Saturday, January 7, 2017

New book coming which mentions Sinclair DNA in North America

My friend Zena Halpern is finishing up research which mentions that Prince Henry Sinclair was in North America, or at least on Oak Island. I've seen large parts of her research and must say it's definitely interesting. I have not seen the actual manuscript nor all of her research.

Zena Halpern has her hands on a fascinating story

The story follows particular families from England, to the Temple Mount and from there to a large mountain on the east coast of North America. I was part of the group who found what appeared to be very old carvings of symbols on large boulders high on this very steep mountain. Other artifacts were found as part of this story which are fascinating. While Prince Henry Sinclair fits only slightly into this story, I encourage our family to keep their eye on Zena Halpern's website for a link to purchase her incredible story. This is very new research, not a re-hash like so many others.

As most of you know, I'm a skeptic of such a voyage. We are sorely lacking in actual actual physical, inarguable evidence of any such journey. But that doesn't mean we should stop looking, as long as it's done in a scientific way. We're also sorely lacking in that.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

St. Clair Malet Connections in Medieval England

The St. Clairs of Butleigh, Somerset

I’ve been reading about an interesting branch of the Saint-Clair family in Butleigh, Somerset, near Ashcott. The land was held by the Malet family. The early St. Clairs had connections with the Malet family. For instance, Sir John Malet married Sybil de St. Clare.  

Butleigh Moor

 K.S.B. Keats-Rohan wrote about the Malet family in great detail in her paper about Robert I Malet, the domesday landholder:
"Robert's intended foundation of Eye priory received a charter of assent from his sister Beatrice, who mentioned also their brother Gilbert. A later precept of Henry I in respect of Beatrice Malet's charter furnishes the additional information that she was the wife of Robert's Suffolk tenant William of Arques. He was the Domesday lord of Folkestone in Kent, where the dominant landholder had been Odo of Bayeux, the Conqueror's disgraced half-brother. It is immediately striking that one of those who attested Beatrice's charter was Ansgod of Canterbury, but other Kent connexions can be demonstrated for the other witnesses. Ralph of Bellicia named from the unidentified manor of Belice in Hayne Hundred. was doubtless one of the Ralphs who held land in Kent from Hugh de Montfort, probably Ralph de Courbépine. Alfred de Combia was probably the steward Alfred who was one of William d'Arques tenants in 1086. Main of Saint-Clair was doubtless another Kentish landholder, tenant of Hugh de Montfort. The Saint-Clair from which Main took his name was probably the same as that mentioned in connexion with the abbey of Préaux, to which it had been willed by Richard Croc and his wife Benceline c.1035-45. It subsequently had to be restored to Préaux by Robert [of Mortain], brother of Odo of Bayeux and half-brother of the Conqueror.”

That paragraph mentions many names you’ve read in my writing before - Mortain, Montfort, Préaux Abbey, d’Arques, Eye Priory, Odo of Bayeux, and of course Malet.

Robert I Malet was the founder of Eye Priory in 1105.


The St. Clairs of Shepton-Malet 

A Robert de St. Clair was the first holder of Stapleton and held Shepton-Malet in the 12th century. Before 1195, the manor passed to Robert’s son William. William may have died without children. The manor passed to his son Geoffrey who held Stapleton “of the king by the of holding a towel before the queen at Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, and also on the occasion of the coronation of the king.”

In the 1100s, the Malet family were tenants-in-chief of this land. Some generations later, the part of the estate containing Shepton Mallet was sold to a relative, Sir Thomas Gournay.(wiki) That is certainly interesting. Remember Thomas Sinclair’s book, “Sinclairs of England?” He wrote that Walter Sinclair (St Clair) of Medway was an under-tenant of the Gournays who he says were married into the Warennes.

The church pictured here is The Parish Church of All Saints from the 13th century. This is the site of an earlier Norman church.

The Parish Church of All Saints

Sources -

Image from Patrick Mackie -

Image of All Saints -

Keats-Rohan, K.S.B., “Domesday Book and the Malets: patrimony and the private histories of public lives,” Printed Nottingham Medieval Studies 41 (1997) 13-56

M C Siraut, A T Thacker and Elizabeth Williamson, 'Parishes: Butleigh', in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 9, Glastonbury and Street, ed. R W Dunning (London, 2006), pp. 82-102 [accessed 8 March 2016].

