It is almost cliched to hear a genealogist quip, "Where there's a will, there's a way." But that is what I'm tempted to say today. In brief, I've found a will. Only it isn't the will of the mystery fourth great-grandfather I'm seeking. It's his great-grandfather's will.
Admittedly, that's one thin link to go by. I'd still need to draw viable connections between my fourth great-grandfather and someone three generations removed from him on his direct line.
First, let's get ourselves oriented to this family tree. My sticking point is finding any documentation on my fourth great-grandfather, Peleg Tilson, which would connect him with previous generations. According to Mercer Vernon Tilson's 1911 book, The Tilson Genealogy, Peleg was the second-born son of William and Mary (Ransom) Tilson.
Granted, a next step, since I can't find documentation for Peleg himself, would be to look for his father's will. And that is on my list of documents to pursue. But if we first pursue the line of his direct pedigree—at least according to Mercer Tilson's book, here's what we find. William, Peleg's father, was son of Stephen and Janet (often spelled Jennet) Tilson. Janet was a Murdock, born to John Murdock and Ruth Bartlett. And it is with this Bartlett surname that we start entering the confirmed territory of Mayflower descendants.
As it turns out, John Murdock's will in "Plimouth" colony, Massachusetts, was easily accessible online—thankfully. The reason for my gratitude and glee will be apparent when I share one additional detail with you: that John Murdock not only named his children in his will, but specifically singled out one grandson and identified him as son of John's son-in-law Stephen Tilson. Thus, one instance where someone put his money where his mouth was, in identifying the line of descent. In his first order of business, John Murdock gave his grandson William "Tillson" the whole farm.
I give and Bequeath unto my grandson William Tillson (the son of Stephen Tillson) the whole Farm with the Dwelling-House and all the other buildings thereon Standing...To Him his Heirs and assigns forever.
Why his grandson William didn't remain in Massachusetts, given such a legacy, is an entirely separate story. But in that one line we are gifted with a confirmed snippet of the Tilson genealogy, at least from the point of John Murdock's will in 1756.