remains believed to be Gosnold
Alexa Welch Edlund  /  AP
Archeologist William M. Kelso stands over the remains believed to be of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold in Jamestown, Va., earlier this month.
updated 2/24/2005 9:24:34 PM ET 2005-02-25T02:24:34

A historical society hoping to prove that an unearthed skeleton is that of a Jamestown founder has won permission from two English churches to dig up graves believed to belong to the pioneer’s relatives.

Archaeologists must conduct more tests to determine whether the graves indeed contain remains but, if so, DNA testing could begin this spring, the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities said Thursday.

The graves are believed to contain remains of the sister and niece of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold. They were found a few weeks ago during radar surveys at two churches in Suffolk, England. The skeleton believed to be Gosnold’s was found outside the site of the Jamestown fort in 2003.

The grave of the sister, Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, is under the choir pews at Shelley All Saints Church, a diocesan spokesman said. The niece, Katherine Blackerby, is believed to be in a vault under the floor of St. Peter and St. Mary church in Stowmarket.

Scientists working with skeletal remains can trace DNA only through maternal relatives, noted William Kelso, the association’s director of archaeology, who directed the 2003 dig.

Gosnold in 1602 led an expedition to New England, where he discovered and named Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. In 1605, he began planning the Jamestown Colony with Capt. John Smith. Gosnold died after an illness in August 1607 at age 36.

Historical documents and physical evidence suggest the skeleton belongs to Gosnold, association spokeswoman Paula Neely said. A decorative staff used by ship captains of the era, for example, was found on the coffin’s lid.

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