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 TLC.com. 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:
- Kelly Clarkson
- Christina Applegate
- Chelsea Handler
- Zooey Deschanel
- Chris O’Donnell
- Cindy Crawford
- Jim Parsons (pending: show airs on September 10th)