Our name comes from the village of Blencowe in Cumbria. The last known descendant of the eldest surviving son of 14thC Adam de Blencow died in Tunis in 1927; all modern-day Blencowes are believed to descend from John a son, or more likely grand-son, of Adam who moved to Marston St Lawrence (M St L) in Northamptonshire in the 15thC. Most of the scattered groups of variously-spelt Blencowes can be traced back to villages within walking distance or horse-back ride from M St L.

Long before I became hooked on family history I read a note (I believe it was in a pre-war edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica) suggesting that Blencowe farmers of Northamptonshire descended from retainers who had accompanied John to the south and adopted the family name. I have found no evidence of this and the advent of DNA tests offered a way of learning more of our origins for the make-up of the Y (male) chromosome can reveal descent in unbroken line from father to son.

DNA testing is expensive; most surveys made of families sharing the same name have tested many persons and revealed groups centred on different parts of the country. We are lucky to have a name tied to one place, we were able to choose volunteers who might show links between groups where there is no 'paper trail' to show a relationship.

The extensive records that we have collected from parish registers, wills and indentures allowed us to ignore families where a break in the family line was known: John Blencowe, Lord of the Manor of M St L died in 1777 without issue; his sisterís son Samuel Jackson adopted the family name and inherited the property, his male descendants carry Jackson, not Blencowe genes. Family groups that traced back to a birth out of wedlock could also be excluded from our tests.

The first tests we did produced exciting results! John ('Al') Blencowe descends from a family that emigrated to Virginia from Towcester, a market town near M St L, in the late 19thC; his ancestors can be traced on paper all the way back to Adam de B. His DNA record is used as the 'type specimen' to which other results can be compared.

The earliest known Blencowe immigrant in the Americas was James Blincoe who appeared in the Maryland archives in 1671 when John Lee, one of the Virginia 'tobacco barons' claimed fifty acres of land for having brought him into the country. Three of James' descendants submitted DNA samples. Allen, who lives in Ohio and John who lives in Washington, proved to be identical with Al Noel, who lives in California, differed in only one minor detail. Clearly Al and the early American Blincoes shared a common male ancestor, presumably Adam de Blencow.

Where did James come from, was he one of the Marston branch of the family or did he stem from the senior Cumbrian line? The latter seemed highly likely as Whitehaven was an important port for the tobacco trade, but I could find no record of a James Blincoe in that part of the world in the mid-17thC. The records at M St L showed a James, son of James and Susannah, baptised there in 1651; this seemed the most likely person, especially as, settled in Virginia, James Blincoe named his daughter Susannah.

In the early 1660s John Blencowe(the future Sir John) was at Oriel College in Oxford, at that time one of the Lee sons from Virginia was not many yards away at the Queen's College. The total number of students in Oxford would have numbered in hundreds rather than thousands; I like to think that the two may have known each other and that may have led to a Blencowe lad from M St L accompanying the young Lee to the Americas.

Jack Blencowe