Discover your Family Tree Today

Migration and Family Roots - Why did your Ancestors Move?

The early colonists established settlements along the seacoast and migrated up and down the eastern seaboard. The first roads were trails used by Indians, explorers, and traders. In the early 1700’s some people were fortunate enough to have carts and wagons to move between the small villages, many had to travel by foot. Ferries, steam boats, and sailing ships remained the primary mode of transportation between the colonies well into mid 1700’s.

Where possible, trails, traces, and roads, were made to follow along waterways which helped to make travel a lot easier than by foot and less time consuming. Movement by waterways was much easier than walking. In the early days, not everyone had the luxury of owning horses and wagons.

Family Roots
The oldest known land trail is The Boston Post Road which was used to carry the first mail. Anyone who wanted to leave Boston usually made the journey with a post-rider. The first trip back in 1673, took four weeks to travel 250 miles. It was divided into three routes: Lower, middle and upper. Part of the route from Philadelphia to Alexandria was called The Great Coastal Road and from Alexandria to Norfolk, called The Potomac Trail. The King later called it Kings Road, but was not favorable during the Revolutionary War.

Why did your Family Migrate?

People moved for many reasons that are wrapped around push and pull factors. Pull factors, known as positive reasons included: adventure, land bounty awards, homestead acts, motivation to establish new churches, and wanting a better life provided by economic advancement. Push factors, which were the negative reasons include: due to soil was depleted of nutrients due to poor farming techniques, natural disasters, trouble with the law, relatives, or neighbors; lack of jobs, and not free to practice a religion were some of the main push causes.

Trace your Family Roots and Where they Traveled

After the revolutionary war several factors spurted the westward migration. New and improved migration routes were developed. Also Bounty land grants were given to those who served in wars from (1775-1855).

Trace Family Roots

Depending on what time frame you are researching; where your family stopped along the way, what they did for earning money, and knowing approximately where they lived will influence what trails they used. Creating a timeline of what you know can help narrow down your genealogy research and find your family roots in records they left behind. Look for clues from previous residence and any possible recorded information – census records, deeds, etc. It might be an arduous task, but use the major points along the migration path and find repositories that have any information that might be useful. Early books and diaries might be left a genealogical society documenting part of your heritage, adding more roots to your family tree and validating their history.