate family of Bishops Cannings, Wiltshire; descendants of William Skeate and Alice Ruddle.

Meanwhile, ongoing research into the family tree of Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in Urchfont in 1708 turned up an intriguing connection, or coincidence — his great-grandmother was a Ruddle.

Rebecca Ruddle (d. 1688)

Pedigree of Richard Sainsbury (or Saintsbury) of the parish of Urchfont, Wiltshire. Rebecca Ruddle is his paternal great-grandmother.

A Ruddle connection?

The fact that the Billet-Skeate family of the Chippenham area and the Sainsbury family of Urchfont each had a Ruddle ancestor led to a search for the will of any Ruddle who may have lived in Urchfont in the 1700s.

If any such wills existed, they might have mentioned Sainsbury relatives and, with luck (a lot of luck), they might even have mentioned some distant kinsman, “Richard Sainsbury, formerly of Urchfont, but now living in Somerset.”

Well, that didn’t happen.

But what did turn up was the 1748 will of Simon Ruddle, complainant in the Ruddle v Weston case that held depositions in the Bristol area in 1741, and whose defendants included four Skeate siblings and Samuel Sainsbury junior:

Ancestry record of the will of Simon Ruddle (1748) of Urchfont, Wiltshire. The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 768.

The will of Simon Ruddle, 1748

We learn from this 6-page, single-spaced document that Simon Ruddle of Urchfont owned significant property in the City of Bristol. We also discover he left a legacy to the same four Skeate children named as defendants in his 1741 court case.

But we don’t yet know how he was related (if at all) to those Skeate children (and, by extension, to their aunt and uncle, Gilbert and Mary Billet).

Also, we don’t know if he was related through the Ruddle line to the Sainsburys of Urchfont (and, by extension, to the Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in 1708).

It will take time to work through all the details of his will and follow-up on any leads it provides:

But at a minimum, here’s what we’ve got:

  • The 1711 marriage of Gilbert Billet of the Chippenham area to Mary Skeate (aka Skeats, etc.) in Long Ashton (neighbouring parish to Portbury); this couple then returned to Wiltshire;
  • The 1736 marriage of a Robert Sainsbury (aka Saintsbury) to a daughter of Gilbert and Mary Billet;
  • The 1741 depositions in Brislington, near Bristol, in the case of Ruddle v Weston whose defendants included not only a Samuel Sainsbury but also nieces and nephews of Gilbert and Mary Billet.
  • The 1748 will of Simon Ruddle of Urchfont, Wiltshire, complainant in that 1741 court case, who had significant holdings in the City of Bristol;
  • The 1753 baptism of the fourth child of Richard Sainsbury (our mystery man) of Portbury who gave that child the Chippenham-area surname “Billet” as a middle name;
  • The appearance of the surname Ruddle in the ancestries of:
    • Simon Ruddle of Urchfont (will of 1748);
    • Mary Skeats (wife of Gilbert Billet) of the Chippenham area, Wiltshire, whose grandmother was a Ruddle;
    • Mary’s four nieces and nephews named in the 1741 court case (Emanuel, William, Elizabeth, and Mary Skeate) whose great-grandmother was a Ruddle, and
    • Richard Sainsbury (bap 1708) of Urchfont, whose great-grandmother was a Ruddle.

So, is there a connection?

Do these facts and coincidences point to some thread that connects:

  1. our 18th-century Bristol-area ancestor, Richard Sainsbury (birth date and place unknown);
  2. the Ruddle, Billet and Skeate families of 18th-century Wiltshire; and
  3. the Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in Urchfont in 1708 but about whose later life we have no information?

We hope more research and more DNA comparisons will provide the answer! For now, these documents and our DNA connections to the Sainsburys of Urchfont are providing many leads to pursue as we work to solve the mystery of Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset.

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DNA Match Profile: The Sainsburys of Worton and Potterne, Wiltshire

UPDATE: October 15, 2019. The family tree showing matches between this Sainsbury family and the Sainsburys of North Somerset will be updated as additional matches come to light. The current chart is available as a PDF to download here:

Since March, 2019 we’ve been searching the Ancestry DNA matches of nearly two dozen Somerset Sainsbury cousins who’ve volunteered to help this project — all in an effort to find others whose 18th-century Sainsbury ancestors might indicate our own ancestor’s place and family of birth.

Why so much searching?

