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Trisha Yearwood

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 or watch 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. 

Research Manager on Project:

Kory L. Meyerink

Project Hours:

460 Hours

Kory began his career in genealogy as a record searcher while attending Brigham Young University, and he has been involved in nearly all aspects of the field for 40 years. He served on the staff of the Family History Library as a reference consultant and later as the editor of the library's publications. He is the founding director of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and he has written extensively, including chapters in The Library, all editions of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, and numerous articles and book reviews for the Genealogical Journal, Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly, Genealogical Computing, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and The Genealogist. His book, Printed Sources, received a “Reference Book of the Year” award from the American Library Association. In 2021, he was recognized by Marquis Who's Who for Excellence in Genealogy (https://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release-service/482761).

Kory received both a bachelor of science degree in psychology and a master's degree in library and information science from BYU. He is an accredited genealogist and fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association (where he served as president), and has served as an officer of the Association of Professional Genealogists as well as the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. He has spoken at more than 100 genealogical conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada. 

His areas of research expertise include the United States (Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and New England) and Germany, with a specialization in tracing immigrant origins. As one of the original founders of ProGenealogists, he is pleased to be continuing this work as a part of Ancestry.