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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course United States Migration Patterns  by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Chronology - Beyond the Eastern Shores, 1784-1839

1784 Settlers in the western lands of North Carolina plan the creation of the independent state of Franklin. But after repeated efforts, the territory is reabsorbed into North Carolina. Then in 1788 the United States accepts the grant of Tennessee by North Carolina and establishes it as the Southwest Territory. Finally in 1796, it is admitted to the Union as the state of Tennessee.
1785 By treaty, the Chippewa, Delaware, Ottawa, and Wyandot Indians cede nearly all the land in present-day Ohio.
1785 On May 20, Congress passes the Land Ordinance of 1785 which provides for a rectangular survey dividing the northwestern territories into six-mile square townships, to be subdivided into lots of 640 acres which are to be sold for $640 each. One lot in each township is to be set aside for financing public education.
New England people move into New York State in large numbers.
On July 13, Congress passes another Northwest Ordinance bill. Prime movers are two groups who plan to move settlers in great numbers into the Northwest Territory—the Society of the Cincinnati (a veterans’ group) and the Ohio Company of Associates (a land-speculating group).
The Scioto Company purchases 1,781,760 acres in the Ohio country, planning to settle the region north of the 1,000,000 acres owned by the Ohio Company.
The town of Losantiville is established in the Ohio region by a group of settlers from New Jersey. In 1790, the town will be renamed Cincinnati in honor of the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of veterans of the Revolutionary War.
The first federal census shows a total population of 3,929,625 which includes 59,557 free blacks and 697,642 black slaves. Virginia with 820,000 inhabitants is the most heavily populated state. The largest city is Philadelphia with 42,000 inhabitants.
It is estimated that 70,000 settlers have poured through the Cumberland Gap. Kentucky becomes a state.
Congress passes the Naturalization Act, mandating a five-year residency in the United States before citizenship will be granted.
The Connecticut Land Company buys a large tract of land along the banks of Lake Erie, making preparation for the arrival of settlers in what will become Cleveland.
Spain and the United States sign the Treaty of San Lorenzo which defines the border between Spanish West Florida and western Georgia (that which becomes the Mississippi Territory).
The trail through the Allegheny Mountains at Cumberland Gap is widened to allow Conestoga wagons to travel on it. Now it is officially the Wilderness Road.
Congress awards Colonel Ebenezer Zane a contract to complete a road between Wheeling and Limestone (Maysville). He is required to operate ferries across the Muskingum, Hocking, and Scioto rivers as soon as the path opens. It becomes known as Zane’s Trace.
Congress passes a land act which permits the public auction of lands in the Northwest Territory at a minimum price of $2 per acre in minimum tracts of 640 acres. Since most settlers cannot afford this minimum purchase cost, the prime beneficiaries of this legislation are land speculators.
Congress creates the Mississippi Territory, composed of the southern parts of what becomes Mississippi and Alabama. The capital is Natchez. The boundaries extend northward to Tennessee in 1804 and in 1812 southward to include West Florida.
Congress divides the nine counties of the Northwest Territory (Ohio) into two parts. The western portion becomes the Indiana Territory with the capital at Vincennes. The eastern region, known as the Northwest Territory, has its capital at Chillicothe.
The population of the United States has reached 5.3 million, an increase of over 30 percent since 1790. Virginia is the most populous state, with Pennsylvania and New York next. Tennessee and Kentucky are the fastest-growing states, nearly tripled in population since 1790. Ohio, Alabama, and Mississippi are now added to the rolls.
Congress passes the public Land Act of 1800, creating new district public land offices, providing liberal credit terms for land purchases, and allowing for smaller-sized tracts, a minimum of 320 acres. This stimulates a surge of new land purchases, mostly by speculators.
President Thomas Jefferson makes a treaty with the Chicasaw and Choctaw tribes so that a road can be opened along the Natchez Trace. Although it will serve a peaceful purpose to thousands of returning flatboatmen, the road is initially conceived with strategic military purpose in anticipation of problems with Spain over the port of New Orleans. This military road is completed in 1803.
The United States purchases the entire Louisiana Territory from France for approximately $15 million, doubling the land area of the United States, adding about 828,000 square miles between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. This opens the way to mass migrations into the new western area.
A wagon road is built over the entire route of Zane’s Trace. Drivers have to proceed cautiously, however, due to the stumps left in the roads.
Congress passes the Land Act of 1804. It reduces the minimum price for public lands to $1.64 per acre, permitting the sale of 160-acre tracts (quarter sections).
