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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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

By Datawheel - Interactive Visualization: Data USAData Source: Census Bureau - ACS 5-year Estimate, CC0,
English: United States Map of Population by State (2015)
   580k - 2.8M
   2.8M - 5.28M
   5.28M - 8.26M
   8.26M - 11.6M
   11.6M - 19.6M
   19.6M - 26.5M
   26.5M - 38.4M
   38.4M - 38.4M

Obviously, many of the families that migrated to New York state in the early 1800s stayed there and By 1820, New York had become the most populous state in the country. See Wikipedia: List of U.S. states by historical population. Today, New York is the fourth most populous state and it is outranked by California, Texas, and Florida in that order. This fact alone shows a definite migration pattern to the west and south.

My Tanner family line moved from Rhode Island to New York, leaving many relatives in Rhode Island who have since spread across the U.S. and around the world. My Fourth Great-grandfather, Joshua Tanner, died in Reeds Corner, Washington, New York. His son, John Tanner moved further north and settled along Lake George in Bolton Landing Warren County, New York. Many of the migrants who moved across the country stayed put and their descendants still live in the place where their ancestors stopped their migration. But my ancestors moved again, several times eventually ending up in Arizona.

These movements were not random, they are based primarily on external influences. Of course, the decision to move is made by the individual, but when hundreds of thousands of individuals and families decide to make the same move, the movement ceases to become random. It is true that some migrations, such as the 1930s Dust Bowl and the Irish Potato Famine are examples of situations that forced migration, but the motivations underlying most migrations are more complex and involve a spectrum of economic, social and cultural incentives. These patterns of movement and the background incentives for their existence are the keys to discovering our ancestors, especially those who are elusive.

Early migrations in North America were limited to the Atlantic seacoast. One early road is called the Boston Post Road. This road was actually a system of mail-delivery routes between New York City and Boston. Quoting from a Wikipedia article entitled, "Boston Post Road,"
The Boston Post Road was a system of mail-delivery routes between New York City and Boston, Massachusetts that evolved into one of the first major highways in the United States. 
The three major alignments were the Lower Post Road (now U.S. Route 1 (US 1) along the shore via Providence, Rhode Island), the Upper Post Road (now US 5 and US 20 from New Haven, Connecticut by way of Springfield, Massachusetts), and the Middle Post Road (which diverged from the Upper Road in Hartford, Connecticut and ran northeastward to Boston via Pomfret, Connecticut).
It is likely that the Tanners traveled this road from Rhode Island up to Boston in their trip north to New York State. They would have then traveled north and west to what is now Warren County.  It may also be the case that they traveled up the Hudson River Valley because both Warren and Washington Counties are near that river.

In the early 1700s, the rough post roads were consolidated into what has been called the King's Highway. It was far from what we would call highway today, but by 1750 there was a continuous road from Boston to Charleston, South Carolina. By the end of the 1700s and the Revolutionary War, the road had been extended from Maine to Georgia.

In looking at these dates and places, you can see that travel, except by boat on the ocean, was extremely limited until the end of the 18th Century. It was only when the economic and social forces after the Revolutionary War, including the increase in immigration, began pushing the population off of the coast into the wilderness of the interior.

From time to time, I will see careless genealogical research that assumes an early 1700s connection between people living in New England or the South where children are born in North Carolina and Connecticut or even in Vermont. Given the ability that people had to travel in these early times, these speculative connections are highly unlikely. Travel throughout the 1700s by land was very difficult and if the records seem to show a connection between to disparate geographical areas of America, it is time to reexamine the records and make different conclusions.

You can see the earlier posts in this series here:

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