The motivations our ancestors had for emigrating are almost as varied as the emigrants themselves. As were the reasons for the destinations they chose to immigrate to. However, whether the migration was one of their own choosing or one that was forced upon them, except for the details, the reasons for their choices can be generally categorized as economic, religious, political... or some combination of these three (religious and political were often one and the same) and sometimes all three. Of course, these were always combined with a certain sense of adventure..

Our immigrant ancestors arrived on the North American Continent over a period of about 350 years. They came mostly from the British Isles, but from various parts of northern Western Europe as well. In the beginning, in the early 1600s, they came individually or in small groups primarily from England and Holland; around 1630 they began arriving in larger numbers as part of The Great Migration when their preferred ways of life in England were disrupted... when

"Every corner of the nation was subjected to a constant and minute inspection. Every little congregation of separatists was tracked out and broken up. Even the devotions of private families could not escape the vigilance of spies. And the tribunals afforded no protection to the subjects against the civil and ecclesiastical tyranny of that period."

"This was the conjuncture at which the liberties of England were in the greatest peril. The opponents of the government began to despair of the destiny of their country; and many looked to the American wilderness as the only asylum in which they could enjoy civil and spiritual freedom. There a few resolute Puritans, who, in the cause of their religion, feared neither the rage of the ocean nor the hardships of uncivilized life; neither the fangs of savage beasts nor the tomahawks of more savage men, - built, amidst the primeval forest, villages which are now great and opulent cities, but which have, through every change, retained some trace of the character derived from their founders. The government regarded these infant colonies with aversion, and attempted violently to stop the stream of emigration, but could not prevent the population of New England from being largely recruited by stout-hearted and God-fearing men from every part of old England. "  -  Macaulay, Thomas Babington, The History of England, from the Accession of James II, vol. I, ed. Widger, David, 1932 (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, & Green, 1864), 1-33, 34.

    • First Comers – Dutch - economic/religious - 1614/15/24; Pilgrims/Mayflower - religious/political  - 1620
    • The Great Migration – religious/economic (somewhat equally) - Winthrop Fleet - 1630
    • Civil War In England - political-religious/economic - Anti-Royalists, non-conformists, wrong place at the wrong time – 1620 - 1650
    • Revolution – political/economic - American Colonies to British Colonies (Canada) – Loyalists – 1776
    • Famine – economic/political/religious - Ireland, Germany - Great Potato Famine – 1850 - 1860
    • National Unrest – political/economic/religious - German States 1840 - 1880
    • Economic Opportunity - economic - Canada to U.S. - 1900s