Even when children have the same two parents and the same four grandparents, the DNA they inherit is distinct. We’re looking for traces of DNA inherited from a single ancestor who lived 300 years ago. So the more tests we examine among his descendants and likely distant cousins, the more accurate our research becomes. Check out this page from Ancestry for more information about DNA inheritance: DNA: The Building Blocks of Life

As the number of matches grew we saw distinct geographic patterns emerge. These geographic clusters are the subject of this series of “DNA Match Profile” blog posts. Earlier posts described 18th-century Sainsbury (or Saintsbury) families in these places in Wiltshire:

This post describes a Sainsbury family that lived in Worton, Wiltshire in the early 1700s. The DNA matches between descendants of this family and descendants of our Somerset Sainsburys suggest a close connection between the two families. But is it close enough to claim our earliest Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, was born into this family?

Here’s what we know…

In a 1985 history of Worton, author B.M.H.C. Crane wrote:

There are no, nor were there, any famous families, no large estate, no earth shattering events have happened here. Worton is a village of the ordinary: Ordinary people doing ordinary things, leaving only slight marks of their passing.

In 1801, about 50 years after Jonathan and his family lived in Worton, the population was 326. According to a brief history of the village, the clay-heavy land was principally used for dairy farming.

Worton and area. Ordnance Surveyor’s Drawings 1808-1811

Between 1739 and 1749 Jonathan Sainsbury and his wife, probably Elizabeth Hutchins, lived in Worton and had six children baptised in Potterne.

It appears each of those children lived to adulthood because there are no infant burials for any Sainsbury children in Potterne in the same period.

Eight different matches to 10 different cousins

During our search for Sainsburys we pretty much came to expect we’d find a match to a descendant of this family in the match list of any Somerset Sainsbury cousin we investigated. In terms of number of matches this cluster is about equivalent to the matches we found to the Sainsburys of Heytesbury and area.

Somerset Sainsbury cousins are indicated by their Ancestry user names or initials in bold along the bottom of this tree. Names of those they match have been obscured for privacy.

Jonathan was not a common name among 18th-century Sainsburys. In fact, there is only one baptism for a Jonathan Sainsbury around the years that would make him of marriageable age by 1730.

He therefore seems to have been the son of Samuel Sainsbury and Elizabeth Chapman who was baptised in West Lavington, Wiltshire on 27 Aug 1706.

Jonathan Sainsbury’s 1706 baptism in the West Lavington parish register.

Jonathan’s eight children were born between 1732 and 1749. This is about the same time as our earliest Somerset Sainsbury ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, and his wife were having children in Clapton in Gordano, Somerset. Age-wise, then, Jonathan Sainsbury of Worton and Richard Sainsbury of Clapton in Gordano may have been brothers, which would explain these DNA matches.

Were Jonathan and Richard brothers?

Jonathan’s parents, Samuel Sainsbury and Elizabeth Chapman, did not have a documented child named Richard. However, there are gaps in the record of their children’s births, which holds out the possibility that they could have had a son named Richard.

In fact, if there are children missing from the record (because those children were not baptised, or because the registers have not survived) it’s likely they would have used the name “Richard” for any son they had because it was Elizabeth’s father’s name.

The possibility of other children

Samuel Sainsbury and Elizabeth Chapman were married in West Lavington in 1694, but the baptism of their first recorded child doesn’t appear until 1699. It’s therefore possible they had other children (including a Richard?) in that five-year period after their marriage.

Their last recorded child was baptised in 1711, so again, there’s the possibility that they had other children after that date. These “windows of opportunity” for other children are indicated by the grey boxes at either end of this family tree:

The family tree of Samuel Sainsbury (1666-1749) and Elizabeth Chapman (1667-1736) of West Lavington, Wiltshire

We also don’t know if Jonathan was closely related to Edward Sainsbury and his family, who were the subject of the previous blog post about Sainsbury matches centred around Heytesbury. That investigation will be the subject of future research.

Jonathan died intestate in 1770, so we don’t have a will that might have given us more information about his life and family.

What do do have, however, is the rather wonderful, determined signature of Jonathan’s 24-year-old son, George, on an estate administration document of 1770:

Wiltshire, England, Wills and Probate, 1530-1858. [Ancestry]. P01: Probate records of the Consistory Court of Salisbury. Letter: S. Image 1250 of 5359.

Overall, the number of matches between the Somerset Sainsburys and this family seems to suggest “there’s something there.” But what that something is, we don’t yet know.

However, the purpose of this post (and all posts in this DNA Match Profile series) is to describe and document the matches we found with the help of so many cousins. Further research and interpretation will follow as we try to identify the family and place of origin of our earliest Somerset Sainsbury ancestor, Richard Sainsbury.

