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July 12, 2016 / sennettfamilytree

Irish Catholic Parish Records at the NLI

A contact from a Kentucky SINNETT descendant has brought me back to my rather neglected blog, and the realisation that I haven’t posted anything here since January this year.  Interestingly that was about the time I decided to put my focus on the newly released Irish Catholic Parish Record set at .   These are unindexed images of original parish records, with some registers 300 or more handwritten pages long, which as you might imagine can take some effort to decipher.  It is paying off though, and I have had the thrill of finding quite a few families that I already had in my database and being able to confirm their townland of origin in Ireland.  As usual though, it has also created more questions than answers with many new families I haven’t been able to conclusively link to existing ones.  I’ve been concentrating on first covering the parishes in Wexford where I know SINNOTTs have lived, then spreading out to the rest of Co Wexford, and then I will slowly work my way through other counties, again starting with ones I know I have had SINNOTTs come from (eg. Tipperary, Waterford, Wicklow).  At the same time I have been working through the Ireland 1901 and 1911 censuses (also available online via the NLI) and trying to match families to the parish records and to existing families in the database.  I think my last published count was something just over 40,000 records in my database (S-NN-Ts, spouses and immediate families) – I just looked again and my record count is 51,212 and still increasing.

If you would like to help contribute your research to the SENNETT/SINNOTT surname study, I’d love to hear from you and compare notes on your family tree.  Under the terms of my membership of the Guild of One Name Studies, I will always respond to enquiries and share any of my relevant research at no charge to anyone with an interest in this surname.  I’m also still keen to increase the number of families represented in the genealogical DNA surname study – you can find out more about that and order a test (Y-DNA37 is the recommended one) at

January 23, 2016 / sennettfamilytree

Are all Sinnotts Irish?

The Sinnott/Sennett (and variants) one name study is rapidly increasing in size now with in excess of 45,000 people in my database – the bulk of whom are connected into at least three generation family trees, and some to trees with in excess of 600 linked people.

One of my big goals with the project was to identify the families of Irish origin, and to make every attempt to find evidence to link these Irish families together and identify common ancestors.   The Y-DNA surname project was started with this in mind, again with a goal of having at least one male from each tree testing their Y-DNA.   So far numbers are too small to draw any conclusions but already there is a cluster of results in families of Irish heritage showing an E haplogroup.   My theory now is that S-NN-Ts with this E haplogroup will eventually be able to be linked together, and will all descend from the most distant known Sinnott (Adam, son of Synad) who arrived in Co Wexford in the 12th century via Wales.

But this isn’t all the Sinnotts.   There are SENNITTs in Cambridgeshire, UK, who appear to have a completely separate origin, with some early spellings that look more like SENNIGHT.   There are also a variety of european surnames that have been anglicised to Sennett or Sinnott or Sinnett – Sinitzky, Senet, Seminoff being three I have come across.  And there may be more than one Irish origin as well.  SENNETT from Cornwall has now been shown to be linked to the Co Wexford SINNOTTs, and though there hasn’t been a SINNETT from Wales tested yet, I’d be surprised if there also wasn’t a link to Cornwall and Ireland in the genes.

Sinnott/Sennett and variant names do seem to link back to Ireland in a lot of cases, but they clearly aren’t the only origin of the SINNOTT surname.  This is an excellent name to have a DNA study for though, as eventually the different branches will become clear.

In the meantime, its back to the documentary research, and to promoting the DNA surname project (at ) for me.

June 13, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

Focus on Kentucky Sinnett, Sennett, Sinnott

With my S-NN-T surname study database now rapidly approaching 40,000 individuals (most linked into a family tree) it can be a bit difficult trying to figure out what to work on next, so I’m tending to focus either on a particular family group (where someone has contacted me for information) or a bit more randomly, just choosing a geographic area to delve into.   I haven’t yet found an easy way of keeping up to date with new record sets that appear on Familysearch or Ancestry, so a slightly random approach that involves picking a geographic region, and then looking again at the record sets that cover that region does seem to work.

