Congratulations! You've made it through the first four
courses on tracing your immigrant origins. You are now ready to tackle
the most difficult of American origins: Those who arrived before the
keeping of regular passenger lists.
What is The Colonial Period?
Colonial immigration encompasses the entire colonial
history of the United States, as well as the early federal period (sometimes
called Jacksonian America), up to 1820. At this time, the sources and
strategies are essentially similar for the future United States as well
as Canada. After all, for most of this period, both areas were primarily
British colonial possessions.
Although St. Augustine, Florida, was settled by the
Spanish in 1565, most people date the beginning of immigration to British
North America with the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. During
the next decade, a few Dutch began arriving at the future site of New
York City. However, immigration was slow and poorly organized until
the Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1620. A few ships
arrived during the next decade, but the arrival of Winthrop's fleet
at Boston in 1630 truly signaled the first major immigration wave, often
called the "Great Migration."
Between 1607 and 1820 early European immigration was
basically British (England, Scotland, Ulster Ireland, Southern Ireland,
Wales) and German. However, there was little immigration between the
Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and 1815, due to wars on both sides of
the ocean. Hence, most of the immigration during this period took place
during the colonial period.