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.
In the succeeding years since the founding of the United States of America, English-Americans have been less likely to proclaim their heritage in the face of the upsurge of cultural and ethnic pride by African-Americans, Irish-Americans, Scottish-Americans, Italian-Americans or other ethnic groups. While there may be many reasons for this, after centuries of intermarriage and internal geographic mobility, many are unable to determine a specific English origin. For these reasons, no other part of the pluralist American society is so difficult to describe as a separate entity as the English. English immigrants were and are often seen as an invisible ethnic group, due to the length of time their ancestors may have been in the United States, as the majority of the founding colonists were English people.
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 outnumbered all others, therefore the cultural pattern had been firmly established as the American model.
According to the United States Historical Census Data Base (USHCDB), the ethnic populations in the British American Colonies of 1700, 1755 & 1775 were:
The 1790 United States Census was the first census conducted in the United States. It was conducted on August 2, 1790. The ancestry of the 3,929,214 population in 1790 has been estimated by various sources by sampling last names in the very first United States official census and assigning them a country of origin. The estimate results indicate that people of English ancestry made up about 47.5% of the total population or 60.9% of the European American population. Some 80.7% of the total United States population was of European heritage. Around 757,208 were of African descent with 697,624 being slaves. Of the remaining population, more than 75% was of British origin.
The states with the highest percentage of English ancestry were Massachusetts 82%, Vermont 76%, Rhode Island 71%, Virginia including West Virginia 68.5%, Connecticut 67%, Maryland including District of Columbia 64.5%, North Carolina 66%, New Hampshire 61%, South Carolina 60.2%, Maine 60%, Delaware 60%, Kentucky and Tennessee 57.9%, Georgia 57.4%, New York 52%, New Jersey 47%, Pennsylvania 35.3%.
In the 2000 census, 24.5 million Americans reported English ancestry, 8.7% of the total U.S. population. This estimate is probably a serious undercount by over 30 million given that, in the 1980 census, around 50 million citizens claimed to be of at least partial English ancestry. As many as 80 million Americans may be wholly or partly of English ancestry. In 1980, 23,748,772 Americans claimed wholly English ancestry and another 25,849,263 claimed English along with another ethnic ancestry.
In 1860, an estimated 11 million or almost 35% of the population of the United States was wholly or primarily of English ancestry. The population has increased by almost ten times the numbers in 1860. As with any ethnicity, Americans of English descent may choose to identify themselves as just American ethnicity if their ancestry has been in the United States for many generations or if, for the same reason, they are unaware of their lineages.
In total, there are estimated to be around 678,000 British born expatriates in the United States with the majority of these being English. By American definition there are around 540,000 English people of any race in the United States, 40,000 Asian British, 20,000 Black British people and approximately 10,000 people of a mixed background.
English Americans are found in large numbers throughout America, 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:
English was the highest reported European ancestry in the states of Maine, Vermont and Utah; joint highest along with German in the Carolinas.
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):
- Hildale, UT 66.9%
- Colorado City, AZ 52.7%
- Milbridge, ME 41.1%
- Panguitch, UT 40.0%
- Beaver, UT 39.8%
- Enterprise, UT 39.4%
- East Machias, ME 39.1%
- Marriott-Slaterville, UT 38.2%
- Wellsville, UT 37.9%
- Morgan, UT 37.2%
- Harrington, ME 36.9%
- Farmington, UT 36.9%
- Highland, UT 36.7%
- Nephi, UT 36.4%
- Fruit Heights, UT 35.9%
- Addison, ME 35.6%
- Farr West, UT 35.4%
- Hooper, UT 35.0%
- Lewiston, UT 35.0%
- Plain City, UT 34.7%
On the left, 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.
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 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. 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.
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. The first wave of increasing 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 increased 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.
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 governmentwas rarely transferred to English settlers who came to America in the first decades of the nineteenth century.
Throughout American history, English immigrants and their descendants have been prominent in every level of government and in every aspect of American life. Eight of the first ten American presidents and more than that proportion of the 42 presidents, as well as the majority of sitting congressmen and congresswomen, are descended from English ancestors. The descendants of English expatriates are so numerous and so well integrated in American life that it is impossible to identify all of them. While they are the third largest ethnic nationality self-reported in the 1990 census, they retain such a pervasive representation at every level of national and state government that, on any list of American senators, Supreme Court judges, governors, or legislators, they would constitute a plurality if not an outright majority. Today it is estimated that over 80 million Americans are of English ancestry, not including African Americans, who also have some English ancestry.
