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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.

Historical Background

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.

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