English Americans

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English Americans
English ancestry in the USA and Canada.png
English Americans and Canadians as percent of population by state and province.
Total population
23,593,434 (2019)
50,000,000+ Steady (1980)
Regions with significant populations
Throughout the entire United States
California4,946,554
Texas3,083,323
Ohio2,371,236
New York2,320,503
Florida2,232,514
Michigan2,036,021
Illinois1,808,333
North Carolina1,778,008
Georgia1,584,303
Tennessee1,435,147
Pennsylvania1,058,737
Languages
English (American and British English dialects)
Religion
Related ethnic groups
Other English diaspora, American ancestry, Old Stock Americans, other British Americans

English Americans, or Anglo-Americans are Americans whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in England. In the 2019 American Community Survey, 23.59 million self-identified as being of English origin.

The term is distinct from British Americans, which includes not only English Americans but also Scottish, Scotch-Irish (Northern Ireland), Welsh, Cornish and Manx Americans from the whole of the United Kingdom. Demographers regard the reported number of English Americans as a serious undercount, as the index of inconsistency is high and many if not most Americans from English stock have a tendency to identify simply as "Americans" or if of mixed European ancestry, identify with a more recent and differentiated ethnic group. In the 1980 Census, over 49 million (49,598,035) Americans claimed English ancestry. At 26.34%, this was the largest group amongst the 188 million people who reported at least one ancestry. The population was 226 million which would have made the English ancestry group 22% of the total. Scotch-Irish Americans are for the most part descendants of Lowland Scots and Northern English (specifically - County Durham, Cumberland, Northumberland and Yorkshire) settlers who colonized Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.

In 1982, an opinion poll showed respondents a card listing a number of ethnic groups and asked, "Thinking both of what they have contributed to this country and have gotten from this country, for each one tell me whether you think, on balance, they've been a good or a bad thing for this country." The English were the top ethnic group, with 66% saying they were a good thing for the United States, followed by the Irish at 62%. Ben J. Wattenberg argues that this poll demonstrates a general American bias against Latino and other recent immigrant populations.

The majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States were of English extraction. English immigrants in the 19th century, as with other groups, sought economic prosperity. They began migrating in large numbers, without state support, in the 1840s and continued into the 1890s.

Sense of identity

     England       United States. Shows the first permanent English settlement of Jamestown in 1607.

Americans of English heritage are often seen, and identify, as simply "American" due to the many historic cultural ties between England and the U.S. and their influence on the country's population. Relative to ethnic groups of other European origins, this may be due to the early establishment of English settlements; as well as to non-English groups having emigrated in order to establish significant communities.

Since 1776, English Americans have been less likely to proclaim their heritage, unlike Latino Americans, African Americans, Italian Americans, Irish Americans, Native Americans or other ethnic groups. A leading specialist, Charlotte Erickson, found them to be ethnically "invisible," dismissing the occasional St. George Societies as ephemeral elite clubs that were not in touch with the larger ethnic community. In Canada, by contrast, the English organized far more ethnic activism, as the English competed sharply with the well-organized French and Irish elements. In the United States the Scottish immigrants were much better organized than the English in the 19th century, as were their descendants in the late 20th century.

Number of English Americans

Results per U.S. census
Year Population Percent
1980 49,598,035 26.34
1990 32,651,788 13.1
2000 24,515,138 8.7
2018 22,807,283 N/D

The original 17th century settlers were overwhelmingly English. From the time of the first permanent English presence in the New World until 1900, these immigrants and their descendants outnumbered all others firmly establishing the English cultural pattern as predominant for the American version.

