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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Case Studies in American Migration: Part Four: Pushing West to the Ohio

By Greatvalley-map.jpg: Pflyderivative work: Perhelion (talk) - Greatvalley-map.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5,
As a result of the Treaty of Paris that ended the French and Indian War, King George III issued a proclamation officially claiming ownership to land in North America.

The Proclamation essentially established a boundary line between the Indian lands and the Colonial lands. The Colonists were prohibited from settling on Indian lands until the Crown either obtained the lands through treaties or otherwise opened the land for purchase and settlement. Here is a map showing the territory.

By Jon Platek - Own work ( Base map used is found here, uploaded by Roke ), CC BY-SA 3.0,
The boundary line followed the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains. Here is a link to the complete text of the Royal Proclamation. This restriction was in effect until after the Revolutionary War. The practical effect of this British ownership claim was that it wasn't until the late 1700s that the first settlers crossed the Appalachian Mountains. See Wikipedia: Royal Proclamation of 1763.

Not only was there the legal impediment of the Royal Proclamation but there was also the physical impediment of the mountains that prevented settlement away from the coastal area of the Colonies.

The area of the current state of Kentucky was previously a part of Virginia. The first British exploration took place in 1750 and it was then explored in 1769 by a group of hunters led by John Finley. The first English settlement in Kentucky was constructed beginning in 1774 by James Harrod as Fort Harrod at the present site of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Settlement in the area was opposed by both the French and the Indians. Quoting from Wikipedia: History of Kentucky:
After 1775, Kentucky grew rapidly as the first settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains were founded, with settlers migrating primarily from Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania; they entered the region via the Cumberland Gap and the Ohio River. It was claimed by Virginia as part of its territory. The most famous of these early explorers and settlers was Daniel Boone, one of the founders of the state. During this period, the settlers introduced commodity agriculture to the area. Tobacco, corn, and hemp were developed as the major commodity crops of Kentucky, and the hunting stage of frontier life faded away. Due to the ongoing violence, however, as Native Americans resisted white settlement, by 1776 there were fewer than 200 settlers in Kentucky.
The Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains is one of many passes but it is the only one in the Cumberland Mountain ridgeline.

The earliest British settlement in what is now Tennessee occurred in 1768 but any settlers at this early date would have come from Virginia, not the Carolinas, because of the impassable Blue Ridge Mountains separating Tennessee from North and South Carolina. Access to Tennessee was down the Appalachian Valley or the Ohio River.

The most important date for genealogists who find evidence that their ancestors settled in Kentucky or Tennessee is 1763. None of your Colonial ancestors settled in either Kentucky or Tennessee before that time. Anytime your traditional genealogy says that an ancestor was born in either Kentucky or Tennessee, you should check the alleged birthdate against the earliest settlement dates. In addition, Kentucky, previously part of Virginia, became a state in 1792 and Tennessee, previously a part of North Carolina, became a state in 1796. You should also be aware of the claims of the State of Franklin which was created in eastern Tennessee in 1784 and lasted until around 1788.

Seven of the original Colonies claimed parts of the trans-Appalachian wilderness. Their claims were disputed by France and the Indians before and after 1763. After the Revolutionary War, the six landless states wanted cession of the land to the United States but this was not fully accomplished until 1802.

Most of the settlers of Kentucky came from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New York. The settlers in Tennessee came most from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

Here is are links to the earlier case studies posts.

Case #1:
Case #2:
Case #3:


  1. Very practical primer for which I thank you, because my husband's ancestors followed some of these migration routes during the 1700s.

  2. Thank you. Not only is this series very informative and well done. it answers more questions than it raises. A singular benefit in ancestor research.