If you spend some time on reliable records websites which specialize in the medieval time period, you can learn a lot about your family.
One of my favorite is People of Medieval Scotland. If you look into their “Database” you’ll be able to search by place or family name. It’s been very illuminating for me to study all the available records of both the Roslin Sinclairs and the Herdmanstoun St. Clairs. So far, I’ve found no witnessing of charters or documents between these two families. It’s as though they didn’t know each other until the 1300s. Yet I’ve found lots of interesting coincidences between the witnesses of charters and our Sinclair DNA matches. More on that later.
Being a fan of Beryl Platts, I now keep an eye out for armorial bearings. This one popped up today for the town of Pont-de-Vaux.
That symbol - the crescent - is also found on the arms of the medieval Oliphant family (below).
And, as Beryl Platts pointed out, those arms are nearly identical with the Seaton / Seton family.
I find this very interesting because Thomas Sinclair’s book, “The Sinclairs of England” says the Seaton family were of the same blood as the St Clair family. Other researchers think the crescent entered heraldic devices for those families who had participated in the crusades. Perhaps 3 crescents means the Seatons went on 3 crusades. I haven’t found any evidence that the St Clairs were ever on crusade.
The Sinclair DNA study is looking for connections between documents and DNA, armorial bearings and DNA, as well as St Clair / Sinclair family stories and DNA.
I’ve been working with a great researcher in the UK who’s working on the Counts of Boulogne. Along the way, the usual suspects begin showing up. Then a family we hadn’t seen before began to appear in the records - the De Laval. As is often the case, research into K.S.B. Keats-Rohan cleared this up.
The name De Laval is the same as de Vaux. Take a look at Keats-Rohan’s “Domesday Descendants” (if you can lift the book - it’s quite large). On page 543 is Gilbert de Laval. KR goes into depth about Hubert de Vallibus (the Latinized spelling of de Vaux) and how he was a knight of Robert de Mowbray, earl of Northumberland. This De Laval / de Vaux gave tithes of Seaton Delaval (that name Seaton is terribly important in our family) to St Albans.. He was also a benefactor of Hexham Abbey.
Hubert had a son, Robert, who used the alias Setun. This family were involved with the Bolum / Boulogne family.
The St. Clair / Sinclair family are matching the DNA of the de Vaux family in a SNP called R-L193, a relatively recent match.
The U106 SNP has an unusually high number of researchers working on understanding their ancient roots. Maybe it’s because there are so many people alive today who have this SNP. There certainly are a lot in our Sinclair DNA study who have it.
So, what are they learning. Well, over the past few years, there has been a lot of SNP activity “downstream” of U106.
U106* - We’ve got a small group showing U106, but nothing so far downstream of it, thus the asterisk.
Z9* - We’ve got one participant who shows this SNP, but nothing yet below it. This participant has a Burkes Peerage paper trail that claims a connection to the Earl of Caithness.
Z2 - This is our Argyle Lineage and it’s got over 10 members as of this writing.
Z1 - Our Northern Scotland Lineage. This is a large group, many of whom have good documents back to Caithness in the 1700s.
So, what can we prove?
Very little, to be exact. DNA is not a “silver bullet.” However, the fact that this U106 group divides up by geography is extremely interesting. Some researchers think we might be proving that people with the U106 or its downstream SNPs were in the UK before the adoption of surnames.
If you’d like to keep up with the latest on the SNPs of U106, Click Here.
Recently, a good friend of mine sent something he’d found online about my ancestor, Alexander Sinkler. As we often find, the person who posted this online didn’t list sources - not a single source. The document also claimed to know the wife of the man, something no researches have ever found (again, no sources). It also claimed to know his father and mother, an obvious attempt to tie him into the Rosslyn bunch.
I followed many others who did good genealogy research on Alexander Sinkler, the 1698 immigrant from Glasgow to Prince William County, Virginia. The main genealogist, for 35 years, was Jean Grigsby who is now retired from all that work. She wrote the main book on the descendants of the man and several addenda as her research continued. I verified much of what Jean had done, added some new information in Richmond County Virginia, and then spent the next 7 years focussing on his possible connections in Scotland and the wider U.K.
My point is this: If you’re doing research on your family, be stubborn about listing your sources. The questionable research mentioned above had Alexander Sinkler’s birth date as 1672. Here’s more accurate research, with the source shown -
Alexander testified in a court regarding a land dispute on behalf of John Mercer.
In a deposition given in Virginia on September 7, 1745, Alexander stated he was born in Scotland, and was about 79 years of age, which indicates a birth year of around 1666. [Source - John Mercer Land Title Book, page 17; VA State Archives Acc. #20487.]
The “A” above is from October 13th, 1736, when Alexander Sinclair picked up a quill pen, leaned over the Will of James Redish, and marked that he was a witness of the will with his initial. (Stafford County Will Abstracts 1729-1748)
The Sinclair DNA Study has several participants who have been using the Family Finder test, plus very inventive research, to find their identities.
As you watch the video below, note just how careful this gentleman was in the way he approached finding out his real surname. He took his time and used all the tools at his disposal.
The Sinclair DNA study has lots of wonderfully patient and careful records researchers:
- They scour the web looking for their St. Clair / Sinceler / St. Clair ancestors.
- They don’t leap to conclusions.
- They are very patient and careful about making grand proclamations.