This month my focus is on Kentucky, and already I have made quite a bit of progress with linking families and family groups together, and confirming that again many (if not all) of these families do have Irish origins.   Its also confirming to me that the DNA surname study is really going to be the only way in many cases to take the family tree back further in Ireland, though it has become rather frustrating that FamilytreeDNA Y-DNA tests are taking so long to be processed.   DNA was never going to be an instant answer anyway, so its just a matter of patience, and keeping on working on both the paper trail, and on encouraging as many men with S-NN-T direct line ancestry to have their Y-DNA studies done.

May 16, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

Normanton, Newfoundland and New Brunswick Sennett and Sinnott

I’ve been working on family trees for Normanton (West Yorkshire), Newfoundland and New Brunswick (Canada) recently, and no, there is no obvious or recent connection that I know of between the Yorkshire ones and the Canadian ones.  Its just the way of working on a one-name (surname) study, that appeals to my butterfly mind flitting from one thing to another.  The Normanton work was about drawing up a big printable chart.  Yet again, the moment I had printed it, I found a number of errors that needed to be corrected.  It makes me wonder if I will ever get this tree right, and its my own line, so should be much easier than any of the others.

The Canadian research has been spurred on by another contact to the Sennett/Sinnott one name study, by way of Ron Nelson who has done so much work on the Prince Edward Island families.  Like many other trees, it seems to stop with the first Irish emigrant.   While most folk focus their genealogy on one line, having a surname study makes you look a bit wider, and can be quite useful in breaking down brick walls.  So in this case, I’m taking another look at the families with Newfoundland and New Brunswick origins to see if I have missed any potential point of connection between what are currently isolated individuals or separate family groups.   Familysearch is helping enormously with some new catholic church records  from Newfoundland available free online, and even though they aren’t indexed, they are relatively easy to read through.

The DNA surname study is also growing, with three more tests in the pipeline (A Yorkshire Sennett, Australian Synot and Prince Edward Island Sinnott), and two other people expressing interest in testing, including one from a Newfoundland line.  It may seem odd having a DNA project that covers so may different spellings, but as most are believed to come from Ireland, and Co Wexford in particular, the chances are fairly high that there will be a match – even if it means a common ancestor up to 20 or so generations back.

So once again, no immediate answers, but work progresses,and my Legacy database moves closer to 40,000 individuals (highest registration number currently 39067).

April 26, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

Normanton, Yorkshire: seven generations of the Sennett family

My earliest know SENNETT ancestor was Joseph Sennett who emigrated from Co. Wicklow to Whitwood, Yorkshire in about 1847.  One of their grandsons, Edward, my great grandfather, then left Yorkshire in 1926 for Aylesham, Kent, where this branch of the family remained, however many of the other descendants of Joseph and Julia Ann remained in The Normanton area of Yorkshire.

My recent trip to Yorkshire was the first time I had ever met any of the Normanton Sennetts, and it has really thrilled me how much more I have been able to find out about the earlier family stories when there is this unbroken connection to the place where Joseph first settled.

I had been completely unaware for example of the Sennett family involvement in the building of St John’s RC. Church in Normanton, and it was a lovely surprise to discover that the processional cross had been given to the church by the Sennett brothers.  It was also wonderful to see one of the very old rosaries that had come from Rome and been given to Sennett brothers in recognition of their involvement.  Also fascinating to hear how Father Mulready, a missionary in Africa, and another relative, had taken this rosary to Africa, and had an ivory carving added to it.  This rosary is still in the Sennett family, and I was thrilled to be able to hold it, but even more, it has made me realise that I now think I know where another rosary that is likely to have been given at the same time to another Sennett brother is – my mother also has a very old rosary that has passed down through her family.   Has my mother’s rosary come from the same source?  I am not sure I will ever be able to prove that, as unlike the one still in Yorkshire that has been passed down with its story, the story of our family’s rosary has largely been lost.

