The Great Migration
Southwest Virginia's story is told not only by those who've stayed here for six and seven generations but also by those who've moved on, along historic roads south and west.
As they travel, settlers stop to plant a crop or have a baby, traveling along the road over a generation or two or three — far from the interstate speed of today. They leave behind gravestones with familiar names, and records of births and deaths and marriages in courthouses.
River crossings have a special history, and towns spring up, about 20 miles apart a day's ride by horseback along the Great Wagon Road, the Carolina Road, the Fincastle Turnpike, the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail — early roads that follow the arc of settlement from Pennsylvania through the Great Valley south and westward.
An estimated 300,000 people travel through the Cumberland Gap to find new land in Kentucky, the Middle West and beyond.
Many of them come from Germany and Northern Ireland, places were war is rife, and land is hard to come by. They build farms and homes, towns and taverns, forts and blockhouses — communities that reflect the cultural values they bring with them. Settlers come from coastal Virginia as well, some bringing slaves with them to till the soil on small farms.
Find echoes of settlement along these roads — homes, mills, barns, churches, schoolhouses — through country vistas and along the brick sidewalks of historic towns and cities.
Trace your roots here. As you travel these historic roads, retracing the footsteps of your ancestors, you may find kinfolk who bear your name and share your history.