As the populations grew in the early days of the U.S., inhabiting its western boundaries became an enticing adventure for its open lands and possible opportunities.
Forced to travel lightly, survival and building took priority over recording their histories thus leaving us to search out their paths.
Consider the following suggestions as you search for your adventurous ancestors. . .
The following 7 research methods contains helpful suggestions to assist in researching your migrating ancestors beyond the original colonies.
After the list of research helps is an extremely useful listing of territorial map links. Reading over the maps helps to realize the time frame and lands with in the territory boundaries of the migration time period to populate the the western lands of what would become the sea-to-sea homeland of the amazing United States.
1.) As you look and find family members west of the original 13 Colonies, take time to investigate the Territory's enhancements such as its climate, topography, quality and availability of farm and ranching lands, water, mining, opportunities, etc.
2.) As the U.S. acquired additional territories, they sold much of the territory land to homesteaders to raise money. Records of the land sales or Grants are at the General Land Office Records (GLO) website <www.glorecords.blm.gov>. These records can supply such information as naturalization papers, record of homesteading, names, specific location, etc. Some states also sold their land to raise money such as Missouri and Texas did. You can learn more about these territorial land transactions at <archives.gov/research/land>.
3.) Search the specific land area's libraries and courts for records of private land transactions after original purchase from the state or U.S. government. Look for land, probate, and other court records. These are often rich in desired content. Also check with the sources offered in FamilySearch by area and also in Ancestry.com (free at the FSL).
4.) Search records of Bounty Lands earned through Military Service - From the time of the Revolutionary War to the Mexican War, the U.S. offered land grants amounting to almost 70 million acres of land. The paperwork to claim military bounty land can contain valuable information about the individual. Fold3, Ancestry.com (both free to use at the FamilySearch Library) and FamilySearch are all good sources to find bounty land grant records.
5.) Surprisingly, Tax Records, (yes they still had to pay taxes) mostly by state but also national taxes might be the best source for information.These records can provide their specific location, who owned land after a death, use of the land such a farmer, store, names of those who sold and bought, and much more
6.) Search for diaries, family history books on Google, in Salt Lake Family History Library and other Genealogical societies in the ancestor's places of residence, county or state. Also look for groups such as The Utah Daughters of the Pioneers. Many states have active organizations such as this. Look for groups of all types of settlers and genealogy societies such as The Oregon Trail Society, Sons and Daughters of Montana Pioneers, and others.
7.) Search Territorial Maps - There are many available on line. Google for Territorial Maps of U.S. One of the best that we found searching with Google is USEGENMAP-US Genealogy Map Project, County, Territory. Maps by the year were offered. Also be sure to click on "Border/Land Claimes by State and County Names To State Cross Reference. There is a lot to be learned and used here. (The purple words are in an active link. Try it.)