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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 ($).

What Records Were Left During Migrations?

With reluctance, we accept the fact that with the pressures and hardships of relocating, our ancestors often left gaps in their paper trail. Nevertheless, records do exist, although they may differ widely from one family to another due to circumstances encountered along the way. Recognize too that a family’s journey often occurred by means of multiple moves over a span of generations. Look for clues in these sources:

  • Ÿ Bible records
  • Ÿ Census schedules
  • Ÿ Church records
  • Ÿ Compiled genealogies and family histories
  • Ÿ Court records
  • Ÿ Divorce records
  • Ÿ Emigrant aid company records
  • Ÿ Family traditions
  • Ÿ Fort records
  • Ÿ Land and property records
  • Ÿ Letters, diaries, and journals
  • Ÿ Local histories
  • Ÿ Manuscript collections
  • Ÿ Military service and pension records
  • Ÿ Naturalization records
  • Ÿ Newspaper accounts
  • Ÿ Occupation references (miners, railroad and canal workers)
  • Ÿ Patriotic and lineage society records
  • Ÿ Periodicals (genealogical & historical)
  • Ÿ Probate records (wills, administrations, case files)
  • Ÿ School records
  • Ÿ Tax lists
  • Ÿ Tombstone inscriptions and cemetery records
  • Ÿ Vital records (birth, marriage, death)
  • Ÿ Voting registers

Frontier Jurisdictions and Records

Even in frontier settlements, Americans have always wanted some type of governing body with authority sufficient to protect property titles and settle property disputes. Sometimes frontier jurisdictions were created without legal authority to fill these needs until regularly established government became well enough organized to function. For such a period in an area’s history, one needs to seek records created by committees of safety, miners’ courts, claims clubs, and even vigilante committees.

Among such records can be found deeds, abstracts, title transfers, surveys, probates and court processes—not unlike the records maintained in the counties and New England towns from which the pioneers came.


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.