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Demographics of Bermuda

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Bermuda, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Census population and average annual growth rate
YearPop.±% p.a.


Bermudian sisters Rosalie, Helen and Ellesif Darrell in 1846
Bermudian sisters Rosalie, Helen and Ellesif Darrell in 1846
Black labourers packing onions on Bermuda, 1895. As such work was stigmatised amongst Bermudians, much of it was carried out by families brought in from Portuguese Atlantic islands and the British West Indies
Black labourers packing onions on Bermuda, 1895. As such work was stigmatised amongst Bermudians, much of it was carried out by families brought in from Portuguese Atlantic islands and the British West Indies

Demographics is a thorny subject in Bermuda, the legacy of a long history of racism. From settlement until the 19th century, the largest demographic group remained what in the United States is referred to as white-Anglo (or white Anglo-Saxon Protestant). The reason Black slaves did not quickly come to outnumber Whites, as was the case in continental and West Indian colonies at that time (such as Carolina Colony and Barbados), was that Bermuda's 17th century agricultural industry continued to rely on indentured servants, mostly from England, until 1684, thanks to it remaining a company colony (with poor would-be settlers contracting to provide a fixed number of years' labour in exchange for the cost of transport). Spanish-speaking Blacks began to immigrate in numbers from the West Indies as indentured servants in the mid-17th century, but White fears at their growing numbers led to their terms of indenture being raised from seven years, as with Whites, to ninety-nine years. Throughout the next two centuries, frequent efforts were made to lower the Black population.

Free Blacks, who were the majority of Black Bermudians in the 17th century, were threatened with enslavement as an attempt to encourage their emigration, and slave owners were encouraged to export enslaved Blacks (with all slaves seen, like horses on an archipelago with dense forests and few roads, as a status symbol) whenever a war loomed, as they were portrayed as unnecessary bellies to feed during times of shortage (even before abandoning agriculture for maritime activities in 1684, Bermuda had become reliant on food imports).

In addition to free and enslaved Blacks, 17th century Bermuda had large minorities of Irish indentured servants and Native American slaves, as well as smaller number of Scots, all forced to leave their homelands and shipped to Bermuda.[2] Native Americans sold into chattel slavery in Bermuda were brought from various parts of North America, including Mexico, but most particularly from the Algonquian areas of the Atlantic seaboard, from which natives were being ethnically-cleansed to make way for resettlement by England; most famously following the Pequot War and Metacomet's War. The Irish and Scots are usually described as prisoners-of-war, which was certainly true of the Scots. The Irish shipped to Bermuda following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland included both prisoners-of-war and civilians of either sex ethnically-cleansed from lands slated for resettlement by Protestants from Britain, including Cromwell's soldiers who were to be paid with Irish land. In Bermuda they were sold into indentured servitude. The Scots and the Irish were ostracised by the white English population, who were particularly fearful of the Irish, who plotted rebellions with Black slaves, and intermarried with the Blacks and Native Americans.[3] The majority white-Anglo population, or at least its elites, became alarmed very early at the increasing numbers of Irish and non-whites, most of whom were presumed to be clinging to Catholicism (recusancy was a crime in Bermuda, as it was in England).

Despite the banning of the importation of any more Irish after they were perceived to be the leaders of a foiled 1661 uprising intended to be carried out in concert with black slaves, the passing of a law against miscegenation in 1663, the first of a succession of attempts to force free blacks to emigrate in 1656 (in response to an uprising by enslaved blacks), and frequent encouragement of the owners of black slaves to export them, by the Eighteenth Century the merging of the various minority groups, along with some of the white-Anglos, had resulted in a new demographic group, "coloured" (which term, in Bermuda, referred to anyone not wholly of European ancestry) Bermudians, gaining a slight majority.

Some islanders, especially in St David's, still trace their ancestry to Native Americans, and many more are ignorant of having such ancestry. Hundreds of Native Americans were shipped to Bermuda. The best known examples were the Algonquian peoples, who were exiled from the New England colonies and sold into slavery in the 17th century, notably in the aftermaths of the Pequot War and King Philip's War, but some are believed to have been brought from as far away as Mexico.

During the course of the 18th century, Bermuda's population was boiled down to two demographic groups: White and Coloured.

The population of Bermuda on the 1 January, 1699 was 5,862, including 3,615 white (with 724 men able to bear arms) and 2,247 coloured (with 529 men able to bear arms).

The population of Bermuda on 17 April 1721, was listed as 8,364, composed of: "Totals:—Men on the Muster roll, 1,078; men otherwise, 91; Women, 1,596; boys, 1,072; girls, 1,013. Blacks; Men, 817, women 965; boys 880; girls, 852." [4]

The population of Bermuda in 1727 was 8,347, and included 4,470 white (910 men; 1,261 boys; 1,168 women; 1,131 girls) and 3,877 coloured (787 men; 1,158 boys; 945 women; 987 girls).

The population of Bermuda in 1783 was 10,381, and included 5,462 white (1,076 males under 15; 1,325 males over 15; 3,061 females) and 4,919 coloured (1,153 males under 15; 1,193 males over 15; 2,573 females).[5]

By 18 November 1811, the permanent population of Bermuda was 10,180, including 5,425 coloured and 4,755 white:

A return of the white and coloured population of the Bermuda Islands this 18th day of November, 1811
(Source: Robert Kennedy, (Colonial) Secretary's Office, February 4th, 1812)
Whites Enslaved Coloured Free Coloured Whites Enslaved Coloured Free Coloured Whites Enslaved Coloured Free Coloured White and Coloured
Males under 16 Males above 16 Females under 16 Females above 16 Absent Males under 16 Males above 16 Females under 16 Females above 16 Absent Males under 16 Males above 16 Females under 16 Females above 16 Absent Males Females Males Females Males Females Total male and female Total male and female Total male and female Grand Total
699 893 745 2,137 361 961 1,082 1,012 1,408 673 76 69 105 190 17 1,728 2,883 2,225 2,480 151 295 4,755 4,974 451 10,180
Dandy on Bermuda, 1895
Dandy on Bermuda, 1895
Black children on Bermuda, 1895
Black children on Bermuda, 1895

By 1831, the permanent population of Bermuda (not including the thousands of Royal Navy sailors and marines or British Army and Board of Ordnance soldiers based in Bermuda, or the 1,500 convicts shipped from Britain and Ireland to labour at the Royal Naval Dockyard) was 11,250, including 7,330 white and free coloured, and 3,920 enslaved (coloured).

