Monday, August 13, 2012

Migration Patterns

  For roughly the first 100 years,  the colonies remained a coastal civilization.  It was Virginia and Maryland that were the first to begin a slow but steady migration westward.  Understanding this migration pattern will often help the genealogist to get around (or over) some of those brick walls.

Roads were being made by chopping out underbrush and small trees in a swath ten to thirty feet wide.  Many times, the largest trees were left standing even in the path just cleared.  Small streams could be bridged with logs, but only fords or ferries on the main traveled routes allowed a passage over the rivers.  Just imagine what fun in wet, wet weather!

The drawing above is my attempt to try and understand the early migration patter into my families' home.  Thick, heavy forest; tall mountains ranges; and fierce ethic groups opposed  to this western expansion, all produced obstacles to this migration.  How folks arrived to a particular area, will often give a direction of origin to the genealogist seeking to climb out a branch of the family tree.

For example, if a family member settled along the Ohio River, it was a good bet that they came down this migration route, thus being from PA or VA.  If they came through "the gap", it would be most likely they came from NC, or VA.  Maryland had both routes available.  In this way, a genealogist may be able to pick a "first" or "second" way to begin their tree climbing.  Finding the migration/immigration route may be a way around some brick walls.


  1. I am very interested in migration patterns. My husband's family came to Illinois in the early 1840's from Maryland, and my mother's family came west from New Jersey to Ohio to Illinois then finally to Missouri, in the 1830's - 1850's. Thanks for the post! You've inspired me to dig a little deeper into the route my ancestors might have taken.

  2. Hey...your welcome...glad to help get those genealogy juices flowing. Please share what you discover.