British colonial America

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British colonial America[edit | edit source]

What is or was the "British colonial America?"

During the colonial period in the Americas there were many colonies and some failed. Colonial America is a general term for all the colonies that were in the Americas. Yes, not just colonies in North America but also in Central and South America including the Caribbean.

This more modern term, British colonial America refers to the colonies that were taken, lost or once under the control of the British Empire. The term was not used during the colonial period and is not properly used in genealogical place descriptions. Below these elements will be examined in more detail.

Again, the term British colonial (lower case c) America was not exclusive to what we call the 13 colonies that later became the United States of America. It is a more modern description of various colonies in the Americas (North, Central and South America). This means the term British colonial America is a descriptive term and not a legal description of what eventually became the United States of America (USA). Other descriptive terms like British America and British North America are also descriptive terms and should not be used in genealogical place names.

One should use the proper name of the colony at the time when the event happened. And those legal names changed over time. Then some colonies also merged creating new legal descriptions as they went from a colony to a plantation or to providence then to semi-independent state. All of this before any of those 13 colonies in North America became the USA.

The legal name changes due to what was claimed counter-claimed and eventually administered is often confusing to most genealogists. And that is just about the names of the various colonies over time. I am not even going to start on name changes of specific places as they went from what we call today unincorporated to a village which sometimes became a city or part of another city. But, below I will cite a few examples of genealogical use not using the term British colonial America.

British use of "British colonial America"[edit | edit source]

British colonial America is a term used by the British historians to describe the years of 1585 – 1783 where the English sent colonists, adventurists and religious dissenters to the Americas. In time some of those colonists rebelled against the crown. See: time line

The British colonization of the Americas (including colonization by both the English and the Scots) began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia, and reached its peak when colonies had been established throughout the Americas. The English, aka the British, were among the most important colonizers of the Americas, and their American colonial empire came to rival the Spanish American colonies in military and economic might.

Three types of colonies were established in the English overseas possessions in America of the 17th century and continued into the British Empire at the height of its power in the 18th century. These were charter colonies, proprietary colonies, and royal colonies. See: more on these types of colonies.

The group of 13 British American colonies that collectively broke from the British Empire in the 1770s, through a successful revolution, established the modern United States were once part of that colony system.

After the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15), the remaining British territories in North America were slowly granted more responsible government. In 1838 the Durham Report recommended full responsible government for Canada, but this was not fully implemented for another decade. Eventually, with the Confederation of Canada, the Canadian colonies were granted significant autonomy and became a self-governing Dominion in 1867.

Other colonies in the Americas followed at a much slower pace. In this way, two countries in North America, ten in the Caribbean, and one in South America have received their independence from Great Britain or the later United Kingdom.

All of these, except the United States, are members of the Commonwealth of Nations and nine are Commonwealth realms. The eight current British overseas territories in the Americas have varying degrees of self-government. See: Time line

Colonial Links[edit | edit source]


Regarding CANADA AND OTHER BRITISH NORTH AMERICAN COLONIES British North America (BNA) was not popularized until well after the American Revolution was settled in 1783.

A good overview of the colonial time period in what became the USA can be seen on Colonial Time line

Official Name and Status History of the several States and U.S. Territories - Name list

Genealogical "then and now"[edit | edit source]

How do we handle place name changes over time? Per FamilySearch Family Tree suggests that we should only use the modern terms for the places described. This is simply naive and a non-genealogist solution. Many genealogy programs encourage the use of city, county, state, country or the equivalent. Anything less than a city should be described like hospital, cemetery or church.

For example: The State of Massachusetts is officially "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Why do we use the common name (I.E. Massachusetts) instead of the legal description or formal name in genealogy? This is because of the common usage within the language and by description makes the two terms essentially the same. It is like the United States of America being shortened to just the United States or USA.

The best solution is to describe the old/new place name in a two fold manner. One must describe the historic name and the modern name in a brief description. The historic name is to indicate one has done the research or has the knowledge of what the place was called when the event happened and where that information came be found at. Then add the modern or current name used to indicate what we call the common name of the current location. We call this a "then and now" place statement.