Population of Bermuda (Census of 1843)[6]
White Coloured
Parish Males Females Males Females TOTAL
St. George's 260 375 394 578 1,607
Hamilton 152 209 303 327 991
Smith's 81 122 113 126 442
Devonshire 120 208 173 224 729
Pembroke 422 572 444 641 2,079
Paget 176 276 189 231 867
Warwick 170 267 201 256 895
Southampton 125 232 231 300 888
Sandys 213 354 414 451 1,432
Population of Bermuda (Census of 1851)[7]
White Coloured
Parish Males Females Males Females TOTAL
St. George's 365 436 431 659 1,891
Hamilton 177 200 330 387 1,094
Smith's 103 135 128 148 514
Devonshire 129 217 208 230 784
Pembroke 431 606 495 703 2,235
Paget 195 293 233 347 1,038
Warwick 180 270 241 283 983
Southampton 145 218 246 308 917
Sandys 231 329 520 556 1,636

By 1871, the permanent population of Bermuda (not including the thousands of sailors and soldiers stationed in the colony; the convicts having been removed) was 12,101, including 4,725 whites (2,118 males; 2,607 females) and 7,376 coloured (3,284 males and 4,112 females).

The term coloured was generally used in preference to black as anyone who was of wholly European ancestry (at least Northern European) was defined as white, leaving everyone else as coloured. This included the multi-racial descendants of the previous minority demographic groups (Black, Irish and Native American), as well as the occasional Jew, Persian, East Asian or other non-White and non-Black Bermudian.[8]

It was largely by this method (mixed-race Bermudians being added to the number of Blacks, rather than added to the number of Whites or being defined as a separate demographic group) that Coloured (subsequently redefined after the Second World War as Black) Bermudians came to outnumber White Bermudians by the end of the 18th century, despite starting off at a numerical disadvantage, and despite low Black immigration prior to the latter 19th century. The scale of White relative to Black emigration in the 17th and 18th centuries also doubtless played a factor. Roughly 10,000 Bermudians are estimated to have emigrated, primarily to the North American continental colonies (particularly: Virginia; Carolina Colony, which later became South Carolina and North Carolina; Georgia; and Florida) before United states independence in 1783. This included white Bermudians from every level of society, but particularly poorer, landless ones as Bermuda's high birth rate produced population growth that could not sustained without emigration. Many free black Bermudians also emigrated, but this was less likely to be voluntary given that they would be leaving families behind and generally faced poorer prospects outside of Bermuda (although white fear of the growing number of blacks did result in free blacks receiving significant 'encouragement' to emigrate, though how many did is not recorded).

Enslaved black Bermudians, by comparison, had little choice but to go were they were taken, and more affluent white Bermudians who settled on the continent or elsewhere often brought slaves with them, as was the case with Denmark Vesey (born in the West Indies, who was enslaved for years to a Bermudian who then resettled with him in South Carolina). Given the choice, enslaved black Bermudians consequently generally chose not to emigrate, even when it would have meant freedom. Abandoning their families in Bermuda was too great a step. Enslaved, adult, black Bermudian males, like white Bermudian men, were generally sailors and or shipwrights, and hired themselves out as did free men, or were hired out, with their earnings usually divided between themselves and the slave masters, who relied on the enslaved man's family bonds to Bermuda to ensure he did not abscond; allowing slaves to carry out a small degree of control over their economic life and to amass their own savings also worked to discourage slaves from escaping overseas, where they might find freedom, but also likely face poverty and social exclusion.[9]

By example, in 1828 the ship Lavinia stopped in Bermuda on a voyage from Trinidad to Belfast, Ireland, and signed on twelve enslaved Bermudian sailors as crew. On reaching Belfast, where slavery was illegal, in September, eleven of the enslaved Bermudians were brought before a magistrate with members of the Anti-Slavery Society in attendance after a member of the Society of Friends had reported their presence (the twelfth, Thomas Albouy, failed to appear as he was on watch duty aboard the Lavinia and unwilling to abandon his post). Each man was asked individually whether he wished to remain in Ireland as a free man. Their replies were:

  • Benjamin Alick (written Alik): "I wish to go back to my family and friends"
  • Richard Place: "I wish to return to my mother"
  • Francis Ramio: "I wish to return to my wife"
  • Joseph Varman: wished to return
  • James Lambert: wished to return
  • Thomas Williams: wished to return to his wife and child
  • Joshua Edwards: wished to remain free in Ireland
  • Robert Edwards: wished to remain free in Ireland
  • Joseph Rollin: wished to remain free in Ireland
  • John Stowe (written Stow): "I wish to go back to my family"
  • George Bassett: "I am much obliged to the gentlemen for their offer of freedom, but I wish to return to my friends"

The Royal Gazette, on 13 December 1926, quoted a contemporary Irish newspaper as having described the enslaved Bermudians as they spoke English very well, and were stout, healthy men, clean and well dressed. They told the magistrate that in Bermuda their employment was not arduous, they did very little work on the Sabbath day, and they all attended a place of worship. They were usually hired out by their masters, who got two-thirds of their wage and they got the other third. They knew before they left Bermuda that they might be freed in Great Britain, but they had no complaint to make of their condition and, when they spoke of returning to their families, they indicated "the finest emotions and susceptibilities of affection".[10]

Other contributing factors to the changing ratio of the coloured to white population during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries included the greater mortality of Whites from disease in the late 17th century, and patriarchal property laws that transferred a woman's property to her husband upon her marriage. This, combined with the shortage of white males due to the steady outflow of marriageable white sailors from Bermuda who settled abroad or were lost at sea, resulted in a sizeable contingent of ageing and childless white spinsters for which Bermuda was noted well into the Twentieth Century.

