Transportation and Migration Patterns to America

An important aspect of migration to America were the transportation patterns–how your ancestors got here. Let me draw your attention to these patterns  on the eve of the American Revolution. During the years 1773 to  1776, the movements of people were oriented to jobs available: Laborers were actively recruited. Shiploads of workers from all backgrounds arrived in America.

Get yourself a copy Bernard Bailyn, a Pulitzer-prize  winning author,  Voyagers to the West: The Peopling of America on the Eve of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986). He outlines  and categorizes the transportation patterns of these laborers:

  1. Ships left England from the ports of Hull, Bristol, and Portsmouth for the West Indies with about 7 passengers each ship–a constant trickle, bringing 5.3% of all documented emigrants.
  2. Ships from London and Bristol included up to 100 laborers per ship per trip, from all over the Home Counties in the central part of England–68,4% were indentured or under contract when they arrived in America. These passengers included tradesmen, indentured servants, artisans, and farm workers contracted by shippers and merchants on both sides of the ocean. They were bound for Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Young, unattached males recruited for labor markets hungry for workers.
  3. Ships from the ports of Greenock and Glasgow with up to 300 emigrants per ship per trip. Over 1/3 of the entire number of 9,364 recorded emigrants; 89,6% headed for New York and North Carolina. For the most part, these included men, women , and children in family units. They were not indentured workers, they were free travelers who opted to migrate for jobs and economic opportunity. A few included emigrants from eastern and northern Yorkshire as well, bound for Nova Scotia and New York.

Newly-identified migration patterns–from Yorkshire, England to settle in the American Colonies–

  1. Yorkshire to Ireland first, then to Maryland and Virginia.
  2. Yorkshire directly to Maryland, the Carolinas, and to Georgia.
  3. Yorkshire directly to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Some of these patterns are mapped in Voyagers to the West; some patterns are described and documented in the Register of Emigrants, Treasury Papers, 1778-76; T47/9-12, studied and analyzed with precision by Bernard Bailyn and his research team.

In my opinion, Bailyn’s work is among the most significant studies for genealogy and ancestral research in Colonial America. The book is still in print. New and used copies are for sale in university bookstores because it is used as a history textbook; or, you can order new and used copies from Amazon. You will want your own copy if your ancestors came to America before or during the American Revolution! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Stay tuned for how to link what you read with the records you search to prove your American ancestry. As enjoyable your reading will be, you read Bailyn with a genealogy purpose in mind.

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