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update - April 2015
One of the earliest donors in the DNA study was Andrew Kinsman, here is his own account :
My family hails from the Surrey/Hampshire border in England. Using my grandfather's birth certificate and the 1841-1901 England census records, it was quite straightforward to trace them back to John Kinsman, whom the 1861 census states was born in 'Ponstock' in Cornwall around 1787. Well, Ponstock was clearly Poundstock in North Cornwall. Since there are numerous Kinsman families who hail from that part of the country, that all seemed very promising.
The next stage was to look at parish records. There wasn't a John Kinsman baptised in Poundstock at that time, but there was one in 1790 in Marhamchurch, which is only a stone's throw away. And from that baptism, it was possible to take the family back two further generations, to another John (bap. 1760 Poundstock) and his father John who married Ebbet Symons in Poundstock in 1756.
With the help of Derrick Watson, and his Kinsman family trees web site,it is possible to speculate that the earlier John was the one baptised about 10 miles away in Kilkhampton. If that is the case, then Derrick's site suggests that my tree very plausibly goes back another 200 years to Nicholas 'Kensman' b. c1510!
This is all well and good, but how would one go about proving this? The documentary evidence is promising, but it's certainly not 100% conclusive.
It is at this point that the new science of DNA family history research comes into its own. Every male on the planet has a distinctive Y-DNA which is passed from father to son (but not to daughters). The Y-DNA sample can be extracted by a simple, painless procedure that involves scraping a kind of cotton wool bud inside one's cheek.
By taking a test myself a few years ago, I was able to find out not only my own Y-DNA, but by definition the Y-DNA of the man whom I was sure was my direct ancestor, John Kinsman (1760).
You can imagine how exciting it was when in 2009 I made contact with another researcher, a direct descendant of William Kinsman, who married Mary Stacey in Poundstock in 1796. It seemed almost certain that 'his' William must be related to 'my' John, and we were now able to set about proving this. He took the test just before Christmas, and a few weeks later his results came back, showing that yes, he and I shared almost identical DNA, and that he and I are therefore scientifically proven distant cousins!
As more and more people undertake these DNA tests, we will be able to connect more and more Kinsman families together. And some of these connections will tie together trees that go right back to the sixteenth century or beyond!
What Andrew didn't mention was that his DNA turned out to have quite an unusual haplogroup - unusual enough to query the results. It was only when we found his new cousin that we became convinced that there hadn't been an error in the laboratory. We now have a very good and distinctive marker for this branch of the Cornish tree.
Five years further on, and we got another donor for the same line of Kinsmans. With three donors now we could start to look at the pattern of the small changes in the DNA markers tested. The one immediate conclusion that was very obvious was that we had the trees wrong somewhere along the line. Further paperwork showed that although we had very good evidence that William Kinsman lived in Poundstock and was related to John of Poundstock, we had no evidence at all that they were brothers. With the new DNA evidence we know that they were not brothers, but cousins of some degree, but it would appear that William was for some reason adopted into this Poundstock family.
There is a second part to this new data, it confirmed that John of Pounstock was a close relative of John of Kilkhampton who married Jane Gliddon. He might have been his grandson, or he might have been a great nephew - the paper trail is unclear. As ever, the more donors we have, the more certain our tree can be.
This branching pattern has been further confirmed by a fourth donor, this time one of this family whose ancestors had emigrated first to Canada and then to the USA. This line traces back to another son of John and Jane Gliddon, and turned out to be a direct match to the sample from that line that we had before.
Another descendant of the Cornish Kinsman families has also had his DNA analysed. His haplogroup turned out to be R1b1 - very distinct from the C3 grouping of Andrew's branch. This line is quite clear back to William Kinsman who married Florence Woollocke in 1663 in Probus and had children baptised both in Probus and in nearby Cuby. Most researchers have linked this William back to William, the son of Richard Kinsman of Kilkhampton.
Unfortunately this link, although tempting, turns out not be true. What is definite is that William s/o Richard married a Catherine Hillman in Barnstaple, Devon in 1654. A search of the parish register shows several children to this marriage and also a burial for Catherine well after the marriage of William Kinsman to Florence Woolocke. There is no burial recorded for William but it transpires that he was a seaman with the Royal Navy and died at sea, hence no burial - but a will instead. A surprising match has been found on this line and is explored further as the Kinsman-Pafford link.
Whatever the truth, it would be very useful to find where the break lies between this R1 line and the C3 line. The paper records suggest very strongly that there was only one Kinsman family in Cornwall in the early 1500s, and one in Devon at the same time. If the R1 line does not relate to the Kinsmans of north Cornwall, could it relate to those of Tavistock?
As you can see from the outline tree there are a lot of question marks that further DNA tests will help to remove. There are a lot of Kinsmans who can be traced back to these lines, particularly in the USA because of the numerous migrations of miners and masons from these Cornish families to America and Canada in the 1800s. We would welcome any descendant who wanted to add to this pool of knowledge and help prove the linkages back to the earliest records.