Ethnic Migration and Population in Colonial America
New Netherland and Beyond
New Netherland
Delaware River
Colonial New York
New York State

History, Settlements, Ethnic Groups

Ethnic Migration and Population
before 1699

Ninety percent of the population of the American colonies in 1699 were persons of English birth or parentage. Counting the Swedes of the Delaware, the Dutch of New York, the handful of Germans in Pennsylvania, and the small group of French Huguenots in New Rochelle, there was still a vast percentage of English, New England and Virginia being populated almost entirely by them. One hundred years later, when the government took its first census, in 1790, we find that out of a total population of two million eight hundred thousand, some one million three hundred thousand were of English birth and parentage. The Scots came next with one hundred and eighty thousand, the Germans with one hundred and fifty-six thousand and the Dutch with fifty-four thousand, the Irish with forty-four thousand and the French with but a scant thirteen thousand. No doubt historians will agree that this has been an English country from its inception down to recent years when the Italian, the Russian Jew, the Pole, the Slav, the Armenian and the Asiatic, has made this nation a babel of many tongues, with its melting pot accompanied by crime, poverty and illiteracy.

There were three distinct groups of colonists arriving before 1699, first the English in Boston and vicinity, second the Dutch and English in New Amsterdam and the English in Virginia. Of the latter we have little if any records of value. Even history is vague as to the movements and conditions in James Town, which was peopled long before the Pilgrims landed in New England. The tide of migration from Massachusetts was to Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut. From Connecticut the New Englanders crossed the sound into Long Island and from thence to Staten Island and to New Jersey. Others of the Connecticut population moved into New York and settled in that section reaching from Westchester to Albany. Some of these early Yankees moved West of the Hudson and into New Jersey and intermarried with the sons and daughters of the Dutch settlers of Bergen.

The Virginians migrated into the Carolinas and in some cases to Maryland and Pennsylvania, where they intermarried with the Dutch and English from New Jersey and the North. But the genuine Virginia movement of population was always Westward, even to this day, first to what was to become Kentucky and Tennessee and thence on to the Missouri River and the Southwest in later periods of time.

Before 1699 only a handful of Celts and Scots made their appearance in the colonies as is proven by a glance at the Macs and the Mcs in the marriage lists. The Welsh came along in small numbers, but nine-tenths of the colonists were absolutely English. The Germans were early in New York and Pennsylvania, but were missing in the New England sections. The Huguenots were early settlers in Westchester County, New York, obtaining a tract of land which they called New Rochelle.

Indicative of the character and profession of our earliest colonial ancestors, I have established facts concerning a group of seventy-five original planters in West Jersey who were given deeds by royal grant to property between the years 1670 and 1690. It is interesting to note that of the seventy-five, twenty-seven of the sixty three came hither from Yorkshire, twenty-three from London, seven from Surrey and six from Sheffield. As to their professions fifteen were merchants, thirteen were yeomen, nine were gentlemen, four were planters, three were carpenters, while there were two tailors, shipwrights, chemists, shoemakers, innkeepers, tanners, weavers, skinners and salesmen. Other trades and professions were represented by a cheesemonger, a milliner, a distiller, a brewer, a haberdasher, a malster and a barber. Here we have a fairly good company fitted in every way to make up the population of prosperous American village of 1926, rather than a colony in the wilderness of New Jersey nearly three hundred years ago.

An excerpt from the Introduction of American Marriage Records Before 1699, by William Montgomery Clemens, Editor of Genealogy Magazine, ©1926

Copyright ©1999-2012