Starting from a small base, the American colonies' population grew rapidly during ~270 years of British rule;
averaging 3% per year.
Immigration was a large factor, but even larger -- as seen in the
section below -- was "natural increase",
an excess of births over deaths.
The British Isles, especially England, supplied more immigrants (45%) to the
American colonies. Africa (39%) was the second-leading source. The
English-origin population's rate of growth from natural increase also
outstripped all others but the Netherlands; by 1790 it made up 54% of the
total population. Almost two-thirds of Americans' ancestry originated in the
Pct. of Pop
(Incl. in Scots-Irish)
No detail, mostly from west coast
Jews (Var. countries)
Other, Not Classified
From "The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy" by Kory L. Meyerink and Loretto Dennis Szucs
Continents, Countries & Ethnicities
This section discusses the groups coming to America, as defined by
Meyerink & Szuchs.
Africans, forcibly imported as slaves beginning
(in large numbers) about 1680, represent the largest group of immigrants. They did not fare well. Although they comprised 38% of all immigrants, they made up only 19% of the 1790 population. For each
African immigrant brought in, only slightly more than 2 descendants were present in the first US census in 1790.
Conditions for slaves – heat, disease, malnutrition, overwork -- caused high mortality. Importation of slaves from Africa continued until 1820
and slavery was not abolished until 1865.
English, the second-largest group, fared much better. English-origin people were in every colony. Though they were only 24% of the immigrants, they made up 54% of the 1790 population, more than doubling its contribution. Apparently due to high birth rates and (in New England) a low death rate, by 1790, each English immigrant resulted in more than 9
However, the situation wasn’t rosy for all English immigrants. About three-quarters came as indentured servants (perhaps 80% from London). White, term-limited slavery was initially southern planters’ method of choice for obtaining labor to grow tobacco, rice and indigo until the 1680s; in Virginia and Maryland, the headrights system also entitled transporters to 50 acres of land for each person brought across the Atlantic. To the English poor candidates, free passage, room and board, and a bonus at the completion of (typically) fiver-year servitude promised a way to a fresh start in a land of opportunity.
Another system featured public markets at the ports of debarkation. Ships'
captains would auction servitude contracts of their passengers after landing.
In yet a third system, prisoners convicted of non-capital crimes were
transported to America to clear England's jails. Initially, this was an informal, black market but the
Transportation Act of 1718 legalized the practice and perhaps 60,000 prisoners were
80% to Virginia and Maryland. While some returned to England (at their own
expense) when the 7 to 14 year terms were up, many stayed. Estimates of them
Most (60%) of the indentured and convict laborers didn’t survive to freedom. As they weren’t permitted to marry, they left no descendants. Only about 30% of the indentured
immigrants were able to become ancestors. Laborers in the south died at higher rates than in the north.
Contemporary reports talk of "seasoning", in which the less hardy were
winnowed out by disease and the hot, humid climate.
One who made the voyage in 1750 described the rough conditions at sea and afterward
We surmise the passage was more difficult in the earlier days.
Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, involving indentured servants, was a pivotal
event resulting in an end to the headrights system. Planters subsequently favored African slaves whose servitude was perpetual
and without rights or recourse.
Ireland provided the third-largest group, predominantly Ulster Scots
(Scots-Irish) who constituted 14% of the immigrants; other Irish made up another 0.8%. Immigration from Ulster
began in force in 1715; these folks had less time to produce descendants. And their late arrival forced them
into less-desirable frontier regions. As a result, the ratio of Irish-ancestry people is just 2 census Americans
for each immigrant.
Remember, we're talking here about colonial immigration; it does not include the great Irish immigration
wave of the mid-19th centery.
Scotland provided 5% of immigrants but only 4% of 1790 people, a ratio of 3 for each immigrant. Some Scots went to
southern areas in which disease was prevalent.
A small fraction, 0.4%, came from Wales and slowly increased to 0.3% of the 1790 population, a for-each-immigrant ratio of 2.5.
Germanic regions contributed 11% of the immigrants but only 7% of the 1790 population. This wave began in 1709 and continued until 1776. A possibly lower birth rate and less time for natural increase led to only 2.6 per immigrant in 1790. So many went to one colony, they became known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, a corruption of the German
"Deutsch". However, many Germanic settlements were established
For them, the main port of embarkation was Rotterdam, at the mouth of the
Rhine River. A typical journey began in the Palatine Electorate with a river
boat. The main port of debarkation was Philadelphia.
True Dutch (from the Netherlands) were early immigrants, founding several early 1600s settlements,
including the one that became New York. They were a small group but prolific. Though only 0.6% of immigrants, they made up 2.6% in 1790, an increase ratio of almost 17.
