Saturday, March 4, 2023

. . . But What About D N A ?


While this month's research goal requires us to carefully study documents—especially as we push far beyond that magic 1850 census mark where everyone in the household had a name—it might help to take a peek ahead and look at what DNA matches might be available to help us piece together the Tilson family constellation.

Focusing on my test results at AncestryDNA—though I've tested at four other companies—I will draw primarily on their ThruLines program. Mainly, I'm doing this to gain a quick and dirty sketch of who else out there has tested their DNA and shown even the slightest connection with a Tilson ancestor in their posted family tree. Granted, not every tree on is in pristine condition, but remember, I'm using this tool as a trailblazer. We'll check the details for each case as we proceed with this month's research goal.

Right off the bat, I can see that my third great-grandmother Rachel Tilson garnered me eight DNA matches to examine. However, remembering that she was married to a Davis man—of which there were several in their northeastern Tennessee neighborhood—I could also tell that his ThruLines listing indicated nine DNA matches at Ancestry.

Pushing back another generation brings the possibility of losing some genealogical matches due to the distance of the relationship, but for those whom I match, I can be more certain that they are connected through the Tilson line instead of another line married into the family. Let's look at Rachel's father, Peleg Tilson, to see how many of those matches remain.

That move does indeed broaden our perspective. For Peleg Tilson, I show fifty four DNA matches, ranging from the doubtful strength of six centiMorgans up to a more reliable fifty eight centiMorgan connection. The increase in matches is not surprising, since Peleg and his wife were parents of at least ten children.

I've been working my way through those fifty four DNA matches in my ThruLines readout at Ancestry. With each suggested line, I go through the generations, checking documentation before I add the proposed relatives descending from Peleg's specific child. Of course, I have several more matches to review, but so far all suggestions seem to bear out. As I progress through that task list, my tree grows more robust with collateral lines, which is fine: it augments my personal research goals.

For those who don't want to include collateral lines in your tree, such a plan may not suit your purposes. With every descendant I can add of my distant ancestors, it bolsters the argument concerning their identity. With each brick wall ancestor I encounter, a side step to a collateral line can sometimes help me break through that research impasse. Sure, my tree may be more bushy than tall, but ever so gradually—and confidently—I am pushing back to my fifth and sixth great-grandparents.

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