Considerable written material (letters, official reports, petitions, et cetera, and, from 1783, the content of Bermudian newspapers) that survives in archives and museums gives insight into the social, economic and political life of Bermuda between its settlement in the 17th Century and the mid-19th Century. Most of the Bermudians mentioned by name in these documents, however, tend to have been the more prominent white males. The views expressed about Bermudians, certainly in official correspondence from Governors, naval and military officers, and other representatives of the imperial government, were often negative, resulting from the antagonistic relationship with Bermuda's native elites, whose economic interests often were not aligned with imperial interests (this was not necessarily always the case for poorer whites and free or enslaved coloured Bermudians). After the American War of Independence, there was deep distrust of Bermuda's local government and the merchant class that dominated it due to the prominent Bermudians who had schemed with the continental rebels, supplying them with ships and gunpowder, and continuing to trade with them in violation of the law. Although it was observed that enslaved coloured Bermudians were generally less likely to revolt than slaves in other colonies, the experience of various slave revolts in other British colonies during the preceding decades and the then ongoing uprising of slaves in Saint Domingue (now Haiti) during the French Revolution, the facts of which it was believed that well-travelled enslaved Bermudian sailors were particularly well-acquainted with and would be inspired by, combined with the relative freedom of movement and association of Bermuda's slaves, meant they were seen as a potential threat by officers of the British Government. As it was also perceived that slaves were not vital to the colony as slave-ownership was common among less well-to-do white households in which much of the work performed by slaves should, and elsewhere would, have been carried out by the more common class of whites themselves (this may have been true of household slaves, who acted as servants and tended small adjacent plots of vegetables grown for the subsistence of the household, which was virtually the only agriculture carried out in Bermuda between 1684 and the 1840s, but most able-bodied enslaved men were actually engaged in maritime activities that were essential to Bermuda's economic survival), it was also felt that the threat of a slave revolt was an unnecessary one.

This was not the only instance where the assumptions of officers of the British government, who were usually aristocrats or from the most privileged class of commoners, coloured their views of Bermudians and Bermudian society. A frequent comment made of Bermudians in the late 18th and early 19th Century was that they were lazy or indolent. Most frequently cited in evidence of this was the apparent failure of Bermudians to fell the cedar forest cloaking the archipelago in order to adopt any manner of intensive agriculture. Numerous governors attempted to encourage agriculture, with little success due partly to the stigma in Bermuda against working the land. What was not obvious to many outside observers was Bermuda's shortage of wood, specifically Bermuda cedar, upon which its maritime economy relied. Bermuda's shipbuilders struggled not to exhaust this precious resource, and land-owning Bermudians counted cedars on their property as wealth which accrued interest over decades as the trees grew, and the remaining forest was consequently protected.

The voices of Bermudians themselves, at least of the poorer ones, the enslaved, and the women, were not generally recorded in the documents that were handed down by those generations.

Bermuda was a popular subject for playwrights, authors and poets in England during the early years of its colonisation, given the drama of its unintended settlement through the wreck of the Sea Venture and its being by far the more successful of the Virginia Company's two settlements until the 1620s. However, as Virginia developed and new colonies were established in the West Indies, Bermuda slipped from the view of writers and the public in England (nearly a century after its settlement, Bermuda, along with the rest of the Kingdom of England, united with the Kingdom of Scotland to become the Kingdom of Great Britain). Although rarely mentioned in histories or other reference books between the latter 17th Century and the 19th Century, Bermuda's designation as Britain's primary naval and military base in the region of North America and West Indies following US Independence, and the emergence of the tourism industry in the latter Nineteenth Century, brought many erudite visitors and short-term residents, some already published authors, and more comprehensive ethnographic information on the people of Bermuda was included in many subsequently published recollections, travel guides, and magazine articles, such as the book BERMUDA; A COLONY, A FORTRESS AND A PRISON; OR, Eighteen Months in the Somers Islands, published anonymously (the author, Ferdinand Whittingham, was identified only as A FIELD OFFICER who had served in the Bermuda Garrison) in 1857,[11] though the authors observations often gave more reliable insight into the assumptions and nature of their own societies and classes.

In 1828, Purser Richard Otter of the Royal Navy published Sketches of Bermuda, or Somers' Islands,[12] a description of Bermuda based on his own observations while serving there, assigned to the North America and West Indies Station. Of his reasons for writing the account, he wrote in the preface:

The obscurity in which the Bermuda's, or Somers' Islands, have remained in point of historical facts, since they were first peopled, and my fruitless endeavours to gain information respecting that Colony, on my appointment to a public situation there, four years ago, determined me to glean all I could during a residence of that period.

I am free to confess that I had many motives in collecting all I could on a place that at first sight interested me in no trifling degree.

The friendly hospitality of the men, the mild and gentle demeanour of the women, that needed not a frown to awe the libertine to respect them, the curiosity natural to a citizen of the world, the wish to become useful to my country, and last, though not least, a desire to make my researches as advantageous as possible to my numerous family, were irresistible inducements, first to collect all the materials I could, and now to trust my feelings and my fate to a generous public.

Of Bermuda's importance to the British Empire, he observed:

The possession of Bermuda, as the key of all our Western Colonies, is of the first importance to England, for if a foe of any maritime strength had possession of it, our trade would be exposed to much annoyance, if not total destruction.