From France came mostly Huguenots, about 0.3% of immigrants and 0.4% in 1790, Their natural increase represented 5 persons for each immigrant,
a bit more than the average.
Sweden seems to have the smallest separate group of pre-1790 immigrants and 1790 population, 0.05% for both. Their natural increase ratio is 4, about the average for all groups.
Jews are given their own category, presumably from multiple countries
in Europe. It is a small group, 0.1% of immigrants, with low natural increase. They constitute 0.05% in 1790, a ratio of 2
US citizens for each immigrant.
Finally, one group is labeled “Other”, 5% of pre-1790 immigrants and 5% of 1790 population. Each of these immigrants seems to have resulted in 4 descendants for the first US census.
Population & Demographics
The two graphs below show, by region, how America’s total and black population grew in the colonial period. Notice that blacks begin to register
on the scale only in 1680.
Population was growing exponentially in all regions, but more rapidly in
the South, especially after 1700. Much of the difference is accounted for by
All together, pre-1790 immigrants added up to 950,000, one-quarter of the 1790 population. The rest was due to “natural increase”, excess of births over deaths.
(Checking the Meyerink & Szuchs math, America’s population growth averaged 6.9% from 1610 to 1780.)
The rate of natural increase (RNI) seems to have averaged about 4% for 170 years. This RNI places British North America in Stage 2 of the
Demographic Transition Model, that of a developing nation.
Demographically, America was then like the modern "Third World".
A characteristic of Stage 2 demographics is a youthful population; most deaths
in other countries then occurred within the first 10 years of life due to malnutrition and disease. With
better nutrition and less disease, more children survived and matured to continue the fertility of their parents. Families in the American colonies were larger than in Europe; fertility may have been similar, but fewer children died.
We can identify some specific waves of immigrants, mostly for the groups outside
the British Isles. British subjects -- especially those paying their own
passage -- were less-recorded.
An obvious cutoff date for colonial immigration is the American Revolution, which
formally began in July 1776. Hostilities and blockades virtually stopped immigration for nearly a decade and a half
-- until the United States of America was an independent nation..
Indentured servants from Great Britain were one of the first
great wave of immigrants to America. Fifty-thousand of them came to the
Chesapeake Bay area (of estimated total 67,000) from 1620 to 1680. These
were overwhelmingly single males; the male-to-female ration was
initially 6 yo 1 then 4 to 1. They were drawn from the working classes;
one expert estimates 75% from the London and Middlesex area. Only about
one-quarter (12,000-13,000) of them, though, were able to marry and have
children. Before they could marry, they had to first survive to
serve out their usually-arduous servitude contracts of several years.
Their living conditions were not much better than the African slaves who
replaced them by 1680. Many of the egregious laws applied to blacks
started out to deal with the "Christian servant problem" It was largely rebellions of white servants
protesting their treatment which encouraged growth of African slavery.
The “otesting their treatment which encouraged growth of African slavery.
The “Great Migration” of 1630/1640 brought 20,000 Puritans to New England
in hopes of establishing a "Redeemer Nation" to combat wickedness.
(80,000 left England, about 1/4 each to New England, Ireland, the
Netherlands and West Indies) It was characterized by family groups from
every English county (but about half from East Anglia). Unlike other
immigrant groups, these were well-educated, middle-class people. Between
7% and 10% are believe to have returned to England to fight when the
Civil War began in 1641 .
Africans were imported -- by the hundreds of thousands -- as
slave labor. The process began early in the 17th century (16th for
Spanish & Portuguese America) but accelerated after 1680. About 200,000
were sent to the Chesapeake area and 400,000 (mostly after 1781) to the
Low Country of South Carilina, Georgia, etc.
Germanic immigration from the Rhineland helped resolve a humanitarian crisis. Severe winter in 1709/1710 caused great suffering; England’s Queen Ann took pity on the Protestant subjects of her cousin, the Elector Palatine, and let them relocate to British colonies which needed settling. William Penn and his agents actively recruited
Lutherans, Reformed, Mennonites and others to his colony. About half
were "redemptioners", agreeing to work four to seven years in payment
for passage. This wave continued until halted by the War, by whGermans were here from the beginning; several were among the 1608 Jamestown. settlers
Quakers(Friends), too, came for religious reasons; while
persecuted in England, they saw their relocation as a pilgrimage.. Although many settled in Pennsylvania, not all did.
Most (80%) of the 23,000 form 1675 to 1725 appear to have come from
England's North Midlands counties of Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Nottinghamshire.
