RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist -- Chapter Six

This is an ongoing series of chapter by chapter comments on the book,

Meyerink, Kory L., Tristan Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

I am now commenting on Chapter Six: Migration Methodology by Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA.

So far, this book has focused on some of the most important issues in genealogical research that apply worldwide to research in every country. Migration is one of the areas, from my experience, I would guess, that has the very lowest level of awareness and knowledge among most researchers. It is a topic that is seldom mentioned and even less understood. Of course, many people immediately think of emigration and immigration when they discover that their ancestors came from some other country, but as Karen explains, migration is as much of a local as it is a global issue.

The chapter starts by pointing out that some of the most puzzling ancestral issues confronting investigators arise from a lack of understanding of migration patterns and the background reasons people have migrated from one area to another. I can think of a good example of this lack of awareness. Two of my family lines came through Australia. It is well know among Australian genealogical researchers that many of the early settlers in their country did not arrive voluntarily. It is estimated that 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia from 1788 to 1868. See Launches Largest Online Collection of Records Documenting Australia's Convicted 'Founding Fathers." It is further estimated that 22 percent of the Australians are descended from these British exiles. Now, what about the American colonies? We hear very little about how many of the early colonists to America were sent here involuntarily by the British. Estimates of the number of convicts sent to America run as high as 120,000. See Wikipedia: Penal transportation. Most of these convicts were sent to New England. How many researchers are anxious to find out the real background of their proud New England heritage?

It is because of issues such as the transportation of convicts and many, many other reasons why people moved from one area to another that this is a subject every serious researcher should understand, especially as it applies to the time and place where your ancestors lived. Early American history begins with what we call "The Great Migration." See The American Ancestors website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society maintains an online searchable database with the goal of identifying every immigrant to America from 1620 to 1640.

Karen points out that some of the most important aspects of the migration issues occurs on a very local level and that understanding these movements requires a combination of map studies and historical research. Your ancestors may have moved for a very obvious reason, but without taking the effort to identify the economic or social forces that initiated the move, you may never be able to understand where they went or more importantly, why they moved.

Following your ancestors' movements across a country or across international boundaries can be one of the most fascinating and challenging genealogical research project. Beginning that investigation will be immeasurably helped by starting your investigations with a basic understanding of the issues. I highly recommend this chapter of the book as a good start to that understanding.

1 comment:

  1. I looked up the source for the statement in the Wikipedia article that said most of the convicts were sent to New England. This turned out to be A. Roger Ekirch's book "Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies 1718-1775". I was able to preview his original WMQ article on JSTOR in which he said that most convicts were actually sent to Maryland and Virginia. This makes more sense as most of the convicts would have been sent to areas where the need for unfree labor was the greatest.
    Some of the convicts would, of course, wound up in New England, but the need for labor on the farms there would have been much more limited than in the Chesapeake Bay area.