As the earliest colonists of the United States, settlers from England and their descendants often held positions of power and made or helped make 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. Of the 55 delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, 49 were Protestants, and two were Roman Catholics (D. Carroll, and Fitzsimons). Among the Protestant delegates to the Constitutional Convention, 28 were Church of England (or Episcopalian, after the American Revolutionary War was won), eight were Presbyterians, seven were Congregationalists, two were Lutherans, two were Dutch Reformed, and two were Methodists.
The lineage of most of the Founding Fathers was English. Such persons include Samuel Adams. Other signatories of the Declaration of Independence, such as Robert Morris were English born. Of the "Committee of Five" (the group delegated to draft the Declaration of Independence), (four of the five) - John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut had English roots. The United States Declaration of Independence was written primarily by Thomas Jefferson.
While WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) have been major players in every major American political party, an exceptionally strong association has existed between WASPs and the Republican Party, both in political activity and popular consciousness. Politicians such as Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, Prescott Bush of Connecticut and 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, 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.
The English have contributed greatly to American life. Today, 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. English was inherited from English colonization, and it is spoken by the vast majority of the population. 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 voicing of the letter "R" after vowels, unlike standard British English) and spelling (a classic example being the "u" in words such as color, favor (US) vs colour, favour (UK)). Less obvious differences are present in grammar, vocabulary, and slang usage. 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 region dialect differences. The two are however generally treated as mutually intelligible.
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.
"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".
Much of American culture also shows influences from English culture.Flag of the United States - Based on the British Grand Union Flag, which is considered to be the first national flag of the United States, and was first flown on December 2, 1775.
Apple pie - New England was the first region to experience large-scale English colonization in the early 17th century, beginning in 1620, and it was dominated by East Anglian Calvinists, better known as the Puritans. Baking was a particular favorite of the New Englanders and was the origin of dishes seen today as quintessentially "American", such as apple pie and the oven-roasted Thanksgiving turkey. "As American as apple pie" is a well-known phrase used to suggest that something is all-American.
Roast Beef - In the middle of the 17th century a second wave of English immigrants began arriving in North America, settling mainly in the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia and Maryland, expanding upon the Jamestown settlement. There roast beef was often served with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish sauce. (It was despised by the French.)
Thanksgiving — In England, thanks have been given for successful harvests since pagan times. The celebrations on this day usually include singing hymns, praying, and decorating churches with baskets of fruit and food in the festival known as Harvest Festival, Harvest Home or Harvest Thanksgiving. In the U.S. it has become a national secular holiday (official since 1863) with religious origins, but in England it remains a Church festival giving thanks to God for the harvest. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by English settlers to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive the brutal winter. The modern Thanksgiving holiday traces its origins from a 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. William Bradford is credited as the first to proclaim the American cultural event which is generally referred to as the "First Thanksgiving".
Baseball - 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. Today, Rounders which has been played in England since Tudor times holds a similarity to Baseball. Although, literary references to early forms of "base-ball" in the United Kingdom pre-date use of the term "rounders".
American football - can be traced to early versions of rugby football, played in England and first developed in American universities in the mid-19th century.
Another area of cultural influence are American Patriotic songs:American national anthem - takes its melody from the 18th-century English song "To Anacreon in Heaven" written by John Stafford Smith from England for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London and lyrics written by Francis Scott Key of English descent. This became a well-known and recognized patriotic song throughout the United States, which was officially designated as the U.S. national anthem in 1931.
Hail to the Chief - is the song to announce the arrival or presence of the President of the United States. English songwriter James Sanderson (c. 1769 – c. 1841), composed the music and was first performed in 1812 in New York.
Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom.The Liberty Song - written by John Dickinson of English descent in 1768 to the music of Englishman William Boyce's "Heart of Oak", is perhaps the first patriotic song written in America. The song contains the line "by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall", the first recorded use of the sentiment.
My Country, 'Tis of Thee - whose melody was indirectly derived from the British national anthem, also served as a de facto anthem before the adoption of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Amazing Grace - written by English poet and clergyman John Newton became such an icon in American culture that it has been used for a variety of secular purposes and marketing campaigns, placing it in danger of becoming a cliché.