The next blog post will look at the matches we’ve identified to descendants of a 17th- and 18th-century Sainsbury (aka Saintsbury) family of Eastcott (aka Escott) between Easterton and Urchfont, Wiltshire.

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DNA Match Profile: The Sainsburys of Codford St Mary, Codford St Peter and Heytesbury

UPDATE: September 26, 2019. The family tree showing matches between this Sainsbury family and the Sainsburys of North Somerset will be updated as additional matches come to light. The current chart is available as a PDF to download here:

As we looked for Sainsburys in the family trees of other Ancestry users who match our Somerset cousins — all in an attempt to locate the family and place of origin of our earliest known Sainsbury ancestor — one of the most interesting clusters we found lived in the area around Codford St Mary and Codford St Peter in Wiltshire in the very early 1700s. (This cluster was first described in an earlier post.) Other towns in the same area where member of this family lived include Heytesbury, Warminster and Corsley.

These communities lie in Wiltshire’s scenic Wylye Valley which, according to Wikipedia, “is dotted with small chocolate box villages composed of thatched cottages and stone-built pubs.”

In 1801 the combined population of both “Codfords” was about 600.

Map of Codford St Peter and Codford St Mary, circa 1880.

Overview of these matches

We started our search for matches to descendants of this family using the surname Sainsbury but we added other surnames as our knowledge of this particular family grew. Other surnames that revealed DNA matches to descendants of this family included Sparey (Spary, Speary) and Moody.

Overall, we found nine matches to descendants of these Codford Sainsburys in the DNA results of seven of our 20 Somerset Sainsbury cousins.

These matches are outlined in this family tree. The names at the bottom are the Ancestry user names of our Somerset Sainsbury cousins. The Ancestry names of those they match have been removed for privacy:

This tree has been updated. Check the PDF download at the top of this post for the latest version.

The matches include three shared matches, which (if they all match at the same chromosomal location — which is currently beyond the scope of this project) greatly increases the reliability of the connection between these two Sainsbury families:

  • In one case (the first column on the family tree) a set of half third cousins in Canada and two additional Somerset Sainsbury descendants share a match to an Australian parent and child. (This match was described in an earlier post called Anatomy of a Match).
  • In another case (the third column in the family tree) two first cousins in Canada share a match to a descendant in England.
  • And in the third case (the last column in the family tree) one of our Somerset Sainsbury cousins in England is a match to two Australian descendants who are first cousins.

So what does this tell us?

The number of matches, and the number of duplicate matches, in this set suggests a strong genetic connection between the Somerset Sainsburys and this Sainsbury family.

Were Richard and Edward brothers?

Our own ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, was married in 1745 and had children in the 1740s and 1750s. That would likely put him, age-wise, on a par with the Edward Sainsbury in this tree, whose children were born in the 1730s and 1740s.

Edward was baptised in Heytesbury in 1705, the son of a Thomas Sainsbury:

One possible explanation for these genetic connections is that Richard and Edward were brothers. This would make our Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, the uncle of this children listed in the top row of the family tree (above).

This Sainsbury family likely lived in Tytherington, Wiltshire rather than Heytesbury itself. Thirteen years after Edward’s baptism there is another Sainsbury baptism in Heytesbury, this time for a William Sainsbury, son of Thomas “of Tytherington.” William was likely Edward’s brother.

There are no Sainsbury baptisms in Heytesbury between 1706 and 1717. But this gap in births opens up the possibility that Richard Sainsbury (b. ? – d. 1785), the ancestor of the Sainsburys of North Somerset, was a child of Thomas Sainsbury of Tytherington, Wiltshire:

The early 18th-century Thomas Sainsbury family of Tytherington, Wiltshire

When compared to the other clusters of 18th-century Sainsburys we identified in this project, this cluster’s multiple and duplicate matches are among the strongest indications that the descendants of Edward Sainsbury and Mary Miles of Heytesbury may be cousins to the Sainsburys of North Somerset.

Edward died in 1777 and was buried in Codford St Mary. Unfortunately, he left no will. If he had, it might have been our chance to discover some small bequest to “my brother Richard of the county of Somerset,” and we would therefore have had the documentary proof we need to connect these two families.

However, Edward did witness the 1736 will of John Sly of Codford St Mary. His signature (as “Edward Sansbuary”) is on the last page of that document:

The signatures of Edward Sansbuary and John Harwood, and the mark of John Harwood’s wife, Finata, on the 1736 will of John Sly of Codford St Mary

As the notes below describe, there are some significant, unverified assumptions in all this. It’s not certain, for example, that the Oliver matches in this tree are descendants of Edward Sainsbury.

