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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

From Whence and to Thither -- Understanding Migration Patterns: Part Four

Erie Canal map c. 1840
I am going to start to explain the concepts and history of migration patterns with one of most obvious influences in U. S. migration: the Erie Canal. The canals built in the United States opened up vast areas to settlement. The Erie Canal connected the population centers of New York City and Albany with Buffalo on the Great Lakes. Construction on the Erie Canal began in 1817 and the first sections were completed in 1819. Here is the timeline of completion dates for the Canal.
  • 1819 Rome to Utica
  • 1820 Utica to Syracuse
  • 1823 Brockport to Albany (Champlain Canal connecting the Hudson River to Lake Champlain was completed at the same time)
  • 1824 Lockport locks
  • 1825 Onondago Ridge finishing the entire canal.
Here is a summary of the impact of the Canal from the Research Wiki:
The Erie Canal contributed to the wealth and importance of New York City, Buffalo, and New York State. It increased trade throughout the nation by opening eastern and overseas markets to Midwestern farm products and enabling migration to the West. New ethnic Irish communities formed in towns along the canal, as Irish immigrants were a large portion of labor force involved in its construction.
Some of my own ancestors may have used the Canal for transportation because they moved from New York State to Ohio during the time period when the Canal was in operation. The Canal opened a way for large quantities of goods and services to be moved across a significant part of the country where such movement was previously not possible. By connecting that pathway to the Great Lakes, an even larger area of the country was opened up.

Now, as a genealogist, what does this tell you about the possible movement of your Eastern Coast ancestors into Ohio and other states? Let's suppose that your ancestors show up in Ohio in the mid-1800s. Where might the family have come from? Here is a more extensive map of the Canals built between 1825 and 1860.

It might be interesting to see if the location where your ancestor lived gave them access to one or more of these canals. By looking at the dates the canals were constructed you can begin to see whether further research might reveal a pattern in your ancestors' movements that corresponds to the availability of canal travel. It also might help you to know that the present highways system follows the canal routes. Here is a Google map showing the roads from Albany to Buffalo that generally follow the route of the canal. As I mentioned previously, the major highways in the U.S. are a good indicator of the main historic migration routes.

If it is time to do some serious research, here is a list of books about migration patterns in America.

American Migration Patterns. Irving, Tex.: Genealogy Tapes, Etc., 1986.

Bankston, Carl L. Encyclopedia of American Immigration, 2010.

Benmayor, Rina, and Andor Skotnes. Migration and Identity. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes. Bountiful UT: AGLL Inc.

Elliott, Wendy L. U. S. Migration Patterns. Bountiful, Utah: American Genealogical Lending Library, 1987.

Genealogical Institute. American Migration Patterns. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Institute, 1974.

Genealogical Institute (Salt Lake City, Utah). American Migrational Patterns. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Institute, 1974.

Hawley, George. Voting and Migration Patterns in the U.S, 2015.

Kitagawa Otsuru, Chieko. Diversified Migration Patterns of North America: Their Challenges and Opportunities. Osaka: Japan Center for Area Studies, National Museum of Ethnology, 1997.

Roseman, Curtis C. Changing Migration Patterns within the United States. Washington: Association of American Geographers, 1977.

Schwarzweller, Harry K, James S Brown, and J. J Mangalam. Mountain Families in Transition: A Case Study of Appalachian Migration. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971.

Whitaker, Beverly DeLong. Migration Patterns in the United States --. Toronto: Heritage Productions, 2003.

You can see the earlier posts in this series here:

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