Y-DNA Facts: Some Colonial Virginia Winn Families

Y-DNA continues to be an amazing boon to family history researchers, and some of the Winn (Wynne/Winne/Wynn) families of colonial Virginia are no exception. This article summarizes Y-DNA results for a few Virginia Winn lines:

  • Daniel Winn (b. by 1723, d. 1799) of Lunenburg County, Virginia, whose wife was probably Sarah Tench.[1] Call him Daniel Winn, because there is no one else with that given name in this article with whom we might confuse him. He had 10 children, nine sons and one daughter.
  • Thomas Winn (b. abt. 1715, d. 1781), also of Lunenburg County. He had children by at least two wives, according to an 1797 chancery lawsuit there.[2] Let’s call him “Col. Thomas,” his militia rank, because that is how Winn researchers usually refer to him.[3]
  • John Winn (d. 1795),[4] also of Lunenburg. The conventional wisdom is that his wife was Anne Stone, although I haven’t found conclusive proof of his wife’s identity. Call him “John Winn d. 1795.”
  • Minor Winn Sr. of Fauquier County, VA. No nickname is needed, let’s just call him Minor Winn.
  • Richard Winn of Middlesex County, VA, whose childrens’ births were recorded in the register of Christ Church Parish in the 1690s and first decade of the 1700s. Call him “Richard of Middlesex.”
  • Robert Wynne (d. 1687) of Charles City County, VA, who was the Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses during the “Long Parliament” of 1664-1674. His grandfather was a Mayor of Canterbury, Kent, England. Call him “Speaker Robert.” No wonder that many, many Winn family trees on the web and at Ancestry.com claim him as an ancestor.

To begin with, this article summarizes the Y-DNA results for descendants of these men. After that, we will take a big leap from science into old-fashioned county records to see what we can conclude (if anything) about the relationships among them.

I have taken Y-DNA results from a public post (there is no personal information) at the Winn Surname DNA Project. Here is the chart of DNA results at the project website.

Here, briefly, is what the chart tells us (assuming I have read it correctly).

  1. The modal allele (marker) values for 9 test participants descended from Daniel Winn are a perfect 67-marker match with the following: (1) the only test participant descended from Col. Thomas; (2) the modal values for the six participants descended from Minor Winn; and (3) the modal values for the four participants descended from Richard of Middlesex. We can conclude with considerable confidence that the descendants of Daniel Winn, Col. Thomas, Minor Winn, and Richard of Middlesex share a common Winn ancestor.
  2. The modal values for the two test participants descended from John Winn d. 1795 are a 67-marker match, genetic distance = 1 (only one mismatching marker), from the descendants of the four men listed above. It is safe to say that John Winn d. 1795 is also a very close genetic relative of Daniel, Col. Thomas, Minor and Richard of Middlesex.
  3. I must put this in red boldface type: the Y-DNA profile of descendants of Speaker Robert conclusively establish that he was NOT a genetic relative of Daniel, Col. Thomas, Minor, Richard of Middlesex, or John d. 1795.

This is a BIG DEAL FINDING from the Winn DNA project. Many (apparently most) Winn researchers continue to believe that Speaker Robert was the progenitor of numerous Winn families in the Virginia Southside in the 18th century, including some of the Lunenburg Winns.[5] In fact, all of the family trees I have found online show Daniel and/or Col. Thomas as descendants of Speaker Robert (if the tree identifies their ancestry at all).[6] I am sure there must be some researchers out there who have gotten the clear message from the Winn DNA Project about these relationships, but I haven’t seen them yet.

DNA doesn’t lie. Speaker Robert is simply not the ancestor of any of the other Winns in our list of five, all of whom were younger than Robert.

That’s all well and good, but where do we go from there? The other five Winns in our list are obviously closely related, but how?

For this, we have to do it the old-fashioned way: paper genealogy. This won’t be easy, so we’ll have to take it one at a time. Because this will undoubtedly be long-winded and difficult, I will wait to tackle it until the next article.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas, y’all, and Happy New Year!

