UPDATE. January, 2022. Y-DNA testing indicates Richard Sainsbury of north Somerset was born in Urchfont, Wiltshire in 1708. Any speculation in this post that suggests otherwise is therefore obsolete. It remains online as a record of this research project.
In the course of this project we used a type of DNA called autosomal DNA (the kind offered by Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe) to determine our Sainsbury origins in Urchfont, Wiltshire.
There is another, more precise type of DNA called Y-DNA. This is only passed down in the patrilineal line, from father to son. And unlike autosomal DNA, which changes quite a bit with each generation, Y-DNA is relatively stable over time. It is therefore an excellent tool to trace a direct male line, which is generally equivalent to a surname line.
When we began our search for the place of origin of our earliest known Somerset ancestor, Richard Sainsbury, there were several candidates. One was a Richard Sainsbury baptised in Westbury, Wiltshire in 1722. Given “our” Richard Sainsbury’s marriage in Portbury, Somerset in 1745, this Westbury fellow was actually a prime candidate because he would have been 23 years old in 1745—a reasonable age for marriage. By the same token, one strike against the Richard Sainsbury baptised in Urchfont, Wiltshire in 1708 was his age. He would have been 37 at the time of the 1745 marriage. A wee bit old.
New Sainsbury Y-DNA Evidence
Autosomal DNA evidence (from Ancestry and other sites) have since proved, more or less conclusively, that this “1708” Richard Sainsbury was, in fact, our ancestor. (See, for example, Descendants of George BARTLETT (c.1500-?) of All Cannings, Wiltshire.)
However, recent Y-DNA results from the Sainsbury-Sansbury Group project on Family Tree DNA have now proven—quite conclusively—that the Richard Sainsbury born in Westbury in 1722 could not have been our ancestor.
Y-DNA Haplogroups. (Briefly!)
Y-DNA patterns are used to classify large groups of people into haplogroups. These allow population geneticists to group people based on descent from common patrilineal ancestors. Those ancestors generally lived thousands or even tens of thousands of years ago. To be certain that two people are related within a genealogical timeframe—generally the last 500 to 1,000 years—they must belong to the same haplogroup.
Last weekend, the DNA results of two members of the Sainsbury-Sansbury Group were processed by Family Tree DNA—and the results were highly significant.
Y-DNA results from a descendant of the north Somerset Sainsburys (and, by extension, the Urchfont Sainsbury line) identify our family’s haplogroup as R1b-SRY2627. It is a haplogroup that appeared near the Val d’Aran on the border of France and Spain about 3,500 years ago. This is also (more than likely) the haplogroup of two Sansbury men who descend from Daniel Sansbury of Cheraw District, South Carolina. (See Somerset Sainsbury Matches to Daniel Sansbury Descendants.)
However, the latest Y-DNA results, which involve a descendant of the Sainsbury family who’ve lived in Westbury, Wiltshire since the late 1500s, indicate the Westbury Sainsburys’ haplogroup is completely different. The Sainsburys of Westbury belong to Y-DNA haplogroup I-M170.
Two distinct Sainsbury lines
The haplogroup names here are not important. What is important is that these two geographic Sainsbury lines—one from Urchfont (or certainly north Somerset) and one from Westbury—are from completely different haplogroups. This means they are not related on the direct patrilineal (i.e., Sainsbury) line.
Therefore, the Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in Westbury in 1722—and who almost certainly belonged to the I-M170 haplogroup—could not have been our north Somerset ancestor. Had he been, our Y-DNA pattern would exhibit the “Westbury Sainsbury” haplogroup I-M170; not R1b-SRY2627.
This is just one finding among many emerging from the most recent Y-DNA test results in the Sainsbury-Sansbury Group project. But it’s the finding that provides the most compelling negative evidence in our quest to confirm that the Richard Sainsbury who was married in Portbury in 1745 was, indeed, the Richard Sainsbury who was baptised in Urchfont in 1708.
More Y-DNA test results from other men who descend in a direct line from any of those Urchfont Sainsbury families would provide the best possible genetic proof of our origins in that village and the surrounding area.
These same Y-DNA results indicated that a line of Sansburys in Maryland is related to the Westbury Sainsburys, and a line of Sansburys in South Carolina is related to the Urchfont-area Sainsburys. So the genetic distinction appears on both sides of the Atlantic. See: Name’s the same, but Y-DNA shows SC, MD Sansburys not related.
Invitation to Y-DNA Testing
Are you a male Sainsbury with ancestors from Urchfont or the neighbouring villages? Have you considered Y-DNA testing? Please join the Sainsbury-Sansbury Group project on Family Tree DNA to learn more about Y-DNA. The results of your test will not only benefit your family’s research, but also the research of many others with an interest in Sainsbury, Sansbury and variant surname lines.