Well, yes and no.
Our pioneer ancestors did sometimes have the wanderlust! It appears that when the family packed up and moved, it was usually the husband’s decision. What would uproot them? Oh, many things. Many times it was the lure of new lands being opened up for settlement. Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Texas drained Kentucky of many of his finest. Land was usually offered cheaply and glowing reports were often brought back by one of their neighbors who had gone there to “spy out the land.” With reports of rich soil, low prices and the new area being a virtual Garden of Eden, many men started to dream of starting all over. Perhaps the land on which they lived was not as fertile as it used to be, or too rocky, or they just weren’t getting ahead like they’d planned. Sometimes an entire church would pull up stakes and move together in order to start a church in the new territory. Sometimes it was the lure of gold discoveries even! Look at the census records for other counties or states and find your ancestor. Then look at the names around them showing Kentucky as the birth state. You might find kin and almost kin, neighbors or fellow church members all settled in the same general locations.
Many people however put down Kentucky roots and never budged. We can read biographies where John Smith (fictitious) died in the same home he was born in 80 years prior and where his parents were born or lived. Nothing was going to budge them from their home place!
Well, why does it appear many times that those family members of the past were loading up the wagons and grabbing all the ‘chillen (ok, children!) every few years and hiking it out to someplace new? Did they really move that often?
They might have. Men seemed to like a change of scenery. If you look at the deed books for your county of interest, you will see that many times John Smith sold his land and bought another 100 acres someplace else in the same county. I feel sorry for the women folk when this happened. The man just thought he was getting a bargain or better land.
But, sometimes, yes sometimes, they didn’t move at all. Things moved around them! As an example with our Gorin clan based in the western part of south central Kentucky, seemed to move at strange times. Being a novice genealogist at the time, I figured they had physically moved. It was not until later that I realized no … the county boundaries had changed and they sat still while the county came to them. Were your ancestors living in one county in 1859 in Barren County but in 1860 had “moved” to Metcalfe County? Likely they were just in that part of Barren County that became Metcalfe County in 1860. If in doubt, check the new county’s formation date; did it just “happen” to coincide with a supposed move of your ancestors?
Or – what happened if the community changed its name? Ah yes, this happened frequently! As another local example, I find a Proctor family listed in some documents as being in Three Forks, KY. Then I find them in Glasgow Junction. Then I find them in Park City. What’s going on? The town changed its name! When post offices were established in various communities and a post master was appointed, it was usually the post master who named the post office. Not having big egos or anything, many named the post office for themselves or a family member or some other strange reason. Sometimes there were already other post offices in the state with the same name and someone had to budge. (Although to this day there are duplicates in town names, but now we have zip codes). So Three Forks, Glasgow Junction and Park City are the same town – in fact, it had even an earlier name.
Or did the town disappear entirely? This might cause a local move too. When Barren River Lake was formed (and others in the state), land was flooded for the lake and the people had to move. Entire towns disappeared off the map. When Mammoth Cave became a national park, everyone who called that area home had to move.
So, before you have your ancestors hop, skipping and jumping all over the place, do a little research. It could be that they did move. Or again, maybe they didn’t.