A Sansbury snapshot

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 11 months since my last post. I certainly never intended for my blog to go dormant, but as many genealogists know, life happens. I hope to spend more time blogging in 2020. In that spirit, I want to pick up the #52Ancestors challenge again. The theme for the first week of January was “Fresh Start” and for this week it’s “Favorite Photo.” So I’m hereby rolling them into one.

I don’t know that I could ever pick just ONE favorite photo, but today I’ve chosen one of my favorite pictures of my paternal grandfather, George Ivan Sansbury. He died 27 years ago today.

As I mentioned in a previous post (“Election recollection”), he served as a military policeman in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was stationed in Korea and assigned to drive a general around. In this picture, I think he looks quite dapper posing with his vehicle!

George Ivan Sansbury
George Ivan Sansbury served in Korea during WWII.

Grandpa has been on my mind a lot lately because my Sansbury search has gained traction in an interesting way. Here’s the very short version of the story: a Canadian researcher working on his Sainsbury line reached out to me. I encouraged him to consider Y-DNA testing and … BAM! My father got his first close Y-DNA match who did NOT descend from Revolutionary War patriot Daniel Sansbury!

Cousin Mike writes about his research on his blog, The Mystery of Richard Sainsbury. His ancestors hail from Somerset, England, so there’s a good chance my peeps came from the same region. Through a combination of autosomal DNA and Y-DNA and genealogical research, connections are being made between different clusters of Sainsbury/Sansbury descendants. So stay tuned!

If you have landed on this page because you are a Sansbury or a Sainsbury (or some other variant spelling), please get in touch! Also consider joining us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/Sansbury.Sainsbury/

#Sansbury #Sainsbury #genealogy #52ancestors

Y those surnames?

See, I’m already running late for #52Ancestors. I mulled over the Week 2 prompt, “Challenge,” trying to decide how best to approach it. Genealogy is nothing if not a challenge. After all, our ancestors like to hide from us behind metaphorical brick walls, built of myriad research obstacles such as courthouse fires, missing censuses, and egregious misspellings.

Genealogists investigate mysteries based on careful analysis of documents, developing and exploring hypotheses, and what we called in my past life “old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting.” But sometimes the tried and true methods need a little help — from DNA. DNA testing can help prove or disprove a line, reunite relatives, reveal secrets. Learning to work with it can be challenging, but worth the effort.

Once the DNA bug bit me, I started buying kits like crazy. One of my goals has been to leave some bait out there in hopes of catching a cousin who might be descended from an unknown child of a great-great grandfather who disappeared. (For any non-genealogists who stumble onto this blog, yes, “cousin bait” is a thing. In addition to DNA results, it includes public family trees, internet forums and blogs like this one!) Autosomal DNA, which is the type tested by Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder, is most likely to catch that cousin — if he or she even exists — because it can reveal relatives along all ancestral lines, up to a point. Test-takers can be male or female. But this post is not about that missing ancestor.

One of my other goals is to learn more about my Sansbury line, which I’ve mentioned before. I bought my father a Y-DNA test from FamilyTreeDNA in 2016. Only men can take Y-DNA tests, which reveal information about their father’s direct paternal line. This test can be helpful, for example, for male adoptees looking for a birth father because it can quickly narrow down the search to a certain surname. But, to my dismay, the surnames of the initial matches to my father’s test showed no Sansburys. None. Their names were Gibbs, Yeager, Galbraith, Easter, Easter, Ash, Daugherity, Dietrich, Dubois, Lowe, Haywood, Galbraith, Miller, Davis, Galbraith, Galbraith, Sintes, Galbraith, Elkington, Mayo, Lowe, Leheup, Stockdale, Falk.

I started wondering if maybe we weren’t Sansburys after all. Were we Galbraiths? But then where was the break in the line? We have a strong autosomal match whose common ancestor is my great-great grandfather John Nelson Sansbury, so it had to be prior to him. Also, my father had tested at the 67-marker level, but these matches were only at 25 markers, so I knew none of them were very close. Still, I joined the Galbraith DNA surname project at FTDNA, where I learned there were so many variations in my father’s DNA markers that any Galbraith connection would be far beyond a genealogically relevant timeframe.

I didn’t have the money to seek out other Sansbury men for Y-DNA testing, so I had to set the question aside for a while.

Just a little more than a year after those first results came back, I saw a notification of a match at the 37-marker level. I felt a little genealogy adrenalin rush as I logged in and saw a familiar surname: Sansbury! After some correspondence back and forth, it became clear the common patrilineal ancestor is Daniel Sansbury of pre-Revolutionary War South Carolina.

sansbury y-dna match

Whew! It appears I’m still a Sansbury! (Although I’d feel a lot better if I could see a few more Sansburys in my dad’s Y-DNA match list.) I still have a challenge before me because much work remains to be done to extend that line further back into the colonies or across the pond. But now I have much stronger evidence my paternal line has carried the Sansbury surname for several hundred years.

If you have a Sansbury line, I’d love to hear from you!

#52ancestors #genealogy #sansbury


Election recollection

In the wake of last week’s mid-term election, Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist) challenged her readers to document their own ancestors’ forays into politics. I thought it sounded like a great way to dust off my blog and start writing again.

I know of two ancestors who ran for office, but having recently moved (and not fully unpacked) I could only lay hands on an artifact for one of them. I dug out my box of mementos of my grandfather, George Ivan Sansbury, to find this card promoting his candidacy in 1956 for District 2 County Commissioner in Dale County, Alabama.1

1956 GIS election card  001 cutout feather med.png

My father remembered riding around with his dad when he passed out these cards. The only thing I knew was Grandpa had lost and I would have to add a search for details about this race to my genealogy to-do list.

