How Did They Know Where to Go?

Our ancestors for the most part were people who loaded up what few belongings they possessed and moved to new homes thousands of miles from their points of origin. Have you ever wondered how they decided where to go to start their new lives?

If they were lucky, relatives or close friends were already in the New World, and were writing them letters urging them to come on over to the Land of Milk and Honey. If they were not so lucky, they may have accepted a “free ride” to the New World (in exchange for one to seven glorious years of indentured servitude).

Texas Almanac for 1870 ( photo)
Texas Almanac for 1870 ( photo)

Another way to find out where to go involved reading an emigrant guide. The first emigrant guides appeared in the early nineteenth century, although they achieved their height of popularity circa 1840. Emigrant guides detailed numerous aspects of the emigrant experience, from initial decisions about transportation alternatives and destinations down to directions on what types of crops to plant once settled in their new homes.

An emigrant guide available in Ancestry Library Edition (Ancestry LE) is U.K., Emigration Atlas, 1852. This brief guide catered to Brits seeking to emigrate from Great Britain. In addition to maps of Canada, the United States, Mexico, South America, South Africa, Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, there are short descriptions of each place, cost of passage to various ports, journeys in miles traveled and time required, types of workers needed, typical wages, cost of living, climate, and other particulars for each destination.

You may use Ancestry Library Edition at Central Library or any of our branches.

Here’s a list of SLPL reference databases.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of St. Louis Public Library