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Bartholomew Gosnold

You are in: Suffolk > History > Bartholomew Gosnold > Gosnold DNA tests fail to prove link

All Saints Church, Shelley

All Saints Church, Shelley

Gosnold DNA tests fail to prove link

British and American archaeologists were disappointed to learn that DNA material taken from the remains of a woman buried in Shelley church turned out to be a scientific dead end.

The DNA was taken in an attempt to conclusively identify Suffolk explorer Captain Bartholomew Gosnold.

Gosnold led the expedition to set up the first permanent English-speaking colony in the New World in 1607 and is regarded as a founding father of America.

Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney

In 2003 scientists uncovered a skeleton at Jamestown, Virginia, which they believed to be the remains of Gosnold.  To prove the theory archaeologists obtained permission from the Church of England to extract DNA from the remains of Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, the explorer's sister. 

The search begins at Shelley Church

The search begins at Shelley Church

The team began excavating the grave in the chancel of All Saints Church in Shelley in June of this year.  A small piece of bone was removed and sent to the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History in Washington DC for analysis.

"We succeeded in obtaining DNA, but we now know from laboratory tests that we did not find the remains of Gosnold's sister Elizabeth Tilney," said Dr. William Kelso, director of archaeology for APVA Preservation Virginia at Historic Jamestown.

"Unfortunately, the sample we tested was a mismatch because it came from a woman who was too young to be his sister and was not related to him."

Anne Framlingham

The most likely family member to match the results of the analysis is Anne Framlingham.  She was born around 1544 and married Philip Tilney of Shelley Hall in 1561.  She helped entertain Queen Elizabeth 1 at the Hall in August of the same year.  Anne died in 1601 or 1602.

"Thorough research showed that Elizabeth's grave was likely to be in the northern part of the chancel close to the Tilney chapel," says James Halsall spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. "However, we knew other members of the Tilney family may have been buried in this area and it seems we have confirmed this" he says.

Remains of body found in Jamestown, Virginia

Remains of body found in Jamestown, USA

Compelling evidence

But researchers remain confident that the remains of a 17th century captain found in Jamestown are those of Gosnold.  Without DNA proof, the most compelling piece of evidence that archaeologists have found Gosnold's grave was the discovery of a decorative captain's leading staff that was placed along one edge of the coffin lid.

"We have never found any other ceremonial objects in Jamestown burials, so we know this was someone very special," says Bill Kelso.

400th anniversary

Captain Gosnold died within months of arriving in Jamestown in 1607 and has never received the full recognition he deserves as one of the founders of America. The 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown will be marked in May 2007 and The Queen and President Bush have been invited to attend the celebrations.

last updated: 19/03/2008 at 12:51
created: 10/11/2005

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Ross Dix-Peek
This is very interesting indeed. Ancestors' of mine apparently include two Margaret de Tilneys who married into the Dix family of Norfolk in the 13th Century. Fascinating family.

Jan Wyers
My father has written an extensive book on the Tilney Family, which is my Mother's Mother's. I have a copy and the their is a copy in the Genealogy Society library in London. Hope that helps, as it traces many branches of the Tilney family.

lynn kirts
i need help with tilney history, this is my family, but loose link from 1800 to 1900.

Brian Caulkett
My mother was a Gosnell and I should be grateful for any information on the link between the Gosnolds and the Gosnells

michael boulton
I am researching the Tilney family as I am related. The link occured in 1808 at Norwich Any help would be great

Walter Gosling
In tracing my own Suffolk family roots I have found that the surname was recorded earlier as 'Gosnold' in Nayland parish records. (It varied between Gosnold, then Gosnell before the spelling 'Gosling' became settled in the 18th C.

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