Conversations with Justin Sanders, part 2 (My current hypotheses on the Saunders family history)


Just read your timeline posts on V&V. Nicely laid out. Wasn’t sure how you would approach it.

I followed the links to your earlier writings and came across an entry that is of particular interest to me: “It is possible that this is the Thomas Saunders, whom JOHN PAYN, the King’s [i. e., King Henry IV] chief butler, appointed as his deputy in the port of Bristol, and to whom a writ of aid was issued on 5 Feb., 1400 (Patent Rolls).”

It is amazing to me the regularity with which the surname Paine/Payne has appeared not only in my Sanders research, but also in my Brown research, another branch of my maternal tree that ventured from Henrico (1720), Chesterfield, Bedford VA, Bedford TN & KY. Over a period spanning two centuries and four states (VA, NC, TN, KY) one couldn’t throw a rock out the window without hitting someone named Paine.

And yet, I have never detected a connection to this family in my direct line, only two marriages in an offshoot branch of my Brown line in Bedford VA. Seeing the names Thomas Saunders and John Payn together on a record dated 1400 was a real eye popper, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

The evidence trail of an apparent alliance between the Saunders and Paine families now spans four centuries. To a modern man, the clannish nature and durability of ancient alliances is truly amazing.


Hi Justin –

I think the word “clannishness” is thought-provoking. If indeed we discover, as I am convinced we will, that our English and Norman ancestors worked together to advance their family fortunes, it does seem to fit the situation.

Here’s my current hypothesis: French Norman families after the invasion by William the Conqueror moved in and took over all the royal and local jobs that had incomes attached. As each family established their revenue-producing estates, younger sons left to establish new family enterprises and daughters left to establish alliances with other Norman families.

We likely will find that some of the collateral names that DNA research has discovered (e.g., Kerley, Crump) will turn out to be younger sons establishing surnames based on geography, names of ancient estates from Saxon times, etc. (Or conversely, Saunders could be a younger son name itself).

Since Viking and Norman families had a long history of seafaring, once the family fortunes were established, seafaring and mercantile pursuits (such as trade with wine-producing regions of France’s Southern coast and later trade with America) were logical extensions of family activities.

It is my hypothesis also that there was considerable discord within the families, when prominent members took different sides in the religious disputes that engulfed England from the reign of Henry VIII onward. Some profited from Henry’s confiscation of monastery and Catholic church assets. Others took the dangerous path of opposing the Crown (be it Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth, James I, Charles I or Cromwell)

Thus, when we get to Virginia, some of our ancestors are there principally for the profit motive as merchant-adventurers, others are there to escape the religious or civil situation in England.

Cordially, Bill

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