We’ll need more genetic matches, and hopefully more documentary evidence, before we can definitively say that Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset was born between 1706 and 1716 in the Heytesbury area of Wiltshire, or that he was the son of Thomas Sainsbury and the brother of Edward and William Sainsbury of Tytherington, Wiltshire.

Steve Sheppard / By-Way to Tytherington / CC BY-SA 2.0



There are two significant, unverified assumptions in this cluster of genetic matches:

Note 1. Mary SAINSBURY (bap. 1742, Codford St Peter) married William OLIVER in Codford St Mary in 1769. There is only one documented child in the church records: a son named William. In the next generation, there is a Jonathan OLIVER bap. Codford St Peter in 1797, the son of John and Ann OLIVER. The speculation here – based on these DNA matches, is that Jonathan’s father, John, was the son of Mary SAINSBURY and William OLIVER.

Note 2. William SAINSBURY married Betty DYER in Heytesbury in 1768. They were both of Heytesbury. There is no baptism of a William SAINSBURY, son of Edward and Mary, in the area around this time. However, if William was about 25 at the time of his marriage, he would be the right age and in the right area to be a son of Edward and Mary. The speculation here, based on these DNA matches, is that William was the son of Edward SAINSBURY and Mary MILES.


River Wylye. Wikipedia.

‘Sheet 058’, in Map of Wiltshire (Southampton, 1878-1890), British History Online [accessed 4 September 2019].

‘Table of population, 1801-1951’, in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1959), pp. 315-361. British History Online [accessed 4 September 2019].

DNA Match Profile: The Sainsburys of Chippenham and Melksham

A branch of Sainsburys who lived in the Chippenham and Corsham area of Wiltshire can be traced back to a Bartholomew Sainsbury who was born around 1620, location unknown, and who died in Corsham in 1680:


Fast forward more than a century and one of Bartholomew’s 3rd-great grandsons, James Sainsbury (bap. 1777 Melksham, Wilts.) and his wife Hester Andrews had (among other children) two sons (James, b. 1819 and George, b. 1822) in Dursley, Gloucestershire who each have a descendant with a DNA match to a Somerset Sainsbury cousin.

The multiple matches described in a previous post about the Castle Combe Sainsburys seem more significant than this “two descendants, two cousins” match to the Chippenham Sainsburys (and this particular branch, who lived in Melksham).

Nonetheless, these matches do go back to a single 18th-century Sainsbury couple and could be significant in our search for distant Sainsbury cousins if other matches to this branch are found.

It also provided an opportunity to discover an odd provision in the will of John’s father, Bartholomew Sainsbury (1733-1791), who named his youngest daughter, Margaret, as the executor of his will.

Margaret was either years old, so Bartholomew’s choice required two guardians to be appointed as executors:

Know all men by these presents that I Margaret Sainsbury lawful Daughter of Bartholomew Sainsbury late of Melksham in the County of Wilts and Archdeaconry of Sarum [Salisbury] deceased And sole Executrix named in his last Will and Testament being a minor under the Age of Twenty one years / to wit of the age of Eight years / and by reason thereof incapable by Law of taking upon me the Burthen of the Execution of the said Will Have nominated elected chosen and appointed and by these presents do nominate elect chose and appoint William Miles Yeoman and Stephen Bourne Vintner [?] — respectively of Melksham aforesaid by Guardians and Curators at Law for the purpose of taking Administration of the Goods Chattles and Credits of my said late Father together with his said last will and Testament annexed and for all other purposes whatsoever during my minority. . . .

margaret 1792
Eight-year-old Margaret Sainsbury’s mark on administration papers for her father’s estate, Feb. 10, 1792. Source: Wiltshire, England, Wills and Probate, 1530-1858. P02: Probate records of the Archdeaconry of Salisbury. S. Image 13000 of 13204.






DNA Match Profile: The Saintsbury family of Castle Combe

After searching the Ancestry DNA matches of more than a dozen Somerset Sainsbury cousins for anyone with a Sainsbury or Saintsbury in their tree, the cluster with the most duplicate matches is the Saintsbury family that originated in Castle Combe, Wiltshire in the 17th century.

We discovered a group of three descendants of the Castle Combe Sainsburys (usually spelt “Saintsbury” in the church records) who each match two of our cousins. This is significant because out of more than 100 matches to Sainsbury descendants on Ancestry only these 9 are matched by more than one Somerset Sainsbury cousin.

