You may ask, “What does the 1972 television show “The Walton’s” have to do with Genealogy?” Yes, it featured a depression-era family that consisted of Grandparents, Parents, and 7 children. They all lived together in one house in the Blue Ridge Mountains where their family had lived for generations. This would be a Genealogists’ dream, having all of your ancestors living in one area for centuries and having your Grandparents live with you so you can learn directly from them about your family tree. But this isn’t why I am writing about the show. Today I was watching the 18th episode of the 6th season, and I was so touched by it, I knew this would have to be my blog for this installment of “Freaky Friday’s” The premise of the show is as follows:
Jason Walton and a reoccurring character named Verdi Foster are the main focus of this show. Verdi is a black woman who is a dressmaker on Walton’s Mountain. She is good friends with the family. The oldest boy John-Boy even taught her to read in the first season of the show. In this episode, Verdi tells Jason about how she wished she knew more about her family. She explained that she was born in 1898 and her parents, Edward and Ethel Harris, died of TB when she was a young girl. Her older sister Alice raised her. The only thing she could remember about her family was her Grandparents’ names, Albert and Etta Harris. She had been told they had been buried in a cemetery farther up the mountain but didn’t know which one.
Jason and Verdi decide to search and see what they can find. The program went into a lot of details, but it is too much to write here. The two found the church cemetery in Scottsville and the headstone. On the stone, it gave their dates of birth and death and it stated that Albert and Etta had been slaves. Their owner had been a Mr. Unwin. Jason knew of a large home on the mountain that was owned by an Unwin family. They went to see the current owner who was unreceptive at first but eventually gave in. They were allowed to search through the attic and Verdi found a drawing done by one of the Unwin children back in 1832 of her Great Grandfather holding her Grandfather when he was a young boy. She discovered that her Great Grandfather had been brought over from Africa as a slave and it had his African name and also the name that was given to him by his owner.
The ending was about how she felt like she had found a piece of herself. She finally knew where she came from and the name of her ancestor. The ending really touched me. If you can, find the episode on the internet and watch it.
I, unfortunately, have several ancestors who were slave owners. I wrote a blog over 6 years ago about including the names of those slaves to your tree so those looking for their slave ancestors could maybe find them. I slacked off on doing that over the last few years, but this episode encouraged me to continue doing it. I just think it is “Freaky” that I would get re-inspired by an old TV program!
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.