Migration Routes

Brothers and sisters in genealogy I am here today to speak to you about migration routes of our dearly departed ancestors. I don’t mean those big migrations like from England to the New World but smaller more concise ones.

Mid-Western Migration

  • Ohio River Valley Settlers
  • Great Lakes Early Settlers
  • New England and Eastern Great Lakes
  • Northwestern Germany and the Midwest

I selected some of the migrations featured through Ancestry.  Selecting this option can narrow the field of searching to a group and area to search within.  Narrowing the group and area allows for a direction in research.  Now I know that I may need to look for my family traveling from Michigan back East to New York.  If I look at the time line I can also make a guess at transportation means.  Was it possible that these people used the Erie Canal? Looking at records that surround those locations may provide answers.

  • Narrow time of migration
  • Look at transportation to new area for migration route
  • Did free or cheap land help in migration?
  • Did your ancestor receive land for military service?

Opportunity had to be seized, new territories had to be populated.  The easiest way was to lure settlers with free or cheap land, easy promises came with the land, forgeting to mention the backbraking work.  Look for land deeds of ancestors from the East. These are often the first documents found in a newly established territory. Soldiers were often awarded land for service, checking service records can confirm that an ancestor qualified for land and chose that land in newly opened territories.  The bonsus of service records can be that they contain more than just service information, they will contain much more-dependants, medical conditions, place of residence, and land grants are just some of the examples of other information available.

Reverse those migration routes.  Find those ancestors, they are waiting for you.


Census Records And Alternate Spellings


One of my neighbor’s that won’t make the census record

Census records: pretty straight forward right? Essential for finding relatives, establishing timeline, occupation, and determining who was living in the household.  What else is there? Some of the records record much more.  Take a look at all of the boxes to see what is recorded. Here are a few other facts you may find:

  • number of years a couple have been married
  • number of live births that a mother has had
  • year of immigration
  • whether they are living on a farm or in the city
  • did they attend school
  • were they employed for the last 12 months

Beyond these items looking outside the family record that is being researched to the neighbors. Often as the page of the census is delved further into other extended family members emerge.  Prior to the modern era socialization occurred much closer to home.  It is not uncommon to find ancestors next door or on farms close by.  They knew each other, they stuck together to make communities work.

What’s in a Name?

Your last name is Osbourne, always spelled with an e.  It’s never spelled without, ever! Except in the census record where the worker didn’t care that you always spelled it with an “e”.  That worker hated “e” on the ends of names so he didn’t put them on plus his hand hurt at the end of the day and just didn’t do it. Maybe the neighbor told the census taker about your ancestors, so now not only is the last name misspelled but so are the first names and they aren’t just misspelled, they are nicknames. So, what should I do?

  • be fluid with the spelling of first and last name
  • look for street addresses and locations to help confirm
  • try to find middle names, if they had one
  • look at multiple records to confirm

Using census records beyond just the family record and alternate spellings can find answers to hidden relatives and brick walls.  No research is easy or already done for you unless you’re the Queen of England and then you are married to your 2nd cousin but you do have a really cool castle in Scotland.

Back in the Saddle Again


Flying high above the other researchers searching records

I am a complete geek for museums. I lose myself in the displays and galleries imagining the lives that were lived by people and animals of the past.  It’s not such a great leap to understand why genealogy hooked me.  Trees and documents are just the pipelines to these well-organized displays. I am the curator charged with organizing the information.

In the midst of research like most it is easy to become overwhelmed with the trails that I have been following.  I have been so long under water that emerging feels as if I am bursting into daylight disoriented. I don’t know which end is up or some times what exactly I already have in my notes.

Brick walls are the nemesis of all genealogical researchers.  If research goes on long enough every genealogist will have at least one if not multiple.

What are some strategies to break brick walls?

  • Use whole census records
  • Use alternate spellings
  • Look at know migration routes
  • Use all forms of DNA-atDNA, YDNA, and MtDNA- Look for groupings in each for the family member you are researching
  • Join a One Name Project
  • Organization from known facts to speculation-research until you can turn the speculation to fact or disprove it

These are just a few of the techniques that can be used to break brick walls.  Over the next few weeks I will go into depth on each of these points and how I have used them.


Sloth Selfie in North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum