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My Next Course: US Migration Patterns

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series US: Migration Patterns
Coburg, Nebraska Terr. & vic., 1884-85. Library of Congress.

Coburg, Nebraska Terr. & vic., 1884-85. Library of Congress.

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

Through my research I have learned that my ancestors never stayed in one place too long.  Some of you may be among the small few that had ancestors arrive on these shores and stay put, but for the majority of people, that didn’t happen.  There was always new places, new adventures, new land, and new opportunity just waiting over the horizon.

Understanding why people moved once they arrived in America can be critical to unlocking a few of those pesky brick walls.  I have studied a lot about why people immigrated to the US but not as much time on why they then kept moving west.

For those of you who have read my blog posts before you know that my family is mainly from the  state of Indiana.  They came there from Europe and from eastern United States.  While my direct line stayed in Indiana (for over 100 years until my parents left) many of their extended family kept moving west.  Some landed along the Mississippi.  Others made it all the way to California.  In this course I hope to learn more about why they moved, how they got there, and any other motivations that may have gone into that decision.

By looking at the introduction for the course US: Migration Patterns  I see that we will cover everything from Colonial American migration through the 20th century.  Then there are the mention of maps.  I love maps!  They really drive home what was physically done when combined with text and I think that will help me learn more about the routes and migration patterns we are learning.

It is never an easy decision to uproot your family.  Even today moving long distances is an arduous task that most people only do it if there is a job or family motivation.  We have trucks and pavement after all and if we think it is a massive undertaking imagine what our ancestors thought!

So wish me luck on my migration adventure and I will see you online!

The History Behind Migration

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series US: Migration Patterns
American progress. Library of Congress.

American progress. Library of Congress.

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

The first module of US: Migration Patterns was packed full of useful information.  Facts and tid-bits that I had not heard before, or at least not stopped to consider when looking at the bigger picture of US migration patterns.  I actually read this module several times through.  Each time I did I made a note in the margins about statements that related to my personal research, and I am sure you will too.

Of particular interest was the long list of records presented that might be left behind as our ancestors moved westward.  Some I am sure you can guess.  Of course there could be bible records, censuses, personal manuscripts, or vital records.  Some of the more unusual ones (that I will be checking on) were emigrant aid companies, fort records, occupation records, voting registers, plus many others.  Once again reminding me that our ancestors did not live in a vacuum.  They were people who lived full lives and left a paper trail if you know where, or how, to look.

If you have read any of my blog posts in the past you may remember me harping on how important it is to know all types of history and geography.  Which is why I was literally yelling “YES” as I read Module 1 and came to the section on history and geography.  Our instructor, Beverly Whitaker, does an excellent job driving home the point that you need to understand the history of the US, from colonial to current times, to understand the motivations our ancestors had to migrate.  Plus, the routes they took were dependent on geography.  Being able to look at a map and understand why settlements began where they did or why certain routes were taken will aid you in your searches.  In fact, the two influenced each other in ways that casual observers may not realize.

For example, in my family one of my lines migrated from Maryland to Kentucky and then onto Indiana.  Why?  Well, they were Catholic first off and after the Revolution there were Catholic settlements springing up in Washington County, Kentucky.  Single men moved first then later the larger family groups moved to join them.  In my family the main moves happened after the War of 1812. They moved to Kentucky, stayed for a few years, and then when bounty lands opened in Indiana they moved up there in large groups. Most of the family stayed there, but there were a few branches that had itchy feet. There is even a ‘49er in my family!

I have to say this first module was a great set-up for the rest of the course.  Each of the following five modules focus in on a specific time period for American migration.  Should be fun, and I will see you online!

Go West!

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series US: Migration Patterns
Wagon train. Library of Congress.

Wagon train. Library of Congress.

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

Through the next two modules in the course US: Migration Patterns  we continue to travel west across the US.  In Module 2 we were in Colonial America, Module 3 we expanded to the Mississippi River, and in Module 4 we saw the explosion of westward migration to the Pacific Ocean.  I remember reading about that last stage in American history during school.  For those Americans in the crowd, do you remember your US History classes?

Let’s admit it,  Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion may not have been the most interesting thing in our lives while we were in high school.  However, as genealogists, plotting our family’s trail across the US we should realize that those ideas were a driving force for many people to move from one coast to the other.  Of course, it is also sort of awesome to read about trails that you have actually traveled yourself.

For those of you who do not know what Manifest Destiny was, let me try to explain it briefly.  Trust me, there are volumes written about this way of thought, but I think it is crucial to understand why droves of people left their homes in the Eastern US and headed west.  In a nut shell those who believed in this concept felt that the United States should (and eventually would) possess all of the land from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.  Many believed it was their God-given right to control and civilize the whole continent.  You can read more about the philosophy of Manifest Destiny and the resulting Mexican American War on the National Park Service website from the Chamizal National Memorial.

I found it particularly interesting to learn about emigrant aid companies for the first time.  To be honest, I knew these groups of people existed since I had run into them before, but I had not stopped to really analyze what they were.  These organizations recruited from groups of people who could travel together and paid for them to move across the country.  These organizations could be companies looking for workers, government agencies, or religious intuitions.  The Harvey Girls were mentioned which made me go find the old movie to watch!

On to the next section.  I am excited to learn more about 20th century migration.  See you online!

Finishing Up US: Migration Patterns

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series US: Migration Patterns
A historic mile marker on the National Road, the first federal highway (now U.S. 40) across the United States, in Triadelphia, West Virginia. Library of Congress

A historic mile marker on the National Road, the first federal highway (now U.S. 40) across the United States, in Triadelphia, West Virginia. Library of Congress

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

Well, US: Migration Patterns was an amazing course. I have enjoyed each course I’ve written about, but this one really made an impression on me. Lots of great information, charts, maps, tables, plus history. You can’t forget the history part. If you think you can as a genealogist, well, you are going to miss a lot of things.

Recently I was asked who should take a course like this. Frankly anyone with US ancestors, but particularly those who know they have roots that started in one area and then moved to another. Too vague? Let me explain a little bit.

Migration is a natural process and at times needed. Your ancestor may only have moved a few miles.  Maybe they moved a few states. Understanding the why, when, how or where-to is key when you are researching. While researching your family, you also get to see a bit about historical events that influenced their lives, social history too.  It all works together, you just have to take the pieces and collate them.

Those ideas were presented in easy to understand concepts and pieces throughout the modules. I know many of you will appreciate that. Sometimes courses can be so full of information that it is difficult to internalize and remember it all. Not in this case.

In fact, I have started looking over a few of my brick wall cases that I think will benefit from me taking this course.  It helps that most of my family were in place by 1870, but they still had to get there. Many of the possible record types they could have left a trace in I have not searched yet. No kidding, I have a three page list of things I think I should look at for one family alone.

Needless to say, I think I will also appreciate my cross country trips more. I even may stop a few more times (if the family will let me) and take pictures of these areas that were common for travelers over the centuries. Driving over the Cumberland Gap is an experience, and as a child the daunting task those pioneers undertook was lost on me. Not so much now that I have driven it myself.

Well, it is off to the next course US Probate Records.  See you online!!

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