Pearce, Edwin, “Index to Collinson's History of Somerset,” Barnicott and Pearce, 1898 Wikipedia - Williams, C.L. Sinclair “The Manor of Stapleton in Martock, and the St Clairs” Published by SOMERSET ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY (1992)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sinclair DNA Conclusions Are Sound

Recently I contacted Bennett Greenspan, President and CEO of Family Tree DNA with the following request - 

“The last time we spoke, you were on my online radio show explaining how FTDNA would soon connect the branches to the leaves.

And now, with Big Y, you’re doing just that. It’s been a wonderful journey and we’re really closing up the gaps now in the Saint-Clair family.

I wonder if I can ask your opinion on an approach I’ve been using in our study?

St Clair is one of those older Norman names. The Normans were meticulous records keepers. What I began to notice in our SNP results for the last few years (since confirmed with the Big Y results) is the same surnames showing up as witnesses to historical documents.

For example, the de Vaux family share the L193 SNP with my own SNPs. That one has been dated within the time frame of Norman records.
The de Vaux also showed up in tons of records as closely allied with the St. Clairs of England.

Multiple independent connections point to near certainty that we’re looking at the descendants of those medieval people.

I’ve put up a lengthy website page about our P310 lineage, if you’re having trouble sleeping one night -

I’m curious to see what you think of this approach.”

Using FTDNA as a resource

We couldn’t ask for a better person to run Family Tree DNA than Bennett Greenspan. His curiosity and helpfulness in the family studies is wonderful. As a result, they’ve become the most successful testing lab for genealogy in the world.

Knowing what would help the most, Bennett wrote back, “Hi Steve, I’m going to refer this to one of our customer service people with an Anthropology degree.”

The answer is in

Just today, the note came back -

“Dear Steve,

I have been able to review your page and conclusions.  Your research is interesting and it sounds like you've had a lot of fun with it.  I love seeing these kinds of stories.  From what I see on your page, your conclusions are sound. I think one of the benefits of having so many great haplogroup projects, Big Y, and in-depth research such as yours is that we do eventually get to see family lines intersect with specific SNPs. Have you connected with any of our P310 haplogroup admins to date on the subject?”

There you have it from a trusted employee of FTDNA who has an anthropology degree, referred by Bennett Greenspan.

“Your conclusions are sound.”

More work to do

Not all SNP studies are created equal. Unfortunately, the P310 SNP study has been through a chaotic time. They have new leadership, but the energy level has not been as high as the L193 or U106 groups who, as well as other groups, have doggedly uncovered the deep SNP connections between surnames in their group.

I’ve been in touch with others who can help, but it’s slow going. More recent connections between the SNPs below P310 are being slowly discovered and our P310 Herdmanston participant is part of this work. And more recent SNP connections are necessary to be absolutely certain of connections.

UPDATE: The Herdmanston lineage now clearly connects in the late middle ages with the surname Forrester. This surname has clearly traceable ties in southern Scotland.
Another Sinclair Lineage as an example

The fact that our Caithness Lineage is connected to John Thurso is beyond dispute. When Thurso’s DNA was SNP tested and proven to be Z346*, then we all knew that our Caithness Lineage matched Thurso. Irrefutable. Beyond argument.

UPDATE: Thurso has been Big Y tested and matches our Caithness lineage. 

But there’s more work needed

Look back up the page at #2 - medieval records.

As of October, 2013, our Caithness participants match:
  • Wildey - England
  • Cummings - unknown
  • Beckes - USA
  • Kinkead (Kincaid) - Ireland
  • Frenckinck - Germany
  • Dirksen - Netherlands
  • Mitchell - England
  • Wheadon - England
  • Gilbert - Scotland
Our Caithness researchers need to try and find medieval records of those people who match the narrative of the Sinclair story in Scottish, English, and/or Norman history. Then those names need to be DNA SNP tested to see if they share the Z346* SNP at least, and hopefully some downstream SNPs.

All our Saint-Clair lineages need to take this approach

I'm very excited about research I'm doing on our Exeter Sinclair Lineage and a particular soldier in the Battle of Dunbar.

In another lineage, I’m currently working on a surname that has, to my knowledge, been overlooked. It shows up in the narrative of the Sinclairs of Rosslyn, as well as in English and Norman history. The other surnames this family were circling around are quite exciting and, in many cases, different that those the Herdmanston Saint-Clairs were associated with.