Yankee Doodle - is written and accredited to Englishman Dr. Richard Shuckburgh an army doctor. The tune comes from the English nursery rhyme Lucy Locket.
Of the top ten family names in the United States, eight have English origins or having possible mixed British Isles heritage, the other two being of Spanish origin. This is the first time two surnames of non-British Isles origin have been in the top 10 most common family names. Many African Americans have their origins in slavery (i.e. slave name). Many of them 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. According to 2000 U.S. Census data, eight of the top ten surnames in the United States are of British Isles origin, while two are the most common surnames among Hispanics. In the last UK Census in 2001, surnames in England can be compared to the United States with 6 of the family names in England being in both their top ten. Many English surnames are also found in Ireland. This is attributable to a number of factors, including the Protestant Plantation of Ireland, the imposition of the Penal Laws in the 1700s which forced many Irish people to Anglicize their surnames, and English ancestry in the Irish population itself, especially in the area around Dublin. Also, in the 9th century, Viking invaders brought many Norse names to Ireland that they had already brought to England when they established and settled the Danelaw. Some Scandinavian names may have been brought to England in pre-Viking times, especially in the North and East, and the Anglo-Normans who invaded Ireland in the 1170s brought many Norman French names which had already spread to England.
It should be pointed out, however, that a significant number of non-English immigrants anglicized their surnames. For example, "Smith" may come from German Schmidt, or Dutch Smit; "Johnson" from Norwegian or Danish Johansen, Dutch Jansen, or Swedish Johansson, "Brown" from German Braun, "Miller" from German Müller, and so forth. On the other hand, "Williams", "Jones", and "Davis", which are often associated with Welsh ancestry due to their common occurrence in Wales, are actually mostly English, as Wales has a much smaller population (and diaspora) than England.
There are many places in the United States named after places in Great Britain as a result of the many British 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:Birmingham after Birmingham, England
Dover after Dover, England
Wilmington named by Proprietor Thomas Penn after his friend Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, who was prime minister in the reign of George II of Great Britain.
Georgia was named after King George II.
Maryland named so for Queen Henrietta Maria (Queen Mary).
Boston after Boston, England
Gloucester after Gloucester, England
Southampton after Southampton, England
Northampton after Northampton, England
New Hampshire state (after Hampshire)
Manchester after Manchester, England
Burlington County and Burlington after the English east-coast town of Bridlington.
Gloucester County and Gloucester City after the city of Gloucester / county of Gloucestershire in England.
New York City (after the Duke of York)
Berks County after Berkshire (pronounced "Barkshire"), England
Bucks County after Buckinghamshire, England
Chester County and Chester after Chester, England
Darby derived from Derby (pronounced "Darby"), the county town of Derbyshire (pronounced "Darbyshire")
Horsham after Horsham (pronounced "Hor-sham"), England
Lancaster County and Lancaster after the city of Lancaster in the county of Lancashire in England, the native home of John Wright, one of the early settlers.
Reading, Berks County after Reading (pronounced "Redding"), Berkshire (pronounced "Barkshire"), England
Warminster after the small town of Warminster in the county of Wiltshire, at the western extremity of Salisbury Plain, England.
The province, named Carolina (The Carolinas-North and South) to honor King Charles I of England, was divided into SC and NC in 1729, although the actual date is the subject of debate.
The name Virginia was first applied by Queen Elizabeth I (the "Virgin Queen") and Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584.,
American Architecture, particularly in the nation's earlier years, has long been strongly influenced by English styles. The United States Capitol building, for example, was first designed by English-educated American Architect William Thornton, and bears a resemblance to St Paul's Cathedral in London. Also, many American college campuses, such as Harvard, Penn, Yale, Brown, Williams, Princeton University, and the University of Delaware, have English Georgian or English gothic architecture.
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.
Most of the Presidents of the United States have had English ancestry. The extent of English heritage varies in the presidents with earlier presidents being predominantly of colonial English Yankee stock. Later US Presidents' ancestry can often be traced to ancestors from multiple nations in Europe, including England.George Washington (English)
1st President 1789–97 (great-grandfather, John Washington from Purleigh, Essex, England.)
John Adams (English)
2nd President 1797–1801 (great-great-grandfather, Henry Adams born 1583 Barton St David, Somerset, England, immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts.)
