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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 ($).

Migration Map Resources

Historical atlases and books raise awareness to possible migration patterns.

United States Geological Survey topographical maps are a valuable resource. These maps even show towns, rivers, swamps, railroads, and county lines. Their color series maps clearly show the elevations, revealing mountain and valley streams. I highly recommend a set of atlases which I’ve added to my personal library:

Carrie Eldridge, An Atlas of Appalachian Trails to the Ohio River (Huntington, WV: CDM Printing Inc., 1998.)

Carrie Eldridge, An Atlas of Northern Trails Westward from New England (Huntington, WV: CDM Printing Inc., 2000.)

Carrie Eldridge, An Atlas of Southern Trails to the Mississippi (Huntington, WV: CDM Printing Inc., 1999.)

Carrie Eldridge, An Atlas of Trails West of the Mississippi River (Huntington, WV: CDM Printing Inc., 2001.)

Another excellent but older historical atlas (oversize) is packed with detailed maps, statistical information, and helpful commentary.

Ted Miller, Graphic History of the Americas (New York: J. Wiley, 1969.)

A popular and readily available reference contains a good brief overview of eastern American roads and trails and clear maps by the author.

William Dollarhide, Map Guide to American Migration Route (Bountiful, Utah: AGLL, Inc., 1997.) Learn visually about the changes in boundary lines in American history at the time of each federal census:

William Thorndale and William Dollarhide, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920. (1987; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1995.)

For help with major cities and towns, consult Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress: Plans of North American Cities and Towns Produced by the Sanborn Map Company: An Alphabetical List. (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1981.)

Recommended Websites

A participatory Migrations Database,, with state by state listings. Each state’s pages are part of the national Migration Project attempting to compile migration patterns across the United States.

University of Virginia Library - Historical Census Browser The data presented here describe the people and the economy of the US for each state and county from 1790 to 1960. Data for this site originate in ICPSR study number 0003, “Historical Demographic, Economic and Social Data: The United States, 1790-1960.

University of Texas Libraries - Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection- Historical Maps of the United States

Historic American Highways

RoadTrails - Early American Roads and Trails


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Newspaper Records 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.