what do you mean by papers? dd's pony has the sire/dam going back a few generations in her passport. google is your friend,it's amazing what you can find out. incidentally dpony also has good bloodlines but was cheap at the sales as they cannot hang on to all the babies these days, as you say, one too many, esp.colts.
Some societies DNA test as standard. I don't know if the Dales do. Itd be worth asking. It could be that he was a colt too many in some stud somewhere, and they just flogged him cheap. It happens. He might not have been a good looking baby, so they didn't bother papering him. Can you trace his previous owners and try and find his breeder? They may be able to help you. It's a shame when this happens. We've a sec a mare who is lovely, and moves like a dream. She's unpapered. It's very sad!.
You can get a DNA test if the sire is on the database, but you would also need to know the dam to get him fully registered. You might be able to find out more via the owner of the possible sire at the time, particularly if he didn't sire that many that year.
He is a lovely boy, and the vet was, unsolicited, incredibly complimentary about his looks and conformation. He has no papers, but his current owners told us that the people they bought him from named his possible sire.
When we googled the possible sire it turns out that he's a very well known stallion. Now the chances are, of course, that it'a all load of bullshit- if he was by this stallion, why wouldn't he have papers? But is there any way we could find out?