Closing in on Gosnold's DNA
Results of radar surveys conducted in two Suffolk churches show that archaeologists have probably identified the location of the graves of two maternal relatives of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, the unsung founder of America.
In St Peter and St Mary Church in Stowmarket, the probable entrance to the family vault, thought to contain the remains of Gosnold’s niece Katherine Blackerby, has been identified.
At All Saints, Shelley the likely grave of Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney has been found.
In 1607 Suffolk adventurer and entrepreneur, Bartholomew Gosnold led the first expedition to establish a permanent colony in the New World. He made landfall at Jamestown in modern day Virginia.
With the 400th anniversary of Gosnold’s landing approaching, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities supported by the National Geographic Society, is hoping to obtain small bone samples from the two Gosnold descendants.
Comparative DNA testing could prove that the remains of a 17th century sea captain excavated at Jamestown are those of America’s founding father. This would be the first time that permission to extract DNA for scientific research would have been granted in the UK.
"The radar survey shows a potential vault under the Blackerby memorial tablet in the floor of Stowmarket Church," says James Halsall, the project spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich.
"In Shelley Church when we lifted the choir pews, we found a memorial slab in the location that research led us to believe Elizabeth Tilney might be buried. Both are very exciting results."
Searching for the family tomb
William Kelso, Director of Archaeology at APVA Preservation Virginia says, "We are very excited about pursuing this research and helping Bartholomew Gosnold receive recognition for his visionary leadership that’s long overdue. We are also extremely grateful to the Church of England and the two Suffolk parishes for their co-operation in this historic endeavour."
The results of the radar survey have been passed to the Council for the Care of Churches and Church Councils’ in Stowmarket and Shelley. None of the bodies raised objections to the project continuing to the next stage.
Discussions will now take place between the Archaeology team from Suffolk County Council, the Council for the Care of Churches and APVA Preservation Virginia as to how the exploration should be conducted.
If final legal permission is granted by the Chancellor of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, work in the two Suffolk churches is expected to begin in late spring.
If DNA material can be successfully extracted, the results of the comparative tests will be revealed in a National Geographic Television & Film documentary expected to be transmitted in November 2005.
last updated: 19/03/2008 at 12:51
Have Your Say
After a recent trip to England and much research, my family (Doggett) has been traced back to the 1400's with Bartholomew Gosnold as a cousin. Many of our relatives are laid to rest at St. Bartholemews Church in Groton, England where Bartholomew was christained.
I descend from Bartholomew Gosnold's grandparents, Robert and Mary (Vesey) Gosnold. I agree that the Cabot and Raleigh expeditions deserve recognition, as well as those of the Welsh prince, Madog (who supposedly landed in Mobile Bay in the 1100's). I do think, however, that Bartholomew Gosnold's expeditions have a bit more significance, however, due to his long-term influence on the U.S. (naming Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, among other places...first permanent English Settlement at Jamestown, etc.).
I look forward to the movie The New World coming out in November 2005. I am even more excited to find out once and for all if the bones in Virginia are those of Bartholomew.
Thank you for this site!