Tag Archives: transportation

Maps: Visualizing Your Ancestors – Types of Maps – Migration

When my ancestors moved from Lyme, New Hampshire to Toledo, Ohio, what route might they have taken to get there? Given the time period, there might be several ways our ancestors could have gotten from point A to point B. Lyme is northeast of New York and the Erie Canal. When they moved to Ohio, the Erie canal was up and running. They could have taken a train or a wagon south from Lyme, then used the Erie Canal to travel to Buffalo, New York. From there, a steamship on the Great Lakes to Toledo is a viable route. This is the one that I like to think they probably took. However, without a diary, letters, or ticket stubs, I’ll never know. But we can make some inferences by looking at map and researching the routes.

There are a lot of different types of transportation that could come into play when assessing the options for your ancestors’ migration:

  • Indian Trails
  • Wagon Routes
  • Train Lines
  • Canals
  • Steamships
  • Roads and Interstates

When I try to decide how my ancestors may have moved across the country, I first try to find a map as close to the time of their movement as possible. I’ll try to find a couple of maps that show various different types of transportation.

For example, Samuel Cook Dimick moved his family from Lyme, New Hampshire, I set out to determine how they may have moved.

Base map from the National Park Service, Annotations by author.

Lyme, New Hampshire is approximately where the blue star is. They then would have made their way to Albany, taken the canal to Buffalo, then a steamship on Lake Erie to Toledo. How might they have gotten to Albany?

“Railroad map of New Hampshire accompanying report of the railroad commissioners, 1894.” From the Library of Congress.

This map is from 1894, it is not perfect, but it is near the time that they moved to Ohio. There appears to be a rail line that follows the Connecticut River south. They could have boarded near Lyme at a depot. Lyme is on the river. (Here is a link to the map at the Library of Congress so you can zoom in and scroll around.) Then you would just look for a similar map for Vermont, and Massachusetts and New York, until you’ve examined all of the possible rail lines.

What about when they made it to Lake Erie?

Map of Great Lakes, showing routes of travel and places of interest. Alfred D’A. McNevin, [1915]. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

They moved to Toledo, Ohio; travel via the Erie Canal and Lake Erie seems most reasonable. But there were other options. What about wagon roads? Wagon roads were built on top of old Indian trails. Eventually they became well-known highways and interstates.

Old Lake Shore Trail is now Interstate 90 along Lake Erie.

It is a fun imagination exercise to try to determine the possibilities. Maps are a great way to do this kind of exercise.

Next time, we will look at one of my favorite kind of maps: the bird’s eye view!

Research in the Equality State: Migration and Transportation

Wyoming may be largely made up of wide-open spaces, but there are several important migration routes and transportation events. I’m going to cover five migration routes:

  • Bozeman Trail – connected the gold rush areas of Montana to the Oregon Trail
  • Oregon Trail – from western Missouri into the Rockies and on to Oregon City
  • California Trail – from western Missouri across the Rockies into the California Gold Fields
  • Mormon Trail – from Nauvoo, Illinois to Nebraska and on to Salt Lake City and beyond to California
  • Chisholm Trail – branch that ended in Cheyenne and joined the Oregon, Mormon, or California Trails

Rivers served as migration and settlement points. The North Platte River and the Sweetwater, a long tributary of the North Platte, are part of the Mississippi river system and the water eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico. These two rivers are along the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails. They offered important water for explorers and settlers. Wyoming is a very dry state (I could never seem to drink enough water!) It was imperative for explorers and settlers to stay near water sources.

Image by “Shannon1” permission by Creative Commons license (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:North_Platte_basin_map.png : viewed Aug 2021).

The railroad played an important role in the expansion and settlement of the state of Wyoming. The Union Pacific Railroad was vital in that it financed town-building across the state. The railroad fostered economic growth not only for itself but also for the state of Wyoming. It helped move livestock out, and other goods in to the state. When coal was discovered in southwest corner of the state, it powered the railroad while the railroad also moved coal out of the state to sell to other regions and consumers.

Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, 1 July 1862. This act created the Union Pacific (UP), and subsidized the UP and the Central Pacific by granting 10-square mile sections of land for each mile of track laid. In 1864, the second Pacific Railway Act doubled the land grant to 20 square miles and also gave mineral rights to the railroad. The sales of this land then paid for the building of the railroad. The pounding of the Golden Spike on 10 May 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, connected the railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This opened trade and transportation to and from farther locations. This made Wyoming much more accessible for settlement. Transportation by train was more preferable to wagon trains.

The ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869; completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right). By Andrew J. Russell – Yale University Libraries, Public Domain.

Next we will look at land in Wyoming. There’s plenty of it… mostly filled with sheep and sagebrush.