The United States of America
U.S. boundary comparison map
Where was your ancestor born?
The Declaration of Independance of 1776 would have been decided by the those in the colonies, as shown on the map below. Note that Virginia covered much of the area, with six states not being included in 1781. These states are shown in black in the map below & included, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Deleware, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maryland.
In doing genealogy or family research, one should keep these facts in mind. Compare the map below to one of The present day USA. In 1781, VA extended as far north as the Canadian border. It's western most boundary was the Mississippi River, (continued below)
Let's take a look and compare the inception of each state shown above into the Union of the Confederation of the USA:
1. Florida - Territory 1822 - State 1845 (27th). Looking at the above map, Florida belonged to Spain. This was Spain's second time in having control of Florida. Spain landed in Florida on Easter Sunday 1513. They called the land Florida from the Spanish name for Easter (Pasuca Florida). Attempts to locate Spanish settlers in the new region a few years later failed , as the colonies had been routed by Indians (Native Americans). The French Huguenots attempted to establish colonies in Florida from about 1564 until the end of the Seven Years War (1763), at which time all the land possessed in North America by France were ceded to Britain. In the same treaty, Spain traded Florida to Britain or Havana (Florida is found on maps in Spain as early as 1513).
Twenty years later, the Florida sections were returned to Spain in a treaty ending the Revolutionary War in 1783.
2. Georgia - State 1788 (4th) - Note that Georgia, as with all the states extended westard to the Mississipi River. England and the Spanish played around with the dominance of Georgia as the prize from about 1540 until early 1700. South Carolina became a royal province in 1732, and the land between the Savannah and the St. Mary's rivers was kept aside for a new British colony.
In 1733, a man named James Oglethorpe, who had come up with an idea that would have 20 men beside himself come to America instead of being put in prision in England. There were 35 families sent to Americas, and granted land in a track of land south of Savannah. These familes formed a community at the mouth of the Savannah, which Oglethorpe named after the river. From 1738-39, many nationalities came to the area & formed communities. In 1741, Georgia was divided into two counties- north of the Atlamaha was called Savannah, and south of that river Frederica.
There were many disputes about Georgia's lands, one of which was the selling by America of Georgian land to speculators. Another was the fact that much of what was left was Indian reservation.
3. North Carolina - State 1789 (12th) - The first NC settlement was in 1653 when groups of settlers came south from VA to occupy the section north of the Albermarle Sound. The main influx of settlers from after 1711 were Scottish Highlanders. So much so, that the population rose from 14,000 to over 20,000 in a few short years.
4. South Carolina - State 1788 (8th) - The first successful settlers (there were unsuccessful atempts between 1526-1664) in SC arrived to form a colony on the Ashley River in the southeastern part of the state in 1671. The capital was moved in 1790 from Charleston to Columbia.
5. Virginia - State 1788 (10th) - As most Americans today know, the colonization of the American continent in what we consider modern times began with the arrival of three boatloads of English immigrants in May of 1607. This immigration took place on the northeast shore of the James River in VA, where present day Jamestown is located.
VA registered the highest population in the first three federal census for the USA (1790, 1800 & 1810). This, I believe, may have been partially due to the large area VA claimed during this early time.
Maine, Massachusetts and other colonies all had different boundaries than they do today. I will not go into these as extensively as the preceeding states. Nor am I going to mention the states that now exist in the stead of the large areas that once were claimed by some of the original 13 colonies. By looking at the map above, one can see that many of the eastern states as we know them today, lay within the boundaries of the original colonies.
When looking for ones early ancestor's, we need to keep these boundaries in mind. There are many sources for determining where your ancestor's lived during different eras, and elsewhere I have included links to these sources.
I hope these old maps will help open some doors, and perhaps knock down a brick wall or two. It is not my intention to give one the feeling of not ever being able to locate ancestor's.. they are there, if you know where to look, and don't limit your research based on present day state boundaries.