Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

THIS AND THAT GENEALOGY TIPS ON MYTHS



NINE MYTHS ABOUT OUR AMERICAN ANCESTORS

Myth 1 - When our American ancestors moved they always moved West.
Fact: While most early settlers came to the eastern shore of North America, it was logical for most expansionist movements to flow westward. However, there are many documented cases showing movement northward, southward or back to the East after pioneers became less than enchanted with raw frontier.

Myth 2 - Because of travel conditions, prior to the railroads, families rarely moved more than once or twice in a lifetime.
Fact: A study of Revolutionary War pension applications reveal that many of these veterans moved six or more times and quite often lived in as many different states.

Myth 3 - Our ancestors usually moved, like Abraham, not knowing where they were going.
Fact: In-depth study into the migratory habits of our ancestors shows that in most cases they had received many reports on an "ideal" location by which they were convinced they would better themselves by moving. Sometimes, they relied on reports from relatives or neighbors who had already moved, but often a member of a family would make a preliminary trip to check out the new territory. The move usually involved several families making the trip together.

Myth 4 - Most American men were devoutly religious at the time of the American Revolution.
Fact: While most colonists gave nominal adherence to Christian values in the late eighteenth century, some historians have estimated that no more than 15 percent of the men were church members.

Myth 5 - Immediately following the American Revolution, most Southern churchmen were either Baptist or Methodist.
Fact: Following the Revolution War, the majority of Southerners of Anglo-Saxon heritage who were church members still belonged to the successor of the Anglican Church in America, the Protestant Episcopal Church. The second largest number of churchmen were the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. The great movement to the Methodist and Baptist Churches came in the early part of the nineteenth century.

Myth 6 - Most Southern families were slave owners just prior to the Civil War.
Fact: The majority of the white Southern heads of households never owned a slave. This is substantiated through a study of slave census records.

Myth 7 - Most of the wealth of America was in Northern states just prior to the Civil War.
Fact: While industrial growth in the North had exceeded that in the South, the southeast had experienced an era of economic prosperity in the middle of the nineteenth century and, as a result, six of the ten wealthiest states in the Union in 1860 were below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Myth 8 - Due to the lack of major industry, there were no large cities in the South at the outbreak of the Civil War.
Fact: It is true that most of the large cities in the country were along the eastern seaboard during the 1850's. However, according to the 1850 census, New Orleans was the fifth largest city in the U. S., ranking just behind Philadelphia. The population of this major Southern port city at the time was 116,375.

Myth 9 - Most American males were involved in some kind of military action between the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Fact: There were a number of wars on Southern soil, between 1783 and 1865, including battles of the War of 1812, the War with Mexico and several Indian Wars. However, the majority of males in this country never participated in any kind of military action beyond a militia drill during this time period.
Go back to the index page