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Breaking Through 18th and 19th Century Brick Walls: ‘Don’t Let Go of Your EGGOS’

Please forgive the reference to Kellogg’s popular 1970’s slogan for its toasted breakfast waffle in this blog’s title. I am a marketing professor by trade, and I just can’t help advertising references.

EGGOS is an acronym I developed and a successful strategy I use to break through genealogy brick walls for our ancestors who lived in the 1700s and 1800s. Traditional records here are often scarce preventing us from identifying the parents and grandparents for many of our ancestors.

EGGOS stands for “Earliest Generation Group of Siblings”, which is a systematic search strategy I use when evaluating autosomal DNA matches. When trying to identify the unknown parents for an ancestor, I concentrate on the shared matches associated with the siblings of the known ancestor. The sibling matches likely only share DNA originating from the unknown parents of the ancestor.1 The intent is to use shared matches from the earliest generation of siblings and not shared matches from another more recent generation of siblings as recent generations run the risk of having too many common parental lines. 

Most autosomal DNA websites have a “shared matches” or “in common with” feature, which permits you to see the other DNA matches you share with a cousin., FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe all have this feature as highlighted in the image below.

Putting it to an example better explains how it works and demonstrates how I used the EGGOS search strategy to discover the identity of my 3x great grandmother, Elizabeth Wilson Dye (1784-1860). But first, a brief background for Elizabeth to set up the example.

Brief Background
Based on the age and birth locations of their children, John Wilson (b. 1784) married Elizabeth around 1809 in Pennsylvania. John was living in New London, Chester County, Pennsylvania as late as 1806 and had moved to Richland, Bucks County, Pennsylvania by 1810.2 John and Elizabeth moved to Ohio by 1820, and John died in Tuscarawas County, Ohio prior to 1840.3 Elizabeth is found as a widow living in Short Creek, Harrison County, Ohio in 18404 and moved to Meigs County, Ohio by 1850 where she married Thomas Dye (b. 1776 New Jersey) on 15 August 1850.5 Elizabeth Wilson Dye died 19 March 1860 in Scipio Township, Meigs County.6

Autosomal DNA Analysis
Elizabeth Wilson Dye is shown as Elizabeth in Exhibit 1 below. For the analysis, I used my paternal aunt’s DNA to help answer this research question as she is one generation closer to Elizabeth than I am and potentially has about 50% more “original” DNA than I do. My aunt is shown as A1. 

Using the EGGOS method, I concentrated on DNA matches that descend from the earliest generation group of siblings for my known ancestor (James H. Wilson) who descends from the unknown ancestor (Elizabeth) I’m trying to discover. This means focusing on DNA matches like E1 because the only most recent common ancestors my aunt shares with E1 is likely to be John and Elizabeth Wilson. As such, any shared matches between my aunt (A1) and her fourth cousin (E1) also likely descend from John and Elizabeth Wilson assuming A1 and E1 share no other common ancestors.

Using the EGGOS method, it’s important to establish that I do not review any shared DNA matches in Exhibit 1 between my aunt (A1) and her closer cousins A2, A3, and A4 as they have too many recent common ancestors prior to their connection to Elizabeth. For example, A2 shares common grand parents (Wilson/Gallagher), great grandparents (Wilson/Pettit), 2x great grandparents (Wilson/Hill), and 3x great grandparents (John and Elizabeth Wilson). So reviewing shared matches between my aunt and A2 is inefficient.

Analyzing the Matches
Through extensive time spent with my aunt’s DNA matches in, I identified 61 matches descending from John and Elizabeth Wilson other than those through my aunt’s direct ancestor, James H. Wilson. These matches, which constitute the EGGOS matches, descend through other siblings of James as represented by B1, C1, D1, and E1 below in Exhibit 2. 

For each of the 61 matches, I used the “Shared Matches” feature in and reviewed the shared or in-common with matches between my aunt and the EGGOS matches. I frequently had to build out the family trees for these shared matches, which was a laborious process to be sure but extremely worthwhile. No brick wall comes crashing down without some level of effort. Across all the shared matches, several genetic clusters developed and were grouped around a few geographic locations and surnames. Exhibit 3 provides a graphical summary of the results.

