family history, History

Week 6: Maps


It’s week 6 of 52 for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge, and we are looking at maps.

It is impossible to know everything about our ancestors’ past–unless they kept a day-by-day diary or their entire life. I wish I had that for my great-great-grandparents’ journey from Prussia to their new home in Wisconsin. I’ve got the records of their trip from Bremen to New York. After that, I can only make an educated, fact-based guess of how they could have made the final leg of their long trip.

The Fredericks made landfall in New York City the day after a pivotal moment in United States history. On May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven into the Transcontinental Railroad and connected America coast to coast. Railroads even made special trains for immigrants to get them to their final destinations. It could be that my ancestors made their westward trip by train.

I have no ticket stub or other documentation, but I began researching railroads around the period they arrived to put together a possible overland route to Wisconsin. In the end, I took an old railroad map and traced out a possible route they took, and railways they could have traveled with.

New York City to Buffalo (Red)
Buffalo to Chicago (Blue)
Chicago to Watertown, WI (Green)

I just think about the things they must have seen as they traveled west going 20-25 miles per hour. They might have been packed into a railcar with other people with the same ambitions to start anew in America. Then I think about if they would have transferred trains in Chicago. They would have been there 2 years prior to the deadly fire that consumed the city. WOW!

This is all an educated assumption, of course. I know, I know…assumptions are a big “No-No” in genealogy. But it’s fun to think about. Part of our work as genealogists is to learn about our ancestors in their time and place in history. It’s a possibility that this was the land route they took to get to their new home in Wisconsin.

**Railways I Traced out**

Erie Railway
Lakeshore & Michigan Southern Railway
Chicago & North Western Railway

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