An Example of Mapping Your Ancestor’s Migration

Below is how I traced the migration of my fourth great-grandfather Peter and his family from his arrival until my grandfather Roy moved to Bloomington, Illinois. I used family stories, land transactions, census records, marriage records, death records, county histories, and other documents to mark the dates and points on the map.

Here is the documentation of the map points

  • Family historians believe Peter Whittinghill arrived in the colonies about 1770. He was married to Catherine Gabbert in 1775 in Augusta County, Virginia, before the birth of their first child. However, we did not find any documents to confirm these dates.
  • The first record of Peter in Virginia was in the minutes of his 1778  Continental Army court-marshal, which happened in Augusta County. Peter served in the Virginia Riflemen, 2nd Division, Virginia Militia. The history of this military unit included the battle of Yorktown and the surrender of General Cornwallis.
  • On September 4, 1781, land records indicate Peter purchased land along the James River in Rockbridge County, Virginia. The river location adds to the story that he was a miller.
  • I could not find Peter’s 1790 Census record.
  • On April 5, 1796, county records indicate Peter sold his land and left from nearby Amherst County with friends and family on the migration trail to Kentucky. The group traveled south on the Great Valley Road to Blacksburg, where they found the New River. The river was the nearest migration route through the Appalachian Mountains to  Kentucky. The group followed the New River north to the Kanawha River and then to the Ohio River. At the growing settlement of Gallipolis, they built a raft and floated down the River to Maysville. From there, they trekked overland to Fayette County, Kentucky, where Lexington is today. This portion of their migration took three to four weeks.
  • On January 26, 1798, Mercer County land records list Peter and Catherine purchased land on Mud Creek, where he farmed and ran a grist-mill.
  • Peter’s 1800 and 1810 Census records indicate he lived in Mercer County, Kentucky.
  • Four of their child married in Mercer County – John (1803), George (1805), David (1805), and Mary (1810).
  • The 1800 and 1810 Census records also listed some of their neighbors from Virginia, and Catherine’s siblings were also residing in Mercer County.
  • A Mercer County deed dated January 3, 1814, stated Peter Whittinghill of Ohio County, Kentucky, sold his 100 acres. The documents indicate that sons John and David moved to Ohio County sometime after 1810, and Peter joined them with the rest of the family in 1813.
  • Their other four children married in Ohio County – William (1814), Sarah (1814), Elizabeth (1816), and Jane (1818).
  • Son David had moved across the Ohio River and into Warrick County, Indiana, where his son Pleasant was born in 1815.
  • The 1820 Census records indicate Peter living in Spencer County, Indiana. However, the census also lists that his daughter and their spouses had moved to Spenser County or neighboring Warrick County.
  • Peter’s son and my third great-grandfather John stayed in Ohio County.
  • John’s grandson and my great-grandfather Burrill married Elizabeth Pate in 1882 in Hancock County, Kentucky, and the 1900 Census listed him living in Lewisport, Hancock County, Kentucky.
  • The 1910 Census indicates Burrill lived in Glen Dean, Breckinridge County, Kentucky.
  • Grandfather Roy married Lula Mae Powell in 1914 in Hardinsburg, Breckinridge County, Kentucky.
  • Roy was also living in Breckinridge County on his WW I draft registration and the 1920 Census.
  • In 1922, Lula’s brother Joe moved to McLean County, Illinois, farming near Lexington in the 1930 Census records.
  • Lula and Roy followed Joe to McLean County in 1924, where Roy worked construction and rented farmland outside Bloomington.

Find the records for your ancestors. Map where they lived, and mark their migration route. Then, try to find accounts showing their life and what historical events affected them.


Find their story, write about it, and save it for your future generations.

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