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark lead their party up to the source of the Missouri River. They cross the Rockies and go down the Columbia River and reach the Pacific Coast.
There are numerous settlements in Minnesota.
Congress authorizes construction of a federally-financed paved road, at its outset roughly following the old Braddock’s Road. Known first as the Cumberland Road and later as the National Road, it is planned to extend from Cumberland, Maryland, to Zanesville, Virginia, on the Ohio River; Zanesville will be renamed Wheeling. Eventually (1840) the road will reach Vandalia, Illinois. It will facilitate the flow of pioneers into the West and is also expected to increase commerce along the route. Construction begins on November 30, 1811.
Settlers from “back East” locate in Montana.
The population of the United States is 7,239,881 which is an increase of 36.4 percent since the last census. Non-white free persons are counted for the first time, amounting to a figure of 186,446. Slaves number 1,191,364.
American settlers living in the western portion of Spanish West Florida rise up in rebellion against their Spanish rulers, declaring the region to be the Republic of West Florida and seek annexation to the United States.
A group of colonists from New York establishes the first permanent American settlement in the Pacific Northwest. Named Fort Astoria, it is located at the mouth of the Columbia River. The group travels around Cape Horn, landing at Cape Disappointment, Washington.
The War of 1812 brings immigration to a halt. The end of the war in 1814 brings on the beginning of a great wave of immigration: 5,000,000 immigrants between 1815 and 1860.
The First Seminole War begins with raids along the Florida-Georgia border. It ends a few months later after Gen. Andrew Jackson seizes the Spanish post of Pensacola, Florida.
The population nears 10 million with the figure of 9,638,453 which includes all inhabitants except Indians, who do not pay taxes. There are now 22 states, 5 more than a decade ago. Growth in this period has been approximately 30 percent. About 72 percent of workers are in agriculture. About 90 percent of the Negro population of nearly 1.8 million are slaves. New York and Philadelphia are the largest cities.
A Public Land Act is passed by Congress which abolishes credit for land purchases from the public domain. It reduces the minimum price per acre to $1.25, and the minimum purchase from 160 to 80 acres. Although the act is intended to help settlers purchase land, it chiefly benefits land speculators.
Moses Austin from Missouri receives a large grant in Texas from the government of New Spain and has permission to bring in 300 American families.
William Becknell sets out from Independence, Missouri, with a wagon train of goods toward Santa Fe, Mexico. This initiates trade along an 800-mile route that will become known as the Santa Fe Trail.
Congress combines East and West Florida into the Florida Territory.
Congress passes the General Survey Bill which authorizes federal surveying and cost estimates for proposed national road and canal routes which are important for military, postal, and commercial purposes.
The Erie Canal opens in New York State.
Canals are constructed in Ohio from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
Pennsylvania constructs canals to compete with the Erie Canal.
The Federal Road is laid out, starting at Columbus, Georgia, and many settlers desiring to go into Alabama and Mississippi join that road by coming down the Fall Line Road, an easier path than the piedmontUpper Roadwhich joinsthe Federal Roadat Athens, Georgia.
The first railroad opens in the United States, using British locomotives. It runs from Carbondale to Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
The population nears the 13 million, with a report of 12,866,020 which includes the arrival of 150,000 new immigrants. The nation’s population now includes 6,000 Jews. It is reported that there are 3,777 free Negro citizens who own slaves.
President Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act, granting authority to move Eastern Indians to Western lands. Jackson’s goal is to take possession of all Indian lands east of the Mississippi.
The Preemption Act is adopted to protect squatters from claim jumpers and land speculators. Any settler who cultivated public land during the previous 12 months can purchase up to 160 acres of land at $1.25 per acre.
Under Capt. Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville, a wagon train leaves from Fort Osage on the Missouri River. They go to the Columbia River and explore the West for three years. The Oregon Trail will become the main route for settlers headed for the Oregon Territory.
Indiana constructs canals.
The Seminole Indians in Florida resist their scheduled removal to the West, setting off the Second Seminole War which lasts until August 1843.
Alexis de Tocqueville publishes a book, Democracy in America, in Brussels. It becomes a classic depiction and analysis of the new American nation and its people.
Federal troops remove Cherokee Indians still living in Georgia, forcing them to travel westward on what will become known as the Trail of Tears.
John Sutter founds a Swiss settlement on land that is now Sacramento, California. He chooses the site because it is on the route travelers use to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course United States: Migration Patterns offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.