Family migration patterns: Sheffey migration to Pennsylvania

The next series of posts will cover family migration patterns for the various families I’m researching.  Again, it’s a means of pulling information out of dry census returns as well as marriage and death records. It’s a way of telling a story from dates and facts.

So here we go…

While I haven’t figured out what may have prompted ancestral family groups to move from one state to another…I have noticed that they tended to follow in the footsteps of others who went before them. They moved to places where their kin had established themselves.

Augusta County, VA Sheffey family groups
Samuel Sheffey (1835-1895) and wife Hester (or Esther) Bates had 2 children leave their place of birth for Pennsylvania:

  • Samuel Luther Sheffey (1875-?) settled in Lower Tyrone Township, Fayette County, PA at some point between 1897 (when he married) and 1910 (Census). The 1920 census has his family living in Alleghany County, PA until the time of his death.
  • Fred Clinton Sheffey, Sr (1890 – ?). While I haven’t been successful in tracing Fred Sheffey through the census records, his death is recorded in Pittsburgh.

Charles Sheffey (1849-?) and wife Hester had 1 child leave their place of birth for Pennsylvania: John Sheffey (1879-?) moved his family to Lawrence County, Pennsylvania between 1910 and 1920.

Harvey Sheffey (1857-?) and wife Anna Summons had 1 child leave for Pennsylvania: Gladys Sheffey (1895-1915) who was resident in Philadelphia at the time of her death.

Newton Sheffey (1846-?) and wife Millie/Minnie had 1 child leave for Pennsylvania: Charles Sheffey (1871-?) moved his family to Alleghany County, Pennsylvania by the time of the 1910 Census.

Samuel Sheffey, Charles Sheffey, Newton Sheffey and Harvey Sheffey were brothers. This means the first generation of Sheffeys who migrated from Augusta County, VA to Pennsylvania were all first cousins.

Pulaski County, VA Sheffey family groups
Craig Sheffey (b.1847) and wife Emma Lawrence Zett had 2 children who left the county to live in Pennsylvania:

  • Henry “Harry” Sheffey (1890-1974) moved to Pennsylvania with his large family sometime between 1920 and 1930. They initially settled in Alleghany County (1930). He was resident in Pittsburgh at the time of his death. A number of his children resided in Pittsburgh.
  • John William Sheffey (1893-1969) was resident in Lebanon, PA at the time of his death. It’s unclear when he left Virginia for Pennsylvania.

While the exact relationship between these two family groups to one another is unknown at the moment, the Sheffey families of Augusta County and Pulaski County were related. What seems to be apparent is the Augusta County Sheffeys moved to Pennsylvania first and were followed by their Pulaski County cousins. This is based on dates of birth (the Augusta County cousins were much older) and indications in the census records.

The question remains why. Did the first Sheffey to make the move from VA to PA do so in search of work or because of work or just in search of a better life for his family? There doesn’t appear to have been a Sheffey who moved to Pennsylvania prior to 1910, so what made Pennsylvania the destination of choice for these branches of the family?

What’s interesting is the timing of the move. Something happened between 1910 and 1920 that prompted a significant migration of my African-American ancestors to leave the South. Whatever the reason, it was strong enough to break the bonds between my ancestors and their places of birth and break the bonds between the family branches that moved and those which stayed behind. This is a theme I’ll be picking up in future posts.

All that’s known for certain is that in 1900 all of these Sheffeys were still resident in their native Virginian counties of birth. By 1920, they had moved to Pennsylvania.

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