Y-DNA proves Urchfont origins of north Somerset Sainsburys

This project began with one purpose: to find the origins of the SAINSBURY family of north Somerset.

There are no paper records to tell us where our earliest known ancestor, Richard SAINSBURY, came from before he was married in Portbury, Somerset in 1745. So we turned to DNA.

We found almost 100 genetic matches among our family members to descendants of the SAINSBURY family and other ancestral families of Urchfont, Wiltshire. Those matches (listed in this DNA Report) strongly suggest our family’s origins are in that parish.

Those matches, however, were based on the type of DNA testing offererd by Ancestry and other companies. Sixth cousins can, with luck, be accurately identified with this type of test. But given the 300 years since our earliest known Somerset ancestor arrived on the scene, we needed a type of test that could accurately link us to eighth, ninth, and even more distant cousins.

Enter Y-DNA

Y-DNA—combined with a good paper trail—can accurately identify distant ancestors shared by two or men on their direct paternal lines. As such, it is the most valuable type of DNA to establish distant relationships between families. Which is exactly what we needed to answer the question: Where did Richard SAINSBURY of north Somerset come from?

In late November, 2021 we received the results of a Y-DNA test from a direct male descendant of the SAINSBURYs of Urchfont. The test-taker has a paper trail going back eight generations to Robert SAINSBURY of Urchfont (1676-1754). Robert was the uncle of the Richard SAINSBURY who emerged as the leading candidate in our search. We’d therefore expect the Y-DNA of direct male descendants of Robert and Richard to match; thus verifying our Urchfont origins.

Surprisingly (and somewhat disappointingly for this project) the Y-DNA of Robert’s descendant does not match the SAINSBURYs of north Somerset. Instead, it matches the more numerous SAINSBURY family of Market Lavington and other Wiltshire towns whose lines can be traced back to the 1400s.

The unexpected results of that test upended this project’s leading (and well-evidenced) theory—that the SAINSBURYs of north Somerset had an Urchfont ancestor.

We Have Met Our Match

However, just as the results of that “negative” test were being applied to change family trees and revise our leading theory, a new test arrived in early December, 2021.

That test, from an Australian SAINSBURY with an equally well documented paper trail back to an Urchfont SAINSBURY family, matches the results of a Y-DNA test from a north Somerset SAINSBURY.

And so, after almost three years of waiting, we have “met our match.”

The last row of this chart of Y-DNA tests represents the extended family of Richard SAINSBURY of north Somerset. The row above it represents a direct male descendant of the earliest recorded SAINSBURY family of Urchfont, Wiltshire. The two tests match, which means we share an “Urchfont SAINSBURY” ancestor:

Source: Sainsbury-Sansbury Group Project. Family Tree DNA. https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/sainsbury-sansbury/dna-results

These test results, combined with traditional family history records, provide very good evidence that our ancestor, Richard SAINSBURY, was almost certainly the Richard SAINSBURY who was born in Eastcott, Wiltshire in 1708:

  1. They confirm our north Somerset family is closely related to a SAINSBURY family in Urchfont;
  2. We know our earliest ancestor in north Somerset, Richard SAINSBURY, was married there in 1745, but was not born in the area (according to a search of parish registers);
  3. And we also know that the Richard SAINSBURY born in Urchfont in 1708 was not buried in that parish as an infant, nor did he marry in that parish (or any Wiltshire parish with surviving parish registers) in the subsequent decades.

All this being the case, who is the most recent common ancestor that links the SAINSBURYs of north Somerset and the Australian family whose Y-DNA has perhaps cracked this case?

What can the Y-DNA tell us?

We know from Y-DNA results collected in the Sainsbury-Sansbury Group project on Family Tree DNA that our ancestor, Richard SAINSBURY, was not related in a patrilineal line to any SAINSBURY family from Urchfont or the surrounding villages whose families trace back to the 1400s.

However, we are related in more recent times to the Australian Y-DNA test-taker and the SANSBURYs of South Carolina:

It therefore seems likely we all descend from John SAINSBURY the younger (1664-1719) of Urchfont:

Y-DNA matching has been observed among John SAINSBURY the younger’s direct male descendants. Icons with an “X” indicate no genetic match to John’s brother, Robert SAINSBURY (1676-1754), or any other SAINSBURY branch in the same area whose lines trace back to the 1400s. This suggests that John SAINSBURY the younger’s father was not, in fact, a SAINSBURY.

A higher resolution Y-DNA test is on order (December, 2021), and those results will provide information about the time to the most recent common ancestor we share with our Australian cousin. As such, they could corroborate what seems likely—that we have solved the mystery of Richard Sainsbury of north Somerset. But we’ve stumbled on a new research question: Who was the biological father of John SAINSBURY the younger of Urchfont (1664-1719)?

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