Understanding migration routes your ancestors took, who they traveled with, and where they settled is yet another instrument in your genealogical toolbox.

Westward migration started when the colonists landed in America. Some went inland a couple hundred miles in search of land they where they could raise crops. In 1790, 97% of Americans lived on the East Coast. Between 1841 and 1866 it is estimated that 350,000 to 500,000 people migrated westward.

Migration routes tended to go westward or southward. People usually traveled with relatives, friends or, neighbors and followed the same route as their ancestors. Before there were roads, people usually traveled along waterways, railroad routes, or Indian trails.

Some of the more popular migration routes are;

(1) Northeast of the Mississippi

(a)    National Road that extended from Maryland, Pennsylvania,

West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, to Illinois. Appx. 780 miles

(b)   Boston Post Road extended from the New England region

into New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and into

the Southern States. Appx. 800 miles

(c)    Old Connecticut Path: From Boston west by southwest

through Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, has

two ending points in Hartford and Albany. 290 miles

(d)   Iroquois or Mohawk Trail: West from Albany along the

Mohawk River through Utica and Rome with a branch

going through Fort Oswego to Lake Ontario. 190 miles

(e)    Forbes Road: Pennsylvania route stretched from Carlisle to

the Forks of the Ohio River around present day Pittsburgh.

200 miles

(f)     Great Warrior’s Trading Path: Through the Shenandoah

Valley covering Virginia and Tennessee. 250 miles

(g)    Chicago Road: From Lake Michigan south by southwest

through Peoria and Springfield, east of St.Louis to

Kaskaskia on the Missouri River. Appx. 350 miles

(2) Migration Trails Southeast of the Mississippi

(a)    Natchez-Lower Creeks Trail: East across lower Mississippi

and lower Alabama to Montgomery. 380 miles

(b)   Natchez Trace (Chickasaw Trail): From Natchez,

Mississippi north by northeast to Nashville, Tennessee.

380 miles

(c)    Jackson’s Military Road: From Nashville south by

southwest through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and

ending in Louisiana at Lake Ponchartrain. 445 miles

(d)   Federal Road: Began in Macon, Georgia and extended

southwest ending in Natchez, Mississippi. Appx. 380 miles

(e)    Great Indian path (also known as the Scioto Trail): Straight

south from Sandusky Bay, on Lake Erie along the Scioto

River to Portsmouth on the Ohio River. 220 miles

(3) Migration Trails West of the Mississippi

(a)    Royal Road (also known as El Camino Real): The 600

mile California Mission Trail that connected Alta’s

California 21 missions, 4 presidios, and several pueblos,

stretching from Mission San Francisco Sononma southward

into Baja California.

(b)   Spanish Trail: This was a historical trade route which

connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa

Fe with those in the region surrounding the present site of

Los Angeles. Appx. 1,200 miles

(c)    Gila Trail: Gila Trail follows river. It comes up from

Mexico along the San Pedro River, just west of Bisbee,

Arizona, until the river’s confluence with the Gila River,

then follows that westward to Yuma, Arizona. A branch of

the Gila Trail goes eastward along the Yuma River to the

San Pedro River, then follows the San Francisco River to

just over the state border into New Mexico, thence north to

Zuni, New Mexico. Appx. 1,500 miles

(d)   Old San Antonio Road: This trail is located in Texas and

Louisiana. Parts of it were based on traditional Native

American trails. Its Texas terminus was about 35 miles

southeast of Eagle Pass at the Rio Grande in Maverick

County, and its northern terminus was at Natchitoches,

Louisiana. The road continued from Texas through to

Mexico City. Appx. 587 miles.

(e)    Oregon Trail: The trail opened the Pacific Northwest. The

Oregon Trail was the overland emigrant trail for the

Missouri River to the Columbia River country, Oregon

Territory. Like all western trails it tended to follow rivers

where possible. It followed the Missouri River from St.

Louis to the Kansas River near Independence, Missouri,

then that river to the Little Blue River where it joined the

Platte River. It took the North Platte in western Nebraska to

the present Casper, Wyoming, followed the Sweetwater

River to South Pass, and then went southwest to Fort

Bridger Wyoming. At this point the trail split with the

Mormon Trail, which continued southwest to the Great Salt

Lake, while the Oregon Trail went northwest to Fort Hall,

near Pocatello, Idaho. Over the Blue Mountains in

northeaster Oregon, then down the Columbia River to

Willamette Valley, where the early settlers finished their

journey. Appx. 2,170 miles

(f)     Mormon Trail: The Mormon trail followed the North banks

of the Platte and North Platte Rivers, unlike the Oregon

Trail which followed the South banks. West of Fort

Laramie, however, the two trails united and followed the

same track until the Mormon Trail turned southwestward

toward the Great Salt Lake. Appx. 1,300 milestoward the Great Salt Lake. Appx. 1,300 miles[1]

[1] Westward Migration and Genealogical Research in the United States http://bsgen.org/BSGEN/Migrationspeech.pdf


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