One of the Sennett brothers' rosaries with added ivory carving from Africa

One of the Sennett brothers’ rosaries with added ivory carving from Africa

March 31, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

Conferences and Yorkshire Sennett connections

It is a long way from Orkney, where I live (one of those tiny dots in the sea at the top of Scotland on the map, if you don’t know where it is) to Yorkshire where I am now and for another ten days or so. That means any trip away from home, I try to pack in as much as I possibly can, including a substantial chunk of genealogy or family networking.  The last two holidays I have had have been exciting as I have met up with new Sennett relatives – by new, I mean the slightly more distant relatives that I haven’t seen before.  This holiday is no exception, and as well as attending the excellent Guild of One Name Studies conference at the Forest Pines Hotel in Lincolnshire I am now really excited to have made contact with another couple of distant cousins who I will be meeting up with at St Johns R C church in Normanton.  And, thanks to Facebook I have also just discovered another “cousin” living in a nearby village to where i am staying.  It will be very exciting to unroll the big Sennett family tree and share photos and information, and maybe between us add more information to our family’s story.

if you are another Yorkshire relative who would like to meet up with me while I am in Yorkshire, please get in touch either through the Sennett one name study ( or through Facebook (the sennett genealogy group)

February 7, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

Unexpected and exciting new Sennett DNA result

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am the project administrator of the Sinnott/Sennett surname DNA project at familytreeDNA. I have just had a fairly unexpected DNA result for a Cornish SENNETT test (descendant of Jephthah Sennett of St Michael’s Mount. The result is suggesting (but not conclusive) that Sennetts of Cornwall may be from the same origin as Sinnotts of Co Wexford.

Sennetts of Cornwall go back (on paper) as far as Jephthah Sennett, b about 1687 (but probably not born in Cornwall) and lived in St Michaels Mount.

Sinnotts of Co Wexford trace back to the first arrival of their purported forbear (Synad/Synod) to Co Wexford in the 12th century, coming from the Flemish Community in Wales.

If there is indeed a common ancestor between the Cornish Sennetts and these Irish Sinnotts, then the possibilities include: either Jephthah Sennett himself was from an Irish family and came from Ireland to St Michaels Mount sometime after about 1700, OR one of Jephthahs ancestors came from Ireland and the family lived somewhere else unknown for one or more generations before Jephthah himself arrived in St Michaels Mount, OR the common ancestor was as far back as the Flemish community in Wales, and Jephthah is descended from him or a Welsh Sinnett/Sinnott who has the same common Flemish ancestor as the Co Wexford Sinnotts, or of course, its a completely random result and there is no connection.

What I need now is to magically get DNA results for every Sennett, Sinnott, Sinnett or Synnott family that exists today into the familytreeDNA database so I can really sort out the whole genetic tree for these rather interesting E3b haplotype S-NN-Ts. I’m definitely no genetic scientist, but I do know that in the British Isles, E3B just isn’t that common (perhaps 1-2 percent). So when I know there is a fairly well documented paper trail (although with a few gaps) from Synad of the Flemish Community in Wales to the well known Co Wexford Sinnott/Synnott families, an E3b (rather than the R1b that 80 percent of men of Irish ancestry have) kind of makes sense. When that same E3b turns up in the Cornish Sennett line, then it really starts me wondering.

I’d already theorised that Welsh Sinnetts (from the same area of Wales as that Flemish Community) would probably show that distant connection to the Co Wexford Sinnotts, but without getting the Y-DNA results for a whole lot more Sennett/Sinnett/Sinnott families I can’t even begin to draw up a genetic family tree. Thats where I either need magic (another 100 or so results please, immediately) or a lot more people to come on board with the DNA project. Doesn’t matter whether you think you have Irish, Welsh, Cornish, or Flemish connections, if you are a male S-NN-T, I’d love to hear from you. The DNA project page is here and you can also read my very non-scientific and non-academic overview of genealogical DNA for dummies

January 21, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

Genealogical DNA for Dummies

I’m sure someone must have already written a “Genealogical DNA for Dummies” guide, but here is my attempt to explain it in non-technical terms.

