Sainsbury, Sansbury

As we look for distant Sainsbury cousins by checking the autosomal DNA matches of our documented cousins (and so far we’ve got 120 results from 15 cousins who’ve had Ancestry DNA tests) we’ve found other Ancestry members with Sainsbury, Saintsbury or Sansbury ancestors in their family trees.

Through this work, one pattern emerged early on:

  • Sainsbury is the most common spelling among English ancestors;
  • Sansbury is most common among the matches in Maryland and South Carolina.

But are these just different spellings of the same surname?

One way to test this is using Y-DNA:

When two males share a surname, a test of their Y-chromosome markers will determine either that they are not related, or that they are related. If they are related, the number of markers tested and the number of matches at those markers determines the range of generations until their most recent common ancestor (MRCA). 

Source: ISOGG wiki

In fact, thanks to Jen Sansbury and the Sansbury DNA Project she manages, we’ve got the first piece of evidence that those with Sainsbury or Sansbury in their family tree are likely descended from a common ancestor. In other words, we’re likely members of the same family.

“You say to-MAY-to, I say to-MAH-to . . .”

– Ella Fitzgerald

As part of the Sansbury DNA Project Jen examined Y-DNA tests from two male descendants of a South Carolina Sansbury and one descendant of our Somerset, England Sainsburys and found enough of a match to suggest we have a common Sainsbury/Sansbury ancestor who lived after the widespread adoption of English surnames, which had occurred by about the year 1400.

Report showing similarities and differences (circled) between fast-changing Y-DNA markers of two US Sansbury descendants and one Somerset Sainsbury descendant (bottom row).

These are just some observations from the first Y-DNA results we can use in this project — and we’re looking forward to more.

Are you or are any of your close male relatives Sainsburys or Sansburys? A Y-DNA test can indicate how closely you’re related to other branches of the Sainsbury and Sansbury family. More test results will enable more detailed analysis. Interested? Please contact Jen Sansbury through the Sansbury DNA Project Page.


Y-DNA information source: Surname DNA Projects.

Disclaimer: As with any research project, when new evidence comes to light, former theories may change. This blog post includes theories and conclusions developed from the best available evidence at the time this post was written. It may be corroborated or refuted by later research. This post must therefore be considered in the context of all information presented in earlier and later posts.

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