This table shows those Ancestry users who had more than one match to one of our cousins and the cluster assigned to them to help organize our results by time and place:


The Matches

A descendant of each of these three 18th-century Saintsbury siblings shares a genetic match with a pair of Somerset Sainsbury cousins:

Anne Sainsbury Lessiter (1745 – 1824)

Anne Sainsbury (bap. 1745, Nettleton, Wiltshire) and William Lessiter were married in Kingston St. Michael, Wiltshire in 1779. A pair of 2nd cousins in the US, whose shared Sainsbury ancestor is Harriet Sainsbury (b. 1816, Congresbury, Somerset), are a shared match to a Canadian descendant of Anne and William Lessiter. Anne was the daughter of William Saintsbury  (bap. 1690 1688, Castle Combe, Wiltshire) and his wife Mary Askew or Asque.

William’s family had been in Castle Combe since the mid-1660s. His grandparents, Joseph and Ann (or Agnes) Saintsbury, had at least seven children in Castle Combe in the mid-17th century. His parents, Anthony Sainsbury and Mary Sisam, had at least 8 children between the late 1670s to the early 1690s.

Joseph Sainsbury, Sainsbury, Saintsberry (1734 – ?)

William and Mary’s second child, Joseph (bap. 1734, Nettleton, Wiltshire) married Sarah Cox in Marshfield, Gloucestershire in 1762 and had a son named Job (bap. 1769, Marshfield). Job’s descendants lived in the Foxcote area of Somerset. One of his Australian descendants is a shared match to two Somerset Sainsbury fourth cousins (one in Canada, one in England) whose common Sainsbury ancestor is John Sainsbury (b. 1804, Congresbury, Somerset).

Betty Saintsbury Barrington (1733 – ?)

William and Mary had another daughter, Betty Saintsbury (bap. 1733, Nettleton), who married Isaac Barrington in 1752 in Hullavington, Wiltshire. One of their Australian descendants (although the line is somewhat hypothetical) is a match to two three Somerset Sainsbury cousins (4th cousins, once removed, one of whom also shares DNA with the descendant of Anne Sainsbury and William Lessiter mentioned above). The common Sainsbury ancestor of these three Somerset Sainsburys is John Sainsbury (b. 1782, Yatton, Somerset).


Taken together, these shared matches suggest a genetic relationship between William Saintsbury of Castle Combe and Nettleton, Wiltshire and our ancestor, Richard Sainsbury (b. ? c. 1720?) of North Somerset.


Sheer volume

No other cluster generated by our search for Sainsbury descendants has as many members that match as many pairs of cousins from “our” side of the Wiltshire-Somerset border as this Castle Combe group.

An unusual given name

Families often re-used given names through the generations and this can be a clue to kinship. Anthony is a particularly unusual name among Sainsbury families in the 18th century. In fact, a quick search of the indexed parish baptism and burial records for Wiltshire from 1538 to 1812 reveals only four Anthony Sainsburys (or variant spellings) in the whole county:

  1. An Anthony was buried 6 Jul 1660 Castle Combe (son of Joseph Saintsbury, progenitor of the Castle Combe family)
  2. An Anthony was buried 8 Aug 1672 Trowbridge (possibly related to the Castle Combe family)
  3. An Anthony was baptised 10 Feb 1683 Castle Combe and buried 9 Aug 1717 Castle Combe (cousin brother of William of Castle Combe)
  4. An Anthony was baptised 25 Feb 1694 Market Lavington and buried 25 Jun 1715 Market Lavington

Despite the rare occurrence of the name Anthony among 17th- and 18th-century Sainsburys, our Somerset ancestor gave this name to one of his sons — likely his first-born.

A gap in births

Given these DNA matches to members of this Castle Combe family, is there any way our Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, could have been born into this family? And if so, could he have been part of this family in a way that would connect him more closely with any member of the family named Anthony?

William’s cousin brother was Anthony Saintsbury baptised in Castle Combe in 1683. (He is Anthony number 3 on the above list.) There is a gap in the baptisms of his children between 1710 and 1716. This gap, indicated by the grey box with question mark in this tree, holds out the possibility that our Somerset Sainsbury ancestor was an unbaptised child of Anthony and Grace Saintsbury of Castle Combe:



No documentation

There is no documentation to indicate whether the theory that Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset is a child of Anthony and Grace Saintbury of Castle Combe is true. It is only one of many theories that can be developed based on our DNA matches to explain the immediate family origins of Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset who married Mary Willis in Portbury in 1745.

