What is proper location name for pre-1776 Massachusetts?

+9 votes
We have had  numerous discussions recently on the proper location name for Massachusetts activity pre-1776.  I thought that we had settled on "Massachusetts Bay".  Now I see changes being made to :"Province of Massachusetts Bay."  Did I miss something?
in Policy and Style by Hayward Houghton G2G6 (7.2k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Honestly, I'd be happy just using "Massachusetts" as a meaningful geographic term for the whole mess, but people have become persnickety about using the official contemporary names. That means Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, or Province of Massachusetts Bay, depending on the location and the date. (And Wikipedia points out at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Province_of_Massachusetts_Bay that Maine, Nova Scotia, and News Brunswick were also part of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.)

I'm one of the people who objects to "Massachusetts Bay" as a stand-alone place name. Massachusetts Bay is a body of water -- see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_Bay for details. It is not -- and never was -- the name of a terrestrial place. I have a couple of ancestors who may have died (by drowning) in Massachusetts Bay, but otherwise my Massachusetts ancestors lived on land, not in the Bay. Please don't omit the words "Colony" or "Province of" when you use that name.
I am with you 100%.  At least "Province of Massachusetts Bay ' is better than a very watery "Massachusetts Bay"!
I grew up in the "south bay" area of Los Angeles.  I don't know if this usage existed anywhere in colonial America, but there have definitely been places where people use "bay" as a stand-in for "a region of land adjoining said bay".  Regardless, I include "Province of" on Wikitree profiles. But I can't yet stomach writing "Dominion of New England" :-)
Boston has a neighborhood called Back Bay (it used to be mostly water, but was converted to land by landfilling). But Massachusetts Bay was not the name of a neighborhood...

6 Answers

+3 votes
Best answer

Before October 7, 1691, it should be Massachusetts Bay Colony or Plymouth Colony, depending on what town you are talking about.

In October 7, 1691, the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony were merged into the Province of Massachusetts Bay, so from October 7, 1691 to 1776, it should be Province of Massachusetts Bay.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Province_of_Massachusetts_Bay

by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (319k points)
selected by Hayward Houghton
My thanks to all who have provided information,  I think that I have the picture,now.
+6 votes
Try looking under Category:Massachusetts
by G. Moore G2G6 Mach 3 (39.4k points)
+4 votes
Great question. Timing is everything. Generally, the "Colonies" had matured as far as they would by 1776 and boundaries had been mostly settled. So, that being said, the proper description would be "Colony of XXX, Village, Town, City XXX, County of XXX (beware of historic changes/combinations), British Colony of America."

The more important question is when to start using "United States of America."  Is everything past 07/04/1776 the USA?

I've seen several lax mistakes in this regard, but I don't think it created any confusion. Using the correct form adds a degree of historical reality that I think is valuable to the interested reader.
by Douglas Delack G2G1 (1.2k points)
+4 votes
Province of Massachusetts Bay is correct; although Massachusetts Bay Colony is generally acceptable, also.
Appending British Colonial America is incorrect; the colonies were not referred by that name in their day.
by Jim Parish G2G6 Pilot (177k points)
The Province and the Colony are different. The Province of Massachusetts Bay was formed in 1692.  Before that date, part of Massachusetts was Plymouth Colony and part was Massachusetts Bay Colony. Except possibly for the years from 1686 to 1688, when the King made it part of the Dominion of New England.
+3 votes

Jim Parrish is correct for Massachusetts. After 1776, you need to look at each locale. Not all of the colonies joined the United States at the same time. For example, while Rhode Island was the first to renounce allegiance to the crown, it was the last of the 13 to become a state. It did so on 29 May 1790. Using United States before 1790 would be incorrect. Also, I don't think we ever use its official name of "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." 

by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (552k points)
Please note that the Province of Massachusetts Bay is not a synonym for Massachusetts Bay Colony.
+2 votes

Some people here have done quite a bit of work on this topic. See North American Place Names on WikiTree.

by Chip White G2G6 Mach 2 (24.1k points)
Lovely Chip..just what I needed, thank you.

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