Perhaps no other geographic feature impacted early settlement of Kentucky more than the Appalachian Mountains. Whether the mountains were home to the backcountry settlements from which they began their migration, or the barrier over which they had to cross, all paths into early Kentucky for my ancestors and most migrants passed over the mountains.
The Appalachians were formidable obstacles and to pass over them involved a commitment to a changed life. How must it have been to bid farewell forever to family and friends and head across mountains and rivers to new lives on the American frontier? My earliest identified ancestors came to the shore of Virginia three hundred years ago, and their descendants’ willingness to confront new challenges, face uncertainty, and leave behind their families led them from the seashore to the foothills and across the mountains.
My people made their way to Kentucky from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Some arrived in the 1780’s and the others followed over the next few decades. Almost certainly they migrated there through the Cumberland Gap or down the Ohio River, which flows out of the valleys within the mountain range.
I have followed their migratory paths along the waterways and over the mountains which they traveled, and have felt connected to them and their journeys. The scenic beauty of this American land captures my spirit and imagination, and always makes me think of my ancestors taking in the splendor of the mountain vistas, the hardwood forests filled with chestnut and oak trees, and the woods populated with elk and mountain streams filled with abundant fish.
Perhaps the sensory rewards of the journey helped them cope with substantial hardship and struggles when they ascended and climbed over the mountains.
Once in Kentucky, my ancestors made homes for themselves in the Appalachian foothills, where they settled on the hillsides, in the hollows and along the tributaries that emptied into the rivers that flowed out of eastern Kentucky. They were forever connected to those mountains and passed on to me respect and appreciation for the tremendous environmental treasure that they are still today.
The mission of Fincastle Ancestry Research is to make Kentucky accessible to family historians who are climbing the tall mountains of genealogical research.