In both cases, if the surnames I’m studying have living descendants who can be tested for DNA SNPs with Family Tree DNA, and they turn out matching the appropriate lineage, then we’ll have something close to 100% certainty that they connect back to Normandy.

Then, the anthropologist will once again be able to say, “your conclusions are sound.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An approach to FTDNA's Big Y test

Over the coming week, I'll be contacting many of you to see if we can pool our resources within our Lineages so we can get a couple people in each Lineage to take the new Big Y test from Family Tree DNA.

If you've read any of my notes, website posts, or listened to our Blog Talk Radio shows then you know I'm obsessed by SNPs. These are the definitive way to prove relationships back before the credible use of genealogical records.

Any claims made before the 1500s in records research are highly suspect, yet people keep making them. SNPs can provide certainty, but many of us are stuck with our SNPs. I've been stuck with L193 for several years. L193 dates to about 800 to 1,000 years ago, so it's been useful. But it would certainly be helpful to break apart my L193 Group A1 into sub groups roughly correlated to a more recent time frame. L193 Group A1 is a group that was deduced using, first, L193 and then using STR markers to make an educated guess at subgroups.

Rather than test for static, known SNPs, FTDNA's Big Y test will identify new ones that are more recent.

The new test will provide results on 10,000,000 base-pairs and approximately 25,000 SNPs on the Y chromosome.

The price of the test is reduced through the end of November to $495. It's normally $695.

No new swab is required as long as the sample in storage is in good shape.

Bennett Greenspan, Chairman of FTDNA says, “If the WTY (Walk the Y) was the moon shot, then this is the mission to Mars.”


Several of our lineages have "cracked open" thanks to SNP testing. Now we know that the S21 Lineage is actually several groups - Argyle, Caithness, and our Z9 participant. We have used a SNP to confirm our Herdmanston Lineage and it has several extraordinary name matches. We've identified our Exeter New Hampshire Lineage and it has some extremely interesting name matches. All of this is thanks to the willingness of our participants to use SNP testing.

With this SNP testing, we will finally get progress on our Argyle Z2 Lineage, our E1b Lineage, and many others.

In a radio interview a couple years ago, Bennett Greenspan told me we're very close to connecting the branches of the DNA tree to the leaves. You and I are the leaves. The branches are our ancestors in the middle ages.

I hope many of you will join this important chapter in our DNA study.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Surname Soup

The Engrailed Cross on a St Clair grave in
Herdmanston Chapel.
Photo by Steve St. Clair, October 2012.

(click to enlarge)
Digging around in medieval records can be both fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

The newest page on the St Clair / Sinclair DNA website is about our recently proven Herdmanston St Clairs, now proven to be P310+, U106-, P312- (otherwise known as L11*).

Today, as I was looking through the lengthy list of names on the Family Tree DNA study page that includes L11, I was struck by two names -
  • Mandeville
  • Wishart
Because they share the L11* SNP (Wishart needs to confirm) with our Herdmanston St Clairs, it's safe to say they share a common ancestor - at least until further SNPs are discovered. But then I remembered the witnesses to a particular record of some importance in our family - the granting of the lands of Roslin to the Sinclair family.

14 September 1279, Traquair - "Alexander, king of Scots, gives notice that, since Henry of Roslin, tenant of his lands of Roslin (MLO) and Catcune (nr Borthwick, MLO), has resigned and quitclaimed these lands to him by rod and staff, he has given to William Sinclair, knight, said lands of Roslin and Catcune, doing service of half a knight"
The witnesses to this grant of land could be instructive:

  • Robert Wishart, bishop of Glasgow (d.1316) 
  • William Fraser, bishop of St Andrews (d.1297) 
  • Gilbert de Umfraville, earl of Angus (d.1307)
  • William Comyn of Kilbride (d.c.1283)
  • Simon Fraser (d.1291×92)
  • Bernard Mowat (son of Michael)
  • William Bisset, knight (late 13C)
  • Patrick Graham, knight (d.1296)
Source - People of Medieval Scotland. Their source, Newbattle Registrum, Cartae originales, no. 6 - RRS, iv, no. 126

