It’s been awhile since I broached the Eggleston DNA subject, but it’s rarely out of my thoughts for long. The problem is, my intellectual grasp on the topic is so tenuous that I avoid trying to discuss or explain it at all. The science of matching individuals through DNA is all about probability and odds – stuff that makes my fact-hungry brain hurt. But this week’s news is really cool, so I’ll try.
I grew up Watson. I started researching my family tree determined to find where my Watsons came from and who they were. I knew my grandfather, and his brother. I learned a lot about their father and his brother, about their father and his siblings, and their father’s family. Then the trail ran stone cold. Right there, when the 18th Century became the 19th, someone slapped up a big genealogic brick wall.
So I went the scientific route. I submitted a DNA sample to one of those companies (there were fewer then), and the analysis began. Several levels of analysis. And while matches to the information on my X-chromosome starting piling up – hundreds and hundreds, and I don’t think I’ve established one clear connection out of them – the Y-chromosome matches, all those Watsons I hoped to discover, were nil.
I’m not sure how it happened – I think one of the surname project administrators had occasion to see my results and recognized a pattern. He ordered an additional test or two, and there it was – a series of close matches to a handful of men, most named Eggleston. We can easily count the original Eggleston immigrant as a common ancestor (and he is), but he’s not necessarily the most recent. My results put me in a tiny sub-set of Egglestons, pointing to a common ancestor a little closer in time – a grandson, perhaps, of the original: Joseph Eggleston (or Eccleston), c. 1685-1767, of Stonington, Connecticut.
While all this was going on, I contacted a woman whose name is Watson, whose Ancestry tree contained a lot of Watsonian coincidences with mine. Common locations, common first names through the generations, and a very familiar looking brick wall surrounding Halfmoon, New York, circa 1800.
Loooong story short, she convinced a male Watson cousin to do the DNA test (since all this action is Y-chromosome action, only men can take part), and the first level of test results came in yesterday. I am closely related to this cousin of hers. What’s more, our respective Brick-Wall Watsons are also very closely related – likely brothers. So we now have another Watson line that definitely connects back, at least genetically, to the Connecticut Egglestons. The next levels of tests will determine whether our ultra-exclusive Eggleston club has a new member – but I suspect that’s pretty much a given at this point.
So my Watson correspondent is now a virtual bona fide Watson cousin – a 6th cousin, most likely. Her Brick-Wall Watson was named Elisha Watson (c. 1794-1841) – and he was the first Elisha Watson I ran across when I began researching my 3rd great-grandfather, also named Elisha Watson (1822-1879), the gent in the photograph at left. But her Elisha was in the wrong part of New York State (Wayne County, rather than Saratoga), so I made a minor note of it and pressed on, never really imagining that we’d all circle back to him years later.
Of course, being the person I am, I’m very interested in the real-life applications of this knowledge: if the face in the photograph reflects identifiable Eggleston characteristics… if that bum-ticker trait in our Watson line also afflicted generations of Egglestons. That sort of thing.
This isn’t much of a breakthrough in terms of hard facts – but after 24 years of chipping away at it, I like to think that brick wall is showing some wear and tear.