The early story of Virginia follows the story of tobacco

St Clair DNA Groupings - St. Clairs and Sinclairs of Virginia

Click any one of these as we try to figure out the various Virginia Groups' complete path through time
Click to see all points of origin for this lineage Click to see where these various haplotypes' lineages may have formed You're on this page now

The early story of Virginia is the story of Tobacco. And it was this plant and it's economic boom that allowed my ancestor to prosper in Virginia and me to search out his connections back in Scotland. But there are more stories in Virginia, more than any of us knew until the St Clair DNA project began to uncover the hidden truth.

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St Clair DNA at our blog

The Alexander Sinkler Line

UPDATE: The descendants of Alexander Sinkler will now be referred to as the L193 Lineage thanks to a fascinating SNP that we've tested positive for. More details to follow. For now, this video summarizes the news. Stay tuned for a complete report.

This is my line (Steve St Clair) and, because I've done intensive records research on it for eight years, I know a great deal about it. But I'm not the only one who's researched this family.

For over 35 years, Jean Grigsby labored on understanding the descendants of the immigrant Alexander Sinkler who crossed from Liverpool on Ye Loyalty in 1698.4 Jean stopped with Alexander. My search has been to understand to which of the families in Scotland he might connect. To accomplish this, I began again and attempted to uncover every possible scrap of information about the influences on Alexander and his children, in the colony, in Scotland, Ireland and even in France. With the help of Stan St, Clair, co-founder of our DNA study, Jean Grigsby and Rob Goff, we began to disect who he worked with, who his neighbors were, who his children married, and anyone else who may have been a part of his world. I won't go into all that here, but these facts are online and available to anyone who has an interest in this line. Click here and here. Some of this work pointed to connections in Caithness, but most of it pointed to connections with the Stephenson line and the Haddington family

Alexander stated that he was 'of Glasgow' in a court deposition in the 1700s. 3 However, I don't believe he was from Glasgow. Few people were. In the 1600's the town was tiny, only becoming a large city with the success of the Tobacco Lords of the early 1700s. I have good reason to believe that our Alexander was on Caithness and fled South to escape the famine of the late 1690s which may have killed his family. 1 (below)   It killed as much as a third of the population of some areas of Caithness. I think this drove our Alexander to Glasgow to learn the trade of a tanner. Shortly after that, I believe he followed family connections to the Colonies, indenturing himself for four years to pay for the crossing. 

CORRECTION: In speaking to several researchers in Scotland, it's now clear that Alexander's statement at the September 7th, 1745 land deposition for John Mercer that he was 'of Glasgow' is in fact how Scots people to this day refer to the place they were born. I'm now almost 100% certain that Alexander Sinkler was born in Glasgow.

UPDATE: The new DNA results which show Steve St. Clair as a L-193 haplogroup point to this Lineage of the family having spent time in Normandy, then possibly going into England, then coming north into the lowlands of Scotland. Those families showing this marker seem to be clustered in the "Border Reiver" area of Scotland, but can be found in a geography extending from Normandy, to England, to Scotland, and on into Ireland. Those in Ireland likely got there via the Ulster Scots plantations in the 1600s. 

More DNA testing will verify what we already suspect - this entire Lineage will prove to be L-193. The actual set haplogroup is R1b1a2a1a1b4g.  So, with our Border Reiver lowland connections, it's likely that this Lineage never lived in the Highlands of Scotland.

He landed in Richmond County 2 and worked there for a number of years before heading into the frontier of what is now Prince William County, just south of Washington DC. It's hard to believe this was the frontier, but the practice at the time was to put the "less desirable" Scots up against the Natives. The Sinklers did get into skirmishes with Natives. 5 (below)

To use DNA to guess where we fit into the wider family in Scotland, I looked at who else outside our family our DNA results are closest with. This seems to be Niven. However, we differ on at least one important marker - DYS390. We're a 24 and Niven is a 25. I believe this means we don't share a MRCA in Scotland even, maybe not even as long ago as 2,000 years. So this didn't help much.

The descendants of Alexander Sinkler are AMH, R1b1a2a1a1b4g L-193+,
DYS390=24 and U106-  (negative).  Most bear the name St. Clair.

The Families From Sinclair Bottom

Often, when a modern day Sinclair was found in Southwest Virginia who could trace back to the late 1800s, they were lumped into the Alexander Sinkler line due to their parental names and their geographic proximity. This has never been an easy area to figure out. We have one member in our project who was told unequivocally that he was descended of Alexander of 1698. His DNA told a different story. His DYS390=23 was a major clue that something wasn’t right. That and his genetic closeness to two others who know they’re of the Sinclair Bottom line proved his true path.

I’m no expert on the Sinclair Bottom line and am sourcing other people’s work. I am hopeful that one of the descendants of this line will write this section for publication here. But, for now, here goes.

In Smythe County, on the South Fork of the Holston River lies land that was originally surveyed for Charles St. Clair in 1753.

