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Value of Migration Research
Mountains, forests, waterways, and the gaps between them channelled migration into predictable settlement patterns. Events like gold or land rushes, and Indian treaties also affected settlement.
Understanding the transportation systems available to ancestors can help genealogists better guess their place of origin. Connect the place where an ancestor settled to the nearby canals,waterways, trails, roads, and railroads to look for connections to places they may have lived previously.
Migration research may help you discover:
Types of U.S. Migration Records
Actual lists of travelers are unusual. A few passenger lists are available at the New York State Archives for the Erie Canal from 1827-1829. But lists of pioneers who settled an area are sometimes available on the Internet, or in the form of county or local histories. The diaries and journals of people on the move may help you learn who they had as companions on the journey, and what their trip was like.
Censuses, directories, land and property records, plat maps, tax records, and voting registers can sometimes be used to learn where new arrivals settled. Starting in 1850 federal censuses show where a person was born, and starting in 1880 where the parents were born.
Church records of some denominations may indicate a former residence of a family or a place to which they were moving. The minutes of the Society of Friends (Quakers) are especially helpful, since the Monthly Meeting from which the family was moving issued a certificate of recommendation to the Monthly Meeting to which they were going. And the receiving Monthly Meeting recorded in their minutes, the location of the Monthly Meeting from which the family had come. Not all denominations were as diligent in recording this type of information, but some others had somewhat similar records.
Maritime museums often hold records of ships, ports, maps, photographs, personal and business records, and manuscripts. Collections vary by facility.
Migration Records for Selected States
Adams, James Truslow, editor-in-chief. Atlas of American History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943.
Atwood, Wallace W. The Physiographic Provinces of North America, Boston: Ginn, 1940.
Billington, Ray Allen. The American Frontier Thesis: Attack and Defense. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966.
Billington, Ray Allen. Westward Expansion: a History of the American Frontier. 5th Ed. New York: Macmillan, 1982. WorldCat 0023098600
Flanders, Stephen A. Atlas of American Migration. New York, New York: Facts on File, c1998. WorldCat 0816031584
Putnam, Jackson K. "The Turner Thesis and the Westward Movement: a Reappraisal." Western Historical Quarterly 7 (October 1976).
Turner, Frederick Jackson. The Frontier in American History. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1986. WorldCat 0816509468
White, C. Langdon & Edwin J. Foscue. Regional Geography of North America. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1943.
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