Before I posted, I decided to try a newspaper search. The papers most likely to have covered this primary, The Southern Star (Newton, Alabama) and The Dothan Eagle (Dothan, Alabama), are only available online (at Newspapers.com) through 1937 and 1951, respectively. But I lucked out and found enough information in The Montgomery Advertiser to know who ultimately prevailed. (I have a Publisher Extra subscription to Newspapers.com, which provides access to much more recent editions of certain publications. For the Advertiser, available issues span 1858 to present day!)

First, I learned from an election preview article that Grandpa was one of two candidates hoping to unseat the incumbent commissioner.2

19560501 Mtgmy Adv-Dale Commissioners Race Develops Most Candidates - Dist 2 crop.png

I could not find any reporting on election results for this particular primary race when I searched for “Sansbury.” Searching for “Allen P. Curry” and “Allen Curry” turned up a variety of references to actions undertaken by Dale County officials, among other things, but, again, no election results. So then I searched for the other candidate, first using “Merlyn Borland” and then just “Borland,” figuring the surname is unique enough that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the results. Finally I hit pay dirt! A December article indicated Borland would take office in January, succeeding Curry.3

19561210 Mtgmy Adv-New commissioners will be sworn in (Borland won) crop.png

Note that this piece wouldn’t have turned up in the earlier searches because:

  • Curry was identified by his initials and I hadn’t thought to search that way;
  • Borland’s first name was hyphenated and split between two lines; and
  • Borland’s first name was spelled differently than in the first article and I wouldn’t have predicted that alternate spelling.

This was a good reminder that when it comes to newspaper searches, one often has to try multiple approaches to overcome problems in the original publications (like typos and line breaks) and limitations of OCR (optical character recognition) technology.

As for my genealogy to-do list, obviously there are other potential record sources to explore. Eventually, I’d like to learn more about what was going on in the community at the time that may have prompted my grandfather to run and, of course, I’d like to find the vote totals.

Even though he lost his one and only bid for public office, I’m proud he took it on. George  I. Sansbury served his community and country in many other ways, including as a military policeman in the U.S. Army, a surveyor for the county, and a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. To steal a phrase from his campaign card, his active support is much appreciated.

#genealogy #sansbury @legalgen


1. George I. Sansbury election campaign card, 1956; privately held by Jen Sansbury, [address for private use], Texas, 2018.

2. James H. Kelley, “Dale Commissioners Race Develops Most Candidates,” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 1 May 1956, Newspapers.com (http://newspapers.com: accessed November 2018), page 6, col. 1, para. 4.

3. Stuart X. Stephenson, “The Passing Throng,” The Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Alabama), 10 December 1956, Newspapers.com (http://newspapers.com: accessed November 2018), page 20, col. 1, para. 13.

Searching for Sansburys

I haven’t quite recovered from my Salt Lake City trip yet and already found myself immersed in another full day of genealogy. My local genealogy society, the Houston Genealogical Forum, sponsored a British research seminar today with Paul Milner. This was another one of those experiences that reminds me that I still have so much to learn.

I dutifully took notes as he explained English parish and probate documents and map resources. I was itching to multi-task and search for my English ancestors as he showed us how to explore online sites with British records. After all, my maiden name is SANSBURY! If that doesn’t scream English, then I don’t know what does!

(Do you sense a “but” coming? You should!)

BUT I don’t know where my Sansbury ancestors came from!

I will admit I haven’t done exhaustive research on this yet. What I have done, and what I have seen of others’ research efforts, ends in Darlington District, South Carolina, with a Revolutionary War patriot named Daniel Sansbury. He died in 1816 and a transcription of his will is available on the South Carolina Department of Archives & History website. (More on him some other time.)

Having a relatively rare surname means you can do fun things like set up standing searches on eBay auctions and Google Alerts. (Don’t try this unless you have an uncommon name or your inbox will be flooded!)

Through eBay, I’ve learned Noritake has china pattern named Sansbury and that I’d pay a pretty penny for vintage cufflinks and buttons made by Sansbury & Nellis. I once bought a patch for the Sansbury/McTavish School in North Saanich, British Columbia, Canada, because, well, because it has my name on it!

Sansbury patch 5x5

Google Alerts have brought me interesting articles about Australian Aboriginal elder Tauto Sansbury’s activism and stories about other Sansbury newsmakers around the U.S. and U.K.
I’m not ready to launch a one-name study, but as I move forward in researching my Sansbury ancestors, here are some of my burning questions:

  • Are the South Carolina Sansburys related to the Sansbury lines that seem to come out of Maryland?
  • Did my Sansburys come from the Isle of Man? (I heard that a few times growing up, but without even enough of a story to qualify as family lore.)
  • Is Sansbury a variant of place name that will lead me back to a quaint little village somewhere in England? (If so, I must visit!)

Paul Milner rightfully cautioned me against jumping to any conclusions: I need to work on Daniel and his associates and neighbors a lot more to help give me more certainty about where to look when I finally cross the pond.

In the back of my mind I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, I will discover that we are kin to the founders of Sainsbury’s, the huge UK supermarket chain. I may not be heir to a grocery store fortune, but maybe they’ll send a poor American cousin some cool Sainsbury’s swag.


Sainsbury’s store, Sainsbury’s (http://about.sainsburys.co.uk/news/media-tool-kit : accessed 3 February 2018), public image for journalists and bloggers.

Are you a Sansbury or do you have Sansbury ancestors? Drop me a line!

#genealogy #sansbury #sainsburys