Where the Migrants Collide

For many years my seminar presentation on American Migration Patterns has remained one the most popular sessions I offer.  And I separated out a section which I titled Migration into the Central United States which includes all those areas “west of ye Laurel Hills.”  (The Laurel Hills form a short boundary line in western Pennsylvania and Maryland. )   And that session has proven as popular as the more encompassing presentation.

Two or more  times a year you will find me somewhere speaking on these topics.  They are fun to do.  Not only do I get to share some of my choicest research examples,  there are always people in attendance who have an “Ah Ha!” experience during the session.  And head for home determined to capture their hardest-to-find ancestor with these new insights.

Now, to these presentations, I can add details that are finally documented by scholars who study why people of different ages and genders move.  Where they go.  What they do.  And when or if they are likely to return to their origins.  So here goes:

  Disclaimer:  Since I am writing this at the Family History Library without my list of references, you will have to tune in to the next episode for these).

  1. Up to 45% of families enumerated in the census have persons living in their households who are not “father-mother-all the kids.”   And these persons are usually related by blood or marriage.  If your family has emigrated from Europe or the British Isles within the last two generations, these persons come from the same  local place of origin or nearby.
  2. Young people, who are related by blood or marriage, form the first choice “work force”  regardless of occupation.   Relatives with a business to run seek young family members to build an employee base.  If your family is Scottish, they will only employ kin–they believe they have the capacity to control the honesty, the dependability, the focused commitment of the person hired.  Whether there is salary or just room and board along with training in specific skills–employee is tied to employer.
  3. Women of all ages living  in someone else’s household–from as low as age 5 years–are related by blood, or marriage, or close community ties.  These ties remain constant over the lifetime of your ladies.  The census enumerator did not have to report relationship until the 1880 census.  Even then, there are females named in the household you can later  prove had a connection to those living in the family–whether you recognize their surnames as related to begin with or not.
  4. Young children, generally under age 12, are related regardless of their names.  Even when you later find formal adoption papers–collateral relationships exist.
  5. The average time for a family member to work without returning home, is one to five years.  Have you read the census every ten years, or even every five years where extra state and local censuses were taken, and found a gap?  Your ancestor is there, then gone, then there again, then gone.

These are just a few of the demographic trends that determine whether you put your family together correctly or not . 

Let the work of other professionals help you build a family tree based on the evidence–whatever that evidence is, or was, or whatever…

While it is true that more Kentuckians descend from Virginia than any other place–after all, Kentucky was a Virginia county– 

  1. They also descend from North Carolinians–whole wagon-loads left Wilkes county and Burke county and settled in eastern Kentucky.  They went from one set of mountains to another to live.  And you can often name every person in the group because their names have been held in remembrance all these years or published in county histories and genealogical periodicals.
  2. And Marylanders–central Kentucky became the home of Roman Catholics who no longer felt safe in Maryland.  These migrations are well-documented too.
  3. And Pennsylvanians–who moved easily up the Potomac River drainage valleys.  Even today, You can travel more easily on the Interstate road system through those valleys than any other route into or out of Pennsylvania.  And the people who settled in the lower [Delaware] counties found their way into Pennsylvania first, then Kentucky second.
  4. And New Yorkers–actually New York originally claimed some of the choicest parts of Kentucky among its western lands.  And sent its sons (and daughters) out West for new beginnings.   There is also a focused migration from the area of old Genesee county with offers of land exchanges, especially for Irish who sought a new life and new fortune.
  5. And Vermonters–genealogists who always considered their pedigree to be pure South are shocked to discover that their origins are Vermont.  Vermont was (and in some ways still is) a difficult state to live in.  Your ancestor could leave the craggy mountains with too little area to farm and a harsh climate both summer and winter for the lush green-covered countryside of the Blue Grass–where horses could swish their tails unattended all year long.

When you analyze your pedigree for places of origin, don’t be mislead by the surnames you find there.  People from many backgrounds can share surnames.  And Americanized surnames can be espcially troublesome–for people from different origins can have the same name.  Or your ancestor could emigrate to America 100 years behind earlier relatives, and share the same naming patterns.  These ancestors present a special challenge.  And beware of genealogical studies that purport the same origins shared by the same names–many not be so!   Your favorite Kentucky genealogist, Arlene Eakle.   http://arleneeakle.com

PS  My next turn to speak on Migration into the Central United States is at the Southern California Jamboree, 11-13 June 2010.  You can join in the fun by registering at Jamboree 2010.  New this year–registration on Thursday evening, 10 June; bloggers and Google Earth mini-courses using your own laptops, free sessions and workshops as well as paid admission–and although not new, ME.

About Arlene Eakle

I trace your family tree; or, teach you how.
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