Category: England, Wiltshire, Chippenham

DNA Match Profile: The Sainsbury family of Eastcott in the parish of Urchfont

A family tree showing DNA matches between this Sainsbury family and the Sainsburys of north Somerset is available as a PDF to download here:

Compared to other clusters we’ve looked at in our series of DNA Match Profiles (previous posts examined Sainsbury families in Heytesbury and the Wylye Valley, Chippenham and Melksham, Potterne, and Castle Combe) the Sainsbury family of 18th-century Urchfont has special significance in our quest for the origin of Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset.

Why? Because this is the first cluster we’ve looked at that includes a documented Richard Sainsbury — baptised in a year (1708) that would make him of marriageable age when our North Somerset ancestor of the same name married Mary Willis in Portbury in 1745.

Preliminary research into connections between 18th-century Urchfont and the Sainsburys of North Somerset revealed some intriguing (if unproven and far-fetched) economic and social connections. Those were described in earlier blog posts about the Goldney family of Chippenham and Bristol, and the business and legal dealings of Simon Ruddle of Urchfont who had significant property holdings in the City of Bristol.

So let’s take a closer look at the Sainsbury family of Eastcott, Wiltshire.

The Sainsbury Family of Eastcott

The hamlet of Eastcott, separated from Urchfont by Wickham Green, has no recognizable centre and consists of a few buildings strung out along the Market Lavington road and of several cottages scattered along the east side of the lane which runs northwards past Eastcott Manor.

A History of the County of Wiltshire, Vol. 10.
The parish of Urchfont in 1784.

Richard Sainsbury was born in Eastcott and baptised at the parish church in Urchfont in 1708. He was the ninth of ten children of John Sainsbury (1664-1719) and Elizabeth Wilkins (1672-1734).

Richard’s father, John Sainsbury the younger (1664-1719), had been a churchwarden in Urchfont in 1692 — a position that included responsibility for the church and its furnishings, as well as administrative duties at a time when parish churches acted as a form of local government.

Richard’s grandfather, John Sainsbury the elder (1633-1710), lived on a 70-acre estate in Eastcott — an estate that had been in the Sainsbury family since the 1500s.

Here’s what one history of Wiltshire has to say about the history of that estate:

In 1546 John Sainsbury (d. 1559) held an estate of some 70 a. in Eastcott in chief. He was succeeded there by his grandson John (II), son of Richard Sainsbury. (fn. 140) The estate was delivered to John (II) when he came of age in 1578, and at his death in 1634 he was succeeded by his son John (III), who died at an unknown date. (fn. 141) In 1696 William Sainsbury (d. 1705), possibly the son or grandson of John (III), had an estate in Eastcott and Urchfont, but thereafter its descent is obscure. (fn. 142) Robert Sainsbury held 34 a. in Eastcott and Urchfont in 1732. (fn. 143)

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10

The descent of this estate is obscure after 1696 because it was around then that the family hit troubled times.

A series of bad loans

More information about this episode in the family’s history is available in an earlier blog post, but it went something like this:

  • In 1706 John Sainsbury the elder, along with his wife (Em Edwards), his son (John Sainsbury the younger) and his son’s wife (Elizabeth Wilkins) entered into some form of agreement with Sarah Goldney, spinster, of Chippenham. The agreement involved a loan of approximately £300 from Sarah Goldney to the Sainsburys, with the Sainsburys offering their property in Eastcott as security.
  • A year later the debt had not been repaid, but Sarah and her widowed mother, Anna Goldney, loaned the Sainsburys a further £120.
  • In 1709, “for the natural love and affection which she bore to the said Sarah who was her Daughter and for other good Causes and Considerations” Anna transferred her portion of the debt to Sarah.
  • Also in 1709, Sarah Goldney married Edward Thornhill, a grocer in Bristol, who then called the loan.
  • In 1710 and 1712, the Sainsburys borrowed an increased amount of money from William Jackson of Bristol to repay the Goldney-Thornhill loan. At this point they owed William Jackson £466 and 19 shillings.
  • In 1714, when William Jackson called the loan, the Sainsburys (John Sainsbury the younger and his mother, Em Edwards Sainsbury) secured a new loan from Thomas Loveday, a clothier who lived in Painswick, Gloucestershire, and Brice Webb, a merchant of the City of Bristol. At which point they owed Loveday and Webb £550 and 6 shillings.
  • When, inevitably, Loveday and Webb asked for repayment, John Sainsbury the younger and his mother manged to borrow £685 from Dame Mary Whetstone of Bristol, the widow of Sir William Whetstone.
  • In 1719, after the death of John Sainsbury the younger (i.e., the 11-year-old Richard’s father) Dame Whetstone sued for repayment or, failing that, she demanded trustees “with all convenient Speed [to] sell and dispose of the said [property] . . . for the most moneys they should get for the same and with the money thereby arising pay and satisfy [the loan of] the said sum of six hundred eighty five pounds and all the Interest then due. . .” (Whetstone v Sainsbury).