Genealogical "then and now" example[edit | edit source]

Here is a more formal example of a "then and now" place statement that is accurately descriptive. This is actually used.

"Thomasin/Tam(a)sin/Tamsen Carpenter was born about 1659 to 1663 probably in Pawtuxet (Warwick), Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (that part now in Kent Co. RI). She died after 30 Jan 1710/11 (living that date in Madnan’s Neck, Hempstead [now Great Neck, North Hempstead]), Queens (that part now Nassau) Co., Long Island."

This formal statement was written by a Master Genealogist Eugene Cole "Gene" Zubrinsky and a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists in a genealogical descendant report.

One can become so fixated of specific places or terms by using a series of rigid formal names that the place names become cumbersome and confusing. Or one can summarize with the more common terms used then and now.

Whether you use formal or informal name placement statements, please use terms like "then and now" and try to avoid general area descriptions whenever possible.

Genealogical detailed example[edit | edit source]

Timothy Carpenter was born about 1646/1648 in Pawtuxet, now, Cranston, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. He died there on 19 Aug 1726. - This statement is a simple "then and now" example.

For details about this "then and now" statement, let us examine elements in the history of those places mentioned.

For a brief on the 1754 change of name of Pawtuxet to Cranston (formally the City of Cranston), please see: here.

Pawtuxet was technically Pawtuxet Village, a seaport hamlet around Pawtuxet Cove on the west side of Narragansett Bay about four miles southeast of Providence from 1636 to 1754. See Part Three – Settlement here.

Providence Plantations was the first permanent European American settlement in Rhode Island. It was (in 1636) established by a group of colonists led by Roger Williams who left Massachusetts Bay Colony in order to establish a colony with greater religious freedom. Providence Plantations became the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (in 1663), which became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations after the American Revolution.

The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original Thirteen Colonies established on the east coast of America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It was an English colony from 1636 until 1707, and then a colony of Great Britain until the American Revolution in 1776, when it became the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (commonly known as Rhode Island).

Please note the discrepancy of names and dates in these two Wikipedia lead paragraphs. I put in brackets the years not given. Providence Plantation(s) existed from 1636 to 1663. The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations became such in 1663 until 1776 when it became a State of the new USA.

The difference between an English and Great Britain colony is pretty much incidental. The common government was then in England and that is far better than dozen incarnations of formal names that England had officially had over the centuries.

So technically and officially, Timothy Carpenter was born about 1646/1648 in Pawtuxet, Providence Plantation (or Plantations). And he died 19 Aug 1726 in Pawtuxet, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Please note there is no mention of political power possession or name used. They did not use that format then nor was it ever part of the formal or historical place name.

But most people can not seem to handle this technical and formal statement not understanding the history. Most people are trained in the USA to use the standard place format as city, county, state, country format. Anything less than a city needs to be defined such as Church, Cemetery, Hospital or Township or village. And on the end, this means they want to stick on a country name like England, Great Britain, United Kingdom, British Overseas Colonies or similar. Even if it is not proper or correct.

A standard New England Historical and Genealogical Foundation cites the standard place format (city, county, state, county) and encourages name place changes of then and now by using the word “now” as the separator using comas. And it encourages commonly used names for things like states and countries instead of the longer formal names.

Thus we get a brief then/now entry such as: Pawtuxet, now, Cranston, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

I have NO PROBLEM with using the technical and official terms of locations. But it can get out of hand quickly. For example, using the technically official and formal names creates the following …

Timothy Carpenter was born circa 1646/1648 in Pawtuxet, Providence Plantation, now, City of Cranston, Providence County, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, United States of America.

And he died 19 Aug 1726 in Pawtuxet, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, now, City of Cranston, Providence County, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, United States of America.

That is why the brief place format works so well for so many like: Pawtuxet, now, Cranston, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

More Links - British Colonial America(n)[edit | edit source]

Below are more links to British colonial America(n) articles on the Family Search Wikipedia.