For people born before 1776, for place of birth, do we use the term British America?

+9 votes
493 views
in WikiTree Help by Cynthia Rhine G2G1 (1.6k points)

2 Answers

+15 votes
No, we use the colony names!

See: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19msdf4uzxBiyIwCSNUBcrHt15Qp-DXpGxBYLp3YWDO0/edit#gid=1136264887

or inquire with a specific state project in United States History project. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Project:United_States_History
by Natalie Trott G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Ugh!  Say it aloud.  If you lived here would you say 'I live in British America?'
thanks so much!  Cynthia
I see a few errors on that spreadsheet; who owns it and is it open to suggestions/edits?
Georgia is the only one I know of that's potentially ambiguous.
Delaware used to be part of Pennsylvania.
It really helps to know the genealogy of the place you were searching .    In the early days county lines changed.  State lines changed I'm town lines were altered .
Before 1776, Maryland is "Province of Maryland."  Period.
Whose province?
+1 vote
If we're using 'United States of America, ' USA abbreviated, after 1776, then it should also be British America, or British Colonial America before that time since the colonies, all of them, were under charter, dominion, jurisdiction and control of the Crown of England. That would be consistent and logical.
by Paul Phillips G2G Crew (990 points)
Not to be a stickler on details, but you didn't read the document. You read a modern electronic transcription of the purported document. That and the irony that it's from an era when there was little grammatical or spelling convention.

It's fascinating to me the contortions undertaken to avoid the undeniable fact that the Colonies of the North American seaboard, whether capitalized Colonies, or not, colonies, or even spelled correctly by today's standards, were under the total dominion and control of the King of England until 1776 or so. If they weren't, then why did Colonists, or colonists if you prefer, have to declare independence, or is that Independence, and fight a Revolutionary/revolutionary war to gain independence from Great Britain?

I think I know why though, but I'll keep that to myself for now.

To my point though, whatever we agree to call them, the Colonies weren't hanging out there in the free space of a political vacuum. They were under control of the Royal government of England as British Colonies, of Colonies of England, or His Majesties Royal Charter and Decree, or any variations thereof.

British Colonial America, or British America is just a way to simplify what can be a complicated topic imo.

As far as I can see the original question above was in the context of WikiTree location fields and biography text nomenclature. So it"s not a question of what these places were. Under WikiTree's fundamental principle of using their conventions instead of ours, it's a question of what the people who lived in them at the time called them. They did not call them either British America or British Colonial America.

That's the thing, they had a number of different terms for referring to them and they had no official convention about how they were identified. And some identities changed over the course of time, reigns, etc. But if you had were asked people of 'the colonies' pre 1776 whether they were subjects of His Majesty's Crown in England, or not, what do you think they'd have said?

Early on they were Roanoke, Plymouth, Jamestown, Virginia, Carolinas, New England, geographic descriptors, bay x or river y, point a, b or c, Virginia Company charters, London Company, commonwealth overseas, the realm in America, land grants, 'plantacions,' new world, outposts, forts in xxx, Capt or Col so and so's expedition, across the seas, the x or y colony, colonies, early cities and counties etc., etc., etc. And that's not getting into names of locations that changed over time, or those that we're named specifically after locations in England. I've never seen a word count on the topic, but I read a lot of old books and I'm certain it's easily in the triple digits. (Google doesn't read old books by the way.)

Over time, the geo-political boundaries of the 13 colonies resembling our present day states were surveyed and took shape, but they didn't start that way. They took shape nearer to the time of the revolution and onward, but were scattered, spotty and varied over degrees of time beforehand.

Isn't it just simpler to organize them all loosely under the common heading that they all had in common going back to Roanoke, regardless of the period, with a few exceptions, whether they at that time had the presence of mind or awareness to or not in the time that they lived? ie: British America, British Colonial America.

Whether agreed on the previous points or not, it's not logical or consistent to refer to places post-1776, as United States of America or USA abbreviated, clearly linking and identifying the nation state of geo-political dominion and control, without doing the same for those locations prior to 1776.

Every rule has exceptions and this should be one imo.
No.  Every colonial era Maryland document I've looked at that has a location in it says "Province of Maryland."  We use their conventions.  I'm not about to slap a label on them that they never used.

Again I ask, whose province? Maryland was not a free and independent state. It belonged to someone, like the rest of the colonies did.

That said, it could be true, although I'm pretty sure I've seen Maryland referred other ways too as noted above, but if so it would only be true until 1689 when Maryland reverted from Proprietary charter to Royal charter and became a Royal colony.

As a technical legal matter it could only be an English 'province' until 1689, then an English colony, but became a colony of Great Britain in 1707.

Ref: Proprietary colony

This and many other examples of the era are why British America or some variant thereof is far simpler than getting into the weeds and legal technicalities of what some called it, vs others, vs what the crown called it, because the reality is that the crown claimed and maintained ownership of Maryland from 1632, until it was disputed starting in 1776.

The only issue is what Maryland called itself before 1776 and the phrase on documents is "Province of Maryland."

Kingdom of England implied. 

The Charter of Maryland, by King Charles I, does specify referring to the 'Province of Maryland, but it's also very clear who retains dominion and control, and by whom all power and authority for the venture flows, through The Crown. 

Ref: Maryland Charter of 1632

So to be logical and consistent, your citations should read: Location X, Province of Maryland, English or British America, depending on the specific regnal year. ;) 

Paul, it may be a good time to review the discussion rule that says Do not express the same disagreement repeatedly. Instead, if you want to, you can post a new question proposing a change to the "their conventions" principle, following the procedure for developing new rules. I have to say I don't think such a proposal would succeed.

In wills of the time, residents used the name of their location. Specifically speaking of one area, they stated their residence as (town) (County) Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England. And earlier, it was (town) (County) Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England. Never did they refer to "British Colonial America," or any other thing like it. We use their conventions.
It is amazing how many times this topic is constantly revisited. Nobody has ever debated who "claimed" to own them or what nation they held featly toward. Of course merely trying to tag it "British Colonial America" not only is inaccurate but ignores the french, spanish, dutch, and swedish colonies that were going on in the same time frame.

This argument is about as silly as believing someone born in 1923 in Germany should refer to it as "Germany, European Union". The crux of the whole argument is "What did the people who LIVED THERE call it?"

The whole purpose for the spreadsheet with the names by different dates was to have some type of standardization. At the time and still in most circumstances, they all link back to wikipedia entries supporting the claims made in the spreadsheet. It is color coded for pre and post USA as well as splitting where different parts of the current state was called by different names.

There was an unbelievable amount of effort put  into that sheet and basically there are 3 options. 1. Use it as is. 2. Ignore it and put whatever you want but don't complain if someone tries to change it. 3. Send links to the info showing where something isn't correct so it can be reviewed, evaluated, and potentially updated. Bear in mind that due to many competing claims and names that the sheet picks the name most commonly accepted and may have "notes" about ambiguous claims during that period.

I would strongly suggest hovering over entries and checking for notes or clicking links and check the research before blindly claiming something is wrong.

My appreciation goes out to all who appreciate the sheet for what it is, a guide to the naming conventions. And don't forget to check other sections which link to county breakdowns over time and other sources of info.

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