A small genetic cluster of five DNA matches (group 1) was discovered descending from several different children of William Wilson and Phebe Penrose, who were the parents of John Wilson, the husband of our query. None of these matches matched the other genetic clusters suggesting that the other clusters were associated with Elizabeth.

The two largest clusters on the maternal side all had shared Boyd ancestry either living in Washington County, Pennsylvania (group 2) or Coshocton County, Ohio (group 3). These locations are visible on the map below in Exhibit 4. One other smaller Boyd cluster (group 4) was found in East Nottingham, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Two other clusters had shared Parker ancestry from either Bucks County, Pennsylvania (group 5) or from some yet unidentified location within Pennsylvania (group 6).

Documentary Evidence
After considerable research, I was able to link 10 of the 19 Coshocton County, Ohio matches to John Boyd (b. 1796 PA) and Susannah Huffman (b. 1805 PA), who married on 7 September 1820 in Washington County, Pennsylvania thereby establishing an association to the other large group of Boyds in Washington County.7 The remaining group of nine matches from Coshocton County descend from John G. Boyd (b. 1817 PA) and Jemima Cunningham (b. 1820 PA), who I have been unable to connect to either John and Susannah Huffman Boyd or the other Washington County, Pennsylvania Boyds.

One of the Boyds who lived in Washington County was Mary Boyd (b. 1801 PA) who married Ira Reese Butler (b. 1792 PA). Ira’s obituary states that his wife was born in New London Crossroads in Chester County, Pennsylvania.8

The smaller cluster of Boyds in East Nottingham, Chester County, Pennsylvania descends from a Jane Boyd (b. 1798 PA) and Benjamin McDonald (b. 1788 PA). The connection for several of these Boyds to East Nottingham and New London Crossroads is important as John Wilson, who married Elizabeth, lived in New London, Chester County from 1800 to 1810.9 John and Elizabeth married about 1809 based on the birth of their first child. The land of John’s father, William Wilson, was located on the border of New London and East Nottingham.

The possibility that Elizabeth may be a Boyd seemed promising. Two of John and Elizabeth’s children had the middle initial of “B”, and the common Chester County location was too much to ignore. Based on this hunch, I searched for all Boyds living in East Nottingham and New London between 1800 and 1810. I found three: Thomas Boyd, John Boyd, and William Boyd. Thomas Boyd had no daughters old enough to be Elizabeth.10 John Boyd died in 1837 and his will listed a daughter Elizabeth, but she was married to a Mr. Spear.11 William Boyd died in 1836 and left his Revolutionary War pension to his daughter, Jane McDonald of East Nottingham, who was part of group 4 identified in Exhibit 3.12

A search of pension files on Fold3 discovered a 10-page letter written by the above mentioned William Boyd in 1832 in support of his pension application.13 Among many items stated in the letter, he indicates having been born in 1753 in Plumstead, Bucks County, Pennsylvania and lived in Northampton Township, Bucks County at the time of enlistment. He also states that he later moved to Upper Makefield (Bucks County) then to Delaware County, Pennsylvania then to New London (Chester County), then to Washington County, and finally back to East Nottingham (Chester County). William’s letter, along with the presented research, geographically links all three Boyd clusters together across Coshocton, Washington, and Chester Counties. None of his children are mentioned in his pension application, but the 1800 and 1810 censuses suggest he had at least 10 children.14

In the pension application, William’s mention of living in Bucks County in his formative years led to the discovery of a 1778 marriage record for William Boyd to Miss (Mary) McMasters,15 which likely explains the Parker / McMasters genetic cluster (group 5) from Bucks County in Exhibit 3. 

Summary Conclusion
Based on the analysis of the shared matches using the EGGOS search strategy, I concluded that Elizabeth was likely the daughter of William and Mary McMasters Boyd. While no direct evidence establishes Elizabeth as William’s daughter, the DNA evidence coupled with the indirect evidence presented here and other evidence not discussed in this blog post provides reasonably exhaustive research establishing her identity as Elizabeth Boyd Wilson Dye (1784-1860).