"In the spring of 1754, numbers of families were obliged, by an
Indian invasion, to remove from their settlements in Southwest Virginia,
and these removals continued during the entire war [French-Indian War].
It will be well here to note the fact that the lands held by Stephen
Holston, James McCall, Charles Sinclair and James Burke, the earlier
settlers of this portion of Virginia, were held by them under what were
known at that time as 'corn rights'--that is, under the law as it then
stood, each settler acquired title to a hundred acres for every acre
planted by him in corn..."
(1, p 134)

The Sinclair Bottom group appears to be S21- (not tested),  DYS390=24, Close ties to Kilchrenan, Scotland, with members of this line showing up in Ireland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and some staying in Scotland.

Other Sinclairs & St. Clairs in Western Virginia

There is an Alexander St. Clair of Augusta County whose connection to our family is still unknown. Records on this man are scarce. I’ve dug up about every record on the area and found only a few. Here is a typical record -

Alex. St. Claire witness in suit
Event Date: 08/1789
Location: Staunton, Va
Papers of Henry Banes
(Section 35)  Mssl; B2264a
Deposition of Jacob Kinney
High Court of Chancery
Town of Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia at the house of Peter Hieshell, Jacob Kinney a witness in a suit, Richard Mathews Plt. vs Alex. Montgomery and James Montgomery Def.
August 1789, he saw James Montgomery in the Town of Staunton who informed him that he was to collect the amount due to Alex. Montgomery by bond of Richard Mathews, Jno. Gardner and Wm. Chambers.
Signed: Jacob Kinney
Witnesses: Wm. Boyer and Alex. St. Claire (12 Feb 1781)
Court Order for William Boyer and Alexander St. Clair to appear in court for the case of Mathews vs Montgomery dated 15 January 1791.
Note: William Boyer and Alexander St. Clair were the last church wardens of Augusta Parish. (2)   

The spelling of that name may remind you of the research I’m doing in the UK. That spelling is very prominent in southern England. Of course, there is a chance that one of our “Mystery Grouping” is in fact closely related to both the Alexander St. Claire of Staunton and to the Sinclair Bottom group.

This from a web posting by a Patti - (3) "Sir John St. Clair (this was original spelling of the name) came to the  Province of Virginia as representative of the Crown in early 1700. Later, Alexander St. Clair was a member of the Commision (British). These two must have joined the patriots because Birg. General Arthur St. Clair administered the Oath of Allegiance to George Washington at Valley Forge, in 1777."  Also, we are descended from Sir John. The English do not say "St. Clair" as we do but run it together as "Sinkler" hence the source of another spelling of Sinclair which you'll find in studying the name. Arthur St. Clair was a brother of Sir John.  I'll keep digging as I know I have more information on the Sinclairs. They did migrate to TN and many of them went on to Missouri and Illinois.”

Now, when viewed with Donald L. Sinclair’s article on the Pennsylvania families, in the links at the left, the above quote gets very interesting. Donald is from a family in Illinois. He traces back to Pennsylvania. General Arthur St. Clair had connections to Pennsylvania. If all this is true, we may be looking at a branch that goes back to the Earldom Lineage and had branches that went to Argyle, Ireland and on to the Colonies. 

Sources for Alexander Sinkler research -
1 Smout, T.C. "A History of the Scottish People, 1560-1830," Printed
in Great Britain by HarperCollinsManufacturing Glasgow, 1969, ISBN 0
00 686027 3 One of my best resources on Scottish history.
2 All first person research in Virginia, Scotland, Ireland, France and England.
3 John Mercer Land Record Book, (1654-1767) Accession 20487, Miscellaneous Reel # 285 Personal Papers Collection The Library of Virginia Archives Branch - Richmond, Virginia The Deposition of Alexander Sinclair
4 Grigsby, Jean, "Sinkler Sinclair St. Clair, a Family History, Volume 1," Henington Publishing Company, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 88-91397, Copyright (c) 1988, Jean Grigsby Family Histories.
5 Source - WPA - Virginia Historical Inventory related to farms, family homes, etc. in Prince William and Fauquier county, "The Diary of the Rev. Matthew G. Gollschalk," who traveled through Maryland and Virginia, April 9, 1748.-- (In his writing about Germantown.) "Within a mile of Germantown, the Sinclairs built a house, from which the Indians were fought back." We knew that the Fauquier property was on Licking Run, so this information puts their home within a mile of Germantown on the side which was closest to Licking Run.
6 Saint-Clair, Roland William, The Saint-Clairs of the Isles, being a History of the Sea-Kings of Orkney and their Scottish Successors of the Sirname of Sinclair," H. Brett, General Printer and Publisher, Shortland and Fort Streets, Auckland, N.Z., 1898.

Keep up with St Clair DNA at our blog.

Sources for Sinclair Bottom -
(1) "History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1870"
by Lewis Preston Summers (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company,
(2) First person research in the Papers of Henry Banes.
(3) Website - Monday 06/17/2002 12:52 pm


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