* * * * * * * * * * * *


[1] Daniel’s birth date (born by 1723) is based on his first appearance in the records, as a witness to a Surry Co.,VA deed dated 13 Jun 1744; I’m assuming he was of full legal age as a witness. Surry Co. Deed Book 8: 831. Daniel’s death date is based on the probate date of his Lunenburg will, dated 23 Apr 1789 and proved 14 Feb 1799, abstracted by June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County Virginia Will Book 4 1791-1799 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications,1991).

[2] Lunenburg Order Book 17: 292, 293, viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse in March 2004. See also FHL Film #32,410.

[3] The death date for Col. Thomas is based on the probate date of his will, dated 18 Sep 1779 and proved 12 Apr 1781. See the original of Lunenburg Will Book 3:75 (viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse in March 2008). His birth date is based on his first appearance in the records in Hanover County in the vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, a procession order of 3 Mar 1743 listing Thomas Winn as “Page’s Overseer.” The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia 1706-1786, C. G. Chamberlayne, 1940.

[4] Will of John Winn dated 17 Aug 1793, proved 12 Feb 1795, Lunenburg Will Book 4:83b-84, viewed by the author at the Lunenburg Courthouse in March 2004.

[5] See, e.g., http://files.usgwarchives.net/va/charlescity/wills/w5000001.txt.

[6] See, e.g., http://www.thefourwinns.net/winn.html.

3 thoughts on “Y-DNA Facts: Some Colonial Virginia Winn Families”

  1. It’s a Christmas treat to wake up and read this on Christmas morning, Robin. It’s so clear and logically argued — a case set out by a skilled barrister. I also learned something I had not known: that there was a Richard Winn of Middlesex Co., VA, fl. 1690s, and the DNA of his descendants is a match to that of the Lunenburg Winns who are my ancestors and yours.

    Your wonderful research had already pointed us back from Lunenburg to Hanover — and now this DNA finding may point us from Hanover to Middlesex. Buried in some of the things that Richard Dickson Winn of Gwinnett Co., GA, wrote about the Winn family (his father was Elisha, son of Thomas, son of Col. Thomas) is a statement that another Wynne family found early in Gwinnett County, which clearly descends from Speaker Robert Wynne, was NOT related to the Winn family from which Richard D. Winn came.

    This makes me think that some members of the Winn family in the generation of Richard D. Winn did definitely know something definite about the early history of their family in Virginia — enough to know that their family was separate from that of Speaker Robert Wynne.

    1. Bill, thank you for the kind comments! I’ve been digging around in Middlesex before, and in Gloucester, where there is what looks like a related family in the parish register. I’ve never been able to prove anything, and have labeled as “speculation” a lot of the trees linking Richard of Hanover back to Middlesex. There is definitely plausible evidence in the Christ Church Parish register, but I get hung up on the fact that THREE Winns appeared in Hanover County at the same time — two John Winns and a Richard. They appeared together in one deed, and I haven’t figured out what to do with the two John Winns (one of whom described himself as John Winn, “carpenter,” as did your Thomas Winn, son of Colonel Thomas. Either the two John Winns are cousins, or one John is from an earlier generation. With the DNA evidence, I’m going to give the records a fresh look. Am working on articles (probably a series of articles) drawn from the 4 emails I sent you years ago.

      Happy New Year!

      1. Robin, I’ve learned so much I did not know about our Winn line from your careful research. I had long ago convinced myself that several researchers who did very good work on this family and thought there was a link back to Col. Robert Wynne were right about that link, so I had long looked from Lunenburg over to Charles City and Prince George Counties for our roots — until you showed me and others that the roots of our Lunenburg Winns track back to Hanover County, and now very likely to Middlesex. What we have as a very valuable tool that that previous generation of researchers did not have is DNA evidence.

        I’m excited about the possibility (probability, it seems to me) that our Winn line goes back to Christ Church parish in Middlesex County. I know from another of my family lines — my Brooks-Beaumont family line — that even when there’s strong, plausible evidence that folks who have moved to another area in Virginia were previously in Christ Church parish, it can be difficult to establish ironclad proof of this. Some of the best ways to shore up the evidence you have is to look at the migration patterns of closely related families, and see if you find those families connecting to your own in some other part of Virginia — in the Brooks case, Frederick County; in the case of the Winns, Hanover and Lunenburg — previously in Christ Church records.

        A happy new year to you and Gary!

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