Genealogy Research

Family Migrations

One of the greatest ancestral influences is migration.

It may be migration within a country (from one city or region to another), or on a grander scale still – movement between countries and even continents.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, my own family has made these exact moves in just the last 200 years – moving from the Scottish lowlands to the highlands, then south to London, north again to Yorkshire and finally across the world to New Zealand and Australia!

Prior to the invention of the steam engine and the development of railway networks, people basically remained in, or nearby, the rural villages and towns where their families had lived for countless generations.

After the Industrial Revolution, there was increasing movement to the cities as employment opportunities in new-fangled industries grew and agriculture declined. Subsequent to that was the huge increase in international migration, helped in no small way by wars and pestilence. Families now had options!

This large-scale global movement of populations has had a profound effect on where and how people live, giving rise to entirely new branches of the family tree growing far from it’s original roots.


The above chart shows population movements since the 1700s. In particular, note the areas enclosed by the dotted lines – North America; eastern and southern parts of South America; Australia and New Zealand; and far eastern Asia. These regions have received great influxes of migrants out of (mainly) Europe, people who would have been seeking a better life for themselves and for future generations.

It is this movement of people which makes the genealogists task much more interesting, let alone complex.

Most people will know whether their families migrated, especially if it took place in recent history (within 2 or 3 generations). Others may not know exactly when a migration occurred, but will know by their family names that they likely originated in some other far flung country. Still others may have families that migrated more than once, just to help complicate the picture.

More recent migrations (within the last 200 years) will most likely be documented in one way or another – ship passenger lists, arrival and departure lists, convict transportation lists (for our Australian friends!) and the like.

Discovering the details of a migration can yield enormous results – broadening the ancestral profile for your family in ways you may never have guessed.


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