Two women came to Massachusetts
Bay in 1656 (by way of Barbados) and then, with converts, moved to the
Rhode Island colony. A Friends settlement was founded at Salem, New
Jersey in 1675 and William Penn received his Royal charter in 1681.
(Scots-Irish) were motivated by religious persecution; they were Presbyterians in a land where both they and Catholics were second-class citizens. They began coming to America in large numbers about 1715, an average of 1,800 per year from 1750 to 1775. Landing initially in Philadelphia, they found the most desirable land taken, so were forced to move west and south.
These groups, though, were not the general rule. Most colonists were economic migrants.
These groups, though, were not the general rule. Most colonists were economic migrants.
This section is incomplete.
There was, during the colonial period, not only immigration from across the sea, but also migration between colonies.
In some instances, migration between colonies exceeded migration from Europe
Virginia, founded 1608. was the first British-American colony
to be settled successfully and the most populous. Its expanding economy
was based on growing crops for export, primarily tobacco; they required
immense amounts of labor. By 1670, Virginia had 30,000 people,
three-quarters laboring under indentured servitude contracts.
The headrights system, est. 1618, granted 50 acres per head to anyone
paying transport to Virginia. Most of the imports were white from London
and central England. But Bacon's
Rebellion in 1676 led to planters preferring black slaves to white
indentures; British immigration fell off and African immigration soared.
Maryland similarly depended on tobacco. Though founded 1634 as a Catholic
refuge, C of E Puritans became dominant in the late 1680s through migration from other colonies.
The Puritans revolted against the Calvert lords and temporarily made
their religion the official one. The Calvert family regained control and
reinstated religious tolerance.
The 1629 grantee of the ous tolerance.
North Carolina: The 1629 grantee of the Carolinas colonial charter wanted to settle French Huguenots there but King Charles I (for whom it was named) restricted the
colony to Church of England members. As a result, the colony languished through the English Civil War and Charles’ execution until restoration of the monarchy. Charles II issued a new grant to eight Lords Proprietor.
, to Virginia’s south, at first consisted mostly of settlements around the Albemarle Sound,
occupied in 1653 by transplanted Virginians, New Englanders and Bermudans. Another settlement on the Cape Fear River in 1665 was started by immigrants from Barbados. In 1710, a group of Palatines, Swiss Calvinists and French Huguenots founded the town of New Bern on Pamlico Sound
in 1710. After being split off into
a separate Royal colony in 1729. a new governor recruited immigrants from the other colonies
and North Carolina began to prosper.
We are not counting the 1587 settlement on Roanoke Island in
which was born the first American child, Virginia Dare, of English
parents. Its people disappeared with little trace. rst American child, Virginia Dare, of English
parents. Its people disappeared with little trace.
South Carolina was initially part of the joint Carolina colony charter. 150 pioneers, many from Barbados, landed at “Charles Town” in 1670. With a natural harbor and West Indies trade, southern Carolina
at first grew faster than the northern half but then fell behind.
Georgia was at first part of the Carolina colony but a separate charter was granted to James Oglethorpe in 1732; his idea was to provide a better place for English poor, 114 settlers founded Savannah the next year.
The huge increase between 1760 and 1780 indicates mostly immigration.
Massachusetts , the "big dog" of New England, began with Plymouth’s band of Separatists (from the Church of England) in 1620. Winthrop brought 17 ships of more Separatists (700+ people) from East Anglia to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630,
beginning the the “Great Migration” of 20,000in the 1630/1640
Connecticut & Rhode Island were founded by dissenters
from Massachusetts' dissenters.
The strict beliefs of the Puritans were too binding for some.
Maine was variously separate and included as part of Massachusetts.
Vermont began as part of New Hampshire on land also claimed
by New York. Until 1763 most of it was claimed by France. Between then
and 1791, non-Indian population rose from 300 to 85,000.
This would have been a tautology in the colonial period. America didn't exist beyond the Atlantic seaboard.
New York was originally New Amsterdam, a Dutch colony
New Jersey *
Delaware makes for a complicated story; it was fought over by
both Pennsylvania and Marylandt
This section reviews the postcolonial population, after establishment of the United
States of America.
The 1790 census was the first official survey of the nation's people. It
is, therefore, the best measure of the combined effects of immigration and
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So how many of these colonial immigrants bore the Taylor surname? Due to
absent record-keeping for many. we suspect an estimates are as good as we can
We do know that there were no Taylors among the original
JamIf we assume that the name was as frequent among the immigrants as for British of the
time, we have a range of 0.25% to 0.5% of the population. To the extent that
immigrants came from areas (e.g., Lancashire, West Yorkshire) where the name was more
frequent, the high estimate would apply.