The development of the mammalian neocortex requires radial and tangential migration of cells. Radial migration of differentiated neurons from the ventricular zone (VZ) is well established. It is hypothesised that an earlier phase of tangential migration of mitotically active cells lays down a widespread periodically spaced set of progenitors that generate radial arrays of postmitotic neurons. We use a transgenic cell lineage marker to label and observe the behaviour of progenitors before and during the early stages of neurogenesis. Using optical projection tomography (OPT), we show that individual progenitor cells generate many radially arrayed columns of periodically spaced cells. Column positions indicate the paths taken by these progenitor cells as they migrate, often over long distances, through the proliferative zone. Clonally related cells can be distributed in both hemispheres, suggesting progenitor cells cross the midline in the anterior neural plate. We observe a dramatic and rapid decline in the number of labelled clones after E13.5, indicating that there is extensive cell death at this time.