Eventually, because of all the above, they’re rewarded with much more clarity about their true ancestry. This video is a great example of a man who agreed to tell his story to FTDNA:
Dienekes Blog has an interesting article from April 21st regarding the percentages of particular DNA SNPs among those in Flanders bearing French surnames versus Flemish surnames.
R-U106 is well-represented among authentic Flemish surnames - 26.78%
P312 is less prevalent among those with Flemish surnames - 19.13%
In both the Ile de France and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the frequency of U106 is extremely low - 7.69% and 8.82%.
In the Ile de France and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the frequency of P312 is much higher - 27.47% and 27.94%.
Dianekes is discussing a paper in which the author looks at the 16th century demic migration from French-speaking regions of Northern France to the depopulated and Dutch-speaking areas of Flanders. Keep in mind, this is long after any migration of the ancestors of our St Clair Sinclair DNA participants. So then, how did they get the surname?
This matches up nicely with the known areas of the Italio-Celtic peoples.
The Sinclair DNA study was started by Stan St Clair and myself. I was stuck in the early 1800s, but knew that Stan St. Clair had a good connection back to a well-researched line going back to Prince William County, Virginia, USA. Given the geography of my ancestors in the 1800s, I knew we should match
So I called Stan and talked him into testing with Family Tree DNA. His test kit was received by FTDNA in November, 2004. Mine was received in January, 2005. Stan and I matched very closely on the 25-marker test and I then knew where to continue my search for records.
We immediately knew that the worldwide Sinclair family could benefit from taking a DNA test, so we put the word out via the various online chat groups, especially those on Yahoo. Now, eight years later with over 200 Sinclair family members trusting us to help interpret their DNA, we’ve learned a great deal.
- We’ve learned to be patient - At first, with only 12 and then markers to study, we leapt to a few conclusions. It seems many people out there did. Now we know that those markers (STRs) that we get back are useful for more recent genealogy, back to about the year 1600, but SNPs are far more accurate for determining relatedness.
- We’ve learned that our cherished family stories might be wrong - Anyone venturing into documents research before the 1600s will be hard pressed to find accurate paper trails connecting all the dots. The Sinclair family has such documents, but it’s now clear there are glaring errors and possibly completely invented people in medieval Europe.
- We’ve learned our Sinclair DNA Lineages are complicated - Many families who originate in Europe find that they have multiple haplotypes in their stories which don’t share a common ancestor for many thousands of years. This has forced a re-thinking of our history. There are many families like ours - the Montgomeries for instance, the Malets, the Warrens, the Talebots - who find out they don’t all go back to William the Conqueror. In the Sinclair / St. Clair family, we were told we go back to Rollo. Now we know we can’t all share an ancestor with him, and good research may prove that NONE of us descend from him. Time and research will tell the tale. There’s no substitute for continued digging.
- We’ve learned to continue testing - The new focus is on SNP studies. These are deeper tests that look for a particular mutation that, unlike STRs, are believed to mutate only once, in one direction; then never again. By continuing to take these $29 DNA STR tests as they come available, our Sinclair participants continue to get more information on their ancestors’ whereabouts during specific times in history.
- We’ve learned there’s no substitute for good genealogy research - DNA is a string of numbers with little value; unless those results are used in conjunction with documents research to complete the picture. A lot of people hope a DNA test will give them an express train back to their Sinclair ancestors, but it doesn’t work that way. Luckily our Sinclair / St. Clair family has a lot of wonderful researchers who can help point you in the right direction.
“William, the son of Duke Richard II received from his nephew, William the conqueror, the earldom of Arques, and built this castle there. Other writers ascribe the origin of the fortress to the eighth century, and others to the latter part of the twelfth. Nothing is now left sufficiently perfect to determine the point, nor any thing that can justly be considered decisive of the style of its architecture.” Source - Gutenberg.org
The Domesday tenant of Hugh de Montfort in Kent named Main St Clair witnessed a charter of Beatrice Malet, wife of William of Arques. He was listed in the Domesday survey (1086) as being lord of Folkstone in Kent (Eye Cart., no. 2). Fauroux wrote that Richard Croc and his wife Benceline left to Préaux [Abbey] their property at St-Clair. K.S.B. Keats-Rohan wrote, “The identity of the place is obscure but could be either Saint-Clair-d’Arcey, near Bernay, Eure, or Saint-Clair-sur-les-Monts, near Yvetot, Seine-Maritime. His successor may have been the Normand de Assactesford (Ashford) who was an early benefactor of Monk Horton priory” Source - Keats-Rohan’s Domesday People, a Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166
- DNA is a scientific way of learning about ancient times.
- The Internet has revolutionized the way we do genealogy research.
These two facts make it imperative that the Sinclair DNA Study participate in social media. By doing so, we’ve connected with others who we might otherwise never have met.
Recently, I was working with a wonderful researcher on some research he’s been doing for many years in the border area between England and Scotland. The Sinclair / St. Clair family have been in that area since the 12th century, yet we still know very little about them. This gentleman has theories about a particular group he’s found in Wigton. And, equally important, he’s found someone with seemingly good documents back to this line whom our Sinclair DNA study can test.
The first results for this gentleman are in and we’ll be reporting on him very soon.
But, to bring it back around to the subject of this post, the genealogy researcher doesn’t use the Internet. He may be the last person in the western world who’s not on the web. This fact made our work more difficult. We did all this over the phone. It was a new experience; and reminded me just how valuable our Internet connections are in this hobby of ours.