Migration Trail History 18th & 19th Centuries

Genealogy research contains within itself a mixture of time travel, dusty objects and faded lines on paper. Nothing is more difficult in genealogy than tracing the pioneers when they migrated to a new territory, a new state, or a new country. It would be a priceless treasure to find an ancestor’s diary of the trip. Detailing each day’s events, Example: “April 14th, 1792-Rain this morning, leaking into the wagon because of the winds. We have not met one person since we crossed into Indiana Territory. Even the animal creatures have disappeared.” Transcribed from an early diary of an unknown individual. Just a few words from our ancestors to confirm they were on this trail, on this date, traveling in this direction. Researching how your ancestor traveled and why; requires a much different approach. The research can be difficult, but the rewards make the effort all worthwhile.


This page will allow you to learn and research the settlers who traveled across this great country in covered wagons, on horseback and on foot. The dusty trails will reveal their adventures along the way. The page will be updated as time permits and Piedmont Trails wishes everyone great success with your research.

Albany Post Road

Map of Albany Post Road and Boston Post Road

This route followed the Wickquasgeck Trail through present day Manhattan, New York. In 1669, the route was proposed into a functioning postal route. This route was approved and served as a link between New York and Albany. US Highway 9 follows the original route. To learn more about the oldest road in the United States, visit the Old Road Society located in Philipstown, New York.

Albany Post Road Mile Marker located at present day Broadway.

Bozeman Trail

Map of Bozeman Trail

This route connected Montana to Oregon and originated during the year of 1863. The above map shows the initial route of this trail. To learn more, visit the Bozeman Trail Association and the Bozeman Trail Museum located in Wyoming.

Braddock’s Road

Braddock’s Road during 1755 (Courtesy of Gutenberg Project)
Braddock’s Road many years later into the early 20th century(Courtesy of the Gutenberg Project)

History of the Braddock Road by John Kennedy Lacock

California Road

This road hold origins dating early 1811 by mountain men who traveled and hunted the area for many years. Some of these early travelers were Kit Carson, Jebediah Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Joseph Walker and Peter Ogden. The initial trail began in present day Missouri and traveled west to northern California. The beginning half of the route follows the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail. The second half splits from these trails in present day Idaho and continues west to California. This road was very active with pioneers during the early 1840’s and covered approx. 3,000 miles.

Map of California Road 1849

Carolina Road

The Carolina Road is another name for The Great Wagon Road. Many pioneers would reference this trail as the Carolina Road during the mid 18th century. Scroll down to the Great Wagon Road section for more details and maps.

Catawba Trail

The Catawba Trail was a route beginning at The Great Wagon Road in present day Forsyth County, NC and extending westward towards the Appalachian Mountains. This trail basically begins along NC Highway 421 of today and originally ended in the Ohio Valley. This trail was the beginning of The Wilderness Trail. After the American Revolutionary War, many pioneers traveled this route to western lands that were not available for settlement prior to the war. To learn more about this historic trail, visit the Catawba Nation Greenway.

Cherokee Trail

This trail was also called the Trapper’s Trail. It crossed the overland covering several states, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas and Colorado. The trail was used by early trappers who followed the trail through the Continental Divide wilderness and the Cherokee Indians used this trail when migration was forced upon them to travel west.

Fall Line Road

The Fall Line Road separates from the King’s Highway at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Modern day maps pinpoint the main route as Highway 1. Ancestors who traveled southward prior to 1750 would have most likely used this route. This particular route provided a much easier trail that allowed wagons to pass through versus The Great Wagon Road and The Upper Road. The road ended in Augusta, Georgia and spanned a period of growth between 1735 through 1760. The route arrived in present day Raleigh by the mid 1740’s and reached Cheraw, South Carolina by early 1750’s. IT further extended into Georgia just prior to 1761.

Farm Highway

The Farm Highway is also known as old Route 108. This highway traveled from Boston Post Road into Connecticut near Sheldon. The road was actually built on the south side of Mischa Hill on December 7, 1696. It is considered to be one of the oldest highways in Connecticut. The road is approx. 12 miles in length.

Federal Road

Federal Horse Path

Forbes Road

Gaines Trace

Georgia Road

Courtesy of Glendale Homepage

The Georgia Road existed during the onset of the American Revolutionary War and began as an Indian trail. It can be located along present day South Carolina Highway 417 and links to other routes such as Blackstock Road and the Green River Road.