Saint-Clair-sur-Elle, in the department of Manche,
on the Cotetin Peninsula, France (click to enlarge)
Witnesses to land records often had a personal connection with the grantee; sometimes a blood connection. For instance, Hamo St. Clair (who received the creation of the baronies of Eaton Socon and Walkern) was closely allied with de Mandeville (Vincent, p. 243). There's a great article on Eaton Socon at British History Online

There's a great paper on this St. Clair / Mandeville connection in the 1998 Proceedings of the Battle Conference.  I own this book and highly recommend you buy it. A footnote on page 243 states "The St Clair family, for whom the baronies of Eaton Socon and Walkern were created, were former tenants of Eudo Dapifer, both in England and their birthplace, Saint-Clair-sur-Elle, dep. Manche;" (Anglo Norman Studies, p. 243)  They credit Lewis C. Loyd's Origins of Some Anglo-Norman Families, which I also recommend buying.

In another blog post I wrote back in February 2013, I discussed how some of these same names all showed up in a DNA SNP group called L257+. That SNP isn't in our Sinclair DNA study at all.

But now these surnames are showing a direct hit with our St Clair Herdmanston Lineage.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Sources - 
"Anglo-Norman Studies XXI: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1998" edited by Christopher Harper-Bill, Boydell & Brewer, 1999  ISBN 0 85115 745 9

POMS - website, People of Medieval Scotland

Vincent, Nicholas, "Warin and Henry Fitz Gerald, The King's Chamberlains" The Origins of the Fitzgeralds Revisited. Presented to "Anglo-Norman Studies 21: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1998," edited by Christopher Harper-Bill, Boydell & Brewer, 1999

Sunday, February 10, 2013

An Open and Shut Case?

Axiom: As classically conceived, an axiom is a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy. As used in modern logic, an axiom is simply a premise or starting point for reasoning. source

 Proving connections between medieval people is quite difficult. Often the records no longer exist and even the best genealogists must be content with an educated guess. Luckily, there are techniques one can use to make these guesses more certain.

In 2011, I began research, now on the Sinclair DNA website, into possible name connections. The page is called A Confluence of Surnames. The approach was to look for consistencies in families who gifted land to abbeys and priories.

In late January, I found a blog posting on a Yahoo group, called Crispin Cousins, which validated this approach. They had written several research axioms. Two are listed here:

  1. Benefactors to ecclesiastical institutions are kin of the founder 
  2. Primary witnesses (ie, not including those witnessing on behalf of the of institution) of ecclesiastical charters are invariably kin of the primary benefactor; by extension, of course, also kin of the founder source

There have been strong reasons to believe in connections between the Vaux family of Scotland and the Vere family of England. But the Vaux / Vance family DNA project administrators are careful to make no claims without documented facts.

If one starts with the above axioms, then researches Monasticon Anglicanum and Keats-Rohan, it's easy to claim that Aubrey de Vere, who founded Colne Priory c. 1100, is directly related to Herueus de Vallibus (Vaux) who gave land of Belcamp, Essex to Colne Priory.(Keats, p.756)

Aubrey de Vere founded Colne Priory.
Herueus de Vaux, a tenant of Bigod in Essex, gave lands to Colne Priory.
Open and shut case, right?

Furthermore, starting with those axioms, it's easy to claim other names are directly related by blood to Aubrey de Vere:
Hugh de Munchensi
Richard de Beauchamp
Roger Bigot (of whom the Vaux held much land)
William de Mandeville earl of Essex
Adeliza de Vere
Peter de Burgate

It's certainly very interesting. But I don't think we can prove it as a fact unless we have more data; such as DNA data.

Further Reading:
Apparently, nothing much remains of Colne Priory. There's a great article on it at this link.

Sources -
Keats-Rohan, K.S.B. Domesday Descendants: A Prosopography of Persons Occurring in English Documents 1066-1166 II: Pipe Rolls to `Cartae Baronum' (Vol 2) (Hardcover), Boydell Press (April 15, 2002) ISBN-10: 0851158633, ISBN-13: 978-0851158631

Monasticon Anglicanum: A History of the Abbies and Other Monasteries ... By John Caley, Bulkeley Bandinel, Sir Henry Ellis, Longman, 1823 via Google Books

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sinclair DNA Follows the Money

The latest video outlines a way to track down ancient family connections. It seems our St. Clair ancestors in England were attempting to buy their way into heaven. Hopefully our Sinclair DNA study will be able to prove or disprove a historic connection between these surnames.