Saturday, August 24, 2013

Where did your ancestor come from and where did he go?

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Let’s say you are looking at the 1850 census and you have a middle aged couple with a few kids ranging in age from older teen to youngster.  You go back to the 1840 and you can’t find them.  They should have still been a family in 1840 but where are they.  In a perfect world you would be able to find them using an index. Magically they would appear in another county and in another state.  By now you should know that this rarely happens.  Before you start playing around with the search parameters it helps if you can narrow down the location a bit.  Where might they have come from?  When people migrated they usually followed established trails and they usually traveled with neighbors, friends or family (keep that second statement in the back of your mind because we will be getting to that tomorrow).  Resources for old trails and roads abound in books and online.  Historians use them as well as genealogists.  Here is an example:

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I used the Fall Line Road as an example in the lecture because it includes the city of Augusta (where I was lecturing).  If I were trying to work a family backward in time I would go up the trail.  This isn’t going to tell you exactly where they came from but rather narrow down where you need to look.  Also look at side trails leading to the main trail.  If I am looking at an Augusta, Georgia family I would narrow my search to South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

Here is a little blurb that I wrote for a National Genealogical Society Home Study Course assignment.  I was showing how Jacob Perry and his family could have migrated from Robeson County, North Carolina to Perry County, Mississippi.  In this case I knew where he started and where he ended up so why would I bother to try and map out his route?  Migrations took time and the family could have easily generated a few records along the way.

Jacob Perry and his family’s migration from Robeson County, North Carolina to Perry County, Georgia most likely followed known migration trails. The Fall Line or Southern Road Trail passes right through Robeson County and goes to Montgomery, Alabama.[1] From Montgomery there are two possibilities. Jacob could have taken the Alabama-Mobile Trail to Mobile, Alabama and then the Mobile-Natchez Trail straight into Perry County, Mississippi.[2] Another possibility has Jacob taking the Alabama-Choctaw-Natchez Trail out of Montgomery to Meridian, Mississippi and then south on the Choctaw-Bay St. Louis Trail which would put him very close to Perry County.[3]

Looking at migrations is just another piece of the puzzle, the puzzle being your ancestor’s life.  Even if you know exactly where he came from and where he went you still want to do this little exercise to give more depth and interest to your biographies. 
 

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


Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

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