Colonial period

According to studies and estimates, the ethnic populations in the British American Colonies of 1700, 1755 and 1775 were:

Ethnic composition of the American Colonies
1700 / % 1755 / % 1775 / %
English / Welsh 80.0 English / Welsh 52.0 English 48.7
African 11.0 African 20.0 African 20.0
Dutch 4.0 German 7.0 Scots-Irish 7.8
Scottish 3.0 Scots-Irish 7.0 German 6.9
Other European 2.0 Irish 5.0 Scottish 6.6
- - Scottish 4.0 Dutch 2.7
- - Dutch 3.0 French 1.4
- - Other European 2.0 Swedish 0.6
- - - - Other 5.3
Flag of England.svg Twelve* 100.0 Red Ensign of Great Britain (1707-1800).svg Thirteen 100.0 Grand Union Flag.svg Colonies 100.0
Source: (*Province of Georgia not included)
Colonial English ancestry 1776
Colonies Percent of approx population
New England 70.5
Middle 40.6
Southern 37.4

Data

National origins: 1790-1900

The ancestries of the population in 1790 (the first national population census) has been estimated by various sources, first in 1909, then again in 1932, 1980 and 1984 by sampling distinctive surnames in the census and assigning them a country of origin. There is debate over the accuracy between the studies with individual scholars and the Federal Government using different techniques and conclusion for the ethnic composition. A study published in 1909 titled A Century of Population Growth. From the First to the Twelfth census of the United States: 1790-1900 by the Government Census Bureau estimated the English were 83.5%, 6.7% Scottish, 1.6% Irish, 2.0% Dutch, 0.5% French, 5.6% German and 0.1% all others of the white population. Hebrews were less than one-tenth of 1 per cent. When the Scotch and Irish are added, British origins would be more than 90% of the European stock. The same 1909 data for each state (of the total European population only) of English stock were Connecticut 96.2%, Rhode Island 96.0%, Vermont 95.4%, Massachusetts 95.0%, New Hampshire 94.1%, Maine 93.1%, Virginia 85.0%, Maryland 84.0%, North Carolina 83.1%, South Carolina 82.4%, New York 78.2% and Pennsylvania 59.0%.

Another source by Thomas L. Purvis in 1984 estimated that people of English ancestry made up about 47.5% of the total population or 60.9% of the European American or white population (his figures can also be found, and as divided by region, in Colin Bonwick, The American Revolution, 1991 p. 2540-839-1346-2). The study which gives similar results can be found in The American Revolution, Colin Bonwick in percentages for 1790: 47.9 English, 3.5 Welsh, 8.5 Scotch Irish (Ulster), 4.3 Scottish, 4.7 Irish (South), 7.2 German, 2.7 Dutch, 1.7 French, 0.2 Swedish, 19.3 Black. The difference between the two estimates are found by comparing the ratios of the groups (adding and subtracting) to accommodate and adding the Welsh. The category 'Irish' in the Bonwick study represents immigrants from Ireland outside the Province of Ulster, the overwhelming majority of whom were Protestant and not ethnically Irish, though from Ireland. They were not Irish Catholics. By the time the American War for Independence started in 1776, Catholics were 1.6%, or 40,000 persons of the 2.5 million population of the 13 colonies. Some 80.7% of the total United States population was of European origin.

Using the first model above, in 1900, an estimated 28,375,000 or 37.8% of the population of the United States was wholly or partly of English ancestry from colonial stock. The estimate was based on the Census Bureaus Estimate that approximately thirty five million white Americans were descended from colonial forebears

Census: 1980-2000

In 1980, 23,748,772 Americans claimed only English ancestry and another 25,849,263 claimed English along with another ethnic ancestry. 13.3 million or 5.9% of the total U.S. population chose to identify as "American" (counted under "not specified") as also seen in censuses that followed. Below shows the persons who reported at least one specific ancestry are as follows.

Response Number Percent Northeast North
Central
South West
Single ancestry 23,748,772 47.9 2,984,931 4,438,223 12,382,681 3,942,937
Multiple ancestry 25,849,263 52.1 5,190,045 7,099,961 7,235,689 6,323,568
Totals 49,598,035 8,174,976 11,538,184 19,618,370 10,266,505

In 1990, the national level response rate for the question was high with 90.4% of the total United States population choosing at least one specific ancestry and 9.6% ignored the question completely. Of those who chose English, 66.9% of people chose it as their first response. Totals for the English showed a considerable decrease from the previous census. Responses for "American" slightly decreased both numerically and as a percentage from 5.9% to 5.2% in 1990 with most being from the South.

