Richard Sainsbury baptised 1722 Westbury, Wiltshire

On Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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.

3 thoughts on “Richard Sainsbury baptised 1722 Westbury, Wiltshire

    1. Yes, I think that was common. In the case of Richard Sainsbury and Mary Willis, they were married in Portbury but their children were baptised in neighbouring Clapton in Gordano. So Richard might have lived there and Mary was likely a resident of the parish of Portbury. I think there are other Willis family members in the Portbury records (but no likely Mary Willis) and there are two “Mary Willis” baptisms in another neighbouring parish (Easton in Gordano) — one in 1713 and one in 1714 or 1715. (I believe these two Mary’s were cousins. I’ve found it was quite common for siblings having families at the same time to use the same names for cousins born close to each other. It’s endearing, but not helpful for the family historian…)

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