British Colonial America Migration Timeline 1607 to 1783 (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course United States Migration Patterns  by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Chronology - Colonial America, 1607-1783[edit | edit source]

English colonists land May 24 at Jamestown, Virginia, under the patent of the London Company.
The Dutch build a permanent trading post on lower Manhattan Island and a fort on the tip of the island for the protection of the lucrative Dutch fur trading activities with the Indians.
The Dutch continue their settlement activity along the Hudson River, moving Fort Nassau at Castle Island across to the west bank of the Hudson, locating the fort at present-day Albany.
At Jamestown, 20 blacks were landed to be sold as indentured servants.
The Mayflower anchors off Plymouth on December 21, and the colonists from England begin to disembark.
Settlements are established in New Hampshire and Maine.
Inland migration begins following a wave of immigration into the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The first five ships carry about 900 colonists and the company’s charter. Some 16,000 settlers arrive during the period 1630–1642.
Two ships arrive in Maryland with about 200 settlers, mostly Catholic.
Settlers from Massachusetts arrive in Connecticut.
Roger Williams settles at Providence, Rhode Island.
Settlers destroy an Indian village of 500 in the Connecticut River Valley, bringing to an end the Pequot War.
Anne Hutchinson and associates settle in Rhode Island, and Swedes settle in the Delaware Bay area.
1640 The Plymouth Colony has eight towns and 2,500 inhabitants. The Bay Colony has about 20,000 settlers.
New Amsterdam incorporates as a city with over 800 residents.
The Dutch surrender New Amsterdam to the British who rename it New York.
There are now about 75,000 English colonists in the New World and about 3,500 French settlers.
In response to King Charles’ wish that communication be established between his colonies, the first crude rid ing trail is created for mail service between Boston and New York. Named the Boston Post Road, it eventually expands into the King’s Highway.
King Philip’s War occurs in New England.
West New Jersey is settled by Quakers.
New Hampshire is set apart by Massachusetts as a colony.
King Charles II grants a large tract of land in North America to William Penn. At the King’s urging, Penn calls it Pennsylvania.
William Penn plans Philadelphia on a gridiron pattern later adopted by many American cities. The lots are large enough for an orchard and a garden. It is settled by English Quakers and others.
Large numbers of settlers begin to arrive in Pennsylvania, including a few Germans. In 1684, in response to Penn’s invitation, a group of Palatines arrive in Philadelphia to settle. They found Germantown, the start of the huge German immigration into America.

1689 1697

War with France is known in North America as King William’s War.
1700 The total population of the American colonies is estimated at about 275,000 persons. This population is distributed widely over the rural areas in isolated farm settlements. Boston, with about 7,000 inhabitants, is the largest city. New York City claims about 5,000.
In 1700, the French construct a fort at Mackinac in Michigan to secure the French hold on the Mississippi River Valley in order to protect their route from Canada to the Louisiana Territory. Then, in 1701, they build a fort at Detroit in the Michigan Territory.
War with France as part of the European War of the Spanish Succession is known in North America as Queen Anne’s War.
The Spanish settlement of St. Augustine is looted and burned by a force of Carolina colonists.
Settlers who were German Reformed in religion establish the first Palatine settlement in the German Valley area of New Jersey.
A Swiss settlement at New Bern, North Carolina, is quickly destroyed by Indians. Meanwhile, other Palatines and Germans settle in New York Colony.
The Carolina proprietors grant a tract of 13,500 acres to agents representing Swiss and German Palatinate emigrants.
Swiss Mennonites settle in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
The Piedmont back country is settled by Germans, Swiss, and Scots-Irish. This opens up the regions across the Allegheny Mountains back of the tidewater lands of the Atlantic coast, beyond Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
The first group of black slaves arrive in the French territory of Louisiana.
The French city of New Orleans is founded by Louisiana’s governor as part of an ambitious program of French expansion along the Mississippi River. New Orleans is settled by immigrants from Canada and France.
Colonists from Northern Ireland and Scotland settle in Londonderry, New Hampshire.
A group of about 260 German colonists arrives in the French colony of Louisiana in 1721. The next year, about 250 prospective German settlers disembark at the French territory on the Gulf Coast, at the site of Mobile, Alabama.
Palatines in New York Colony migrate overland to Berks County, Pennsylvania.
In 1723, the French erect a fort on the north bank of the Missouri River, continuing a program of intensive expansion in the Mississippi Valley Territory. The following year, they erect Fort Vincennes on the lower Wabash River to protect the route from Canada to the French settlements in the Mississippi River Valley and Louisiana.
The French colony of Louisiana exiles all Jewish settlers from the colony and establishes a code to regulate the activities of the blacks.
The first overland road begins as early as 1725 from Philadelphia to what becomes Lancaster and then on to Harrisburg. An improved road, the Great Conestoga Road, is commissioned to run between Philadelphia and Lancaster and is constructed between 1733 and 1741.
The population of black slaves in the American colonies is about 75,000.