Response Number Percent
First ancestry 21,834,160 66.9%
Second ancestry 10,817,628 33.1%
Totals 32,651,788

In the 2000 census, 24.5 million or 8.7% of Americans reported English ancestry, a decline of some eight million people. At the national level, the response rate for the ancestry question fell to 80.1% of the total U.S. population, while 19.9% were unclassified or ignored the question completely. It was the fourth largest ancestral group. Some Cornish Americans may not identify as English American, even though Cornwall had been part of England since long before their ancestors arrived in North America. Responses were:

Response Number change,
1990-2000
First ancestry 16,623,938 -24.9%
Second ancestry 7,885,754
Totals 24,509,692

Geographical distribution

Percentages by county in the 2000 census.
Population by state in the 2000 census.
Percentages by U.S. State in the 2000 census.

States

      English origins.

English Americans are found in large numbers throughout the United States, particularly in the Northeast, South and West. According to the 2000 US census, the 10 states with the largest populations of self-reported English Americans are:

States with most English Americans & with the highest percentage
No. State Number No. State Percent
1 California (3,521,355 - 7.4% of state population) 1 Utah 29.0
2 Florida (1,468,576 - 9.2%) 2 Maine 21.5
3 Texas (1,462,984 - 7%) 3 Vermont 18.4
4 New York (1,140,036 - 6%) 4 Idaho 18.1
5 Ohio (1,046,671 - 9.2%) 5 New Hampshire 18.0
6 Pennsylvania (966,253 - 7.9%) 6 Wyoming 15.9
7 Michigan (988,625 - 9.9%) 7 Oregon 13.2
8 Illinois (831,820 - 6.7%) 8 Montana 12.7
9 Virginia (788,849 - 11.1%) 9 Delaware 12.1
10 North Carolina (767,749 - 9.5%) 10 Colorado, Rhode Island, Washington 12.0 each

English was the highest reported European ancestry in the states of Maine, Vermont and Utah; joint highest along with German in the Carolinas.

Cities

Following are the top 20 highest percentages of people of English ancestry, in U.S. communities with 500 or more total inhabitants (for the total list of the 101 communities, see the reference):

Top 20 highest cities with over 500 Population: English Ancestry (In Progress)
Rank City State Percent
1 Hildale Utah 66.9
2 Colorado City Arizona 52.7
3 Milbridge Maine 41.1
4 Panguitch Utah 40
5 Beaver Utah 39.8
6 Enterprise Utah 39.4
7 East Machias Maine 39.1
8 Marriott-Slaterville Utah 38.2
9 Wellsvile Utah 37.9
10 Morgan Utah 37.2
11 Harrington Maine 36.9
12 Farmington Utah 36.9
13 Highland Utah 36.7
14 Nephi Utah 36.4
15 Fruit Heights Utah 35.9
16 Addison Maine 35.6
17 Farr West Utah 35.4
18 Hooper Utah 35.0
19 Lewiston Utah 35.0
20 Plain City Utah 34.7

On the top right, a map showing percentages by county of Americans who declared English ancestry in the 2000 Census. Dark blue and purple colours indicate a higher percentage: highest in the east and west (see also Maps of American ancestries). Center, a map showing the population of English Americans by state. On the right, a map showing the percentages of English Americans by state.

History

Statue of John Smith for the first English settlement in Historic Jamestowne, Virginia.

Early settlement and colonization

English settlement in America began with Jamestown in the Virginia Colony in 1607. With the permission of James I, three ships (the Susan Constant, The Discovery, and The God Speed) sailed from England and landed at Cape Henry in April, under the captainship of Christopher Newport, who had been hired by the London Company to lead expeditions to what is now America.

