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%.
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.
Map with England and the United States highlighted. Shows the first permanent English settlement of Jamestown in 1607.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 nineteenth 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.
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.
English language distribution in the United States.
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".
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.
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".
Amazing Grace - written by English poet and clergymanJohn 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.
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 the some of the following:
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.
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.
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.
^Reynolds Farley, 'The New Census Question about Ancestry: What Did It Tell Us?', Demography, Vol. 28, No. 3 (August 1991), pp. 414, 421.
^Stanley Lieberson and Lawrence Santi, 'The Use of Nativity Data to Estimate Ethnic Characteristics and Patterns', Social Science Research, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1985), pp. 44-6.
^Stanley Lieberson and Mary C. Waters, 'Ethnic Groups in Flux: The Changing Ethnic Responses of American Whites', Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 487, No. 79 (September 1986), pp. 82-86.
^Mary C. Waters, Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), p. 36.
^ "Laban Adams belongs to the illustrious family of Henry Adams who came from Devonshire, England, about 1636 and settled in Quincy, Massachusetts His great great grandson, Samuel Adams, was the "Father of the Great American Revolution,"
^In 1584 Sir Walter Raleigh sent Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to lead an exploration of what is now the North Carolina coast, and they returned with word of a regional "king" named "Wingina." This was modified later that year by Raleigh and the Queen to "Virginia", perhaps in part noting her status as the "Virgin Queen." Stewart, George (1945). Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House. p. 22.
1 Poles came to the United States legally as Austrians, Germans, Prussians or Russians throughout the 19th century, because from 1772-1795 till 1918, all Polish lands had been partitioned between imperial Austria, Prussia (a protoplast of Germany) and Russia until Poland regained its sovereignty in the wake of World War I.
7 Disputed; Roma have recognized origins and historic ties to Asia (specifically to Northern India), but they experienced at least some distinctive identity development while in diaspora among Europeans.