What a year it’s been!

Interim report on genetic evidence of our Somerset Sainsbury origins

This month we reached the one-year anniversary of our genetic genealogy project.

That’s one year in which we searched the DNA matches of nearly two dozen Somerset Sainsbury cousins to find any others whose 18th-century Sainsbury ancestors might indicate our earliest known Somerset Sainsbury ancestor’s place and family of birth.

It was like working on a 300-year-old adoption case!

What did we find?

What we found were four main clusters of genetic matches, any one of which could have been our ancestral place of origin.

The corresponding areas — Urchfont, Potterne, villages in the Wylye Valley, and villages north of Chippenham — are shown here:

Any of the Sainsbury families from these locations could have been our “nearest distant” Sainsbury cousins.

However, our earliest known Somerset Sainsbury ancestor couldn’t have been born in all four places, so the next phase of this project examined each cluster in more detail and found the following:

The Sainsburys of the villages north of Chippenham

For background on this cluster see this post: Seeking Triangulation: Anne Sainsbury of north Wiltshire

The likelihood that this cluster represents our Wiltshire family of origin took a bit of a hit earlier this year. The strongest match we had among our Somerset Sainsbury cousins to a descendant of this north Wiltshire Sainsbury family turned out to be a “false positive.”

Further investigation showed our two Somerset Sainsbury cousins relate to this Sainsbury descendant through a common Holbrook ancestor in Somerset, not through a common Sainsbury ancestor in north Wiltshire.

Based on available evidence, we can therefore set this cluster aside as a leading candidate in our search for our Sainsbury origins.

The Sainsburys of the Wylye Valley

For background see this post: DNA Match Profile: The Sainsburys of Codford St Mary, Codford St Peter and Heytesbury

As with the previous cluster, the strongest genetic evidence in this case also by-passes the Sainsbury line and points instead to a common Hinton or other ancestor.

A sticky segment situation

This cluster involves what’s known as a “sticky segment” of DNA. These are segments of DNA that remain unchanged from generation to generation. They can either be very valuable (if they can be tracked along family lines within a genealogical time frame) or very challenging (if they have remained unchanged among many individuals for as much as 1,000 years).

Case in point — my father’s Ancestry report says he’s 3% Norwegian, but there are no documented Norwegians in our family tree. A “non-paternity event” is always possible, but so is the fact that these “Norwegian” segments of DNA could have been in our family since the Vikings invaded England.

In the case of our Somerset Sainsbury matches to descendants of the Sainsburys of the Wylye Valley, the strongest genetic evidence we have (i.e., a large segment on chromosome 1 that is shared with multiple matches) points to a common Hinton or other ancestor.

But it still points somewhere in Wiltshire. And it’s still somehow related to our Somerset Sainsbury family. We just don’t know how.

Sticky segment on chromosome 1 shared by at least five Somerset Sainsbury cousins, Sainsbury descendants of the Wylye Valley, and matches with ancestry in colonial Virginia. See: US shared matches lead to Vest and Alexander

There is also some evidence that this cluster’s Sainsbury ancestors were Thomas Sainsbury (1673-?) and Mary Phillips (1682-?) of Urchfont.

If so, this supports a separate body of evidence we’ve amassed in the past year that definitely points to our own origins in Urchfont. (See below.)

The Sainsburys of Worton

For background see this post: The Sainsburys of Worton in the parish of Potterne

This is a cluster with many genetic matches who descend from Jonathan Sainsbury, born in West Lavington in 1706.

This was a challenging cluster to analyze because although it contains many matches (15 as of today), we can tell from available documents that the Sainsbury at the head of this family is not a near relation to any of the Sainsburys at the head of any of the other families.

However, further research earlier this year showed most of these matches (10 out of 15) likely descend through their maternal ancestor, Betty Coleman, from the Edwards family of Urchfont.

If so, Betty Coleman’s descendants would be cousins of the Richard Sainsbury who was born in Urchfont in 1708. (That Richard Sainsbury’s grandmother was an Edwards).

This would add further evidence to an emerging body of genetic proof that indicates the Richard Sainsbury baptised in Urchfont in 1708 and our earliest known Somerset Sainsbury ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, are indeed the same person.

The Sainsburys of Urchfont

For background see this post: DNA Match Profile: The Sainsbury family of Eastcott in the parish of Urchfont

By process of elimination alone, the Sainsbury family of Urchfont becomes the most likely family of origin of our Somerset Sainsbury ancestor and our large extended family.

The genetic matches we found among our Somerset Sainsbury cousins to descendants of this family are numerous (close to 100) and well documented.

In the next week or so I’ll publish a report of these matches. Each of the nearly 100 matches in this cluster indicates a genetic link between a Somerset Sainsbury cousin and a descendant of Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont through his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.

Considered in isolation, any one of these matches could be taken as evidence that the Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in Urchfont in 1708 is the Richard Sainsbury who is our earliest known Somerset Sainsbury ancestor.

Taken together, all 100 genetic matches present a very compelling case.

Next steps

  • Enjoy the results of a year’s worth of of research, shared DNA results, theories, analysis, and the feeling we’ve reached a very important milestone.
  • See whether the notion expressed in last year’s Wild Weekend Theory post can be validated by any documentary evidence available in the Goldney family papers in the archives at the University of Bristol. Is there any written record to show that Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont moved to Somerset for work?
  • Continue to identify and document the genetic matches we find among our Somerset Sainsbury cousins to descendants of other Sainsbury families.

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.

6 thoughts on “What a year it’s been!

  1. My ancestor John Saintsbury 1765(abt) – 1824 married in Bedminster then moved to London where he had a clock/watch warehouse In Cow Cross Spitalfields. He used Robert, Francis, John, William etc for his children. I know nothing of his origins, but know a fair bit about Sainsbury and Saintsbury, My Dna is on Gedmatch would you like me to give you my code? I would be fascinated to know if there are any connections. Many thank Jenni


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