Month: March 2020

DNA evidence of our Sainsbury origins in Eastcott, Wiltshire

Eastcott, in the parish of Urchfont, Wiltshire is visible in the top-right corner of this 1773 map. Image reproduced from the Market Lavington Museum’s blog post on the Andrews and Dury map of Wiltshire

A year ago we started this project with a simple question: Where did our earliest known Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, come from? (See About this genetic genealogy project.)

We knew from parish records he wasn’t from any of the north Somerset towns or neighbouring parishes where he lived and raised his family from the mid- to late-1700s.

To answer this question, we therefore had to turn to genetic genealogy.

By using DNA to find distant Sainsbury cousins, we hoped to use their family trees to discover our Somerset ancestor’s family and place of origin.

So we spent the past year examining genetic matches and patterns of DNA relationships among more than 100 descendants of Richard Sainsbury and his wife Mary Willis who lived in north Somerset in the second half of the 1700s.

Now, after a year of research, the results are in.

What did we discover?

An earlier post explained what we found when we analyzed the most significant genetic clusters that emerged in the first phase of this project. (Interim report on genetic evidence of our Somerset Sainsbury origins.)

Now it’s time to present a person-by-person report of the nearly 100 DNA matches we found between our Somerset Sainsbury cousins and their genetic cousins.

In all cases, the family trees of these genetic cousins go back (with varying degrees of certainty) to this small group of ancestors in Urchfont, Wiltshire who lived between the mid-1500s and 1700:

  • Richard Sainsbury’s parents
    • John SAINSBURY the younger (1664-1719) and Elizabeth WILKINS (1672-1734) of Eastcott, Urchfont, Wiltshire
  • One set of Richard Sainsbury’s grandparents
    • John SAINSBURY the elder (1633-1710) and Emme EDWARDS (1639-1720) of Eastcott, Urchfont, Wiltshire
  • Two sets of Richard Sainsbury’s great-grandparents
    • Thomas SAINSBURY (1601-1644) and Rebecca RUDDLE (c. 1605-1688) of Eastcott, Urchfont, Wiltshire
    • John NUTLAND (c. 1603-?) and Joan HURL (1622-?) of West Lavington, Wiltshire
  • Two sets of Richard Sainsbury’s 2nd-great grandparents
    • John SAINSBURY (1555-1634) and Dorothy JARVIS (c. 1560-1634) of Eastcott, Urchfont, Wiltshire
    • John EDWARDS (c. 1570-1610) and Ann NOYES (c. 1575-1636) of Wedhampton, Urchfont, Wiltshire
  • Two sets of Richard Sainsbury’s 3rd-great grandmother
    • John JARVIS (? – 1585) and Elizabeth UNKNOWN (? – 1602) of Upavon, Wiltshire
    • Damasene BARTLETT SAINSBURY HARRIS (c. 1535-1613) of Eastcott, Urchfont and Great Cheverell, Wiltshire
  • Richard Sainsbury’s 4th-great grandparents
    • John SAINSBURY (c. 1510-1558) and Edith UNKNOWN (c. 1510-aft. 1558) of Market Lavington, Wiltshire

Distant DNA isn’t easy

Finding and identifying genetic matches to distant cousins on a particular family line isn’t easy. The numbers were against us from the start.

When we started this project, we knew the closest Sainsbury cousins we’d have a chance of identifying to prove anything about our Somerset ancestor’s early life would be 6th cousins. And only two of our Somerset Sainsbury cousins were at a generational level with any chance of finding a 6th cousin.

However, the probability that two 6th cousins will have no detectable DNA relationship is nearly 90%. If you add in a “generational remove” (which is likely to be the case between two people whose most recent common ancestor lived 300 years ago) the probability of no detectable DNA jumps to 94.4%:

Cousin relationships.jpg
The content of this table is derived from Table 1 in the paper The probability that related individuals share some section of genome identical by descent by Kevin P Donnelly, Statistical Laboratory, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England. (Source: Theoretical Population Biology 1983: 23, 34-63) A copy of the paper is available here.

The benefit of many known cousins and 1,000s of distant cousins

To overcome these poor odds we identified about 100 Somerset Sainsbury cousins with DNA tests on Ancestry, MyHeritage, and other genetic genealogy sites.

Any of these tests had the potential to reveal distant Sainsbury cousins whose trees could point to our own ancestor’s place of origin.

We therefore had a lot of matches to work with to overcome the dauntingly poor odds of finding distant cousins using genetic genealogy.

And while the odds of finding a genetic match with a distant cousin are very slim, it’s been estimated we each have more than half a million 9th cousins (see: This greatly increases the odds of finding the matches needed for a genetic genealogy project like ours.

We owe a great deal of thanks to the hundreds of Somerset Sainsbury cousins and their genetic matches who responded to our call for help with this project. THANK YOU!

The only reasonable conclusion

In the end, there is only one reasonable conclusion we can draw from the wealth of genetic evidence we collected and analyzed in this project:

The Richard Sainsbury born in Eastcott and baptised in Urchfont, Wiltshire in 1708 is the same person who lived in north Somerset and became the head of our large family of Somerset Sainsburys.

This conclusion is supported by nearly 100 genetic matches (listed below in a downloadable report) between Somerset Sainsburys and distant cousins whose family trees can be traced with certainty (or a high degree of likelihood) to SAINSBURY, EDWARDS, NUTLAND, and other ancestors of Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont.

This “Urchfont” DNA could only be present among so many Somerset Sainsburys if they, in turn, inherited it from their ancestor Richard Sainsbury after he migrated the 40 miles from Eastcott, Wiltshire to Portbury, Somerset some time before 1745:

DNA that originated with ancestors of Richard Sainsbury of Eastcott (bap. 1708) has been identified in descendants of Richard Sainsbury of north Somerset (bur. 1785). This leads us to conclude that both Richards are, in fact, the same person.

Download the detailed report of genetic matches here:

Next steps

  • More matches are still being identified that support our Urchfont origins. They will be added to this report when they meet a quality threshold.
  • With additional research and cooperation from those involved, most of the matches in this report could rise in rank to become stronger evidence:
    • Y-DNA tests from documented or highly likely Urchfont-descended Sainsbury men could be compared to the Y-DNA tests of Somerset Sainsbury men. (See this table from the Family Tree DNA Learning Center for more information about what those results could show.)
    • Singleton matches can become In Common With (ICW) when new shared matches are identified.
    • ICW matches can become Triangulated if all involved share their DNA results on GEDmatch and/or MyHeritage and are found to share identical segments of DNA. (Unlike Ancestry, GEDmatch and MyHeritage have chromosome browers that enable genetic genealogists to determine if an ICW match is, in fact, a triangulated match on an identical segment of DNA.)
  • Traditional genealogical research into the “pre-Somerset” history of our Sainsbury family can be carried out with confidence knowing evidence from this project supports our origin among the Sainsbury and related families of Eastcott, Wiltshire.

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.