Sunday, January 12, 2014

TRACKING YOUR ANCESTORS: MIGRATION PATTERNS








esterday, I attended a joint meeting of the Oakland County Genealogical Society (http://www.ocgsmi.org) and the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research (http://dsgr.org). The meeting was held at the beautiful Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. The speaker was Curt Witcher, Genealogy Center Manager at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana (http://www.genealogycenter.org/Home.aspx). His topic was “Migratory Routes to Michigan and the Midwest.” This topic was of special interest to me because I just completed a course entitled “US Migration Patterns” at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (http://www.genealogicalstudies.com).

Christ Church Cranbrook
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Mr. Witcher discussed the push and pull concept that governed our ancestors’ movements. Push factors are the reasons people leave an area (crime, war, etc.), and pull factors are why people go to an area (fertile land, better climate, etc.) Were they fleeing military service? Were they being persecuted because of their religion? Did they want to join friends and family who had moved? All these factors have to be considered when analyzing your ancestors’ movements. Mr. Witcher stressed the need to understand history. 

He mentioned several valuable books and websites to explore, including one I use all the time—the Family Search Wiki (https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Main_Page). Mr. Witcher said that local and church histories can give you clues about the migration patterns of those who lived long ago.  While they often contain errors, these histories can be very helpful. I have found this to be true. For example, in the “History of Norwich” (http://www.artmakers.com/chenango/history/norwich.html), I found a reference to my Crandall line moving to New York from Connecticut. 

The speaker also encouraged the use of maps to track your ancestors’ movements. I possess a copy of the book entitled Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses: 1790-1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide, and this has helped me visualize an area at a specific time. State and county boundaries changed frequently, and having an awareness of that fact will help you locate your people more quickly.

Christ Church Cranbrook
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Mr. Witcher mentioned a number of books on Dutch immigration to Michigan, including Faith and Family: Dutch Immigration and Settlement in the United States, 1820-1920 (http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Family-Immigration-Settlement-1820-1920/dp/0841913196). This was of interest because my husband’s grandmother’s family migrated from The Netherlands to Holland, Michigan.  

One website he told us about that I had not seen before was  “Michigan Fever” (http://web2.geo.msu.edu/geogmich/michigan_fever.html).  Be sure to check it out if you have ancestors who came to Michigan.

A useful website I have found is called “Migrations” (http://www.migrations.org/links.html).  It has numerous links to migration in Ohio and Pennsylvania, migration of gypsies, Quaker migration, German migration, orphan trains, Westward migration and much more. There are also other, more general, links such as map collections and the United States Census Bureau.

Mr. Witcher spoke about the importance of newspaper research.  I discovered on Old Fulton NY Postcards (www.fultonhistory.com) that the Rome, New York Roman Citizen newspaper carried a section called “Migratory.” Using Boolean logic, I searched for “migratory /50 Rome and NOT bird.” This Migratory column contained news of people who were relocating to another location or simply visiting people in other towns. For example, I found this notice for someone who is not one of my ancestors:

(1)

There was so much more material covered yesterday... What a fine way to spend a drizzly, cold day in Michigan. Thank you, Curt Witcher, the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research and the Oakland County Genealogical Society!



ILLUSTRATIONS BY:

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "Victorian Decorative Letters," 1999.

Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola, New York, Electronic Clip Art, "1268 Old-Time Cuts and Ornaments," 2006.

CITATION SOURCES:

(1) “Migratory,” Rome Semi-Weekly Citizen (New York), 22 Nov 1890, p. [not given], col. 4; digital image, Old Fulton NY Post Cards (www.fultonhistory.com : accessed 12 Jan 2014).

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