Thomas Jefferson (English and Scots-English)
3rd President 1801–09 (Maternal English ancestry from William Randolph.)
James Madison (English)
4th President 1809–17 (Isaac Maddeson, born 1590 in London, England)
John Quincy Adams (English)
6th President 1825–29 (Henry Adams born 1583 Barton St David, Somerset, England.)
Andrew Jackson (Scots-Irish & English)
7th President 1829-1837: His parents were Ulster-Scot colonists who immigrated from Boneybefore, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim, present-day Northern Ireland. His patrilineal family line originated in Killingswold Grove, Yorkshire, England.
William Henry Harrison (English)
9th President 1841–41
John Tyler (English)
10th President 1841–45
Zachary Taylor (English)
12th President 1849–50
Millard Fillmore (English)
13th President 1850–53
Franklin Pierce (English)
14th President 1853–57
Abraham Lincoln (English & Welsh)
16th President 1861–65 (Samuel Lincoln baptised 1622 in Hingham, Norfolk, England, died in Hingham, Massachusetts.)
Andrew Johnson (Scots-Irish & English)
17th President 1865–69
Ulysses S. Grant (Scots-Irish, English & Scottish)
18th President, 1869–77 (Matthew Grant, born 1601 in Wool, Dorset)
Rutherford B. Hayes (English)
19th President 1877–81
James A. Garfield (English, Welsh and French)
20th President 1881–81 (Edward Garfield, born 1583 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire)
Chester A. Arthur (Scots-Irish & English)
21st President 1881–85
Grover Cleveland (Scots-Irish & English)
22nd and 24th President, 1885–89 and 1893–97 (Moses Cleveland, born 1619 in Ipswich, Suffolk)
Benjamin Harrison (Scots-Irish & English)
23rd President, 1889–93 (Benjamin Harrison, born 1594 in Northampton)
William McKinley (Scots-Irish & English)
25th President, 1897–1901
Theodore Roosevelt (Scots-Irish, Dutch, Scots, English & French)
26th President, 1901–09
William Howard Taft (Scots-Irish & English)
27th President 1909–13 (Robert Taft, born 1640 in Norwich, Norfolk)
Warren G. Harding (Scots-Irish & English)
29th President 1921–23
Calvin Coolidge (English)
30th President 1923–29 (John Coolidge, born 1604 in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire)
Herbert Hoover (German, English & Irish)
31st President 1929-33
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Dutch, French & English)
32nd President 1933–45
Harry S. Truman (Scots-Irish, English & German)
33rd President 1945–53
Lyndon B. Johnson (English)
36th President 1963–69
Richard Nixon (Scots-Irish, Irish, English & German)
37th President, 1969–74
Gerald Ford (English)
38th President 1974–77 (Phillip King, born 1709 in Dartmouth, Devon)
Jimmy Carter (Scots-Irish & English)
39th President 1977–81 (William Carter emigrated from London, England to Isle of Wight County, Virginia.)
Ronald Reagan (Scots-Irish, Irish, English & Scottish)
40th President 1981–89: He was the great-grandson, on his father's side, of Irish migrants from County Tipperary who came to America via Canada and England in the 1840s. His mother was of Scottish and English ancestry.
George H. W. Bush (Scots-Irish, English, Dutch & German)
41st President 1989–93: County Wexford historians have found that one of his ancestors, Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke nicknamed "Strongbow" offered his military services in the 12th-century Norman invasion of Wexford, Ireland. Strongbow married Aoife, daughter of Dermot MacMurrough, the Gaelic king of Leinster who had welcomed the Norman assistance to regain his throne in Ireland. .
Bill Clinton (Scots-Irish & English)
42nd President 1993–2001
George W. Bush (Scots-Irish, English, Dutch, German & Welsh)
43rd President 2001–09: Reynold Bush from Messing, Essex, England emigrated in 1631 to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Barack Obama (Luo, English & Irish)
44th President 2009–: His maternal ancestors came to America from France, England, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland. His ancestors lived in New England and the South and by the 1800s most were in the Midwest. His father was Luo (or Jaluo) from Kenya, and was the first person in his family to travel or live outside of Africa.
The U.S. Presidents which lacked recent English ancestry were James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. Also, President Donald Trump does not have recent English ancestry, with all of his recent ancestry coming from Germany and Scotland.