Archive for the ‘Migration’ Category

Did Your Ancestors Work or Travel on the Erie Canal?

The Erie Canal played so many important parts in opening up America that it is hard to count them all.

First of all, the Nay-Sayers said that it could not be done.  Fortunately there were strong proponents that were able to win out in the rough and ready political climate of the early years of New York State and we have all benefited greatly.

The Erie Canal took the path of least resistance right across the central part of New York State and through a series of so called feeder canals or natural watershed, and using a highly engineered system of locks to raise or lower the boats this largest canal in the U.S was able to connect Albany to Buffalo.

This natural path across the state follows what I like to call in my talks about Upstate New York Genealogy migration patterns as following the western corridor, or the natural route to follow the setting sun.

Primarily the canal was for transporting large quantities of bulk freight, slow maybe but at a very cheap rate in comparison to any other method.  You may have in mind the images of people riding on packet boats, and they did of course, but these were almost always very wealthy people.

I have heard it said that to ride on the Erie from Albany to Buffalo would cost an average working man’s salary for a month.  Most of our ancestors walked across the state usually with an ox team pulling a sledge in the winter or a cart in better seasons.

There are always exceptions and some of you may have proof of ancestors transporting their homestead property by way of the canal, but they would be in the majority.  Many of these people only had a bowl and spoon and a few hand tools and a change of clothing.

It is said by historians that the Erie Canal was dug by New England farmers that worked for what was considered very high wages paid by the state and they primarily worked in the off farming season.  For those of you that have heard that “The Irish dug the Erie Canal” you would be referring to the 1850′s period of the canal widening, which of course attracted many of the recent famine immigrants to good jobs.

erie canal map

I want to call your attention to an excellent website that is all about the Erie Canalway and part of the  National Heritage Corridor of New York.

One excellent resource on this site is some very detailed maps that you may download for free, such as:

Erie Canalway Eastern Region – Albany up to Whitehall, NY and westward to Oneida Lake area.

Erie Canalway Central Region- Utica to Rochester

Erie Canalway Western Region – Jordan to Buffalo

Download these excellent maps at the official website of the Erie Canalway National Corridor website at:

You will find many items of interest on this website, things to do, get involved, plan your visit, and much more.

Wisconsin County Histories Now Online

A huge treasure trove of historical and biographical information is now online for those of you that have family that lived in Wisconsin.

Why would we care on an Upstate New York Genealogy Blog?  Simple, millions of people that lived in, and migrated out of New York state went on out to the upper mid-west.  Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, and Wisconsin and others as well.

You might have been searching for many years in New York for details, and you should, but actually your clues might be found in information that was published in later generations that had moved on out of NY.

So this information just came in on one of the rootsweb newsgroups (GENWISCONSIN) sent by Patricia Ricci about an hour ago and I jumped right in to see what it was about.  Wow!  The Wisconsin Historical Society has sponsored this project, major kudos to them, and it is a very easy website to navigate and the digitized scans are remarkably clear.

More than 80 standard county and local histories are all word searchable, or you may browse them page by page.  You will find obscure directories, almanacs, local histories and county histories.  Are these primary source documents?  Absolutely not.  Do they have immense value to genealogist, of course they do!  Where else would you find such clues to spark a major in-depth search for primary records unless you know where people were at any given time?

I have always been interested in the earlier settlers of Racine and Kenosha Wisconsin as that area was first populated by old time families from around Hannibal, Oswego County, NY.

Here is a section of data that I have in my computer database regarding a family of HULET/HULETT relatives:  “Many families from the town of Hannibal, New York and the immediate surrounding towns, were stockholders in “The Western Emigration Company” that originated in Hannibal and settled in Racine County, Wisconsin and the Kenosaha area.  I presume that Gardner HULETT either was a stockholder or went to Kenosha to join neighbors, friends, and possibly other relatives.  More can be found out about the Western Emigration Company on the Hannibal and Kenosha GenWeb sites on the Internet.”

So I went right to the search engine on the new WCH website, checked for Racine and found three publications:

Prairie Farmer’s Reliable Directory of Farmers and Breeders, Kenosha and Racine Counties, Wisconsin – 1919

Smith’s Business and Farmers’ Directory of Racine and Kenosha Counties for 1897-1898. Containing a List     Smith’s Business and Farmers’ Directory of Racine and Kenosha Counties for 1897-1898.

Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative Men of Racine and Kenosha Counties Wisconsin. – 1906

In this last one I discovered the parents and siblings of one of the HULETT wives that is sure to lead me to more clues as they were from New York state originally also.

Thank you Pat, and a big thank you to the Wisconsin Historical Society!

Here is the link to the Wisconsin County Histories

Dick Hillenbrand
Upstate New York Genealogy Blog

Families of Western Massachusetts in 1790 Migration Seminar

If your ancestors came to Upstate New York from Western Massachusetts, then the following press release should be of great importance.

The NEHGS is sponsoring a seminar on the migration period of 1790 for Western Massachusetts.


Families of Western Massachusetts in 1790
September 20, 2008
University of Massachusetts, Amherst—Amherst, MA 01003

The New England Historic Genealogical Society is pleased to offer a comprehensive one-day seminar at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, dedicated to helping you find your ancestors of Western Massachusetts.

Western Massachusetts was a crossroads of migration. In 1790 the population of Berkshire County was 30,291, and that of Hampshire County 59,681, making a total of just under 90,000 — slightly larger than Vermont’s 85,425, and slightly less than Maine’s 96,540. New Hampshire was significantly larger, with a population of 141,855.

Join Michael J. Leclerc and Christopher C. Child, editors of the upcoming NEHGS publication Western Massachusetts Families in 1790 for a day-long program examining the history of Western Massachusetts and hear how you can participate in this exciting new book series.

Registration fee: $75. For more information or to register, click here:

Visit our main website at

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