The first self-governing document of Plymouth Colony. English Pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact in 1620.

The second successful colony was Plymouth Colony, founded in 1620 by people who later became known as the Pilgrims. Fleeing religious persecution in the East Midlands in England, they first went to Holland, but feared losing their English identity. Because of this, they chose to relocate to the New World, with their voyage being financed by English investors. In September 1620, 102 passengers set sail aboard the Mayflower, eventually settling at Plymouth Colony in November. Of the passengers on the Mayflower, 41 men signed the "Mayflower Compact" aboard ship on November 11, 1620, while anchored in Provincetown Harbor. Signers included Carver, Alden, Standish, Howland, Bradford, Allerton, and Fuller. This story has become a central theme in the United States cultural identity.

A number of English colonies were established under a system of proprietary governors, who were appointed under mercantile charters to English joint stock companies to found and run settlements.

England also took over the Dutch colony of New Netherland (including the New Amsterdam settlement), renaming it the Province of New York in 1664. With New Netherland, the English came to control the former New Sweden (in what is now Delaware), which the Dutch had conquered from Sweden earlier. This became part of Pennsylvania.

English immigration after 1776

Cultural similarities and a common language allowed English immigrants to integrate rapidly and gave rise to a unique Anglo-American culture. An estimated 3.5 million English immigrated to the U.S. after 1776. English settlers provided a steady and substantial influx throughout the 19th century.

English immigration to the United States
Period Arrivals Period Arrivals
1820-1830 15,837 1901-1910 388,017
1831-1840 7,611 1911-1920 249,944
1841-1850 32,092 1921-1930 157,420
1851-1860 247,125 1931-1940 21,756
1861-1870 222,277 1941-1950 112,252
1871-1880 437,706 1951-1960 156,171
1881-1890 644,680 1961-1970 174,452
1891-1900 216,726 1971-1980 -
Total (1820-1970): 3,084,066

The first wave of growing English immigration began in the late 1820s and was sustained by unrest in the United Kingdom until it peaked in 1842 and declined slightly for nearly a decade. Most of these were small farmers and tenant farmers from depressed areas in rural counties in southern and western England and urban laborers who fled from the depressions and from the social and industrial changes of the late 1820s-1840s. While some English immigrants were drawn by dreams of creating model utopian societies in America, most others were attracted by the lure of new lands, textile factories, railroads, and the expansion of mining.

A number of English settlers moved to the United States from Australia in the 1850s (then a British political territory), when the California Gold Rush boomed; these included the so-called "Sydney Ducks" (see Australian Americans).

During the last years of the 1860s, annual English immigration grew to over 60,000 and continued to rise to over 75,000 per year in 1872, before experiencing a decline. The final and most sustained wave of immigration began in 1879 and lasted until the depression of 1893. During this period English annual immigration averaged more than 82,000, with peaks in 1882 and 1888 and did not drop significantly until the financial panic of 1893. The building of America's transcontinental railroads, the settlement of the great plains, and industrialization attracted skilled and professional emigrants from England.

English-born in the United States
Year Population % of foreign-born
1850 278,675 12.4
1860 431,692 -
1870 550,924 10.0
1880 662,676 -
1890 908,141 9.8
1900 840,513 -
1910 877,719 6.5
1920 813,853 -
1930 809,563 5.7
1940 - -
1950 - -
1960 528,205 5.4
1970 458,114 4.8
1980 442,499 -
1990 405,588 -
2000 423,609 -
2010 356,489 0.9
Source:

Also, cheaper steamship fares enabled unskilled urban workers to come to America, and unskilled and semiskilled laborers, miners, and building trades workers made up the majority of these new English immigrants. While most settled in America, a number of skilled craftsmen remained itinerant, returning to England after a season or two of work. Groups of English immigrants came to America as missionaries for the Salvation Army and to work with the activities of the Evangelical and LDS Churches.