The French erect a fort on the Mississippi at the mouth of the Illinois River, part of intensive expansion in the Mississippi River Valley. The early successes of the French in colonizing here eventually give way to competition with Carolina settlers and to repeated attacks.
German and Scots-Irish immigrants, discouraged by decreasing availability of land in the northern colonies, begin to pour into the Valley of Virginia from Maryland and Pennsylvania, by way of the Great Wagon Road through the Shenandoah Valley. The road had begun as a buffalo trail, was followed by Indians as the Great Warrior Path from New York to the Carolinas, and then at Salisbury, NC, it was joined by the Indians’ Great Training Path.
Carolina settlers use the Anglo-Spanish War as an excuse to attack Spanish settlements; the Spanish protest against an earlier series of forts constructed by Carolina colonists on the Altamaha, Santee, and Savannah Rivers.
The French build a chain of forts along the Ohio River in order to bar increasing westward expansion of the English.
Scots-Irish immigrants who had originally settled in western Pennsylvania begin to move through the Shenandoah Valley into Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.
Some 40 Jewish colonists enter the newly-formed Georgia Colony and settle in Savannah.
By this date, the Fall Line Road, breaking off from the King’s Highway at Fredericksburg, is carrying traffic into the interior of Virginia and the Carolinas and across into Augusta, Georgia. The “Fall Line” is a geographic feature caused by erosion, a separation line stretching from Maryland all the way to Georgia, running between the river tidelands and inland elevations on the Atlantic coast. Eventually, an adjoining road, the Richmond Road, runs from Richmond, Virginia southwest to Ft. Chissel; this provides access to the Wilderness Road into Kentucky or to the North through the Shenandoah Valley.
Scottish immigrants establish the settlement of New Inverness in the Colony of Georgia, near the mouth of the Altamaha River.
Virginia establishes new cities of Augusta and Frederick on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
War between Great Britain and Spain, commonly known as the War of Jenkin’s Ear, is known in North America as King George’s War.
Famine in Ireland gives added momentum to Irish immigration to America, mainly to the Shenandoah Valley area, but also to the colonies of Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
A Moravian settlement is founded at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on the Lehigh River by immigrants who left the Georgia Colony when their settlement there failed.
The Virginia-based Ohio Company is organized by Thomas Lee to open up the western territories to settlement.
Frontiersmen from the Virginia Colony found Draper’s Meadows, the first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Divide.
The English Privy Council grants 200,000 acres of land in the territory between the Ohio and the Great Kanawha Rivers and the Allegheney Mountains to the Ohio Company; it stipulates that this area must be settled and a fort erected. The Ohio Company also receives a royal charter from King George II for an additional grant of 500,000 acres along the upper Ohio River.
Over 4000 settlers have taken up land in the western counties of Virginia.
The Colony of Virginia grants 800,000 acres west of the Virginia-North Carolina border to the Loyal Company.
By this date, a continuous road exists (the King’s Highway) for stagecoach or wagon traffic from Boston to Charleston, linking all thirteen colonies. But with few bridges, and muddy roads in Spring, many parts of the road are impassable for weeks at a time.
The Upper Road beginning at Fredericksburg, Virginia and continuing through Virginia and into the Carolinas, has become an important wagon route for southbound migrations into North Carolina. Following the ancient Occaneechi Indian Path, it runs west of the Fall Line Road.
The interior of Connecticut and Massachusetts is so fully settled that expansion now turns to the North. This continues up to the time of the Revolutionary War with 94 new towns founded in Maine, 74 in Vermont, 100 in New Hampshire. With the best lands already taken in New York, that immigration now veers to Pennsylvania and to the southern colonies.
Thomas Walker passes through and names the Cumberland Gap on his way toward the Kentucky region.
A group of German Moravians buys 100,000 acres of North Carolina land near the Yadkin River. Marylanders and Pennsylvanians migrate into northwestern Carolina.
Scots-Irish immigrants settle along the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains; they erect posts along the rivers flowing into the Tennessee River.
A treaty between the Colony of Virginia and the Delaware and Iroquois Indians claims for Virginia the territory south of the Ohio River; they erect a fort in the territory.
Ohio Company representative Christopher Gist cuts a road through the wilderness to Red Stone Creek on the Monongahela River and encourages 11 other families to accompany him to establish a settlement along Red Stone Creek.
A group of Moravians from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, settles a large land tract in the western foothills of North Carolina.
Connecticut sends settlers into northeastern Pennsylvania, claiming it as part of Connecticut.
The Seven Years’ War is commonly known in America as the French and Indian War.
The French capture the forks of the Ohio River, ending the attempts of English settlers to colonize the Ohio Territory until the end of the French and Indian War.
Connecticut-based Susquehanna Company buys a large tract of land in the Wyoming Valley on the upper Susquehanna River from the Six Nations of the Iroquois League; this territory is also claimed by the heirs of William Penn.