Of the prevailing opinion of Bermudians as expressed by other Imperial government officials who had served there, and of his own opinion of Bermudians, he wrote:

It has become too much the fashion amongst the officers of the various branches of the public service to ridicule the Bermudians, after partaking of their hospitality, but the latter are not inferior in any particular to the people of the Mother country; the women are as chaste and as fair, and the men as clever, as friendly, and as hospitable too in proportion to their relative means. It is true, that owing to the relaxation consequent to a warm climate, added, to the expensiveness of apparel, the ladies do not find it convenient to be at home at all times to receive idle visitors, but at the Governor's parties, public balls, and amateur plays, they are neatly dressed, and each lady may claim the merit of being her own dress-maker. The men of business are shrewd and well informed, many of them have acquired their knowledge of trade in America, the mode of that country being better suited to the limited traffic of Bermuda, than the broad scale upon which the mercandize of England is conducted.

The rich history of Bermudians and Bermuda, and the important roles they had played in almost every Imperial endeavour of England and Britain in the Americas and beyond during Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, eluded Otter, who briefly summarised the first few years of settlement before recording:

The Archives of the Colony present nothing worthy of notice after this period, and tradition hands down no more than the quarrels between a long succession of Governors and the people.


...when one of the first writers of the age declared, after several years residence at Bermuda, that its annals afforded nothing upon which a history could be founded, it would be great presumption in a man who has spent his life at sea to attempt swelling out those annals into a large volume.

On the subject of contemporary Bermudians, he wrote:

...the Bermudians have neither vinegar nor cayenne in their composition, and a stranger who does not meet kind treatment from them has to blame himself only...

...The population of Bermuda is between nine and ten thousand souls, (if negroes have souls, and one is apt to be of uncle Toby's opinion, that "it would be putting one sadly over the head of another if they had not,") something more than half of this number are whites of whom nearly two thirds are females. This may be accounted for in part from the men, who are of an enterprising spirit, being often obliged to risk their lives in crazy little vessels, badly manned and indifferently navigated, to the West Indies and different parts of America, in search of a field for industry in a commercial line, which their little Colony does not afford.

The attachment of the women does not die with their husbands; there are many instances where a lady, widowed in the prime of youth, rejects every offer of conjugal consolation, however advantageous, during the rest of her life.

The negro population of Bermuda (all natives) is distressing to their owners, as well as to the Colony in general, and the prohibition of sending them to the West India Islands falls heavily on them, inasmuch as the owners are obliged to have recourse to America for live stock, flour, India corn, and corn meal for their maintenance; added to which, the arrival of seven hundred convicts for the public works, threw back upon their (in several instances) helpless owners, many of this ill-fated race of our species.

Many of the females of Bermuda have no other property than a place to live in and a few slaves, left them by their deceased relatives. There being little field work, the black children being cherished as property, are brought up in the house of their mothers' owners, and become playmates to the owners' children; this creates an attachment that lasts through life.

An instance of this occurred not long ago. A lady complained to a magistrate of a negro man having struck a negress, (a fellow slave;) the case having been fully proved, the magistrate ordered the delinquent to be punished, when the mistress exclaimed in agony, "what! flog my poor Jem, who has been brought up from infancy with me," and fainted. The female slave joined her supplications to the silent but powerful eloquence of the mistress, and Jem of course had his punishment remitted.

He also wrote at length about the industry, economy and subsistence strategies of Bermuda, showing the usual attitude of Imperial officials to Bermudians perceived failure to clear forest to turn land over to commercial agriculture:

...Of the twelve thousand acres which Bermuda is said to contain, two thousand might be brought into cultivation if there was less veneration for cedar trees, and a trifling exertion made to drain or embank the marshes, whereas at present there are not two hundred acres disturbed by the spade or the plough; indeed there is but one plough in the Colony, and that belongs to an Englishman named Winsor, who has proved what could be made of ground apparently barren...

...The facility of receiving supplies from America, has too long made the Bermudians regardless of internal resources; and the produce of the soil, even with the quick succession and perpetual vegetation, will not keep pace with the active mind of a man accustomed from boyhood to the more quick returns of commercial speculations...

...Almost all the occupiers of land sow a small quantity of barley, but in getting in their harvest they seem to scorn the copying system; neither scythe nor sickle are in use, but an old woman (generally a black) is furnished with a basket, and a pair of scissors, of equal standing in the family with herself: thus equipped, she proceeds to cut off the ears of Barley, and in the course of time she has the satisfaction to see a whole rood of barley reduced to headless straw, which is soon converted into bonnets. Europeans are highly amused on witnessing, this novel mode of farming. Their method of preparing the barley is by boiling it into a thick jelly, which they call barley broth, having first deprived it of its husks in a mortar...

...The great variety and abundance of fish is considered by some the reverse of a blessing, as it draws off the attention of the lower orders from the cultivation of the soil. The better sort of people, and a few provident fishermen, have ponds which they stock in summer for winter supply, but the lower order of whites are the most miserable of the human creation. When they catch fish, they reserve as much as will sustain nature as long as the price of what they sell will produce rum enough to keep them in a state of intoxication, using neither bread nor vegetables; their wives and children live on the bounty of the ladies of their respective neighbourhoods, who are without exception kind-hearted and charitable. These fishermen live in hovels or old ruins, and are little encumbered with cloathing...

...Bermuda, until the restriction of trade in 1826, derived all its supplies of oxen and sheep from the United States of America, but since that period the Bermudians have in part imitated the mode used by the Americans in naturalizing British subjects, and without the process of rocking the ox in a cradle, naturalize them in droves by driving them over the boundary into our North American dominions, and thence shipping them for our insulated Colonies.

The American Farmer has no other mart for the disposal of his surplus produce but our Colonies in the Western Archipelago, hence the restriction in commerce must press more heavily on the American citizens than on our Colonists; but this mode of supply is attended with greater expence, inasmuch as the Americans are cheaper carriers than the English.

