Thursday, February 14, 2013


I am fascinated by the early migration trails.  I like to know how my ancestor traveled from place to place.  Knowing the route your ancestor took could lead you to records in other places but at the very least it adds interest to your ancestor’s life story. 

Jacob Perry [1790-1833] was in Robeson County, North Carolina in 1820[1] and then in Perry County, Mississippi in 1830.[2]  So how did he travel? The Fall Line/Southern Road Trail passes right through Robeson County and goes to Montgomery, Alabama. From Montgomery there are two possibilities. Jacob could have taken the Alabama-Mobile Trail to Mobile and then the Mobile-Natchez Trail straight into Perry County or he could have taken the Alabama-Choctaw-Natchez Trail to Meridian and then south on the Choctaw-Bay St. Louis Trail which would put him very close to Perry County.[3]

You know that it took Jacob some time to get from point A to point B so he might have generated some records in the stopover points.  It would be worth taking a look, especially in Montgomery where he most likely stopped over for a time before continuing on his journey. If I were writing up a biography about Jacob you can bet I would be including background info/history about the trails he most likely traveled.

In Jacob’s case I knew the beginning and ending points but in the next example I don’t.  Knowing the migration route might help you work your ancestor back in time if you don’t know where he originated from. 

The earliest record found for James Simmons in the Mississippi Territory is the 1805 Mississippi territorial tax roll where he is taxed in Washington County;[4] however, family tradition holds that James' wife Ellenor died in Mississippi[5] and her date of death is recorded as 20 May 1801 in her son James' family Bible.[6] The Mississippi Territory was opened to settlement in 1798 so we can assume that James left South Carolina for Mississippi between 1798 and 1801 [Even if we discount the family tradition, we can still place James in the Mississippi Territory by 1805]. There were a few settlers in the area before it was officially opened up but they were concentrated in the Natchez area along the Mississippi River and in the Lower Tombigbee northwest of Mobile.[7] James' property was located in present day Perry County[8] which is between these two locations and not close to either. We know that James was in South Carolina at some point because two of his known sons were born there in 1794 and 1797.[9]

I think investigating possible routes is part of a complete investigation.  So where do you think James might have migrated from in South Carolina?  If you take a look at the 1790 census, there are five James Simmons’ in Charleston, one in Spartanburg and one in Orangeburg [including name variations]. Both Charleston and Georgetown sit on migration routes [Kings Highway and Secondary Coast Road. Charleston also sits on the Charleston-Savannah Trail]. Orangeburg is more out in the sticks but that doesn’t mean James and his family didn’t leave Orangeburg overland heading toward one of the bigger trails, most likely the ones already mentioned. At this point we just don’t know.  Part of my investigation would be to look at James’ neighbors in Mississippi and see if I could pick up a migration pattern.  Extended family and neighbors often traveled together.

What is really interesting is that most of the old migration routes still exist. You will know them as major US highways, state highways and interstates. On the Roads and Routes Map [scroll down a bit] you will see a couple of the major trails along with the contemporary road names. If you have been on US 80 or I65 in Alabama then you have traveled on the Federal Road.


[1] 1820 U.S. census, Robeson County, North Carolina population schedule, p. 307 [penned], line 16, Jacob Perry household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M33, roll 84.

[2] 1830 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, p. 156 [penned], line 8, Jacob Perry household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M29, roll 71.

[3] A. Lee Everton, editor, The Handybook for Genealogists 10th Ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Publisher, 2002), 855, 860.

[4] Washington County, Mississippi, "Territorial Tax Rolls, 1805," image 9, James Simmons; digital images, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FamilySearch ( accessed 13 Jan 2012); citing Mississippi State Archives, Various Records, 1820-1951, Box 144.

[5] Simmons and Simmons, The Family Simmons Living in Perry and Forrest County, Mississippi on Leaf River and Black Creek, Early 1800s Thru 1995, 4; Based on interviews with George Simmons, great-grandson of Ellenor, taken between 1937 and 1962.

[6] James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898, The Holy Bible (Philadelphia: Kimber and Sharpless, n.d.), “Family Record”; privately held by Homer Kees, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1979; The Kimber and Sharplesss publishing company was in business 1807 – 1844 [John Wright, Early Bible of America (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1892), 123.] The earliest entries are in one same hand, the later entries are in a different hand and the latest entries are in a third hand. Per Mr. Kees, the Bible passed from James to his youngest child Charity Green Simmons who was Mr. Kees’ grandmother. He inherited the Bible from her.

[7] Charles D. Lowery, “The Great Migration to the Mississippi Territory,” 1798-1819,” 179-180.

[8] Federal Land Patents, Bureau of Land Management (; James Simmons, credit volume patent #363, Greene County, Mississippi, 10 January 1820; Land description SW ¼ S33 T5N R11W puts the land in present day Perry County using the Mississippi Department of Transportation map for Perry County ( Though this land description transaction is dated 10 Jan 1820, we know that James Simmons was in this same area prior to this based on tax and census records.

[9] 1850 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 384 [stamped], dwelling 185, family 185, Silas Simmons household; digital images, (http://www.ancestry); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 379…. 1850 U.S. census, Copiah County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 251 [stamped], dwelling 606, family 606, James Simmons household; digital images, (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 371.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

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