Competing clusters

Other sets of shared matches among our Somerset cousins suggest genetic connections to other Sainsbury families in other parts of Wiltshire in the early 18th century. Whether those connections are closer or more distant to the link suggested by these Castle Combe matches is difficult to say at this point.

However, the fact remains that our project has revealed other clusters of matches to other Sainsbury families in 18th-century Wiltshire — each with their own strengths and weaknesses as genetic evidence about our family’s point of origin.

Those other clusters will be the subject of future DNA Match Profiles on this blog.

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Data analysis: What our Sainsbury DNA matches tell us

Earlier this year we started collecting information about any DNA matches that 19 of our known Sainsbury cousins have to other Ancestry users who have a Sainsbury, Saintsbury or Sansbury in their family tree.

We did this to see if a pattern would emerge to indicate where our Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury (? – 1785), was born and who his parents and siblings were.

This generated a set of 114 matches. However, no clear pattern emerged. Instead, we have clusters of matches whose Sainsbury ancestors hail from various parts of England — mainly Wiltshire.

An argument could probably be made for each cluster being the one from which our ancestor emerged. In the next few weeks, I’ll profile those clusters, the Sainsbury families they include, and the likelihood that our ancestor was born to parents in that cluster.

Overall, here’s where our Sainsbury matches led:

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

4 matches shared across 6 cousins go back to two sons of Joseph Sainsbury or Saintsbury (c. 1630-1678) and his wife Agnes or Ann of Castle Combe, Wiltshire.

Chippenham, Wiltshire

2 matches shared across 2 cousins go back to John Sainsbury (ca. 1706-?) and Hester Caswell (ca. 1710-?) of Chippenham.


11 matches shared across 11 cousins go back to various Sainsbury couples in Hampshire in the 18th and 19th centuries. All of these lines almost certainly go back to places in Wiltshire, but the lines have not been traced back that far.

Heytesbury, Wiltshire

3 matches shared across 2 cousin go back to William Sainsbury (ca. 1744-1805) and Betty Dyer (1747-?) of Heytesbury. Unfortunately, it’s unclear who William’s parents and grandparents were, which means (for now) this line doesn’t get us back far enough to find possible parents for our Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, who was married in 1745 and was therefore born some time before 1725.

Heytesbury area, Wiltshire

2 matches shared across 3 cousins that go back to Edward Sainsbury (1705-1777) and Mary Miles of Codford St. Mary, Wiltshire.

Potterne (Worton), Wiltshire

6 matches are shared across 9 cousin that go back to Jonathan Sainsbury (1707?-1770?) and Elizabeth Hutchins of Worton, Wiltshire, and whose children were baptized in Potterne, Wiltshire from 1739 to 1749. Based on age range, our ancestor could have been Jonathan’s brother or cousin. But as with all the DNA clusters we found, there is currently insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions.

Urchfont, Wiltshire

6 matches shared by 5 cousins of which 4 matches certainly go back to John Sainsbury or Saintsbury (1664-1719) and Elizabeth Wilkins (1672-1720?) who had a son named Richard baptized in Urchfont in 1708. Nothing more is known about that Richard Sainsbury except that he was alive in 1720 when he was named in a lawsuit against his mother.

Westbury, Wiltshire

6 matches shared across 6 cousins. This is a complicated cluster because although most of the individuals are in Westbury in the late 18th century, tracing them further back is difficult:

  • One match is descended from William Sainsbury (1685-1756) and Ann Jones (1696-?) who had a son named Richard baptized in Westbury in 1722. Nothing more is known of that Richard Sainsbury.
  • One match is descended from Elizabeth Sainsbury (1772-1846) who married Samuel Otridge or Ottridge in Westbury in 1797.
  • Two matches are descended from a Mary Sainsbury (?-1797?) who married James Elkins in Westbury in 1754.
  • Two matches are descended from Hester Trimby (1773-1843) who was born in Corsley, Wiltshire but whose parents, Edward Trimby or Trinby (ca. 1745-1776) and Betty Sainsbury (ca. 1745-1797), were married in Westbury in 1754.

West Lavington, Wiltshire

This is the largest cluster of matches. It has several sub-groups or branches that go back to various 18th-century couples. Overall, 20 matches are shared across 10 cousins.


28 matches across 16 cousins go back to Sainsburys, Saintsburys or Sansburys in various locations in Wiltshire and beyond: e.g., Gloucestershire, Liverpool, London, and Newfoundland (4 matches across 3 cousins).


20 matches across 14 cousins could not be traced. This was usually because the Ancestry member’s family trees were private and the owners did not share them for this project.

