Sunday, August 21, 2022

When Cousins Come Calling


The last couple weeks have brought me some surprises: distant cousins finding me via this blog and wanting to talk Tilsons. Yep, cousin bait works. Tilsons, on the other hand, may not be that easy to track.

For one thing, there are a lot of them. My particular branch migrated ever so slowly from New England to the outback of colonial Virginia, and finally to Tennessee. All by the turn of the century—the nineteenth century. The journey, supposedly, began with their ancestors, whose roots reach back to the Mayflower—if only I can find the documentation to demonstrate that oral history.

I'm not the only one bemoaning that little issue. Apparently, these two Tilson cousins are also working on that paper trail. They want to talk. Tilson.

Meanwhile, perhaps it is no surprise to see that while I am supposed to be working on research regarding my husband's Stevens roots, in the past two weeks, I have managed to add 138 more names to my own family tree. And yes, you guessed correctly: each one of those new names connects to that Tilson line. My tree has suddenly grown to 29,012 people, and I'm barely started with this impromptu exploration.

To put it in focus, in the same two week period, I managed to add 127 people to my in-laws' tree, though certainly not all owing to the research project I'm currently tackling on John Stevens. Since that task requires more broad-based exploration, it hasn't really produced specific names to add to the tree, though it has grounded me in some social history of County Mayo during the Great Famine. Some projects encompass different goals than simply building out a tree. Nevertheless, my in-laws' tree now includes 29,924 documented names.

Working with distant cousins can prove rewarding when each one shares resources which might not be available on the usual websites. Mostly, that means researching locally—or at least stumbling upon a serendipitous discovery. We'll likely start with a discussion of "I need..." and "I can share..." as an inventory of where we've already explored. I'll pull out my notes from my last trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to see if any material is salvageable (although the discoveries that pre-Covid year were less than satisfactory, and it's obviously been a while since I've been there). And, of course, I'll take another look at any Tilson DNA matches, just in case.

It is often a treat to meet a distant cousin online who has spent considerable time pursuing a research question. Make that a double treat in this instance. Perhaps this time, working together, we will all break through that brick wall and be able to document our Tilson connection to the Mayflower passengers.


  1. Jacqi, contact my cousin Kay on the research she paid good $ to professionals, she got some info ... though I believe it is outside of where our family lines connect. Our last Tilson is Rebecca b. 1792-d. 1831 (ish) ... I was unable to find your blog which outlined your Mayflower lineage ...
    Also I have been unable to determine which of the 3400 trees that name Wm Tilson + Mary Ransom in them that would be yours, so I might find what facts we know that you don't.
    You have worked diligently, it would be great if we had extra news, but unlikely as you are a high achiever.

    1. NewtonTurp, I just found you on Ancestry, thanks to the many documents you shared there on the Tilson line! I messaged you there. Hope we can connect and collaborate.


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