In genealogy there are what they call “walls”. That’s when research on an ancestor or family line just stops. No matter how many internet hours or trips to Salt Lake City you do, you can’t find out anything about where Great, great, great Uncle McSnorky came from.
It’s like he just appeared on this planet.
The first (and most logical) explanation is that he’s an alien. It’s a well known fact that flying saucers have been dumping off interplanetary spies for decades, if not years. They laugh alike, walk alike, sometimes they even talk alike…oh wait…that’s Patty Duke, who is not an alien.
The other explanation is that the records in Dirtswallow County were destroyed, lost or stolen (probably by aliens).
This was the case of the John Jacob Hain line in my past. They came out of Lincoln County, North Carolina (motto: Someday someone famous will be named Lincoln). The folks in Lincoln County were a little casual about record keeping. Property deeds were basically No Trespassing signs and birth records were usually “So, I see ya gots yerself another youngin’, huh?. Now the funny thing (not ha-ha funny but more Twilight Zone funny) is I found a photo of Jacob Hain – John’s son, taken about 1887 when he was 99 years old.
A couple of my relatives tried to do some creative genealogy (read imagination) connecting John with another John Jacob Hain from Pennsylvania. Their guess explanation was that one of the Hains must have traveled from Pennsylvania to North Carolina on Spring Break and liked it so much they decided to stay.
In the 1700’s that kind of travel would be like saying today, “I think I’ll go to Mars this afternoon”. Settlers would travel by boat or wagon or Shank’s horses* to get somewhere and then stay there for generations, hence the name settlers. The only practical way to get from Pennsylvania to North Carolina in those days was by flying saucer.
Now what does this mean to the videalogist?
We have our own walls – not having enough visual material to tell a story about a family member. I’m going to let you in on an incredible secret.
How would you like video scenes from the Civil War, the Revolutionary War or when knights in armor roamed the countryside saving damsels in distress?
All of that, plus much, much more has been filmed by the movie industry in the last 100+ years and a lot of it is available online for free. Here are some websites for you to look at.
These movies may be old, poor quality and kinda tacky. The beauty of these old crummy films is the background footage is really useable. You will have to download the whole video and then pick out the parts you need but I think it’s worth the effort.
*Definition of Shank’s Horses –
When I was 6 or 7 I was staying at my Grandmother’s house. She said we were going to the market that afternoon. I knew my Grandmother didn’t drive so I asked “How are we going to get there?”. She said “We’re going on Shank’s Horses”.
I excitedly spent the rest of the morning preparing for my first ride on a horse. I even changed into my official Roy Rodgers buckaroo shirt. When it was time to go I asked where the horses were. Nana just cracked up and said “They’re at the end of you legs! Shank’s horses are your feet!”.
In the adult world this was considered the height of comedy and required retelling at every family function until I was 17 years old.