American Migration Patterns




American Migration Patterns

by Beverly Whitaker, MA

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As a young child, I was introduced to the world of maps by my grandfather. Over the years, I've gathered a huge collection of maps. Before every travel adventure, I pore over maps and guides. My approach to history and genealogy has been through the portal of maps and atlases.

Genealogy includes so much subject matter that one finds it necessary to make choices regarding which subjects to pursue in depth. American Migration has fascinated me from the very beginning of my genealogical research. I learned in 1977 that my DAR ancestor had moved after the Revolutionary War from Pennsylvania to Virginia, following the popular migration route through the Shenandoah Valley, the Great Valley Wagon Road. On vacation in 1994, my husband and I traveled the same vicinity via Interstate 81. We particularly enjoyed our visit to the Museum of American Frontier Culture at Staunton, Virginia. This living history museum is made up of four different historical cultures of the 17th, 18th, and 19th century. They brought authentic working farms from Europe and America to depict the dominant cultures in the settlement of the Shenandoah Valley and colonial America: German, Ulster-Scots, and English. Then in the 19th century American farm, these cultures blended.



We enjoy photographing historical sites and artifacts, and it is our pleasure to share some of our photos with you.We particularly enjoy exploring the old trails and roads, restored homes and landmarks. The pioneer experiences stir our imagination. Much can be learned about the experiences of one's ancestors by discovering the route they took in migrating to their ultimate destination. We recognize that people's lives are affected by their geographical environment. Geography and history are intertwined! To fully appreciate and understand today's culture, we need to comprehend the mix of ancestral stories and American history in its geographical setting.
The first four photos below were taken at Staunton, Virginia, where we were able to view fully-restored farm homesteads from Europe and compare them to those built by early immigrants into Appalachia. The similarities were impressive.


As people moved on from east to west and to some extent north to south, they gathered as many of their belongings as possible.
Early pioneers often were limited to packhorses. As trails widened, wagons were put to use, hauled by teams of horses or oxen.

Covered Wagon

The Conestoga Wagons were used in Colonial Days and also on the Santa Fe Trail. They could carry heavy loads. However, pioneer families going west across the Rocky Mountains found they needed smaller wagons such as the one shown on the right. Something to ponder: What if YOU and your family were making a trek to a new homeland, hundreds or even a thousand miles distant? What would YOU have packed, not only for the journey but also for the unknown needs of your future home?

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF RESOURCES -- featuring migration subjects, including trails and roads

Jump over to my personal list of recommended reference books, atlases, maps, and articles.
Favorites in my own library are highlighted in pink.

ROAD-TRAILS -- featuring early American roads and trails, pathways of migration

Since 1999, when I began this page, it's drawn the favor of students, professors, children, parents, librarians, genealogists, and travelers.
It even caught the attention of The New York Times in an article by Arthur Bovino, October 24, 2003.
Brief paragraphs and small map sketches currently describe 18 early American roads and trails.

RIVERS AND WATERWAYS -- pathways to migration, commerce, and entertainment

In January 2003, I decided to add a webpage to draw attention to the significance of water traffic in America's history.
Family Tree Magazine featured this site on January 27, 2003, placing it in the category, SOCIAL HISTORY.
You'll find there a very extensive set of webpage links about America's rivers and waterways.

LEWIS AND CLARK -- Corps of Discovery commemorated by today's Discovery Expedition

Although the Lewis and Clark expedition was one of discovery rather than migration, it prepared the way for mass migration to the Far West.
Enjoy a set of photos I snapped at St. Charles, Missouri, as the re-enactors set off up the Missouri River, May 23, 2004.

LINKS TO OTHER WEBSITES -- featuring migration subjects, including trails and roads

Web addresses change often. If you find a dead link, please let me know. And as you find additional web sites helpful to this subject, send the addresses to me so we can share them! Send these to me by e-mail, with the word "migration" in the subject line. Meanwhile, here are a few URLs to get you started.

The American Migrations Web Site
Braddock's Road
Brethren Life Migrations

Chattahooche Trace
Cyndi's List of Migration Routes, Roads and Trails
Early American Trails and Roads ("RoadTrails")
Immigration and Migration in the United States
Kansas Historic Trails Database: families, records, links
Mormon Trail References
The National Road
Following the National Road
The Making of the National Road
Along the Old Federal Road in Alabama

The Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail/Lewis & Clark Trail, the Columbia River Connection
The Oregon-California Trails Association
Oregon Trail: The End-of-the-Oregon-Trail Interpretive Center
The Overland Trail
Pennsylvania to Virginia, Migration Routes
Pennsylvania's Early Migration Trails
Rivers and Waterways
RoadTrailsSanta Fe Trail Research -- New URL, March 2009
Southern Trails, Archived Messages
"Spotlight of the Month" by Elizabeth Larson
A Timeline: Historic American Highways
The Trading Path
Vestal's Gap Road & the Lanesville Heritage Area
Vestal Gap Road Timeline (a PDF document)
Vestal Gap Road -- Transportation in Loudoun County
The Wilderness Road -- a map
Zane's Tra

Produced by Genealogy and Family History Publishing -- AAG International Research

Western States
Eastern States


This is a National Parks Service map of historic trails
California National Historic Trail
Index to 12 auto-tour-maps for the Calif. Trail
Oregon National Historic Trail
Index to 6 auto-tour-maps for the Oregon Trail
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
Index to 5 auto-tour-maps for the Mormon Trail
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Index to 8 auto-tour-maps for the Pony Express Trail

Genealogy + History + Geography = Enriched Heritage

Regarding requests for additional information:

The subject of Migration Patterns goes way beyond the general statements I've shared at this site.

My expertise does not extend to the specific routes your ancestors may have taken.

Any responses I could give to your requests for that type of information would almost always be along these lines:

  1. Contact your regional historical societies, library reference and/or local history department, or area genealogical societies. Resources (including maps and county histories etc.) are most likely to be located at such locations.

  2. Visit my Bibliography List for recommended reading.
    In the section labeled "Migration Trails," favorite books in my own library are highlighted in pink.

  3. Use Internet Search Engines such as Google, typing in two or three keywords related to your search.

Please report broken links by e-mail, including the web site name "migration" in the e-mail subject line.

Your comments and corrections are welcome. However, I am unable to
answer questions about specific routes. Please refer again to the above suggestions.

Email: Genealogy Tutor Beverly Whitaker

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