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Origins of American Colonist Taylors

The goal of this page is to help you find the origins of your earliest Taylor ancestors. It explores where in the British Isles your Taylor colonial ancestors may have come from.

We know that the Taylor surname and its variants is largely a product of the British Isles -- England, Scotland and Ireland. (Wales is intentionally left off the list, because the name is historically uncommon there.) But England, especially, is a composite of ethnicities -- Celtic, Saxon and Norse to name a few.

This page is inspired by a blog by ___ Jayman.

The focus here is on colonial emigration from the British Isles to America. Apologetically, we do not focus on emigration from other areas (such as Germany or Africa) nor on later waves of immigration.

"Seed Colonies"

Beginning in the late 16th century (the "lost colony" of Roanoke) Great Britain began to establish its presence in North America through colonies along the eastern seaboard. Each colony was established through a Royal charter (from the King) and was settled according to the plans of its grantees.

The thirteen colonies, in the order of their establishments as British colonies:

  1. 1607: Virginia -- Jamestown, VA, founded by the London Company with a profit motive was the first successful British settlement in North America. Virginia was named for Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen of England, and became a Royal colony (under supervision by the King via his appointed governor) in 1624 when the company went bankrupt.
  2. 1620: Massachusetts (Plymouth 1620  & Massachusetts Bay 1624) colonies; founded by separate groups for both religious and profit motives. The two colonies were merged into the Province of Massachusetts and became a Royal colony in 1691.
  3. 1623: New Hampshire; founded as a fisherman's camp by John Wheelwright at Portsmouth, NH, named for the port city in Hampshire, England. It became a Royal colony in 1679.
  4. 1634: Maryland colony; founded by the Calvert family (the Lords Baltimore), primarily for religious reasons. (The Calverts had converted to Catholicism and desired a place where their religion would be tolerated.) It was named for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I. Until the Revolutionary War, tens of thousands of English convicts were sent to Maryland. Despite tribulations, it never became a Royal colony.
  5. 1635: Connecticut, founded by Thomas Hooker as a haven for Puritan gentlemen. It did not become a Royal colony.
  6. 1636: Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams, after banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views; it was the first colony to specifically separate church and state. It did not become a Royal colony.  
  7. 1638: Delaware has a complex history; it is considered to have been founded by Peter Minuit and the New Sweden Company, although a Dutch settlement had been established in 1631 and -- from a British perspective was only the "lower counties" of Pennsylvania or New York or, sometimes, eastern Maryland . Named for Thomas West, the 3rd Baron De La Warr, whose rescue mission saved Jamestown from starvation; it did not become a Royal colony. (Again complicated, De La Warr gave his name to the river, which was then taken for the state's name.)
  8. 1653: North Carolina colony; founded by Virginians seeking land. The date does not count from the Lost Colony of Roanoke on a North Carolina island in 1584 , but from the first Virginian (Nathaniel Batts) moving south onto the shore of Albemarle Sound -- land that had been granted to the Carolina Lords Proprietors. The colony was formally separated from South Carolina in 1712 and, because of internal problems, became a Royal colony in 1729.
  9. 1663: South Carolina, founded by eight Lords Proprietors and later divided into north and south; the colonies were named after Charles I and the intent of the original 1629 grantee (Sir Robert Heath) was to establish a haven for French Huguenots; Charles, though, restricted settlement to Anglicans and that charter went unrealized. It became a Royal colony in 1729.
  10. 1664: New Jersey, British version founded by Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret (Carolina Lords Propietors?) through military force. Previously, New Netherland had been established in 1614 and New Sweden in 1638. Named after the English Channel island of Jersey, it became a Royal colony in 1702.
  11. 1664: New York, founded by the Duke of York; was originally the Dutch New Netherland colony; became British territory in 1664 and a Royal colony in 1685.
  12. 1682: Pennsylvania, founded by William Penn as a refuge for Quakers; its religious tolerance also attracted Germanic Protestants and Scots-Irish Presbyterians. It did not become a Royal colony.
  13. 1732: Georgia, founded by James Edward Oglethorpe, for resettlement of English debtors and "the worthy poor and intended as a buffer against Spanish Florida and French Mississippi; it became a Royal colony in 1752


Each of these settlements were tiny at their beginnings; no more than a few hundred people. However, they served as "seeds", planting a new cultural and genetic heritage in America. In fertile soil, the seeds germinated, grew rapidly and spread. Deane W. Merrill has estimated the total population of the American colonies as follows:

Year   Population Annual
1630 4,600 -    
1650 50,400 55%
1670 111,900 12%
1690 210,200 9%
1700 251,000 12%
1720 466,200 9%
1740 905,700 10%
1750 1,170,800 13%
1770 2,148,100 9%
1780 2,780,400 13%
Graph of Colonial population growth

Population growth was amazing! Through immigration and births exceeding deaths, an average of 134 more Americans were created every single day in the peak years from 1750 to 1770. 

However the starting base was so small that it took until 1700 for the colonial population to reach 250,000, at which time there were probably about 1,200 Taylor-surnamed people in America and only about 600 would have been males.

Cultural Groupings

Colin Woodard has grouped the colonies into regions, each region (he maintains) hails from a different region of the British Isles (or elsewhere) and had a somewhat different character. His grouping is

  • Yankeedom: includes the New England colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
  • New Netherlands: New York & New Jersey.
  • The Midlands: Pennsylvania
  • Tidewater: Virginia, Maryland, Delaware & North Carolina
  • Deep South: Georgia & South Carolina
  • Greater Appalachia: Not a specific colony, but represented a westward expansion into the mountain region about 1717. It was largely fueled by Scots-Irish immigration which began ~1703.
  • New France: The Quebec and Acadia colonies in Canada, established by the French. Acadia lived on in the form of Louisiana Cajuns.

 Pictorial representation of colony groupings, from Colin Woodard

The Seeds' Origins

British origins of American colonists
British Origins of American Colonists

David Hackett Fischer, in his book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, has these colonial groupings representing different regions of the British Isles. We offer it as a general theme, but believe (from our own historical research) there were many variations within it.

These regions seem to reflect the four feudal earldoms of England under Canute the Great (995-1035) and similarly the English Catholic Church's four archdioceses.

So, he paints this general pattern of British emigrants to America: