Liv Tyler – Who Do You Think You Are – “Drummer Boy”

On Monday’s season finale of Who Do You Think You Are? (airing Monday, April 24 at 8/7c on TLC), actress Liv Tyler unravels the mystery of her father Steven Tyler’s maternal family line, uncovering ancestors who took part in famous American battles. She also learns truths that change the way she will see herself and her family, forever.

Please note that this, the last episode for this season, airs on MONDAY, not Sunday, this week.

This episode will especially appeal to Civil War buffs.

Liv focuses on her father’s family line. Her father is Steve Tyler of Aerosmith. Liv’s family has been immersed in music as far back as she knows.

Liv begins her journey with a genealogist who was able to extend her family back several generations, to her great-great-great-grandfather, Robert Elliott who they found on the 1860 census in New York as a shoemaker.

Coming forward another decade to the 1870 census, Liv discovered something in the race column of the 1870 census that did not match the 1860 census – spawning questions that many of us have experienced as well.

Genealogy isn’t so much about whether you will find surprises, but when and what those surprises will be.

Liv travels to Clinton County, NY to discover more.

Liv discovers that Robert served in the War of 1812, as a drummer boy.

I had absolutely no idea about the role that drummers played in early wars, the War of 1812 as well as the Civil War.

Drummers apparently served a much more important function than I ever imagined, especially since many were in essence children, too young to really serve as a soldier. They drummed commands, a language that all the soldiers understood and apparently could hear over the din of warfare. The drum rat-a-tat-tat” was a specific set of instructions relative to how to advance, or retreat, or whatever they were supposed to do.

I always learn something interested in each of these episodes. In addition to this tidbit, I learned that the state of New York outlawed slavery in 1799 and mandated that males that had been held in slavery serve as indentured servants until they were 28 years of age.

Robert’s son, George Washington Elliott served in the Civil War, at both Antietam and Gettysburg. He did survive, to have 17 children, but not unscathed. Liv traveled to the National Archives to find George’s service records and the records of his unit.

I really enjoyed the special treat that they had in store for Liv at the National Archives!

From there, Liv visited Gettysburg with a historian that explained the troop movements of that fateful day.

I have visited the Gettysburg Battlefield, and just being in that place where so many fought and died is a sobering event. Somber doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling there.

The peace and tranquility of the fields today belie the events that took place there in July of 1863 where someplace between 46,000 and 51,000 men were killed, injured or captured. More than 12,000 died.

Liv discovered that George eventually applied for a pension, listing Schuylerville, Saratoga County, NY as his place of residence in 1889.

Liv wanted to learn about George’s life after the Civil War, so she traveled to Schuylerville and met with a historian there.

Liv desperately wanted to see what George looked like, and not only was she able to do that, she also discovered that he was a Mason.

Unusual for these episodes, Liv’s father, Steve, joined her in Schuylerville where she told him of her discoveries and how connected their family had been to these men that they previously knew nothing about.

The family resemblance between Steve and his ancestor, above, is remarkable.

Together, Liv and her father visited George Washington Elliott and his wife.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s episodes of Who Do You Think You Are.  I have and look forward to next season. In the mean time, I hope you make discoveries of your own!!!



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14 thoughts on “Liv Tyler – Who Do You Think You Are – “Drummer Boy”

  1. Is there a place on the internet where I can view these episodes? I don’t get TLC on my TV.

    Pat D Saunders

  2. Amazing how much we learn about ourselves by learning about our ancestors. In our family my son is the 14th generation from where my Grandma’s cousins traced back. It’s been interesting learning about the past. May God continue to bless you and your family.

  3. Hello. Regarding the episode of WDYTYA with Liv Tyler; I was disappointed that you did not research her DNA or her father, Steven Tyler, DNA.I would have been interested in the results.

    • I really can’t research or report on her DNA unless she or her father would take the test and TLC would choose to include it. I always want DNA to be a part of every show.

      • I completely agree. They must have taken the Autosomal test and decided that it did not show African American lineage. That is my belief. George W. Elliott was very white and had only distant ancestor which would make the African person back 5 generatons at least so would only be a tract at best.

  4. George Elliott is my great grandfather. I have the original picture of him and his family on their front porch in Schuylerville including the names of each one.

  5. I think this was the most contrived episode ever. I am a genealogist for decades now. They only gave out what they deemed eye catching. George W. Elliott was obvously only 1/4 African American but they played up his “passing as white” and trying to get ahead in society by joining the Mason’s. They did not show her DNA or her father’s intentionally. They certainly took the test and decided not to show that no African American showed up or only a trace. Also All of this info was on including photos and they had to do very little research. The biggest issue was that they did post her Elliott Slave owning family. Finding that was easy. I did it in two clicks. But that would have proven that George W. Elliott was a distant African and not 1/2.

    • I believe you misunderstood the article.

      I watched the show when it aired and the article is correct in explaining why George looks white.

      As the article says:
      “Liv discovers that Robert served in the War of 1812, as a drummer boy” – He was listed as mulatto.

      then the article says:
      “Robert’s son, George Washington Elliott served in the Civil War, at both Antietam and Gettysburg.” – George, being the son of Robert, was fair enough to pass as white.

      Therefore Robert = 1/2 aa; George = 1/4 aa
      Hope that clears it up.

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