The vast majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, perhaps upwards of
90 percent, are descendants of people who came from England and Ireland
between the early 17th century and the late 19th century. Most of the
immigrants came from two specific regions - the southwest of England and the
southeast of Ireland. Small numbers, however, did come from other parts of
the British Isles including London, Liverpool, the English Midlands, other
parts of Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. Very few
came from Wales, though there are clearly some of Welsh ancestry who came
from English ports near Wales such as Bristol and Liverpool.
Bristol, after London the second largest port and city in England at the
time, initiated the voyages of Newfoundland exploration and discovery, began
the English seasonal trans-Atlantic migratory cod fishing tradition that
lasted for four centuries and established the first English colonies. Bristol
merchants were also among the first, if not the original, to begin using Irish
labour in the Newfoundland fishery thereby affording both the opportunity and
circumstances for Irish migration and settlement to occur.
Activities begun in Newfoundland from Bristol were quickly taken up and
often soon dominated by other West of England regions and Wessex (an area
including the county of Dorsetshire, south Somerset, southwestern
Wiltshire and west Hampshire). More than 40 ports, mostly located between
Bristol and Southampton, sent fishing expeditions up to the end of the 17th
century. The more prominent included Bristol, Bideford and
Barnstaple from the Bristol Channel-North Devon area; Plymouth, Dartmouth,
Teignmouth, Topsham and Exmouth from South Devon; Weymouth and Poole in
Dorset; Southampton in Hampshire, and London. Several ports, especially
Bristol and the major harbours in South Devon and Dorset, forged migration
links which lasted nearly four centuries. These became the main conduits and
sources of permanent English migration, and sponsored migration
|The English West Country.
More than 40 ports, mostly located between Bristol and Southampton, sent
fishing expeditions to Newfoundland up to the end of the 17th century.
Adapted by Tanya Saunders. ©2001 Newfoundland and Labrador
Heritage Web Site.
In the process Newfoundland was gradually transformed into a settled,
self-sustaining society with a distinctive structure dominated by two major
ethnic groups. To a large degree, the patterns of English and Irish
settlement in Newfoundland reflect the historic patterns of migration in
the fishery among participating ports, their source areas of recruiting
servants and the specific parts of Newfoundland where they carried on
fisheries and conducted trade.
©2000, Gordon Handcock
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