Bermuda produces fresh butter and milk sufficient to meet the demand for those articles, but they do not rear more cattle than what are merely necessary to keep up their stock, killing the calves when about two months old. Except with a few who can afford to enclose their grounds, the cattle of Bermuda are tethered on the pasture; even hogs and goats can range no farther than the length of their strings, the Bermudians being very jealous of trespassers. They rear but few sheep, there being scarcely any enclosure in the country capable of restraining the roving propensity of these animals. The country is very productive in the propagation of every species of domestic poultry except geese, which do not thrive here, although several have been introduced at various times from America. A few wild geese are sometimes driven thither in the winter gales...

...It is a mistaken notion that Bermuda cannot produce sufficient of all the necessaries of life to support its population, even with its redundancy of blacks, if proper exertions were made to cultivate the soil, but it may be repeated that with half its present number of negroes the Colony would be more prosperous...

Susette Harriet Lloyd travelled to Bermuda in company with the Church of England's Archdeacon of Bermuda Aubrey Spencer, Mrs Spencer, and Ella, Miss Parker, Major and Mrs Hutchison and their daughter, the Reverend Robert Whitehead, Lieutenant Thompson of the 74th Regiment of Foot, and Lieutenant Young, aboard HMS Wanderer, which was delivering a military detachment from England to the Bermuda Garrison. Lloyd's visit to Bermuda lasted two years, and her ‘’Sketches of Bermuda’’ (a collection of letters she had written enroute to, and during her stay in, Bermuda, and dedicated to Archdeacon Spencer) was published in 1835, immediately following the abolition of slavery in Bermuda and the remainder of the British Empire in 1834 (Bermuda elected to end slavery immediately, becoming the first colony to do so, though all other British colonies except for Antigua availed themselves of an allowance made by the Imperial government enabling them to phase slavery out gradually).[13] Lloyd's book gives a rare contemporary account of Bermudian society immediately prior to the abolition of slavery.

Of white Bermudians, her observations included:

The last assertion, that 'the women are without colour,' I cannot treat as I do the remarks on birds and flowers, for you will expect something beyond a mere description of their persons. Like the plants, they languish in the summer, and when we landed, I saw but few whose cheek retained any tint of the rose ; the children, in particular, struck me as having a sickly appearance. But this month of cool weather has already restored their bloom to many. They are tall and slender ; though there are a few handsome brunettes, they are generally fair, with light hair and full blue eyes. I have seen some who are really lovely-but it is that evanescent loveliness which does not survive the first bloom of youth. The young girls, who at the age of fifteen or sixteen are just merging into the woman, have an air of charming simplicity-a certain naivete and winningness of manner, which is very pleasing to strangers. They are amiable and affectionate, exemplary in the discharge of the domestic duties, and extremely quiet and retiring ; which surprised me, when I heard that, with but few exceptions, the young ladies receive their education in a boys' school. In several of the grammar-schools nearly a third are females, some of whom learn to construe Greek and Latin. As they are great sufferers under a system which prevents them from acquiring the more feminine accomplishments, I am glad to find that several ladies' seminaries are about to be established in Bermuda, which will call forth the talents they undoubtedly possess, and open a wider field for intellectual conversation. The gentlemen are very domestic, distinguished for their hospitality and attention to strangers, and for the uprightness and integrity which characterize their commercial transactions. Many of them have been called to offices of high trust in other colonies, as well as in the mother country.

She devoted more attention to the subject of black Bermudians, writing:

Some most Caliban looking negroes have just been dancing on the lawn ; for in this season of general festivity, they are all permitted to indulge in the wildest mirth and revelry. The oldest among them participates with the child in the delights of their Gombey-a show which reminds me of the 'Jack-in-the-Green' scenes of our May-day chimney-sweepers. Here nature clothes them with their dusky livery, and they endeavour to heighten the effect by a plentiful bedaubing of red and yellow paints, scarlet cloth, flowers and ribbons. They completely besieged my room, which opens on the garden, so that I was forced to remain a close prisoner, and listen to their rude songs, which I should fancy must be very like the wild yelling scream that we read of in African travels. How much would the diffusion of true christian principles do for these poor people, by teaching them the real nature of rejoicing, and the folly of all these superstitious festivities.

The most famous Gombey parties are those of Hamilton and Hearne Bay ; they were preceded by really tolerable bands, composed of negroes dressed in a neat white uniform with scarlet facings. These musicians are all self-taught, and play many favourite airs with great accuracy. This is the more surprising, since they do not know a single note in music. They learn and play every thing by ear, and certainly have great natural taste, and love for music.

When engaged about their work, or walking along the road, they generally beguile the time with a song; and in the evening you frequently hear the sounds of a flute or violin from a negro cottage. Many also possess the talent of extemporaneous composition, which they exercise in finding words for Di piacer and various Italian airs. Others content themselves with singing the last new song, and 'I'd be a butterfly,' and 'Oh, no, we never mention her,' are beginning to be general favourites.

There is a black woman here who ranks high as an improvisatrice; every passing event, every one who is so unfortunate as to incur her displeasure, is made the subject of her verse. A slave, an industrious man, to whom she does not bear a very friendly feeling, had the misfortune, a short time ago, to be robbed of a bag in which he had been hoarding some doubloons towards the purchase of his freedom. All pitied the poor fellow; when he one day came up to me in tears, saying that no one would credit his story since Piny had been making a song upon him, which had got all over Hamilton; and when he attempted to enquire after his doubloons, the negroes answered him by singing this song. These verses are of course very uncouth, but possess a great deal of wit.

A thoughtless gaiety of disposition characterises the negro; and it has perhaps been wisely bestowed to counterbalance the pressure of the religious and moral degradation under which he labours. In proportion as this is removed, will his mind be open to more serious impressions.

The islands of Bermuda were first colonized in the year 1612, and were soon afterwards supplied with Negroes, partly from the coast of Africa, and partly from the West Indies, which had been previously settled. The population of Bermuda consists of about 10,000 souls, of which the proportions of white and coloured are nearly equal.

