On the percentage of British settlers in America

Sinclair Kennedy, writing in 1914:

“A French student divides the American people into two groups: those whose ancestors were in the United States previous to 1880, and hence almost totally British, and those descended from persons immigrating since that time. The former, according to his computation, comprises more than one-half of the present population of the United States. And of the latter, one-third at least are likewise of British stock.

A total of two-thirds, or perhaps even of three-fourths, of the American people to-day are, he concludes, the descendants of Britishers.(1) The Irish he considers an important element. Of the result of the mingled immigrations of the Irish and other Celts with the Scandinavians and Germans, an American student says: ‘When we remember that it was the crossing of the Germanic and the Celtic stocks that produced the English race itself, we are obliged to assume that the future American people will be substantially the same human stuff that created the English common law, founded parliamentary institutions, established American self-government, and framed the Constitution of the United States.’

(1) Pierre Leroy-Beaulieu, Les Etats-Unis au Vingtieme Siecle, Paris, 1904, pp. 25-26.

From the book The Pan-Angles: A Consideration of the Federation of the Seven English-speaking Nations, by Sinclair Kennedy, 1914.

The viewpoint expressed by the French scholar was the consensus then, a little over a century ago. But now there is much more confusion and dissension.

The question of what group made up the majority of the early colonists and settlers is perpetually being disputed here and there on the Internet. The conflict is usually about whether German-descended Americans are the majority or whether the Anglo-Saxon or British descendants are the majority. This seems never to be resolved, and in most of the arguments I’ve witnessed, the German descendants seem to win by sheer insistence on the truth of their claim, though no evidence is usually offered. I don’t suppose the question will ever be settled, as the pro-German side will not accept any evidence that throws doubt on their assertions.

However I thought this point, made by an English commenter, made an interesting point:

American mitochondrial DNA_ed

This comment got my attention and roused my curiosity. I searched for something related to genetic testing for the mitochondrial DNA, but I didn’t come up with anything verifying this.

The comment mentions that the founding female population in the colonies overall was predominantly British, mostly English. Yes, there were other colonies established by other European nationalities, but they were fewer in number and at some point blended together with the other colonists. The Dutch and the English were intermarrying at an earlier date; the two nationalities are genetically closer, the Dutch being closer kin to the English than any of the other nationalities who had colonized this continent.

It’s also true that the English colonists tended to take wives and families when they colonized North America, and not to arrive as single men as did many of the other Europeans, such as the Spanish, who intermarried with the native Indians in their colonies, or the Dutch, who did likewise in certain of their colonies later on. The French tended not to bring families with them, and intermarried with the Indians, hence the Métis people, who have become sort of a people unto themselves.

It does certainly seem plausible that British women were a larger percentage of the female population in the early colonies.

There are other factors in why the British genetic contribution to America is underestimated, some of which I’ve mentioned in other posts. The fact that so very many different ethnicities have since settled in America, and when counting the various ethnic groups the ‘pie’ is being split into so many pieces that of course the British percentage gets smaller, as we are not getting many new British immigrants.

And then, obviously with the mixed-European people who may not even know what their genetics are in detail — how much of their ancestry comes from what country, they may only pick an identity based on the nationality of their surname. And even that can give erroneous impressions. Some of my ill-informed relatives have been known to say that one of our family surnames is ‘Irish’ when it is in fact English. In that way, as well as in other ways, people get confused over their ethnic identity.

Unfortunately I don’t see any resolution to the question of which ethnicity is the majority of the White American population. It seems, though, that there is quite a collection of people who are determined to depose the English/British descendants as the acknowledged majority amongst White Americans.



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