Abstract : Spatial and relational patterns of intensive rural-urban migration are a major concern in social sciences. We reconstitute migration areas and explain their path-dependent changes through an innovative and easily replicable research strategy. Focusing on the rapid urbanization of 19th-century Northern France, we analyze the long-neglected, yet non-random patterns of movement between villages and explain the exceptionally slow pace of French rural out-migration. The techniques inspired by network analysis complement standard models used in economic geography and allow us to identify the enduring channels of preferential migration between villages as well as the impact of changing socio-economic opportunities. The social differentiation among the possibilities to migrate, along with the interactions between marriage and work-related movements, produce multivariate models of migration field transformations.