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1. It is possible that you may share more than one common ancestor with these matches especially if your family lived in small communities where families frequently intermarried (i.e., endogamy).
2. Pennsylvania, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993, William Wilson, Chester County, Minors’ Estate Papers, 1717-1820, image 453 of 849; database with image, Ancestry (, accessed 14 March 2022), citing Chester County, Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court. And 1810 U.S. census, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Richland, p. 888, image 5 of 5, John Wilson; database with image, Ancestry (, accessed 12 March 2022); Family History Library Film 193672, roll 46.
3. Chester County, Pennsylvania, estate file, no. 11253, John Wilson (1848, Tuscarawas County, Ohio), Recorder of Wills, Clerk of Orphans’ Court, West Chester, Pennsylvania.
4. 1840 U.S. census, Harrison County, Ohio, population schedule, Short Creek, p. 217, image 16 of 21, Elizabeth Wilson (14th family listed); database with image, Ancestry (, accessed 20 February 2022); citing NARA microfilm M704, roll 402.
5. Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records 1773-1993, Meigs County, Thomas Dye and Elizabeth Wilson (15 August 1850), p. 415, image 207; database with image, Ancestry (, accessed 17 February 2022). 
6. Find A Grave, database with images (, accessed 20 February 2022), memorial page for Elizabeth Dye (1784-1860), Find A Grave Memorial ID 7233800, maintained by Robin (Cuttingham) Townsend-Fife (contributor 47314881); citing Shipman Cemetery, Meigs County, Ohio, USA.
7. Malmat, Bonnie (1990), Abstracts of the Washington Reporter: Washington County, PA, Vol. 4 (1820-1822), Item 253, Monday, 11 Sep 1820. “On Thursday last by William Wallace Esq., Mr. John Boyd, of Williamsport to Miss Susannah Huffman, of Somerset Twp.”
8. The Daily Republican (1884, July 22), “Capt. Ira R. Butler”, p. 4, col. 1, Monongahela, PA; online database,, accessed 14 March 2022.
9. See footnote 2. And Chester County, Pennsylvania, land deed, James Johnson to William Wilson (1800), New London Township, Book S-2, Volumne 42, p. 394-395, Recorder of Deeds, West Chester; database with an image FamilySearch (, image 201 of 693, film 8067020.
10. 1800 U.S. census, Chester County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, East Nottingham, p. 868, image 2 of 3, Thomas Boyd; database with image, Ancestry(, accessed 14 March 2022); Family History Library Film 363339, roll 36.
11. Chester County, Pennsylvania, will (book 17, p. 162), John Boyd (1837, Lower Oxford), Recorder of Wills, Clerk of Orphans’ Court, West Chester.
12. Chester County, Pennsylvania, will (book 17, p. 264), William Boyd (1835, Chester County), Recorder of Wills, Clerk of Orphans’ Court, West Chester.
13. Pension Application, William Boyd, Sergeant, Revolutionary War, “Declaration of William Boyd in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7,1832”, dated 9 April 1833, Pension Application S.22,127, Pension Office, War Department, Washington, DC; online database with images, Fold3 (, accessed 31 July 2018).
14. 1800 U.S. census, Chester County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, East Nottingham, p. 866, image 1 of 3, William Boyd; database with image, Ancestry (, accessed 14 March 2022); Family History Library Film 363339, roll 36. And 1810 U.S. census, Chester County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, East Nottingham, p. 202, image 4 of 5, Wm Boyde [Boyd]; database with image, Ancestry(, accessed 14 March 2022); Family History Library Film 193673, roll 47.
15. U.S. Presbyterian Church Records, 1701-1970, Willm Boyd and McMasters (1778, October 22), Newtown Presbyterian Church, Baptisms, Births, Marriages, 1769-1812, p. 20, image 22 of 148; database with image, Ancestry (, accessed 14 March 2022); Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Published by Rick T Wilson, PhD

As the Family Pattern Genealogist™, I detect and analyze patterns in genealogically relevant data using DNA and other traditional records.

4 thoughts on “Breaking Through 18th and 19th Century Brick Walls: ‘Don’t Let Go of Your EGGOS’

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