Floyd County Migration Study

In 2006, Floyd County celebrated its 175th year. Radford University English and Appalachian Studies teacher Ricky Cox, a Floyd County native from the Indian Valley district, gave an address, “Migration Patterns in Floyd County History,” at the Floyd County Courthouse during the County’s 175th anniversary celebration.
Data from the Floyd County survey show the most popular destinations of people leaving the county, The areas include: Montgomery, Pittsylvania, Prince Edward, and Roanoke counties and the city of Richmond.

To learn more about migration in and out of the County, both historical and contemporary, Ricky Cox partnered with Dr. Melinda Bollar Wagner’s Anthropology 411: Appalachian Cultures class to conduct surveys and interviews with residents. To enhance Cox’s research and to add to the literature about migration in the Appalachian region, data were acquired from four sources:

  1. Interviews with Floyd County residents
  2. U.S. Census Bureau
  3. A county-wide survey undertaken by Virginia Tech in 2004
  4. The Floyd County Register

At several locations and several time periods throughout the year-long celebration, including at a meeting of the Floyd County Historical Society, Ricky Cox set out a map and surveys so that residents could document migration into and out of Floyd County. This information was later compiled into a document summary, the Floyd County Register.

Melinda Wagner’s Fall 2006 Appalachian Cultures class conducted interviews with twelve Floyd County residents, some of whom were accompanied by younger relatives. The interviews captured memories about people who had migrated out of Floyd County for a time. Click on a linked name to see that interview record. Below is a list of all who were interviewed:
  • Ricky Cox
  • Mae and Carl Dobbins
  • Gertrude Cox Harris
  • Irene Harris
  • Gertha Gallimore Hollandsworth
  • Willadean Hodges Hylton
  • Versie Hollandsworth Phillips
  • Susan Wilson
Students in RU ANTH 411 Appalachian Cultures conducted the 2006 Migration Study interviews:

Brian Ayers, Jessica Baciu, Sarah Baldino, Caitlin Edmonson, Matthew Everhart, Brittony Fitzgerald, Rachel Fortune, Patricia Jacobs, Travis Moye, Brian Richotte, William White, Katie Williams

Click to view 2012 Migration Study Report: Center for Social & Cultural Research

During Spring 2007, Melinda Wagner’s Anthropology 493 Practicum in Anthropology class tabulated and performed a content analysis on the information from the Floyd County Register and interview transcriptions, seeking patterns and themes. As in other parts of Appalachia, the “pushes and pulls” of migration were mostly economic for out-migrants. Kinship networking facilitated migration. In-migrants wanted to come back to the land or retire in a beautiful quiet area. The students found that Ricky Cox’s hypothesis rang true: “People left Floyd County because the grass was figuratively greener, and people come to Floyd because the grass is literally greener,”

Slide from the Migration Study PowerPoint presentation

Jessica Baciu, Brittony Fitzgerald, Morgan Hawkins, Patricia Jacobs, and Kathy Murphy prepared a report for the interviewees, and made several presentations of their findings “Arrivals and Departures: In and Out Migration, Floyd County, Virginia”:

  • Appalachian Studies Conference, Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee — March 23-25, 2007
  • National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland — April 10-12, 2007
  • Jessie Peterman Library, Floyd — April 14, 2007
  • Radford University Undergraduate Forum — April 26, 2007
  • Appalachian Teachers Network Conference, Radford University — November 3, 2007

The Migration Study interviews and final report were shared with the Jessie Peterman Memorial Branch Library, Montgomery-Floyd Library, and the Floyd Story Center at the Old Church Gallery where the archive resides.