The emigration from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland to America occured over 150 years for several separate reasons. These migrations can be identified as various "waves" of people, reacting to the causes for immigration.
The first "wave", (1617-1640), was the pioneering wave - the original American settlements. The original settlements were sanctioned by the ruling monarchies as a land grab and resource grab to enrich the mother country. Land grants were made, with the express stipulation of establishing settlements and shipping back resources.
The second wave, (1629-1643), was the migration of the English Puritans. They came to New England, primarily from eastern English counties. The first group of Puritans had left the Church of England and persecution from the Anglicans to settle in the Netherlands. Their leader, William Brewster, had found the Dutch something less than genial hosts, although they shared the same joyless Calvinism. Not having the money needed for a ship, they indentured themselves for 7 years to a group of London loansharks. Four years later, in 1620, they cleared England in their ship the Mayflower. Once settled, they established a culture of distinct standards, including Congregational Churches, town meetings, and pride in their newly established independence in Massachusetts.
In the third wave to America, (1640-1665), dissimilar groups of English came to Virginia from both southern and central England. When Cromwell's Roundhead Puritans defeated and beheaded King Charles I, many of the king's Cavalier followers sought refuge in Virginia and New York. Upon restoration of the Stuart monarchy under Charles II, those Puritans who supported the overthrow of Charles I, fled to New England. These far-flung settlements created communities with extreme social rank variations, Anglican Churches, powerful rule by a few for many, an evolved sense of integrity, and the ideals of liberty.
In the fourth wave, (1675-1715), was the migration of Friends. This brought even another way of life from England's north midlands to the Delaware Valley (Western Jersey and Pennsylvania). Elements of north midlands speech, architecture, dress and food habits were maintained.
The next wave, (1713-1775), was a time of mass migration from the Borderlands of England and Scotland to the back country of the Carolinas and Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky. Smaller numbers of these people emigrated to Maryland, New Jersey, New England and New York. The north of Ireland, the Scottish lowlands and borders, and England's six northern counties made up the main portions of this emigration. Included here were the Jacobites, people trying to restore James II and the Stuart family to the throne. After they were crushed at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, they needed some place to go, and they found their refuge on the western frontiers of the Carolinas. The western portions of Pennsylvania and Maryland attracted Catholic Irish seeking sanctuary from Cromwell and Charles II, while fleeing the famine and poverty imposed by their rent-wracking Protestant landlords. From the Protestant North of Ireland came the Scots-Irish, militant Presbyterians so-called either because they were the "Plantation Irish", transported to lands seized from their Catholic owners by the persecutions of King James I of Britain or Cromwell. This wave included the Scottish Covenanters, or Presbyterians, rebelling against Charles II's attempts to impose Anglicanism on them. Finally there were the Welsh, many of them Quakers, who found sanctuary in William Penn's colony of Friends. It was marked by a disparity in social position for people bouyed by the constant hope of liberty.
The last wave, (1732-1780), was mainly the Highland Scots. They settled mostly in the Carolinas, but also in New York, Nova Scotia (New Scotland), and Georgia. They came to America for three distinct reasons: 1) increases in land rents and evictions caused by modernization in agriculture 2) the collapse of the clans, caused by new English laws that changed societal affiliations and 3) an increasing growth in population that added to family poverty and unrest.