In an earlier column, “Rhode Islanders
on the Move” I wrote about the reasons Rhode Islanders left their native
state, but didn’t elaborate on where they went. Whether your great grandfather
listed RI as his birthplace in a census or you found a reference to an ancestor
moving west in a genealogy, you’ll want to learn how to discover more about
their migration. The term “gone west” meant different places to different
generations. For instance, if your ancestor migrated west in 1790 they probably
went as far as New York, but if they went west in 1900 you might find them on
the California coast or in Alaska. Stewart Holbrook’s The Yankee
Exodus: An Account of Migration from New England (Macmillan, 1950
out of print) provides an excellent overview of the settlement of this country.
He mentions many Rhode Island family names. It’s worth trying to find a copy of
this book through used book dealers or your public library.