The depression of 1893 sharply decreased English emigration to the United States, and it stayed low for much of the twentieth century. This decline reversed itself in the decade of World War II when over 100,000 English (18 percent of all European immigrants) came from England. In this group was a large contingent of war brides who came between 1945 and 1948. In these years four women emigrated from England for every man. In the 1950s, English immigration increased to over 150,000.and rose to 170,000 in the 1960s. While differences developed, it is not surprising that English immigrants had little difficulty in assimilating to American life. The American resentment against the policies of the British government was rarely transferred to English settlers who came to America in the first decades of the nineteenth century.

Political influence

As the earliest colonists of the United States, settlers from England and their descendants often held positions of power and made and enforced laws, often because many had been involved in government back in England. In the original 13 colonies, most laws contained elements found in the English common law system.

The majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States were of English extraction. A minority were of high social status and can be classified as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP). Many of the prewar WASP elite were Loyalists who left the new nation.

While WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants usually of English origins) have been major players in every major American political party, an exceptionally strong association has existed between WASPs and the Republican Party, before the 1980s. A few top Democrats qualified, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Northeastern Republican leaders such as Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, Prescott Bush of Connecticut and especially Nelson Rockefeller of New York exemplified the pro-business liberal Republicanism of their social stratum, espousing internationalist views on foreign policy, supporting social programs, and holding liberal views on issues like racial integration. A famous confrontation was the 1952 Senate election in Massachusetts where John F. Kennedy, a Catholic of Irish descent, defeated WASP Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.. However the challenge by Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the Eastern Republican establishment helped undermine the WASP dominance. Goldwater himself had solid WASP credentials through his mother, of a prominent old Yankee family, but was instead mistakenly seen as part of the Jewish community (which he had never associated with). By the 1980s, the liberal Rockefeller Republican wing of the party was marginalized, overwhelmed by the dominance of the Southern and Western conservative Republicans.

Asking "Is the WASP leader a dying breed?" journalist Nina Strochlic in 2012 pointed to eleven WASP top politicians—typically scions of upper class English families. She ended with Republicans G.H.W. Bush elected in 1988, his son George W. Bush elected in 2000 and 2004, and John McCain, who was nominated but defeated in 2008.

Language

English language distribution in the United States.

English is the most commonly spoken language in the U.S, where it is estimated that two thirds of all native speakers of English live. The American English dialect developed from English colonization. It serves as the de facto official language, the language in which government business is carried out. According to the 1990 census, 94% of the U.S. population speak only English. Adding those who speak English "well" or "very well" brings this figure to 96%. Only 0.8% speak no English at all as compared with 3.6% in 1890. American English differs from British English in a number of ways, the most striking being in terms of pronunciation (for example, American English retains the pronunciation of the letter "R" after vowels, unlike standard British English, though it still can be heard in several regional dialects in England) and spelling (one example is the "u" in words such as color, favor (US) vs colour, favour (UK)). Less obvious differences are present in grammar and vocabulary. The differences are rarely a barrier to effective communication between American English and British English speakers, but there are certainly enough differences to cause occasional misunderstandings, usually surrounding slang or dialect differences.

Some states, like California, have amended their constitutions to make English the only official language, but in practice, this only means that official government documents must at least be in English, and does not mean that they should be exclusively available only in English. For example, the standard California Class C driver's license examination is available in 32 different languages.

Expression

"In for a penny, in for a pound" is an expression to mean, ("if you're going to take a risk at all, you might as well make it a big risk"), is used in the United States which dates back to the colonial period, when cash in the colonies was denominated in Pounds, shillings and Pence. Today, the one-cent coin is commonly known as a penny. A modern alternative expression is "In for a dime, in for a dollar".

Cultural contributions

Much of American culture shows influences from English culture.

Cuisine

Celebrations

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony by English Pilgrims in October 1621.

Law

The American legal system also has its roots in English law. For example, elements of the Magna Carta were incorporated into the United States constitution. English law prior to the revolution is still part of the law of the United States, and provides the basis for many American legal traditions and policies. After the revolution, English law was again adopted by the now independent American States.