Men have an X and a Y (chromosome) that are paired together. Women don’t have the Y, they just have two X’s. A child’s genes come from a mix up and recombining of the two parents. So a girl child will still end up with two X’s but some bits of them will come from the father’s X and some from the mother’s. A boy child on the other hand may have some bits of X from both mother and father, but his Y will have just come purely from his father – virtually unchanged. That makes Y-DNA such an exciting possibility for genealogy where you want to follow the paternal (surname) line. You could expect that Y-DNA will therefore pass virtually unchanged from father to son through the generations, meaning that the Y-DNA of a man’s g-g-g-g-grandfather will look very much like that of his own Y-DNA – with some little changes.

The little changes are where “mutations” occur over generations – these aren’t necessarily bad, it just means that the gene has been copied slightly differently as it passed from father to son. Because its possible to predict how often mutations are likely to occur, comparing the Y-DNA from distant male cousins with a common ancestor (and seeing how many differences there are in a standardised set of markers tested) allows a rough estimate of when that common ancestor might have lived. A very close match between two men who share a common surname (only one or two differences) makes it very likely they are related, and a bigger number of differences makes it either less likely they are related, or that the most recent common ancestor is very many generations back.

So how does this work for genealogy?
Lets suppose, as we have in the Sinnott/Sennett one name study, we have a whole lot of families who all believe their common ancestor came from Co Wexford, but the paper trail for conventional genealogy research has dwindled away, or we suspect that John and James who emigrated to the US about the same time were brothers but there is no documentation to prove it – genealogical DNA studies can now be used to show whether its possible that two families (that are at the moment quite separate on paper) are actually related and have a common ancestor. And no, we don’t have to go digging up g-g-g-g-grandfather John to get his DNA – remember, he passed it on to his son, and his son’s son, and so on to the present day. So we find a living male descendant and they get their Y-DNA analysed. That gives us a pretty good indication of the genetic signature for the whole family tree (well, the male side, anyway). If we want to check it, we find a distant cousin of the first person who tested and get their DNA analysed. If its a very close match, then bingo – we know the Y-DNA genetic signature (and whats known as a haplogroup) for our whole family group.

And that’s where it starts getting interesting, because then we can start comparing that genetic signature to the results from other men who share the same surname but don’t appear on our family tree. If the matches are close, then we can start thinking “is there a common ancestor for these families another generation or two back? Are the families linked in some way?”. Depending on what we already know about either family group, it can help target the paper research to get those families linked, or take us back another generation or two.

So, back to the example of the two men (lets call them John and James) we think might be brothers: We find two g-g-grandsons (or any male descendant in a direct father-son line) of each, preferably the most distant cousins we can find, and get a Y-DNA test done for all four men. Usually a 37 marker Y-DNA test is a good place to start. This looks at 37 sections of each persons DNA that the genetic scientists think are most useful for our purposes (the bits that are least likely to randomly change over generations). The results come back looking like a fairly meaningless string of numbers which are fairly useless on their own, but allow us to compare each persons result with others in the database of the testing company.

What we would expect to find then in this example is that the two descendants of John show a very close match, and the two descendants of James also show a very close match (because we know from conventional paper based research that they are related). If all four match very closely, then that’s further evidence to add to our theory that John and James were really brothers. Not conclusive proof- but pretty solid evidence.

So what are you waiting for? If your family’s genetic signature hasn’t yet been tested, how about considering contributing to the genealogical record and resource for your family by finding one or two men to take a Y-DNA test. If you are a male S-NN-T descendant then please check out the Sinnott/Sennett (and variants) surname project at – you even get a discounted rate for the Y-DNA37 test if ordered through the project.

If you aren’t a S-NN-T, then there are plenty more surname and geographic projects you can join.

And a final note: be on the alert for surprises in your DNA – sometimes its as simple as realising that what you thought was a surname that had come down through the male line, has actually been taken from a female at some point who kept her maiden name (which means the DNA signature will match the surname of the father of her children, and not the surname the child was given). Sometimes the man who is believed to be the father just isn’t – and that will show by his real sons having a different DNA signature to the ones fathered by another man. Often these NPE’s (non-paternal events) will be many generations back, but they could be much closer.

