Migration Routes Help with Tracing your Family History and Discover Historical Documents
Migration Started with the Passage to America
Passage to America was not easy for any immigrant. Crammed into small wooden ships,
and enduring hardships unimaginable by any standard. Being confined in small compartments
for up to seven weeks with sea-sickness, headache, heat, cold, dysentery, scurvy,
and bad water were just a few issues the passengers lived through. Many passengers
could not afford to pay for the journey and therefore indentured themselves to wealthier
colonialists. If a relative died during the passage, someone had to still pay their
way. If a parent passed away and left a child, the child was sold as a slave or
indentured until they turned 21. It is hard to comprehend what our ancestors endured.
Tracing your family history through migration paths might help you find some rare
Immigrants Endured Hardships for a Better Life
Immigrants knew what they were facing when they left their countries. The made
the journey to America for various reasons. Some push reasons were for better expectation
of life for self and family, thrill of adventure, land bounty awards, home stead
acts, motivation to establish new churches, and for economic reasons. Some pull
reasons were due to crops failing from soil being depleted of nutrients due to poor
farming techniques. Other reasons included: natural disasters, trouble with the
law, family, or neighbors; lack of jobs, and were not free to practice a religion
It was after the
Revolutionary War that spurred the westward migration,
with government acquisition of land, and bounty-land grants to those who served
in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and several other wars. Seek out land
records to find family information.
Migration Paths can help with Tracing your Family Genealogy
Following early migration paths may help you to find rare family documents such
as: Land records, early birth records, marriage records, and more. When studying
the migration routes, check for documents for your ancestors and friends they traveled
with. By finding information about someone your ancestor was related to, or associated
with, it can help piece together family data. Look for documents and clues in the
major stopping points along the routes to uncover historical data that you can add
to your family tree
Discover your Ancestors through Popular Migration Paths
The Wilderness Road
Daniel Boone and several others blazed a trace which became the Wilderness Road
when it was widened in late 1700’s. When Kentucky became a state in 1792,
settlers poured in from the Cumberland Gap (where Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia
meet). Tennessee-bound settlers used the Nashville Road to Chickasaw Trail. Today
you can travel part of the route tracing Interstate 75. This is also known as the
Great Valley Road.
The Federal Road
In 1806 congress authorized President Jefferson to open a path from Athens, GA
to New Orleans to deliver mail. The route was built by the military and was initially
intended to move wagons, supplies, soldiers and horses. The sandy soil made the
land erode with ruts everywhere. Because repair costs were high, is was a Mississippi
Territory statute that free males and all male slaves between ages 16 and 50 were
required to work on the road for up to 6 days a year, using their privately owned
tools. When Alabama became a separate territory in 1817, the requirements were expanded.
In 1811 it was partially rerouted to connect Fort Stoddert, Alabama, to Fort Wilkinson,
Georgia, tracing the Chattahoochee River. The route was approximately 1,152 miles.
Fall Line Road
Beginning in about 1735, travelers would leave King's Highway at Fredericksburg,
Va., and head southwest to Augusta, Ga., at the head of the Savannah River. Eventually,
many Alabama- and Mississippi-bound pioneers would follow the Fall Line Road to
link up with the new Federal Road in Columbus, Ga. There were 4 main paths comprising
the route. Tracing the route today is Highway 1 and I-95.
The National Road
A 600 mile span stretched from Cumberland, MD to Vandalia, Ill. The construction
began in 1811 and lasted until 1850 when Indiana completed its intrastate segment.
The route from Pittsburgh ran west through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It became
the artery to move merchandise of all types. The route today can be found on parts
of U.S. 40.
People using the same winding passage along ridges, tracing the tracks of Colonel
Ebenezer Zane could not use wagons, as it was a winding route along ridges. In 1804
a road was built over the entire route so it could carry wagons. Some maps called
it the Wheeling Road.
Tracing Family History with Maps
The United States had a whole different look in the early days. Land was bought,
sold, and traded by its French, Spanish, and Indian owners. As States formed and
counties developed they changed over time. It is important to know what the state
looked like and what counties and cities were in existence for the time period you
are researching, in order to trace family history and find the important documents
that you are seeking.