Sansbury – USA

28 matches across 13 cousins had Sansbury ancestors in colonial America. There were two main clusters: 6 matches traced back to Daniel Sansbury (?-1816) of South Carolina; 15 traced back to 17th-century Maryland. None of these lines could be traced back to specific ancestors in England with any certainty so we won’t be pursuing them in this project.  For more information about the early history of the Maryland Sansburys see these sites:

So what’s next for our Sainsbury project?

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we take a “deeper dive” into some of the clusters of shared DNA matches among our Sainsbury cousins.






US shared matches lead to Vest and Alexander

Examining shared DNA matches among known cousins can help identify common ancestors.

As part of this project we’re examining a set of about 60 matches shared by two SAINSBURY cousins whose common ancestral couple were Richard Billet SAINSBURY (1753-1811) and Elizabeth SPROD (1749-?). That couple lived in North Somerset, England in the late 18th century.

A previous post described a subset of four matches of identifiable English origin who are descendants of William PINNELL and Sarah ELLOWAY (mother’s name, Dinah HINTON).

We’ve recently discovered a subset of five Americans among that group of 60 who are all descendants of George Washington VEST and Nancy aka Sarah (Sallie) O’NEAL who lived in Virginia in the late 18th century.

Here are their lines of descent:virginia

This adds a new subset to the full set of matches shared not only by those SAINSBURY cousins but with each other. This internal matching pattern suggests there is a common ancestor among all 60 shared matches.

A cursory investigation of the ancestries of George Washington VEST and Nancy O’NEAL leads to origins in Germany, Ireland, and France. This is not a hopeful sign in the search for English ancestors.

However, it’s easy to determine that three of these five matches also descend from James ALEXANDER (son of William Corpulent ALEXANDER and Jean McNUTT) and Rachel LONG (daughter of Andrew LONG and Ann JONES).

  • James ALEXANDER 1723 Lancaster, PA ? – 1809 Fayette now Jessamine, KY
  • Rachel LONG 1739 – 1811 Jessamine, KY

This could be the line that leads to a common ancestor among all 60 shared matches because ALEXANDER and LONG are both Wiltshire surnames.

So the search continues…

Are you a descendant of James ALEXANDER and Rachel LONG? Have you had a DNA ancestry test? Please get in touch to become part of this project!


Matches lead to Pinnell, Elloway, and Hinton families of Warminster in the early 18th century

UPDATE: September 25, 2019. The family tree showing matches among this Sainsbury family, descendants of certain ancestors in colonial Virginia, and descendants of a Hinton family in 18th-century Wiltshire will be updated as additional matches come to light. The current chart is available as a PDF to download here:

As we trace back the ancestries of our shared DNA matches to find a common ancestor, one set has led to the PINNELL family of Warminster, Wiltshire in the early 1700s. We haven’t established a connection between this PINNELL family and our SAINSBURY ancestors in that place at that time, but the findings are suggestive.

Two of our Somerset cousins (they are, to be precise, half third cousins once removed) share between 20 and 30 cM of DNA with a set of about five dozen matches on Ancestry who all, by and large, share this same amount of DNA with each other.

This pattern suggests the individuals in this set of shared matches are approximately 6th – 8th cousins and share a common ancestor somewhere in the 18th century.

The first approach to unravelling the mystery of these shared matches — which could lead back to a common SAINSBURY ancestor — was to trace the lineages of those matches whose family trees had already been traced back to England in the 19th century or earlier.

This provided a subset of five individuals who were good candidates to test the theory that, due to their shared DNA, they should have a common ancestral couple some time in the 18th century. Two of these matches are in North America, two are in Australia (a parent and child), and one is in the UK.

We found the first documented proof of a “cousin connection” between the two North Americans. Those individuals (names and Ancestry user names withheld for privacy) both descend from Jane TURVILL (b. 1794, Warminster, Wiltshire) and James Joseph HURL through their great-grandchildren Madeline Irene HURL (born in Coldwater, Ontario in 1899) and Levinia HURL (born in Peterborough, Ontario in 1875).

Levinia and Madeline were second cousins. Their descendants, whose DNA matches our Somerset cousins, are 3rd cousins, twice removed.

This tree has been updated. Check the PDF download at the top of this post for the latest version.
PINNELL- SAINSBURY DNA Family Tree. No common ancestor yet identified, but a pattern of DNA matches suggests it can’t be much further back. An arrow indicates Adam MOODY whose great-grandmother was Martha SAINSBURY SPAREY. That ancestral line was the subject of an earlier post. However, the shared matches described in this post are so far pointing in a different direction.

