Drive-by Genealogy

The Great Wall

The “Great Wall” of Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania, photo by Joe Calzarette.

I recently returned from almost two months on the road. One of the highlights of the trip was the drive from Lake Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania (You can see the lake in the photo of my Dad and me on the right side of my banner.) to Birmingham, Alabama, for Samford University’s Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research.
For the first part of the trip, we drove down U.S.22/I-78 along the eastern front of the Appalachian Mountains. In that part of Pennsylvania, it’s called the Blue Mountain. This mountain stretches from just west of the Delaware Water Gap nearly to Maryland, cutting a diagonal line across the state from north of Allentown to west of Carlisle. The Appalachian Trail follows the ridgeline of this mountain from Swatara Creek, northwest of Lebanon, to Wind Gap north of Easton.[1. Pennsylvania Atlas and Gazetteer, 8th edition (Yarmouth, Maine: DeLorme, 2003), 65-68, 77-79, 90.] For most of its 150-mile length, the ridgecrest reaches an elevation between 1,400 and 1,700 feet. The mountain’s width varies from one to three miles.[2. “Blue Mountain (Pennsylvania),” Wikipedia ( : accessed 30 June 2012).]
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Blue Mountain presented a formidable physical barrier to the spread of settlement. Although the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill, and Susquehanna Rivers pass through the mountain, the tide of settlement mostly lapped at the foot of this mountain and ran either northeast or southwest until the late eighteenth century.
Driving along the mountain’s front, it’s easy to see why.

And this kind of visual evidence is why visiting your ancestors’ homelands contributes so much to your understanding of their lives.