I hope this inspires you to find out more about genealogical DNA studies and get involved in some way.

January 19, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

SINNETT from Pendleton West Virginia and the HEVENER connection

I now have a fairly detailed tree of descendants of Patrick SINNETT and his wife Catherine HEVENER (with lots of variant spellings in any way you think the surname might sound).

In “The History of Ritchie County” by Minnie Kendall Lawther ( there is a bit of background on the family:
“The Sinnetts – Patrick Sinnett, with his large family, came from Pendleton county, (West) Virginia. He was a typical son of “Old Erin”, having been born there near the middle of the eighteenth century. He had been one of the King’s waiters for seven years before coming to America in his young manhood; and finding such service very distasteful, he one day wandered down to the harbor just as a vessel was ready to set sail for the Colonies, and without further deliberation, stepped on board and turned his face toward the Occident. When he landed on these shores, he found himself penniless in a land of strangers, and was sold for his fare, and was compelled to work for three years to cancel the debt, so unjust were the laws, and so unmerciful were the executors, at that age of the world.
He served as a soldier in Lord Dunmore’s war, being under the direct command of General Lewis at the battle of Point Pleasant; and he also served as an American soldier in the Revolutionary War, which closely followed.
He married Miss Kathrine Hefner, a German lady, and was the father of eleven children. He died at the great age of one hundred five years, some time in the fifties, at the home of his daughter, Mrs Adam Cunningham junior, on the farm that is now the estate of the late Charles Moyer, and her, beside his wife, he sleeps.
His descendants in this county are a host, and like he, many of them are remarkable for their longevity.
His children were all born in Pendleton County, and were as follows: John, William, Seth, Abel, Henry, Jacob, George, Elizabeth, Sarah, Kathrine and Phebe.”

This book says that he had eleven children, but I have now had some suggestion that there was at least one other, fathered by Patrick Sinnott out of wedlock a year or two before he married Catherine. It’s the Sinnott DNA study that has thrown this one up, along with stories coming down through the HEVENER family – that George Hevener, born 1781, was actually the son of Patrick Sinnott. The Y-DNA (male line DNA that usually follows surnames) for George Hevener’s descendants looks similar enough to the Y-DNA of other SINNOTT families originating from Co Wexford to make me think this could be a possibility, but the only way to really check is to identify a male SINNETT descendant of Patrick and see if their Y-DNA is the very close match to George Hevener’s male descendants, that you would expect to find if they did share a common ancestor.

So, once again, I am calling for help – if you know a male SINNETT who has links to Pendleton, West Virginia or can trace an unbroken father-son line back to Patrick Sinnett and Catherine Hevener, please either get in touch with me through the Sennett One Name Study ( or just go straight to the DNA project at and get them to order a Y-DNA37 (37 marker recommended minimum test, or Y-DNA67 if you want to go higher). Test kits ordered through the Sennett/Sinnott surname project are a bit cheaper as they get the discounted project price.

January 10, 2015 / sennettfamilytree

Mr Synott buys a chevy

I wasn’t around in 1929, but I can imagine the excitement in the street when Mr Synott brought home his new chevrolet – such an exciting event that it even made a brief note in the local newspaper.

Mr Synnott buys a new chevrolet

Mr Synnott buys a new chevrolet

I found some great images of 1929 Chevrolets online at including this picture

1929 Chevrolet

1929 Chevrolet

That may not be exactly the model our Mr Synott bought, but its definitely the same era.

What is puzzling me is which Mr F Synott this actually is, as I can’t find a Mr F S Synott in my records. I’m guessing he is related to Charles Forbes Goodheart Synott (a descendant of Walter Synott and Jane Seton of Ballymoyer, Co Armagh) but am more than happy to be proved wrong. It could be that the paper got his initials wrong as well.

This is yet another wonderful moment in time preserved in the Trove archive of Australia For anyone with any Australian family history heritage, this has got to be the number one site to go to to find out more about your Aussie family of the past.