Great Wagon Road

Map of The Great Wagon Road

Origins of the trail can be found in paper documents located in Pennsylvania as early as 1721. The trail was once proclaimed as the Warriors Path, an Indian trail used for hunting buffalo and other wild game. As the years rolled by, thousands upon thousands of early settlers used this route to migrate south for better opportunities and land quality. The road was also known as the Philadelphia Road, Carolina Road and simply Wagon Road. Overtime, the road became wider to allow more and more wagons and herds of cattle, sheep, etc. The great migration also enticed new development along the route, new communities were established. Portions of the road can still be seen as deep depressions within the landscape. Piedmont Trails has published several articles pertaining to the history and genealogy of the Great Wagon Road. Listed below are a few of the links that can be located within the website. You may also use the search tool which can be found on the Piedmont Trails website. to locate even more details about this historic road. Piedmont Trails is currently working on a project to proclaim this early road as a national historic trail. If you would like to learn more about this, click on The Great Wagon Road Project.

The Great Wagon Road

From Pennsylvania to New Lands

The Great Wagon Road in North Carolina

The Great Wagon Road Enters Into South Carolina

Grierson Trail

Jackson’s Military Road

King’s Highway

The King’s Highway began as a riding trail for mail service between Boston and New York. The road was originally known as the Boston Post Road and travels the same route of the present day Massachusetts Turnpike. By 1750, the connection of several post roads in this area joined together and formed the King’s Highway from Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina. By the time of the American Revolutionary War, the highway reached Maine and southward to Georgia. For more information about the King’s Highway, read the latest article by Piedmont Trails, First Major Highway of the Colonies-The King’s Highway.

Lancaster Road

This road originated as early as 1725 and follows the old Philadelphia Pike or US Highway 30 and PA Highway 340 from Philadelphia to Lancaster. Lancaster was formed in 1727 as a result of this road. The earliest western migrations out of Philadelphia had little to no access to the Susquehanna River without first traveling to the mouth of the river located in Maryland.

Mormon Trail

Natchez Trace

National Road

History of the National Road

Ohio Nation Road History

New River Trail

Old Buffalo Trail

The Old Buffalo Trail traveled east to west across present day North Carolina. This hunting path originated from the Occaneechi Trail that began in the sandhills of North Carolina and traveled to the western mountains and onward to the Great Lakes of present day Michigan. During the mid to late 18th century, this path greatly impacted the origins of the Wilderness Trail and the Cumberland Gap. The proximity of the trail along present day highways would be NC Highway 421 in North Carolina.

Oregon Trail

Overland Route

The Overland Route embarked from the Missouri River to California. It became a famous trail during the years prior to the Civil War and shortly afterward. Many proclaimed it as The National Wagon Road due to it’s distance and final location in California.

Pioneer’s Road

Salt Lake Trail

Santa Fe Trail

The Beale Road was also part of the Santa Fe Trail and it traveled near present day Route 66 through Kaibab National Forest to California. To learn more about this route, click here.

Shawnee Trail

History of the Shawnee Trail

Old Preston Road of The Shawnee Trail

Southwest Trail

The Upper Road

Thigpen’s Trace

Trader’s Path

Trail Of Tears

Trail Of Tears National Park Service

Wilderness Trail

Wilderness Trail courtesy of Western Kentucky University
Wilderness Trail Courtesy of the Western Kentucky University

The history of the Wilderness Trail is fascinating with it’s detailed stories, the adventurous settlers biographies and the actual setting of the landscape. All of this combined allows us to have a better understanding of why this trail was so popular during the late 18th century. Portions of the trail were discovered by Abraham Wood during the 17th century. The trail links to the Great Wagon Road in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Wood traveled the traveled the area as early as 1650. He documented this experience with vivid details. This trail ended at the capital of the Cherokee Nation, Chota.

The road became very active due to Daniel Boone’s expedition through Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky during the later years of the 18th century. At times, this trail was no more than a narrow path through the wilderness. Many early settlers would carry all of their items because the trail was not wide enough for the passage of wagons. US Highway 25 and State Highway 150 closely follows the original route of this trail.

Portions of the Wilderness Road

Harrodsburg Settlement

The Wilderness Trail in Jefferson County

History of Martin’s Station

Zane’s Trace

Additional Resources for Early Roads & Trails

1777 Early Roads of New Jersey

1796 Map Of United States Showing Post Roads

1812 Map of Ohio Showing Early Trails & Streams

Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum

Connecticut Indian Trails of 1625

Early Roads of Maryland

Early Roads of Stephenson County, Illinois

Early Roads of Texas

Early Roads Of Virginia

Early Roads of West Virginia

Historic Highways of America Volume I

Historic Highways of America Volume VII

Historic Indian Paths of Pennsylvania by Paul A.W. Wallace

History of Transportation in The United States Before 1860

Map of Early Trails in Tennessee

Ohio Indian Trails by Frank Wilcox

Southern Colonial Trails of Florida

The Bay Path and Along The Way-Early trails of Massachusetts

Travels in the American Colonies