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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Regency Places

When I started to write Regencies, I looked at maps to familiarize myself with the places where my characters lived. Even a cursory examination revealed that many English place names were duplicated in the United States, especially in the areas the English settled.

The English were the first Europeans to arrive in the northeastern United States, where I live, and they named the area New England after the home country. As they built cities and towns, they named them after the places they had left behind.

Examples abound. After New England, the most familiar names are New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, named for the British counties of York, Hampshire and Jersey. Manchester and Peterborough are in New Hampshire, and Warwick is in Rhode Island. Massachusetts has Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex counties.

Some names were so popular the settlers reused them. Both Connecticut and Massachusetts have Middlesex counties. The city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, lies in northern New England, and Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in the south. Connecticut contains the city of Bristol, and Bristol County is part of Massachusetts. The city of Worcester, Massachusetts, lies in Worcester County. There are two Oxfords in Massachusetts, one in Bristol County and one in Worcester County.

Boston, Lincolnshire, lent its name to Boston, Massachusetts. The Charles River, named for King Charles I, separates Boston from Cambridge. About fifteen miles west of Boston is the Town of Lincoln. Travel another fifteen miles west to reach the City of Marlborough. Alas, Marlborough, Massachusetts, has no Duke.

Other English place names in Massachusetts include (in no particular order): Waltham, Sudbury, Bedford, Dover, Shrewsbury, Truro, Gloucester, Chelmsford, Tewksbury (not quite a match, the English town is spelled Tewkesbury), Falmouth, Taunton, Bridgewater and Chelsea.

As far as place names go, I've only scratched the surface. When I look at the maps again, I know I'll find even more.

Thank you all,


Skhye said...

Great post. It's amazing how much of what we think uniquely ours in the US can go waaaay back--back to the early beginnings of what is now Europe.

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Lindsay Townsend said...

Fascinating post, Linda! I love the blend of place names that you get in the USA and it's always interesting to learn how places were named.

susan said...

Thanks for such an interesting post..never really gave it a lot of thought until now. I know I lived in Amish area here in PA and some of the names of those towns reflect back to the old was amazing to live around towns like..Blue Ball, Intercourse, Paradise,Comfort, Honeybrook and many others. susan L.

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Skhye. I always knew the area was full of English place names, but I never realized quite how many there were.

Hi Lindsay. Yes, here there are lots of English place names, as well as lots of Native American names, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Susan, those Pennsylvania names are hilarious. We know what they were thinking about!

LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Linda, I enjoy thinking about the etymology of place names here, also. Northern Virginia is full of English names for its streets including Queen Street and King Street in Alexandria.

In my part of PA it's heavily Scottish named: Highlander roads in my town and the next town over, Stewart Drive, and so on. My county seat was named after a Scottish general. It's easy to see who was most settled where way back when!

Linda Banche said...

Hi LK. Well, you learn something every day. I knew Virginia was English, but didn't know Pennsylvania was Scottish.

Mary Ricksen said...

How cool to know where the names came from! Very interesting.

Linda Banche said...

Hi Mary, glad you liked the post.

Robin said...

Great topic! PA has a lot of English names too, though it's not technically New England. There's a York, Lancaster, Warrington, Warminster, Chester, Southhampton, Northampton, Abington. The list goes on. And that's just in the Bucks and Montgomery country areas.

PA also has a lot of Welsh names - not only places like North Wales but also towns which retain the original Welsh spelling like Bala Cynwyd:

Linda Banche said...

Hi Robin, I didn't know about Pennsylvania. William Penn, PA's founder, was an Englishman, so English people came over with him. But because he welcomed everyone--"Penn's Woods" was a tolerant colony in an intolerant era--I can understand why there are lots of Welsh names, too.

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