The DNA of Thomas NOYES and Alice MERIWEATHER of Fullaway, Wiltshire

UPDATE (May 24, 2021). Supporting tree has been updated to reflect uncertainly of the Kimber-Batt line’s connection. Post has been edited to reflect this uncertainty.


The “gold standard” of genetic detective work is a well-documented family tree that connects three or more people who share an identical segment of DNA. That DNA, we assume, was inherited from an ancestral couple common to everyone in the tree.

This is called a triangulation group because, like a triangle, it has three points (or at least three people) genetically connected to each other through one ancestral couple.

Triangulation groups that include Somerset Sainsbury descendants and descendants of any ancestor of Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont, Wiltshire, provide good genetic evidence that he was our earliest known Somerset Sainsbury ancestor:

This diagram shows three branches of a family who descend from common ancestors and share identical DNA. When one or more Somerset Sainsbury cousins form a triangulation group with descendants of an ancestor of Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont, Wiltshire it strongly suggests he migrated to north Somerset and passed down that gene to his present-day descendants.

Thomas NOYES (c.1527 – 1604) and Alice MERIWEATHER (c.1535 – ?)

Thomas Noyes and Alice Meriweather were the 3rd-great grandparents of Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont.

They lived in the hamlet or “tithing” of Fullaway, which was technically part of the parish of All Cannings (9 miles to the north) but was actually closer to the village of Urchfont (2 miles south):

Fullaway can be seen near the top of this map, just east of Stert. Source: A Vision of Britain [website]. Ordnance Survey First Series, Sheet 14. CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1540 Thomas Noyes [presumably the father of the subject of this blog post] leased the land of All Cannings manor in Fullaway, including pastures called Frithes and Undercliffs, previously part of All Cannings farm. It comprised 12 a. of meadow, 37 a. of pasture, and only 6 a. of arable. (fn. 176) 

Source: A P Baggs, D A Crowley, Ralph B Pugh, Janet H Stevenson and Margaret Tomlinson, ‘Parishes: All Cannings’, in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1975), pp. 20-33. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol10/pp20-33 [accessed 21 September 2020].

This lease of the Fullaway manor lands established a Noyes family estate in Fullaway. But in the next generation, Thomas Noyes and his wife Alice Meriweather would add to those holdings.

Fullaway Farm

In 1563 Thomas Noyes (the younger) purchased Fullaway Farm from Elizabeth Hedges (née Burry) whose family had owned the farm since at least 1518.

The farm itself comprised much of the tithing of Fullaway and also included some land in the parishes of Urchfont and Stert. (See footnote 175 in the above-cited work.) With this purchase, Thomas and Alice had become significant local landowners.

At the time of this purchase, Thomas and Alice were raising their young family. Baptismal records no longer exist (if they ever did) but we can confidently reconstruct their family from wills and marriage records:

  1. William NOYES b. bef. 1557 (when he inherited 10 sheep from his grandfather, Hugh MERIWEATHER) m. Mary LONG in Potterne in 1591.
  2. Mary (aka Mary Margaret) NOYES b. c. 1560 m. Jeffrey POTTENGER in All Cannings in 1581.
  3. Robert NOYES b. c.1565
  4. Anne NOYES b. c.1567 m. John EDWARDS bef. 1592, probably in Urchfont

The Noyes-Meriweather Gene

We can also be confident that Thomas or Alice passed down a gene to their two daughters that has remained intact for the better part of 500 years. Why? Because we’ve located this gene in one — possibly two — of their very distant descendants — and two Somerset Sainsbury cousins.

These four people share an identical segment of DNA on their first chromosome:

Everyone in this triangulation group shares this 6.5 cM segment of DNA.

Pretty much the only way two Somerset Sainsbury cousins could share this Noyes-Meriweather gene with the other two is if they inherited it from Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont who (for this to have happened) must have migrated to north Somerset and was our earliest known Somerset Sainsbury ancestor.

The “nearest distant” cousin so far?

This group might include the “nearest distant” cousin we’ve found who shares a triangulated segment of DNA with a Somerset Sainsbury descendant.

As this downloadable family tree shows, MG might descend from one of Richard Sainsbury’s second cousins. However, a re-evaluation of the documentation supporting this tree has made this relationship seem unlikely. Such is the ongoing nature of family history research!

In any case, we’re still looking for a triangulation group that includes a descendant of one of Richard Sainsbury’s siblings: Elizabeth (b.1693), Emm (b. 1695), Thomas (b. 1699), Francis (b. 1706), Sarah (b. 1713), and possibly John (b. 1697, although he disappears from the records after 1720).

In the meantime, the search continues for triangulation groups to validate (or refute, although that’s seeming less likely) what this triangulation group indicates — that Richard Sainsbury of Urchfont migrated to north Somerset and is our earliest known Somerset Sainsbury ancestor.

Thomas Noyes was buried at the church of St. Andrew, Etchilhampton (Wiltshire) in 1604. Picture source: The Cannings and Redhorn Team [website]. https://www.canningsredhornteam.org.uk/team-churches39845/e/

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