Elizabeth’s defense

In her defense, Richard’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Sainsbury, said the property in question was actually hers through a marriage settlement drawn up in 1692. In which case, of course, her late husband and mother-in-law had no right to offer it as collateral on any loan.

Moreover, although Elizabeth had signed these loan documents throughout the years, she did so “upon the severe threats of her said husband and upon his assuring her that it [the deception] would not hurt her or [words] to that effect.” Her husband also told her not to let anyone know about the marriage settlement “and severely threatened her” if she ever did.

In her defense, Elizabeth also said she had no clue how much money was owed, that the property in question was only worth about £30 per year as a rental, and as a widow with seven living children “she hath not nor ever had any other provision for her maintenance or liveleyhood.”

The outcome of the case is not known. But the results could have been catastrophic. At worst, the widow Elizabeth Sainsbury could have been sent to debtor’s prison:

In England, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, 10,000 people were imprisoned for debt each year.[11] A prison term did not alleviate a person’s debt, however; an inmate was typically required to repay the creditor in-full before being released.[12]


Whether or not she served a sentence, Elizabeth died 16 years later and was buried in Urchfont on March 9, 1734:

Urchfont parish register. Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre; Chippenham, Wiltshire, England; Reference Number: 645/5.

Finding DNA matches

By searching the Ancestry DNA matches of about 20 Somerset Sainsbury cousins for anyone with a Sainsbury or Saintsbury in their online trees we identified three documented descendants of the Urchfont Sainsburys who each shared DNA with a Somerset Sainsbury.

Those trees provided other surnames that we used to find additional DNA matches to people who had an Urchfont Sainsbury in their ancestry, but who hadn’t yet traced their trees far enough back to include the Sainsbury ancestor. (And who were therefore not identified through a search for the surname Sainsbury or Saintsbury.)

The Oslands of Australia

Like the surname Berrett for matches to descendants of one of the Potterne Sainsburys, and the surname Sparey for descendants of one of the Heytesbury Sainsburys, the surname Osland among Australian Ancestry users became a “gateway” surname that enabled us to find many more DNA matches between Somerset and Urchfont Sainsbury descendants. (See family tree, below).

A family tree of DNA matches

We have so far identified nine 10 descendants of the Urchfont Sainsbury family who share DNA with nine 10 Somerset Sainsbury cousins. This chart shows connections identified as of October 9, 2019 but an up-to-date chart is available for download at the top of this post:

Names in bold along the bottom of the tree are descendants of Richard Sainsbury and Mary Willis, married in Portbury, Somerset in 1745. Arrows indicate Sainsbury descendants on Ancestry with whom they share DNA.

The family trees of the other DNA clusters we’ve looked at (in Heytesbury and the Wylye Valley, Chippenham and Melksham, Potterne, and Castle Combe) do not include a Richard Sainsbury — someone who could be the earliest documented ancestor of the North Somerset clan.

This cluster is worth a closer look because it does include a Richard Sainsbury.

Richard Sainsbury of Eastcott

John and Elizabeth Sainsbury’s ninth child, Richard, was baptised in 1708 and was still alive at the time of his mother’s legal proceedings with Dame Mary Whetstone in 1719.

But in the next 30 years (according to the parish registers) he did not marry in Urchfont, nor was he buried in Urchfont or the surrounding communities.

As possible marriages, there are only:

  • the 1768 Urchfont marriage of a Richard Sainsbury of Westbury to Elizabeth Draper of Urchfont, and
  • the 1771 Urchfont marriage of a Richard Sainsbury of Eastcott to Jane Jones.

In both cases, the Richard baptised in 1708 would have been about 60 years old — not impossible, but also not likely at a time when the average age at marriage was around 26.

So what became of this Richard Sainsbury?

In short, we don’t know.

Richard’s brother Francis (1706-1777) likely had two sons, John (1732-1810) and Richard (1738-?; a likely candidate to have married Jane Jones in 1771, see above).

John and his second wife, Mary Chandler, migrated west to Maiden Bradley near the Somerset border.

Male descendants of this family with the Sainsbury surname would be good candidates for Y-DNA tests to see how closely they may be related to the Sainsburys of North Somerset. A close connection could indicate that Richard Sainsbury of North Somerset was, in fact, Francis Sainsbury’s brother.

Ongoing research

As with all the genetic clusters we’ve identified, the research to conclusively establish (or rule out) a family connection between our earliest Somerset ancestor and this Sainsbury family is ongoing.

Can you help?

Are you a descendant of the Sainsbury family of Urchfont? Would you like to be part of this research project by visiting archives or sharing your DNA results? Please use the Comments section or the Contact button at the top of this page to get in touch!


A P Baggs, D A Crowley, Ralph B Pugh, Janet H Stevenson and Margaret Tomlinson, ‘Parishes: Urchfont’, in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1975), pp. 173-190. British History Online [accessed 1 October 2019].

Debtors’ prison. Wikipedia.

National Archives (UK). Short title: Whetstone v Sainsbury. Document type: Bill and three answers. Plaintiffs:…. Reference C 11/317/7. Record details: Transcripts of three documents in this set are listed and linked below.

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.