Not too long ago, I read a Facebook status (and I’m sorry but I don’t remember who it was) that mentioned their ancestors had traveled less than 50 miles over several generations. The revelation prompted me to think about how many miles my ancestors traveled before landing at the place they called home until they died.
Instead of going back many, many generations, I will begin with my maternal 2nd great-grandparents.
Emanuel Bushong Stern b. 7 Oct 1834 in Montgomery county, Ohio. Nancy Caylor b. 10 May 1840 in Wayne county, Indiana. Emanuel had traveled approximately 105 miles from his birthplace in Ohio. Nancy had traveled about 68 miles from her birthplace. The family remained in Hamilton county. After my 2nd great-grandparents divorced, Emanuel traveled to Yale, Nebraska to visit one of their children and was found living there in the 1910 census. He traveled (probably by train) about 787 miles. Nancy died (21 Dec 1900) in the same county that she had lived with her husband. Emanuel was buried (after 10 Sep 1911) in Hamilton county so he (or his remains) had to travel back from 787 miles to Hamilton county, Indiana.
Israel Isaac Wilt b. 20 Jan 1823 in Rockingham county, Virginia was in Prairie township, Henry county, Indiana by the time of his marriage to Christena Nash on 2 Feb 1857. He had traveled about 503 miles traveling through Pennsylvania and Ohio. Christena was b. 1837 in (probably) Beaver county, Pennsylvania. She had traveled with her family 316 miles. They lived in Henry county the rest of their lives. Israel died 11 Sep 1919 and Chrstena died 18 Aug 1876.
The Stern’s daughter, Martha Jane Stern, b. 9 Feb 1872 in Clarksville, Hamilton county, Indiana married Joseph Napolean Wilt (b. 21 Jan 1868) on 10 Sep 1890 in the same county both were born. By the 1910 census, Martha and Joseph were divorced and she was remarried and living in Anderson, Madison county, Indiana – 29 miles away. By 1923, Martha and her second husband, William Frank Clawson, moved 2,257 miles away to Lane county, Oregon. Both of them died in Oregon and were buried in Leaburg. Joseph Wilt. By 9 Jan 1944, when Joseph died, he was living near Nabb, Indiana – about 102 miles from his birthplace.
My other sets of great-great-grandparents (ancestors of my grandfather) were James Wilson Johnson b. 16 Aug 1829 and Amanda Evaline Mullis b. 1833 and Franklin Blazer b. 2 Jun 1836 and Malissa Goul b. 17 Oct 1832.
James W. Johnson was born in Brown county, Ohio and by the 1850 census, he had moved to 137 miles away to Rush county, Indiana. Amanda was born in Wilkes county, North Carolina and had traveled with her parents and family to Rush county, Indiana – 519 miles. Amanda d. 21 Mar 1868 in Rush county. After her death, James moved around, reportedly through Howard county, Indiana and finally settling in Anderson, Indiana – a little over 40 miles away.
Franklin Blazer was probably born in Madison county, Indiana and stayed in that county until he passed away on 27 Aug 1873. Malissa was born in Union, Champaign county, Ohio and by the time she married Franklin before 1859, she was living in Pendleton, Madison county, Indiana – a little over 125 miles away.
The Johnson’s son, John Lafayette Johnson, and the Blazer’s daughter, Katie J. Blazer married on 4 Jul 1883. John was b. 2 Mar 1861 in Rush county, Indiana. Katie was b. 27 Sep 1864 in Stony Creek, Madison county, Indiana. By the time of their marriage, John was living close to her. They remained in Anderson, Indiana – 40 miles from John’s birth and 9 miles from Katie’s birth until 1930 when they moved to Greene county, Ohio to live with their son (my grandfather). That move took them 109 miles from their home. Following each of their deaths, they were buried back in Anderson, Indiana.
My grandparents, Glen Roy Johnson b. 21 Nov 1898 and Vesta Christena Wilt b. 7 May 1898, were both born in Indiana. He was born in Anderson, and she was born in Noblesville. When her mother and stepfather moved 29 miles away to Anderson, she was still young. After they were married on 24 Dec 1916, the couple moved 109 miles away to Fairfield, Ohio (the town merged with Osborn and became Fairborn many years later). As my grandfather was in the military, he was at Ft. Omaha in Nebraska; Kelly Field in San Antonio, France during WWI; Wiesbaden, Germany during the early 1950s; and by the time they returned to the states and my grandfather retired from the US Air Force, they lived on Devonshire in Dayton, Ohio. So even though they had traveled over 4200 miles and then some, they moved 18 miles away from Fairborn. When I was a baby and small child, they had moved to a home on Rahn Road in Kettering – 14 miles away. Before my grandmother died 19 Jan 1984 they had spent many years living 9 miles away at the Park Layne Apartments at 531 Belmonte Park in Dayton. After my grandmother’s death, my grandfather moved almost 13 miles away to the Trinity Home on Indian Ripple Road in Beavercreek, Ohio. He was there at the time of his death on 18 Jan 1985.
My mom, Mary Helen Johnson, was born in Anderson, Indiana and moved with her parents 109 miles away to Fairfield, Ohio when she was very young. She remained there until she married my dad in 1943. They moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin (close to 400 miles away) before moving to Great Falls, Montana – about 1300 miles away. My dad was in the military, and they moved to Japan and back twice – over 6500 miles from Columbus, Ohio. In fact my mom drove my brother and sister from Dayton to Washington to catch the ship for Japan the first time they moved to Japan – a trip of over 2300 miles – very lengthy for a young woman with two little kids in 1953. By the time they returned to the states for the final time, they moved to Panama City, Florida – about 780 miles from Dayton. In 1960, they moved back to Ohio and bought a house in Beavercreek. This was the same house my mom lived in until 1977 when she moved a little over 5 miles away to the town home she lived in for the remainder of her life. (My father is still living so I will not disclose all the places he has lived.)
Below is a list of how far my ancestors traveled in order from who lived (and/or) died at a location farthest from their birthplace to the shortest distance:
- Martha Jane Stern – 2246 miles
- Amanda Evaline Mullis - 519 miles
- Israel Isaac Wilt – 503 miles
- Christena Nash – 316 miles
- James Wilson Johnson – 190 miles
- Malissa Goul - 125 miles
- Glen Roy Johnson - 115 miles
- Mary Helen Johnson - 115 miles
- Vesta Christena Wilt - 113 miles
- Katie J Blazer - 113 miles
- Emanuel Bushong Stern – about 105 miles
- Joseph Napolean Wilt – 102 miles
- John Lafayette Johnson - 95 miles
- Nancy Caylor – 68 miles
- Franklin Blazer - less than 5 miles
According to Wikipedia, History of Indiana, the “state’s population grew to exceed one million” by the 1850s, and several of my ancestors had either made their way to Indiana or were born there. My Wilt/Nash great-great-grandparents likely traveled over the National Road in their westward migration from Virginia and Pennsylvania to Indiana. The Mullis family would have likely traveled by wagon through the wilderness to either the Cumberland Gap/Wilderness Road or to the National Road to get to Indiana.
There were probably several reasons for my ancestors to move north and west – better economy, more fertile farming land, more opportunities, and different political and social climates.
Though my maternal roots run deep in Indiana, I am partial to the state of my birth – Ohio. Even then, I didn’t stay there to live, work, marry and raise a family. I moved over 1000 miles away! Just as my ancestors left the places of their birth in search of something better, that is what I did. I moved (and stayed) due to job opportunities and warmer climate.
Have you tracked your ancestors?