Nova Scotia’s governor orders all those Acadians who refuse to swear allegiance to the English Crown to be expelled from the colony because he fears they will support the French. 6,000 Acadians begin to leave their homes and are eventually distributed among the 13 colonies to the south, some later returning.
Braddock’s Road is laid out as a military road toward Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) from Maryland’s deepwater ports. It follows that which George Washington had used by widening the old Nemacolin Trail. This road later becomes part of the National Road, one of the main migration routes to the West.
Settlement begins in eastern Tennessee.
The Forbes’ Road is laid out as a military road from Carlisle toward Pittsburgh. It later becomes one of the main migration routes to Ohio and the West.
The population of the 13 colonies is estimated at about 1,600,000.
In a secret treaty, French monarch Louis XV deeds to Spain all French territory west of the Mississippi River and the Isle of Orleans in Louisiana to compensate Spain for her losses at British hands.
Under the Treaty of Paris which concludes the colonial and European phases of the Seven Years War, France gives up Acadia (Nova Scotia), Cape Breton, the St. Lawrence River islands and Canada to the British. France also gives England her territory east of the Mississippi River except for the New Orleans vicinity.
The Mississippi Company, led by George Washington, requests a grant from the English crown of 2.5 million acres in the area of the fork of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This land is to go to Virginia militia members as bounty grants to repay them for service in the French and Indian War.
1764 1763
With the ending of Pontiac’s Rebellion of Indian tribes, land west of the Allegheny Mountains is open and safe for white settlement.
A British royal order proclaims a region west of the Connecticut River and north of the Massachusetts Colony (present-day Vermont) to be part of the territory of the New York Colony.
English Auditor General of North America Cholmondely declares that the royal Proclamation of 1763 does not revoke previous land grants in the western frontier territories. The opinion stimulates real estate speculators to press for the recognition of their claims.
Virginia’s boundary is moved west by the Treaty of Hard Labor between southern Indian commissioner John Stuart and the Cherokee Indians. This treaty confirms the grants of Cherokee land within North and South Carolina and Virginia to the English crown.
The Indiana Company buys 1,800,000 acres from the Iroquois Indians in territory southeast of the Ohio River. A treaty with the Iroquois grants to the English Crown a large tract of land, including much of western New York state and the area to the west between the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.
Following the negotiation of treaties with the Indians, the land office at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is overrun by hordes of persons wanting to purchase real estate in the western territories.
In the California Territory, Franciscan friar Father Junipero Sera founds the San Diego de Alcala mission, the first permanent Spanish settlement on America’s west coast.
The Grand Ohio Company is organized by Englishmen to procure a grant of 20 million acres from the English crown under provisions of theTreaty of Stanwix.
Four hundred families from New England migrate to Natchez, Mississippi.
The Mohawk Trail of New York, also known as the Iroquois Trail, extends from Albany to Lake Erie as a wagon trail.
The Regulators are defeated by Governor Tryon’s forces.
The first stagecoach in service makes the trip between Boston and New York City in just one week.
North Carolina Judge Richard Henderson and some of his friends found the Transylvania Company for the purposes of land speculation in the Kentucky region.
The Illinois and Wabash Land Companies are organized to purchase large tracts of western territory. Pennsylvanian James Harrod establishes Harrodsburg, the first permanent settlement in the Kentucky Territory.
Daniel Boone, employed by the Transylvania Company, blazes a trail to Kentucky and establishes the settlement and fort of Boonesborough on the Kentucky River. Even with improvements in 1781, the road remains a pack-horse trail.
The American Revolution takes place. Some historians call it the First War for Independence from Great Britain. The King’s Highway is a link between the colonies, helping them to coordinate their war efforts; the name is looked upon with disfavor by American patriots, many of whom prefer to use the name Boston Post Road again.
One of every six Americans is a black slave.
On California’s coast, Spanish missionaries establish the mission San Franciso de Asis, a settlement known popularly as Yerba Buena. In 1849, it becomes the city of San Francisco.
In January, settlers of the New Hampshire Grants declare their independence and establish a “republic” with the name of New Connecticut. This is the area which was formerly the part of New Hampshire Colony west of the Connecticut River, now claimed by New York. In July, New Connecticut renames itself Vermont.
Territory won from the British post at Kaskaskia by George Rogers Clark is annexed by Virginia, as the County of Illinois.
Congress issues a resolution encouraging states to cede their western territories to the Union to be settled and admitted to the Union as states in their own right.
Spanish Franciscan Fathers in southern California found a mission village, El Pueblo Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula—it becomes Los Angeles.
On November 30, American and British representatives sign a preliminary peace treaty. The British recognize American independence, specifying boundaries for the United States, continued American fishing rights off the coast of eastern Canada, validation of debts, the restoration of rights and property to American Loyalists, and withdrawal of British forces from America’s territory.
On April 26, about 7,000 Loyalists sail from New York, heading for Canada.
On September 3, in Paris, the Treaty of Paris is signed by Great Britain and the United States, ending the American Revolutionary War.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course United States: Migration Patterns offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

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