Background on the Trisha Yearwood Episode on “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Trisha Yearwood
I’ve been a Trisha Yearwood fan since I saw her at FanFair in Nashville in 1991. Her big hit, which launched her career was “She’s in Love With the Boy.” It had a catchy tune to it that made it one of those songs, that once heard, made it one that stayed in your mind, day after day! So I was pleased to see that she was one of those celebrities featured on TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are? last Tuesday night. The episode is currently available online at:

The following is a bit of background about the making of the episode from Matthew Deighton at

Trisha Yearwood’s 5th great-grandfather, Samuel Winslett, died in 1829 in Georgia, the patriarch of a large family. Our research showed that over the years he received multiple land grants in Georgia, including in 1769 before the Revolutionary War. But as we searched for Samuel Winslett in Georgia records before 1769, we did not find him there.

So where did Samuel come from?

One thing that helped our research was the uncommon name “Winslett.” We searched 4.8 million names in early American immigration lists before the mid-1800s for every instance of the name Winslett and found only two listed: John and Samuel, who were both deported from England to the colonies in 1766.
Since the Winslett surname did not show up in America until 1766, we also checked records in England, looking for all men named Samuel Winslett who fell into the right age range. It turns out the Winslett surname is also relatively rare in England and we did not find any likely candidates other than the Samuel who was deported.

Our expansive searches of other broad colonial databases and indexes failed to uncover any other Winsletts living in North America at the time. Knowing that three years after he arrived, Samuel was granted land in 1769, and that a John Winslett in Maryland in the 1770s was the only other person in the colonies with this surname lent further support to these two men being the deported brothers. There simply was nobody else who fit the bill.

Sometimes, gathering every single mention of a surname is the only way to narrow down your list of possible ancestors.

And if you’re really lucky, the list is short….

To read more behind the scenes research visit

One thought on “Background on the Trisha Yearwood Episode on “Who Do You Think You Are?”

  1. the genealogy on the show and what is available now shows it to be really fleshed out and goes back very far. also a question. did you determine who bought Sam? the record of the sale should have been processed through the courts. it would be so revealing if it was Mary Carson’s father. being an indentured servant he could marry and acquire property only with the permission of his owner.

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