Sunday, March 12, 2023

Traces of Tilsons


It is nearly inconceivable that we could carry around traces of our distant ancestors in our own being, but that is exactly what is revealed when we take a DNA test for genealogy. DNA tests can reveal small segments of patterns which we share in common with others descending from the same ancestor.

Take my fourth great-grandfather, Peleg Tilson, the one I'm struggling to research this month. I may not be able to find his will in either his native Virginia nor in his new home in Tennessee, but he apparently left me some documentation, right in my own genetic makeup.

That, at least, is according to my DNA test results at, where their ThruLines tool currently shows that I have at least fifty five matches with other test takers. There, the ThruLines readout divides my DNA matches into lines of descent from eleven different Tilson children. However, since the Tilson Genealogy book only shows ten lines descending from Peleg and his wife, it is already obvious that relying on family trees of Ancestry subscribers is a caveat emptor proposition. Any of our trees could contain an error. Sometimes, we insert such problems into our own trees unwittingly.

The task I'm undertaking for the rest of this month is to trace those Tilson DNA matches from their ancestors—each of the children of Peleg Tilson, according to the 1911 Tilson Genealogy—and then confirm those assertions according to any documentation I can find.

Granted, I find it frustrating that Mercer Vernon Tilson could make the genealogical statements he made, yet not provide sources for those statements. That, at least, is my problem with the book's report that the Tilson line can be traced back to Mayflower passengers. Lack of footnotes can be frustrating.

In the meantime, as I visit my relatives in Florida, the chorus is growing louder: there are several of us now who want to verify that line back to Priscilla Mullins and John Alden. But somewhere in the backwoods of southwest Virginia, lack of any birth or death record for my fourth great-grandfather has several of us family members stymied. All we can say is: we're still looking.

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