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Popular U.S. Migration Routes

Migration Routes & Trails Commonly Used by Early US Settlers


While our ancestors had fewer options for transportation than we enjoy today, they did not stay in the same place very long. Therefore, migration patterns can often help solve genealogical problems. Learning about the commonly used migration trails in the localities where your ancestors resided can often help to determine their previous place of residence.

1. Boston Post Road

Learn more about this system of mail-delivery routes between New York City and Boston, Massachusetts used by early colonists on this Web site by professional genealogist Beverly Whitaker.

2. Braddock's Trail

This trail, first blazed by George Washington and later widened by Major General Edward Braddock and his troops during the French and Indian War became the first "superhighway" used by settlers crossing the Allegheny Mountains into Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and points west.

3. The California Trail - Rush to Gold

Learn about the trek from the Oregon Trail, across the Sierra Nevada mountains and into California in 1844/45. The California Trail carried over 200,000 gold-seekers and farmers to the gold fields and farmlands of California during the 1840's and 1850's, the greatest mass migration in American history.

4. Chisolm Trail

Learn about the beginning of the Chisolm Trail, a historic cattle trail which carried settlers from Texas (Abilene) to Kansas. Explore trail maps, photographs and "tales from the trail," courtesy of the Chisolm Trail Heritage Center Museum.

5. Mormon Pioneer Trail

Learn about the history of the pioneer Mormon Trail which started in Nauvoo, Illinois, traveled across Iowa, connected with the Great Platte River Road at the Missouri River, and ended near the Great Salt Lake in Utah. This trail carried tens of thousands of Mormon emigrants to a new home and refuge in the Great Basin.

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