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Unraveling the Dunbar Migration

Last month I received an offer from the National Genealogical Society for a discount on some books that are printed on demand. I decided to order a couple. Both are reference books that I am hoping will be useful, and both seem quite readable.

I began the first one this week. History for Genealogists: Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors by Judy Jacobson discusses how to see your ancestors in their historical context. It provides numerous timelines for many types of historical events from military campaigns to diseases. It also offers timelines for geographical regions including all the American states and the countries of the world.

As I research my Dunbar ancestors, I plan to apply the concept behind this book in my effort to understand this family. The Dunbars settled in then-Portage County, Ohio in 1831 after the salt-making industry on Cape Cod declined.

There were 12 children, but one died young. A few of the others remained in Summit County, Ohio as adults (Sophronia Tiffany, Rhoda Ann Burnham, Rebecca W. Dunbar, and Hannah Sessions). Several moved on. Did historical events play a part in any of their moves?

Perhaps a study of the greater historical context of the time will tell me what prompted the relocations of the other siblings:

  1. Daniel H. Dunbar. This man disappears from the Ohio records after 1843, and he may have died. Or did he move away?
  2. Benjamin S. Dunbar. This brother married and promptly settled in Noble County, IN with his wife’s family. The marriage did not last long. Benjamin returned to Ohio to live in his sister Rebecca’s household.
  3. Captain Moses Whitney Dunbar. He became a mariner based in Cleveland and married twice. He had no children, and both wives probably pre-deceased him. In later life he moved across the country to Yreka, CA—to search for gold?
  4. Susannah Dunbar Cutting. The Cuttings lived all over the place—Ohio (several counties), Michigan, Kansas, back to Ohio. Why did they move around so much?
  5. Olive Dunbar Riddle. This woman was my ancestor. She and John Riddle remained in Ohio long enough to have two children. Then they sold everything and moved to Michigan. I do not know why they left Ohio or why they chose Michigan for their new home.
  6. Lucy Dunbar Tiffany Monk. Lucy first married her sister Sophronia’s widower, George Tiffany. George and Sophronia had remained in Ohio during their marriage (1832-1849). When Sophronia died, George went to California for the gold rush. Upon his return to Ohio, he married Lucy in 1853. They eventually relocated to Waukegan, Illinois. Other Tiffanys lived in the same vicinity, but I do not know whether they were related to George. If they were, the family relationship might provide the reason for their move.
  7. Laura Dunbar. I have found no record of Laura after 1850. If she married, I do not know whether she remained in Ohio or went elsewhere. Or did she pass away after she was enumerated on the 1850 census?

Looking at the timelines for the 1840’s-1860’s might give me some clues for why so many of these siblings left their family home in Summit County, Ohio. I can understand why some went to California in search of gold, but why did the others choose Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, or Kansas?

As we study American migration, we need to look for both the push and the pull. Many Americans were pushing westward during this time. What pushed so many of the Dunbars from Ohio?

What pulled them to their new residences? Is it unusual that they scattered rather than going as a group?

Perhaps the study of historical timelines can provide some clues.




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