We genealogists spend a lot of time on who (names), what (births, marriages, and deaths), when (dates) and where (location). Our databases are full of who, what, when, and where. Those databases don't usually have a place for "Why?" I'm especially interested in migration and the geography of family history. I always wonder: why did they settle there?
- Why did Johan Månson settle in Iowa? (see November 2015 post)
- Why did Sipke Zorgdrager immigrate to Stephenson County, Illinois (see March 3, 2016 post)
- Why did James Fawkner take his young family to Fort Madison, Iowa? (see June 4, 2015 post)
Probably the two most obvious reasons for an ancestor settling there are livelihood opportunities or friends or relatives who preceded them. Chain migration is classic. One satisfied immigrant from a family, or even an entire village, often became a magnet for many more to follow. The result, especially in the western Midwest and Great Plains, is a map dotted with hundreds of urban neighborhoods and small towns with strong ethnic identities that persist a hundred or more years later.
I am still unsettled about just which case studies I will use in my lecture. Johan Månson, Sipke Zorgdrager, and James Fawkner are all candidates. But, I'm also thinking about why, only a week after his marriage in Bristol, England, John Tidball took his wife to a southern Minnesota farm in 1884. I'm also wondering why a Italian teenager landed in a small town on the North Shore of Lake Superior. And why, my young German great-grandfather went directly to southeast Iowa in 1866.