The latter are mostly in a state of slavery, not above seven hundred and forty having been emancipated, or born free. Instances of manumission are not frequent, and it was only during a late session of the local legislature, that a law was passed which gave the slave a legal right to property that might purchase his emancipation.

It must be confessed that in these islands slavery wears the mildest aspect of which that pitiable condition is susceptible. The character of the Bermudians is kind and humane, and their slaves enjoy many secular advantages of which the poor in our own country are frequently destitute. To the enslaved Negro all the wants of nature are amply supplied. He is, under every contingency, clothed, fed, and attended in sickness, at his master's cost. The ancient laws of slavery, odious and merciless as they are, are never enforced against him, and instances of domestic or private cruelty are, I believe I may venture to assert, almost unknown. Indeed, in many houses the young Negro grows up with his master's children, and is considered as one of the family.

Still, however, after all these concessions, the coloured inhabitants of Bermuda are bondsmen, and have long suffered the two heaviest ills of bondage, a political incapacity to receive equal justice, and a spiritual privation of religious instruction and happiness.

The gleam of Christianity which penetrated the dreary dungeon of their African superstition, was at first so faint that it served rather to discover the gloom than to dispel the darkness which shrouded them; and having embraced the profession of the gospel, they adopted its name without receiving its influence in their heart. It is only within the last five or six years that any regular system has been adopted to give the coloured people instruction in schools connected with the church of England. This blessing is now imparted to nearly 1000 persons, in which number I do not include those who are educated in the schools under the dissenters, some of which are very flourishing.

As there are no plantations of sugar-cane, the negroes are employed in light agricultural labour, but principally as domestic servants. The entire wealth of many individuals often consists in two, three, twelve, or more of these slaves; and if the owner has no occasion for their services himself, he hires one out as a carpenter, another as a mason, house-servant, &c. They regularly bring their full wages to their master, who commonly allows them a small proportion of their earnings. The price of labour varies from a pistorine (tenpence sterling), to a dollar (four shillings sterling) per day.

In their spare hours they (I mean the mechanics) are permitted to work on their own account; and it is by no means unusual for slaves to work out their freedom.

A singular circumstance occurred a short time since. A slave, after having obtained his own freedom by his industry, went to his master to purchase his wife. When her owner offered to give him her deed of manumission, the man positively refused to have one drawn up: and thus the wife is literally her husband's slave. Surely, if slavery knew no other evil, the abuse of such a power as this would prove the iniquity of the system.

Some of the free negroes are industrious and respectable; every thing, as among us, of course, depends upon individual exertion. If the negro is inclined to work, there seems to be no reason why he should not be as successful as an English labourer. That slaves are frequently so little disposed to labour, is probably because they know that, whether they work or not, their master is bound to support them. The slothful are therefore not made to feel so sensibly the consequences of their idleness, while the upright and conscientious have only the very abstract motive of their master's interest to encourage them to diligence and fidelity:-altogether the system of slavery is a sad check upon active industry and persevering exertions; and I am convinced, that, even with a temporary loss, the slave-owners would ultimately be infinite gainers by the introduction of free labour, and the power of employing only such workmen and servants as should produce a given quantity of labour for fair and stipulated remuneration.

It is a great misfortune to a slave if he happens to be married to a free woman. His time is of course his master's, and yet he must find a house, food and clothing for his wife and family. There is a poor man here, a native North American Indian, who is in this situation, and his family are consequently in great poverty.

The price of a slave varies from 25l. (but these are of the very lowest class,) to 70l. and even 100l. currency. But there are some who are above all price, and whom their owners would not part with for any sum.

I know a slave, a religious and well-informed young man, who is a carpenter by trade, and being an excellent workman, can earn one dollar per day-that is, about 100l. currency, or 70l. sterling per annum. This sum he takes regularly to his owner. As it would of course enable him to maintain himself respectably, he is very anxious to be free, and has offered any sum that may be asked, but his master refuses to listen to any terms. As he has laboured faithfully many years, he naturally feels himself aggrieved; and yet such is the strength of his Christian principles, that he never speaks of his master but in terms of the highest respect. To such a character as this, who can doubt that emancipation would prove a blessing?

Several persons have given freedom to their slaves-oftenest I think to a female. But should the poor woman happen to marry a slave, she is in most cases a sufferer, as all her children are of course free, and dependent upon her for support.

I do not think that there are above three or four native Africans in Bermuda, the rest are born here. One of these Africans is a female, who has her face curiously slashed and tattooed; another, a man, who lives near us, and is one of the most good tempered, gay, and thoughtless beings in the world. He one day told me a long story of his having been carried off in a big ship while playing in a garden with his brothers and sisters. But I rather suspect there was some little romance about this. Having by chance seen my guitar, he now comes frequently and begs for some of my 'fiddle strings,' promising that in return he will play me the bravest tune at the gombeys. I had often remonstrated with him for not attending church; when he one afternoon made his appearance there, and told me very gravely the next morning that he had put the date into the little book which I had given him ; that he would look at it every Sunday, and that when he died he would have it laid upon his heart and buried with him. 'And surely,' said he, 'if I can find legs to go every morning to Hamilton to get doubloons for my mistress, I may as well get a bit of good to my soul by going to church on Sundays.'

A Negro is the most loquacious being on earth-he seems to talk in spite of himself, and is a very child in the expression of his feelings.