The next cousin added to this DNA family tree was our Australian match and her child. They descend from Jane TURVILL’s brother, James TURVILL and his wife Sarah JENNINGS.

This took the tree back another generation to Jane and James’s parents: William TURVILL and Sarah PENNALS (also spelt PANNELS). It’s important to note that from this point on it’s assumed Sarah’s surname (as recorded at her baptism and her marriage) is a variant of the surname PINNELL.

With this PINNELL surname in mind, the most recent addition to our theoretical family tree is the UK shared match. Their line (if our research is correct — and all this work needs to be verified) goes back to Sarah’s parents: William and Sarah PINNELL whose children were born in Warminster from the 1750s to the 1770.

Unfortunately we haven’t found a baptism record for William. Nor have we found a record of his marriage to Sarah. It’s tempting to think Sarah’s surname was SAINSBURY and (more tempting) that she was the sister of Richard SAINSBURY who married Mary WILLIS in Portbury, Somerset in 1745 — the couple at the top of the family tree of our Sainsburys of North Somerset. UPDATE (Aug. 28, 2019): William PINNELL was bap. 10 Apr. 1723 in Warminster, Wilts., the son of Richard and Mary PINNELL. He married Sarah ELLOWAY in Warminster of 27 Mar. 1749. She was the daughter of Edward ELLOWAY and a Dinah HINTON (bap. 1708 Corsley, Wilts, the dau. of Edward HINTON and Mary BRICE). The shared DNA match to this cluster, judging by the patterns of matches we’ve found, is likely back in time through this HINTON line.

In any case, at some point in this tree, if not at William and Sarah PINNELL’s generation then not much further back, there should be a SAINSBURY wife and/or mother to explain the DNA matches between our Somerset cousins who descend from Richard and Mary SAINSBURY, and this set of five cousins who descended from William and Sarah PINNELL, and the other 60 or so matches who share DNA not only with those PINNELL descendants but also with our Somerset Sainsbury cousins.

In a nutshell, that’s the theory suggested by this set of shared matches.

With any luck, some documentation will emerge to either confirm or refute this theory. But until then, we’ll keep working the shared DNA matches to solve the Mystery of Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset.

Poor Law entry: William and Sarah PINNELL

Although not immediately helpful for our SAINSBURY search, a William and Sarah PINNELL are listed in a set of records known as the Poor Law in Wiltshire. This is a published set of removal orders, settlement certificates and settlement examinations that provide information about many 18th- and 19th-century Wiltshire residents who relied on parish relief and other forms of assistance:

PENELL, William Age : 24; Occupation/status : scribler; Date : 1775 Jan 16

Ref : 712/20 Trowbridge. Settlement examination at Trowbridge

Detail : born Warminster where father William was a parishioner; worked Warminster; now in Wiltshire Militia; married at Trowbridge about 1773; wife Sarah; ch Richard 21 mths

This William PENELL (presumably a variant of PINNELL) may have been a brother of the Sarah PENNALS (PINNELL?) who married William TURVILL — the ancestors of three of the four shared matches we’ve connected to this tree.

So although not a direct ancestor of our currently identified shared matches in the PINNELL line, William’s entry in the poor law records opens up a window on what life was like for these family members in 18th-century Wiltshire.

It tells us William, born in Warminster around 1751, was a scribler — someone who tends a wool-combing machine called a scribler or “scribbling horse.” This was a wooden frame with iron teeth; the scribler’s task (if my understanding is correct!) was to drag the wool over these teeth with a carding comb to break up lumps and knots.

Trowbridge Museum fact sheet

The entry also tells us William was in the Wiltshire militia and in January, 1775 he applied to parish overseers to relocate from Warminster to Trowbridge with his wife, Sarah, and their 21-month old son, Richard PINNELL (b. April, 1773).

Unfortunately, this couple isn’t the William and Sarah PINNELL at the top of the Wiltshire side of our emerging family tree. But it’s a good reminder that, as we trace our ancestors, we’re tracing the lives of people who served their communities, built relationships, and did what they could — or what they needed to do — in difficult times.

Sources and further reading

Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum. West country cloth workers. (Describes resistance to industrialization among Wiltshire and Somerset cloth workers in the 18th century.)

Trowbridge Museum. Trowbridge museum fact sheet: Carding and slubbing.

Wiltshire Family History Society. (2017). Poor Law in Wiltshire: Removal Orders, Settlement Certificates and Settlement Examinations, 1670-1890 (CD 21).