Music

Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom.

English ballads, jigs, and hornpipes had a large influence on American folk music, eventually contributing to the formation of such genres as old time, country, bluegrass, and to a lesser extent, blues as well.

Sports

Henry Chadwick’s early contributions to the development of the game is often called the "Father of Baseball".
  • Baseball was invented in England. English lawyer William Bray recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey; Bray's diary was verified as authentic in September 2008. This early form of the game was apparently brought to North America by British immigrants. The first appearance of the term that exists in print was in "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" in 1744, where it is called Base-Ball.
  • American football traces its roots to early versions of rugby football, played in England and first developed in American universities in the mid-19th century.

English family names

In 2010, the top ten family names in the United States, seven have English origins or having possible mixed British Isles heritage, the other three being of Spanish origin. Many African Americans have their origins in slavery (i.e. slave name) and ancestrally came to bear the surnames of their former owners. Many freed slaves either created family names themselves or adopted the name of their former master.

Name No. Number Country of Origin England (2001)
Smith 1 2,442,977 England, Scotland, Ireland (Common however also among German Americans who are likely originally held the surname "Schmidt") Smith
Johnson 2 1,932,812 England, Scotland (Can also be an anglicization of the Dutch Jansen or Scandinavian Johansen, Johansson, Jonsson, etc.)
Williams 3 1,625,252 England, Wales Taylor
Brown 4 1,437,026 England, Ireland, Scotland Brown
Jones 5 1,425,470 England, Wales Williams
García 6 1,166,120 Spain, Mexico and other Hispanic nations Wilson
Miller 7 1,161,437 England, Ireland, or Scotland (Miller can be the anglicized version of Mueller/Müller - a surname from Germany) Johnson
Davis 8 1,116,357 England, Wales Davies
Rodríguez 9 1,094,924 Spain Robinson, Roderick
Martinez 10 1,060,159 Spain, Mexico and other Hispanic nations Wright

English place names in the United States

Boston, Massachusetts named after Boston, England.
In 1664, the English renamed "New York" after (James II of England) the Duke of York.

This is a partial list of places in the United States named after places in England as a result of the many English settlers and explorers; in addition, some places were named after the English royal family. These include the region of New England and some of the following:

Alabama

California

Delaware

Georgia

Maryland

Massachusetts

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York

Pennsylvania

The Carolinas

Virginia

Notable people

Presidents of English descent

Most of the presidents of the United States have had English ancestry. The extent of English heritage varies. Earlier presidents were predominantly of colonial English Yankee stock. Later presidents' ancestry can often be traced to ancestors from multiple nations in Europe, including England. The presidents who have lacked recent English ancestry are Martin Van Buren, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Donald Trump.

18th century

George Washington, John Adams

19th century

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley.

20th century

Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton.

21st century

George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Joe Biden

See also

Further reading

  • Berthoff, Rowland. British Immigrants in Industrial America, 1790-1950 (1953).
  • Bridenbaugh, Carl. Vexed and Troubled Englishmen, 1590-1642 (1976).
  • Erickson, Charlotte. Invisible Immigrants: The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in Nineteenth-Century America (1972_.
  • Furer, Howard B., ed. ;;The British in America: 1578-1970 (1972).
  • Hanft, Sheldon. "English Americans." in Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, edited by Thomas Riggs, (3rd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2014), pp. 73-86. Online
  • Tennenhouse, Leonard. The Importance of Feeling English: American Literature and the British Diaspora, 1750-1850 (2007{.
  • Van Vugt, William E. "British (English, Scottish, Scots Irish, and Welsh) and British Americans, 1870–1940’." in Elliott Barkan, ed., Immigrants in American History: Arrival, Adaptation, and Integration (2013): 4:237+.
  • Van Vugt, William E. British Buckeyes: The English, Scots, and Welsh in Ohio, 1700-1900 (2006).