Posted by Kristie Wells on September 6, 2013 in Who Do You Think You Are?



Trisha Yearwood’s 5th great-grandfather, Samuel Winslett, died in 1829 in Georgia, the patriarch of a large family. Our research showed that over the years he received multiple land grants in Georgia, including in 1769 before the Revolutionary War. But as we searched for Samuel Winslett in Georgia records before 1769, we did not find him there.

So where did Samuel come from?

One thing that helped our research was the uncommon name “Winslett.” We searched 4.8 million names in early American immigration lists before the mid-1800s for every instance of the name Winslett and found only two listed: John and Samuel, who were both deported from England to the colonies in 1766.

Since the Winslett surname did not show up in America until 1766, we also checked records in England, looking for all men named Samuel Winslett who fell into the right age range. It turns out the Winslett surname is also relatively rare in England and we did not find any likely candidates other than the Samuel who was deported.

Our expansive searches of other broad colonial databases and indexes failed to uncover any other Winsletts living in North America at the time. Knowing that three years after he arrived, Samuel was granted land in 1769, and that a John Winslett in Maryland in the 1770s was the only other person in the colonies with this surname lent further support to these two men being the deported brothers. There simply was nobody else who fit the bill.

Sometimes, gathering every single mention of a surname is the only way to narrow down your list of possible ancestors.

And if you’re really lucky, the list is short.

Learn more about Trisha’s journey by watching the full episode on Watch more celebrities discover their family history on all new episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? Tuesdays 9|8c on TLC.


We wish to thank the ProGenealogists team for their insights and research expertise that helped make this story come to life.


Who Do You Think You Are? Episodes from Season 4:


Kristie Wells

Kristie is Ancestry's former Head of Global Social Media and Online Customer Engagement.


  1. I am thrilled to find out that Trisha Yearwood and I share the same Grandfather from generations ago. This episode gave me information I would never have discovered about Samuel Winslett.

    Thanks Trisha for doing the footwork for me and our family.

    Ellen Mayo

  2. Beverly Rogers

    We LOVED Trisha’s story so much that we watched it twice the same night, 9pm and again at 11pm. Genealogy is so fascinating! Trisha said the same thing that I have said all along, the more you learn, the more you want to know.

  3. Lynne Zoss Mangold

    Did you ever think of doing a show about an ordinary person. I have many questions about both my maternal and paternal grandparents. I was thinking that people might like to follow the journey of someone like themselves. My past would lead to Sant Arsenio, Italy, Lunna, Belarus and Vilnius.

  4. Marilyn McDole

    In 1820 Samuel Winslett has 22 slaves, but I see a statement that he was anti slavery. When did he free his slaves, if he did. There are contradictory statements here unless there is more information that has not been shared. Interesting episode, but not a complete picture of Winslett.

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