Before the internet age, how did our families learn about far-off places they might want to visit, vacation at or move to? Travel brochures did the trick.
How did our ancestors determine their emigrant destinations? Yes, they often followed others by word of mouth. Someone, though, had to be first.
What information enabled them to make a decision and be the trail blazer? Emigrant Guides!
I had never heard of an emigrant guide until I heard Peggy Clemens Lauritzen mention them in a webinar about migratory trails across the United States.
What did these emigrant guides look like and where can they be found today? Internet Archive to the rescue!
Most of the guides were actually books that included any and all kinds of information that a potential resident might want or need to know.
Harvey Philpot’s Guide Book to the Canadian Dominion was published in London, England in 1871.
What did it tell prospective citizens about life in Canada? Part 2 addressed details of daily life:
It covered everything from how to obtain land to the “occupations” a man would be expected to master in order to survive in the “bush.” It wasn’t a life choice for the faint of heart! The “gradual” advancement to prosperity was described, hand in hand with the early marriages of daughters, the tax rates and how to find land agents.
How much does it cost?
What to do upon arrival?
Exactly what does it say about girls’ early marriages?
This guide book to life in Canada is relatively modern in time.
There were guides printed much earlier, such as this one by J.H. Colton in 1846:
Here the “Western tourist” can find out everything they ever wanted to know about Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri with Wisconsin and Iowa thrown in for good measure.
The Table of Contents gives an overview of information that will be covered:
This guide, in spite of all the states it covers, is only 132 pages long.
Gallia County, Ohio, where some of my husband’s extended Bandy family lived, was sparsely settled but contained 400 square miles:
Even further back in time, we have John Knight’s 1818 book The Emigrant’s Best Instructor . . . Respecting the United States of America, published not long after the close of the War of 1812.
These guides are quite interesting to read, both because of the flowery, interesting language and because they tend to paint quite a clear picture of life in a new place.
Do emigrant guides exist for places in which your ancestors settled? Possibly. There are quite a few of them to be found on Internet Archive. Here are a sampling of links:
John Knight, 1818: The Emigrant’s Best Instructor or, the most recent and important information respecting the United States of America, selected from the works of the latest travellers in the country, particularly Brabury, Hulme, Brown, Birkbeck, etc. …the English laws o emigration …and every other information needful to the emigrant.
Savannah, Florida and Western Railway Company, 1879: Guide to southern Georgia and Florida, containing a brief description of points of interest to the tourist, invalid or emigrant, and how to reach them
Chicago and North Western Railway Company and W.H. Stennett, 1876: The North and West illustrated for tourist, business and pleasure travel: The popular resorts of California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, northern Michigan and Minnesota. A guide to the lakes and rivers, to the plains and mountains, to the resorts of birds, game animals and fishes; and hints for the commercial traveler, the theatre manage, the land hunter and the emigrant
J.H. Colton, 1846: The western tourist; or, Emigrant’s guide through the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, and the territories of Wisconsin and Iowa: being and accurate and concise description of each state, territory, and county
Robert Baird, 1834: View of the valley of the Mississippi, or, The emigrant’s and traveller’s guide to the West: containing a general description of that entire country: and also notices of the soil, productions, rivers, and other channels of intercourse and trade: and likewise of the cities and towns, progress of education, &c. of each state and territory
John Disturnell, 1850: The emigrant’s guide to New Mexico, California and Oregon: with a Map
Christopher W. Atkinson, 1842: The emigrant’s guide to New Brunswick, British North America
William Darby, 1818: The emigrant’s guide to the western and southwester states and territories: comprising a geographical and statistical description of the states; Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio; the territories of Alabama, Missouri, and Michigan; and the western parts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New-York; with a complete list of the road and river routes, west of the Allegheny Mountains, and the connecting roads from New-York,Philadelphia, and Washington City, to New_Orleans, St. Louis, and Pittsburg: The whole comprising a more comprehensive account of the soil, productions, climate, and present state of improvement of the regions described, than any work hitherto published; accompanies by a map of the United States, including Louisiana, projected and engrave expressly for this work
Catherine Parr Traill, 1855: The Canadian settler’s guide
Many more can be found online.