This article highlights the usefulness of family trees for visualizing and understanding changing patterns of kin dispersion over time. Such spatial patterns are important in gauging how families influence outcomes such as health and social mobility. The article describes how rapidly growing families, originally from England, dispersed over the US North and established hubs where they originally settled that lasted hundreds of years, even as they repeated the process moving West. Fathers lived much closer to their adult sons in 1850 than they do today and many more had an adult son within a radius of 30 miles. Big Data from genealogical websites is now available to map large numbers of families. Comparing one such data set with the US Census of 1880 shows that the native-born population is well represented, but there are not as many foreign born or African Americans in these data sets. Pedigrees become less and less representative the further back in time they go because they only include lines that have survived into the present. Despite these and other limitations, Big Data make it possible to study family spatial dispersion going back many generations and to map past spatial connections in a wider variety of historical contexts and at a scale never before possible.


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pp. 1-29
Launched on MUSE
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