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Expansion - Go West!

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Mae West 1930's Movie Star

Last week we talked about the US Census records available for free from NARA and Family Search. While I was writing that I found some great graphics showing the Western Expansion of the US, the formation of the states, and at least one curiosity. You just never know what you're going to find by accident when you are researching your family tree!

The first US Census was conducted in 1790, as we saw last week. I was looking at images of the census maps at and noticed that there was a section of the US at the bottom between Louisiana and Florida are and saw a rectangle marked as territory "claimed by the US and Spain." I had never noticed or heard of this before, have you?

1790 Map US Census

Of course, I googled it. Led me to a couple of articles about British claims, Spanish claims, the War of 1812, and the Seven Years War. Phew! In the end, the US negotiated with Spain and came to Pinckney's Treaty, also known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo or the Treaty of Madrid which was proclaimed in 1796.

The family that I just obtained the First Families of Texas Certificate for (see Blog of Aug. 11, 2022 "Gone To Texas") includes a lot of people with the first or middle name of Pinckey, which has always seemed an odd choice, and I learned that he was a veteran of the American Revolution, a governor of South Carolina, and a VP candidate. That tree's brick wall is in SC, so now I have another trail to track to find missing ancestors! Maybe they are related to the governor! Curiosity aroused!

Here's what that strip of land looks like in 1800, labeled as "MS territory." Click on the image and it will expand. Also note that Spain still claimed over 1/2 of the US! Spain maintained ownership of most of this land until 1800 when Napoleon desired to reclaim France's US territory.

1800 US census map no copyright infringement is intended

By 1803, Napoleon needed cash and he sold land acquired from Spain to the US for $15 million which works out to be $18 per square mile and nearly doubled the size of the US. This purchase was not uncontroversial on several levels, and if you are interested in all the different positions, you can check this Wiki entry about the deal at:

In 1845 the US entered the era of Manifest Destiny. This concept held that it was the divinely ordained right of the United States to expand its borders to the Pacific Ocean and beyond. With the Louisiana Purchase, expand we did, and there was no regard given to the indigenous people already living there.

"The Louisiana Purchase was negotiated between France and the United States, without consulting the various Indian tribes who lived on the land and who had not ceded the land to any colonial power. The four decades following the Louisiana Purchase was an era of court decisions removing many tribes from their lands east of the Mississippi for resettlement in the new territory, culminating in the Trail of Tears" (

miner from

Texas became annexed into the US in 1845, most of the rest of the West was US territory no later than 1853. Let's not forget the prime motivator for a lot of people to move from crowded cities in the eastern states was gold! Gold was discovered in California in 1849!

The Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a "nominal filing fee. Among its provisions was a five-year requirement of continuous residence before receiving the title to the land and the settlers had to be, or in the process of becoming, U.S. citizens. Through 1986, when the last claim was made in Alaska, the Homestead Act distributed 270 million acres of land in the United States making it arguably one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history." That is from our friends at the National Archives and you can read the whole article here.


When you are doing your research, always remember movement was almost always from EAST to WEST for families in the US during this time of expansion. If you think you have a match that was in Texas and is now back in South Carolina, you need to double and triple check. Was there an inheritance or a sick relative that caused them to move back? Where is the rest of their family? Check land records, probate records, and look for newspaper clippings. And then look again out west!

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and questions. I really enjoy our conversations and looking at your trees! If you are at your own brick wall, I'd be glad to do a free evaluation of what you've got going on.

See you next Thursday!

Leslie Ryan

I receive no compensation for any of these references or links, and there is no intention to violate anyone's copyright.

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