Understanding Mysterious Migration Maps

Understanding Mysterious Migration Maps

Genealogists spend a lot of time focusing on their ancestors’ immigration to the United States. But your ancestors’ migrations within the United States also are important, as well.

Just as family members and neighbors traced each others’ routes from Europe to the New World, Americans followed migration patterns within the United States—patterns that can be displayed on maps like this one of Ohio migration patterns.

 

The map above, based on 1880 census data, classifies states by their proportion of residents who were born in Ohio. The darker the shading, the higher the state’s percentage of native Ohioans.

Predictably, the Buckeye State contains the highest ratio of Ohioans to those born elsewhere, followed by neighboring Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan. 

But the shading of states out West reveals a key migration trend. Several states from Missouri to California were home to between 10 and 50 Ohioans per every 1,000 residents, outranking states in the Southeast and Northeast.  

This map suggests that Ohioans flocked westward in the mid- to late 1800s—a phenomenon that might prompt you to look for missing Ohio ancestors in the records of states to the West. Conversely, if you descend from California pioneers who seem to have come from nowhere, you might look in Ohio for your earlier roots.
 
The David Rumsey Map Collection website has a series of maps that can help you view internal migration patterns that might have influenced your ancestors. Try searching for the word migration plus a state or country.  

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