Lloyd's negative comments on the dissenters reflected the Church of England's belated attempts to counter the inroads made by Methodists with coloured Bermudians. Although the Church of England is the established church, and as such was the only church originally permitted to operate in Bermuda, Presbyterians and Methodists were permitted to have separate churches and to conduct their own services during the 18th Century, but were not permitted to conduct baptisms, weddings, and especially funerals (the only civil cemeteries in Bermuda prior to the 20th Century having all been attached to the churchyards of the nine Church of England parish churches), which were the remit of the established church, until about the 1820s. The Wesleyan Methodists sought to include enslaved blacks resulting in 1800 in the passage of a law by the Parliament of Bermuda barring any but Church of England and Presbyterian ministers from preaching. In December, 1800, the Methodist Reverend John Stephenson was incarcerated for six months for preaching to slaves.[14] The Methodists also promoted education of slaves. The Church of England had generally been unwelcoming to slaves, and was never able to catch up to the Methodist's lead. In 1869, the African Methodist Episcopal Church was launched in Bermuda, and today the Anglican Church of Bermuda (as the Church of England in Bermuda was re-titled in 1978), though the largest denomination, has a disproportionately white membership.[15]

Among other observations of coloured Bermudians, Lloyd also recorded:

But notwithstanding all this good humour, the passions of the negro are violent, and his anger easily roused. A few evenings ago a fine and generous hearted youth, whose complexion may vie with the raven's wing, felt his honour mortally offended on being called a black nigger by a negro a few shades lighter than himself; he instantly seized a knife that was lying before him, and would have plunged it into the man's breast, had not some one providentially held back his arm. To be called a Black Nigger seems to be considered the very acme of insult, and, like the 'Dummer Junge' of the German students must be avenged.

Usage of the N-Word was generally avoided in Bermuda, where blacks and whites always lived in close quarters (and language was characterised by euphemisms), even by the most negrophobic whites, and, unlike the reclamation of the word by some blacks in the United States of America, it has not been adopted or made in any way acceptable today by Bermuda's blacks and remains the foulest and most unutterable racial slur.

Later writers generally agreed on the subject of Bermuda's politely mannered society, generally understood to be a requirement in a small, tightly-knit community which could not afford to allow tempers to be frayed.

As Christiana Rounds wrote in Harper's Magazine (re-published in an advertising pamphlet by A.L Mellen, the Proprietor of the Hamilton Hotel in 1876):[16]

Those who plume themselves on their culture, and who regard all places except those in which they have resided as very benighted quarters, would, of course, look upon Bermuda as almost outside the limits of civilization. Closer acquaintance would dispel many of these delusions. A stranger would be impressed at once with the marked courtesy of the people. From the lowest to the highest one will receive the most polite attention. A simplicity almost Arcadian characterizes their manners, especially those of the women. Many who have led very circumscribed lives, who have never been away from Bermuda, possess an ease and grace which would do credit to habitues of society, arising apparently from perfect faith in others, and an earnest desire to add to their pleasure in every possible way. In matters of etiquette they are generally much more exact than Americans. The kindliness and formality aside — and they are not to be underrated — one would hardly derive much inspiration from the Bermudian, whose outlook is not a broad one. His life has not fostered extended views, and he is, perhaps, as little to be blamed for not possessing them as for being born in mid-ocean. They are a comfortable, well-to-do set of people, with here and there a family possessing ample means. As in England, property, especially real estate, remains in the same family for a long period. There is very little real suffering from poverty, though there are many poor people, who had rather be poor than make the necessary exertion to improve their condition. In this connection the colored people deserve some notice, forming, as they do, a large majority of the population. The importation of negroes from Africa ceased long before the abolition of slavery, which may account for the improved type of physiognomy one encounters here. The faces of some are fine, and many of the women are really pretty. They are polite, about as well dressed as anybody, attend all the churches, and are members thereof, are more interested in schools than the poor whites, and a very large proportion of them can both read and write. They have their own secret and benevolent societies, and are just as improvident here as elsewhere. If they have any money, work is uninteresting to them. When utterly destitute they are ready to improve their finances, but when pay-day comes they are quite apt to retire from business and spend their earnings, running the risk of again finding employment when compelled by necessity; and most of them live in this make-shift way all their lives. A strong feeling of prejudice exists against them, which will probably die out when they have acquired a few of the sterling virtues at present monopolized by white people.

H.C. Walsh wrote in the December, 1890, issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine:[17]

The population of the islands amounts to about fifteen thousand souls, of whom something over sixty per cent, are colored. The white population is mostly composed of descendants of the old English settlers, with a sprinkling of immigrants from America and Portugal. The negroes are descended from African and American-Indian slaves : they were emancipated in 1834, and now enjoy the same political privileges as the whites ; they seem anxious to improve themselves, and are gradually taking a better position. Their upward progress is looked upon with considerable uneasiness by the whites, who, of course, are anxious to retain the upper hand, and seem to fear the negroes as possible rivals in the local government of Bermuda.

As Bermuda's maritime economy began to falter during the 19th Century, Bermudians would turn some of the woodland over to growing export crops, but most of the farming (or gardening, as it is known in Bermuda) would be carried out by imported labour, beginning with immigration from Portuguese Atlantic islands in the 1840s. Later in the Nineteenth Century, large-scale West Indian immigration began (initially, also to provide labourers for the new export agriculture industry, then greatly increased at the turn of the century during the expansion of the Royal Naval Dockyard). The Black West Indians, unlike the Portuguese immigrants, were British citizens and not obliged to leave Bermuda, as many Portuguese were, at the end of a contracted period, although they were effectively indentured to the firm contracted by the Admiralty to carry out the construction work, and due to delays in construction, many found themselves in financial hardship.[18]

19th Century young Bermudian man
19th Century young Bermudian man

In the latter 20th century, those with any degree of sub-Saharan African ancestry (which was virtually everyone who had been defined as coloured) were redefined as Black, with Asian and other non-White Bermudians defined by separate racial groups (although it also, in the 1960s, ceased to be the practice to record race on birth or other records). On Census returns, only in recent years have Bermudians been given the option to define themselves by more than one race (the 2000 Census gave respondents the options of black, white, Asian, black and white, black and other, white and other, other, and not stated),[19] although there was considerable opposition to this from many Black leaders who discouraged Black Bermudians from doing so.

