Historical American Migration & Settlement Patterns:
A Selected Bibliography
(Substantially expanded & updated, January 2005)
This is a highly selective reading list on only a few aspects of the frontier movement in America, as derived from bibliographies for classes I've taught and workshops for genealogists on this subject which I have moderated. It is not in any way intended to be an approach to the vast subject of the American frontier in general!
As an inveterate bibliographer, I have included many important newer works along with the 50-year-old classics. Billington and Turner are the jumping-off points for this entire field of study and are therefore more general sources, but all other items include significant material on the subject at hand — including land companies, the public land system, government and state bounties, and other motivations for uprooting and starting over.
A few items have been briefly annotated. It should also be noted that I have tried to provide the earliest publication date for the edition listed, but that many of the following titles have subsequently been reprinted.
NOTE — This list does not include the following topics:
General studies of emigration from the Old World to the New, general studies of the subject of "Manifest Destiny," studies of Lewis & Clark and all other civilian and military explorations which did not involve settlement, army forts and military establishments, technical works in the science of demography, studies of Alaska & Hawaii (qhich are atypical of experiences in the continental U.S.), travelers' reports and diaries, immigrants' guides, individual Overland Trail diaries (of which hundreds have been published), genealogical studies of specific families (with a few exceptions; generally, these works are very uneven, though many of them contain useful information on migration patterns), the building of the transcontinental railroad (though railroad-building in the West as an influence in migration is included), the Donner Party, forced Indian resettlement (the "Trail of Tears" — again, atypical), the cattle industry and cattle trails (with a very few exceptions), the Orphan Trains, 20th century migration (which is mostly rural-to-urban, urban-to-suburban, and post-WWII racial and ethnic migration), and seasonal migrant labor. And only a very few key titles are included on the early period of the "Great Migration" of Southern ex-slaves to the North.
I have omitted studies of the Canadian frontier movement because, although there were many practical similarities to the United States, there were also many differences — and the philosophical underpinnings were quite different.
With a very few exceptions, I have not included biographies, autobiographies, or personal accounts; my emphasis in this project has been on secondary works, not primary sources. I also have not included pamphlet-length publications, of which thousands have been published.
Finally, some of the resources listed may seem, at first glance, to have little to do with the topic. However, I actually have read through all recommended books and articles, and many of them include significant useful information that is not always obvious from their titles.
(including New York & Pennsylvania)
Middle Atlantic & Trans-Appalachian
(including Western Virginia, Kentucky, & Tennessee)