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Was Great-Great-Grandfather a Pioneer?

Was Great-Great Grandfather a pioneer? This is a common question a genealogist might ask, and there is an approach to finding out the answer.


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Was Great-Great Grandfather a pioneer? This is a common question a genealogist might ask, and there is an approach to finding out the answer. Looking first at migration patterns in the United States, we find that by the early 1800's many of the early settlers of this country from the area of New England and Virginia started moving west, into Tennessee and Kentucky. As time passed, migration patterns showed further westward movement through the Great Plains and on into the Wild West, and even on to California as the Gold Rush approached. A great source on the Internet that will aid a genealogist in tracing these routes is

Here you will find lots of information on the migration patterns, as well as a means for searching for your ancestor. Many other family historians have already entered their ancestors on this site, and there is even a place to enter your ancestor by the state to which they migrated. Another site, offers information on different old road trails, as well as migration patterns utilizing the rivers of our country.

As you begin your research, you will probably begin to wonder, "Who were these people who followed these road trails here in early America? Why did they want to pack up there belongings and there family and travel many miles to a new place, and endure harsh weather, possible Indian attacks, famine, and disappointments?"

History tells us that many of these people were adventurers or farmers looking for better and more fertile land. Some were looking for religious freedoms, as was the case of the Mormons moving into Utah. Others who had already moved in the Midwest were hit by the Dust Bowl, which forced many to migrate again. Another reason for migration was the Gold Rush in California and, later, in Alaska, along with the silver finds in many parts of the West.

To find out where your great-great-grandfather was during these migration years, start by looking at the 1850 census. By the 1850's migration was in full swing. The 1850 Census was a great breakthrough for genealogists, as it was the first time that not only the head of the household was listed, but also the name of his wife, a list of the children's names with ages, as well as anyone else living in the household. By starting with the 1850 census, you will be able to see where your ancestor was born and also find out where they were living during the 1850 Census year.

With a subscription to Ancestry, you can search the census quickly. Other places where you might research this census is the public library in your town, in the reference section or genealogy area.

Although it's best to start with the 1850 census to find your family, depending upon when your grandfather was born, you might not find him with his family until the 1860 or 1870 Census. In the 1850 Census, he might have been traveling, and missed the census.

When you find your ancestor's family listed in the census, jot down the state you find him in, along with the county and the township. Oftentimes, you might only find a township listed as a district. If this is the case, check the top of the census sheet where your family is listed and see what post office is listed. This will give you a better idea of where they are.

Once you know the state, county, and township, then you are ready to check it on a recent map. Even a road map will help you. Check the area where your family lived to see if that town is still considered a township, or what other towns are around that area.

Many towns in America have set up local museums which contain information about many of the early pioneers and settlers of that area. These museums are staffed with volunteers who know the local history and maintain many artifacts and browse files which can aid you in finding your family. Most of these museums are near or attached to the Chamber of Commerce of that township.

Take time to search for the township you are looking for on the Internet using Google. Often the information you find about the township will also contain information about the Chamber of Commerce and the museum. If the museum or a historical society is not listed for the township you seek, then contact the Chamber of Commerce listed. Usually the Chamber of Commerce will have an e-mail address listed. When you e-mail them and ask about what you are looking for, it's possible they will be able to forward information to you by e-mail or aid you in contacting someone who might be able to help you.

Museum browse files are a wonderful tool for genealogist looking for family members who helped settle or did business, in a certain area. You might also consider taking a trip to the area to find out more information.

Remember, start with the 1850 Census, which will allow you to know enough information to search for the family in the following years or to even find the family listed in the1840 census and even earlier. If you are lucky enough that your ancestor was still living during the 1880 census, then this record will also let you know where your ancestor's parents were born. Once you have located the state, county and township of your family, check with the historical society or museum in that area. Many small communities have well-preserved records of their early pioneers. Be sure to offer any pictures or other information to the museum when you find your ancestor in their files.

If you do not have success in locating a museum or historical society in the area of where your ancestor lived, you may want to check the the American Local History Network Internet site, which offers many other links which might aid you on your search (

Hope you find your Pioneer Grandfather!

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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