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Genealogy Article: Ancestral Migration Lost Family Photos Antiques

Grover Price Family Id'd RPPC

1900 Real Photo Postcard of Grover Price & Family. Found in the area of Berrien County, Michigan & Saint Joseph County, Indiana. 

Ancestral Migration, “Fevers,” and the Finding of Lost Family Objects
by Debra Clifford, Ancestorville

       An interesting article on "Ancestral Migration" by Barbara Krasner-Khait in Family Chronicle (May 2001) opened my eyes to the massive family migrations known as "fevers". A "fever" occurred when a hysteria about a new region swept through a district. This "fever" enticed families to move quickly, before they might lose out on the promise of better opportunity. Generally, it was a positive and exciting move, pursued by people of all classes. Many families left the area of their birth, and began their journey to settle in new fertile farm lands with the promise of new business. Most families associated with "the fevers" were from New England, and moved methodically west, some settling as far as California, Washington and Oregon. Many found their journey took them to New York State, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and the Midwest to settle. Most left close relatives, parents, and loved ones at home.

The excitement was in the prospect of a new life in unchartered lands. For most, leaving on such a journey was an invitation of fertile soil, open space, inexpensive land, and even the possibility of finding "gold in them thar' hills". Bank failures, land expense, the Erie Canal (an engineering wonder, finished in 1825) and younger generations coming up are some factors that affected migration to Ohio, Michigan, the Midwest, and thus movement on to the Western territories. The Erie Canal provided a link from the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, and Canadian canals that flowed to the St. Lawrence River, allowing the passages of families at a quicker and easier pace than ever before imagined. A young and pioneer America was on the move.

The sharing of family photographs, letters, news, and ephemera back and forth to relatives back home greatly interests us here at Ancestorville. It appears most of the actual "fevers" ocurred from the 1750's to the 1850-60's. We have collected a large volume of material, of which only one quarter of it is cataloged on the site. More surnames and lost family material is added each day to Ancestorville.
Krasner-Khait cites some important specific "fevers" as Ohio fever, Michigan fever, Oregon fever, Genesee fever, and Gold Rush fever. As these migrations occurred, new settlers built their houses with the same architectural "look" as home. They built white churches, town centers, village greens, graveyards, farmhouses and barns reminiscent of where they came. They built local government systems and religious communities based on the same puritanical beliefs they were accustomed to at home. Some Western New York, Ohio, Michigan and Midwest areas even began calling themselves "New Englands of the West".

Puzzled initially by the large amount of Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio family material we find in the north, we can now see these ancestral migration patterns also offer clues in the movement of family photographs and materials to and from specific areas of the country. Relatives sent this material home and back again in letters, photos, diaries, and everyday ephemeral material. In general, New York State provides a rich source of ancestral and genealogical research, as family lines realize they descend from these "moving roots".

We hope here at Ancestorville you will look at our found family photographs in new light, and with this migration information in mind. We may find a photograph in the Hudson Valley of New York State, with family ties to Indiana or California, and the opposite. Please note that where an object is found, is not necessarily an indication of where a family lived. Although sometimes a clue, ancestral migration made the mailing and movement of ephemera common between separated family members.

We are constantly on the lookout for identified African American and other ethnic material, which has proved difficult to acquire. Much of the material on our site was first found in the Upstate New York region of Rochester NY, home of Frederick Douglass, the anti slavery abolitionist movement, Susan B. Anthony and the Women's Suffrage Movement, and in the surrounding areas known as the "burned over district." Burned over, in that many spiritualist and zealous religious movements of the 19th century started like wildfire and burned out in this region. The Fox sisters began their psychic rappings in along the Erie Canal, in Newark, Wayne County, NY. These rappings changed a nation. Later, with my own migration, material was found all over New England.

Many a runaway slave passed through northern towns on the Underground Railroad, and never left a mark in the way of traceable movement on their journey to Canada, and points north. Unfortunately, it was a rare occurrence to be photographed as an African American, until much later into the 19th and 20th century. Paper items that chronicle this dangerous period are very difficult to find, their journeys and stories very sadly are lost in time.

The influx of New York's Ellis Island provides rich sources of later ancestor material we continue to search for. It is our quest at Ancestorville to find ancestor material representative of all races, ethnic groups and religions from the 1700's to the 1950's.

We hope that you will take a look at the thousands of family and genealogy images, the handwritten word, paper and identified objects we have here for sale with a new perspective, and with better appreciation. We feel each and every letter, photograph, document and piece was purposely left for us as clues. It is deserving of our utmost respect and care, and we are honored to handle this beautiful family material. We always invite your comments and welcome you to visit our Ancestorville facebook page and start a discussion.

— Debra Clifford, Ancestorville.

debra clifford ancestorville Join ~debra on facebook at Ancestorville Genealogy on the topic of lost family antique items, early photographs, genealogy surnames and family history topics. Search our site for your lost family antique material by family surname, county, town, city and state.

©2017 Ancestorville™ Can be freely shared and linked to, but not duplicated.

Posted by Debra Clifford on


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