In the U.S., there is similar resistance from minority groups to defining themselves by more than one race on census returns, or as multi-racial, as it is feared that this will fragment demographic groups, and lower the percentage of the population recorded as belonging to a particular race, with possible negative effects on government policies (such as affirmative action) aimed at addressing the concerns of disadvantaged minority groups. As Bermuda's Blacks (whether perceived as a diverse, multi-racial group or as homogeneously Black African) have been in the majority for two centuries, but are still comparatively less well-off than White Bermudians (the Government of Bermuda's 2009 employment survey showed the median annual income for blacks for the year 2007-8 was $50,539, and for whites was $71,607, with white Bermudian clerks earning $8,000 a year more than black Bermudian clerks, and black Bermudian senior officials and managers earning $73,242 compared to $91,846 for white Bermudian senior officials and managers; the racial disparity was also observed among expatriate workers, with white non-Bermudian senior officials and managers earning $47,000 more than black non-Bermudian senior officials and managers),[20][21] this fear may presumably also be the cause for the opposition to census reform in Bermuda. Large-scale West Indian immigration over the last century has also decreased the ratio of Black Bermudians who are multi-racial, and hardened attitudes. Most academic books on the subject emphasise the characteristic multi-racialism of Bermuda's Black population [3] (at least those who might be defined as ethnically Bermudian, as opposed to those resulting from recent immigration), and it has been pointed out in other publications [22] that, if those Black Bermudians who have White ancestry were numbered instead with the White population, the Black population of Bermuda would be negligible.

Soldiers of the Bermuda Contingent of the Royal Garrison Artillery on the Western Front in July 1916; volunteers for overseas service from the Bermuda Militia Artillery (BMA), which recruited coloured men, but restricted commissions to whites
Soldiers of the Bermuda Contingent of the Royal Garrison Artillery on the Western Front in July 1916; volunteers for overseas service from the Bermuda Militia Artillery (BMA), which recruited coloured men, but restricted commissions to whites
Soldiers of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps (BVRC), attached to the Lincolnshire Regiment on the Western Front. The BVRC only recruited whites
Soldiers of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps (BVRC), attached to the Lincolnshire Regiment on the Western Front. The BVRC only recruited whites
The racially-segregated BMA and BVRC (re-titled the Bermuda Rifles in 1949) amalgamated in 1965 to form the Bermuda Regiment (now the Royal Bermuda Regiment)
The racially-segregated BMA and BVRC (re-titled the Bermuda Rifles in 1949) amalgamated in 1965 to form the Bermuda Regiment (now the Royal Bermuda Regiment)

This overlooks the resentment felt by most Black Bermudians over a history of racial repression, segregation, discrimination and marginalisation that continued long after slavery, and that did not distinguish between black and bi/multi-racial Bermudians. With the increasingly racially divisive politics that have followed the election of the PLP government, as well as the decades of increasing costs-of-living, the exclusion of unskilled workers from jobs in the white collar international business sector that has come to dominate Bermuda's economy, and the global economic downturn, all of which many Black Bermudians perceive as hitting them hardest, there is little sentiment today amongst people who have long been obliged to think of themselves as Black, in opposition to being White, to identify even partly with their European ancestry. Additionally, most multi-racial Bermudians do not today result from having parents of different races, but inherit diverse ancestry via many generations of mixed-race forebears, most of whom may have assumed themselves to have been entirely of Black African ancestry, and certainly were generally characterised as such by whites (and hence by the mainstream culture). The Progressive Labour Party, the first party formed in 1963 before party politics was legalised, quickly came to be dominated by West Indians and West Indian Bermudians such as Lois Browne-Evans, and is still derided by many white and blacks Bermudians as promoting racially divisive, black nationalist "plantation politics" (a term with double meaning in traditionally sea-faring Bermuda where there remains a strong stigma against agricultural work).

Bermudian blacks were generally antagonistic to West Indian, who, like the early Portuguese immigrants, were perceived as driving down the cost of labour, primarily to the disadvantage of Bermudian blacks, and in recent decades (Jamaicans especially) have often been blamed for the illegal drug trade and violent crimes.[23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

Bermudian blacks described black West Indians disparagingly as "Jump-ups",[32][33] and were in turn perceived by many West Indian blacks as what in the United States are described as Uncle Toms, although more derogatory terms have been used for Bermudian blacks who oppose the party's agenda, especially on independence from the United Kingdom.[34][35][36] Consequently, the party long struggled to unite Bermudian blacks with West Indian Bermudians under a banner of racial solidarity against white Bermudians to whom Bermudian blacks were tied by common heritage and blood, and did not win an election until 1998, after the United Bermuda Party (which PLP politicians characterised as the party for whites) was split by internal conflict following Premier John W. Swan's forcing an unpopular referendum on independence in 1995. The desire amongst black nationalists, and especially those of West Indian stock, to obscure the distinction between Bermudian blacks and West Indians by stressing black African heritage has also contributed to intolerance of Bermudian blacks identifying with their non-African, especially their white, ancestry.

Despite these concerns, small numbers of Black Bermudians have chosen to describe themselves on census returns as mixed-racial, and the Native American demographic, which had disappeared for centuries, is slowly re-emerging, as more Bermudians - especially on St. David's Island - choose to identify to some degree, if not exclusively, with their Native American ancestry (although many may feel that, in an increasingly polarised climate, this is a safer option than identifying themselves as in any way White or European).

Nonetheless, any assumption of Bermudian demographics that is based on census returns, or other sources derived from them, suffers from anecdotal evidence being the basis of all of the data, in asking Bermudians to self-identify, without resorting to any documentary evidence or genetic studies being used to confirm their ancestry, if not their identification. There is similar pressure on Black Bermudians (most of whom are multi-racial) not to self-identify as mixed race as there is in Blacks in the USA, where President Barack Obama, raised by his single, white mother, sparked debate when he identified himself on the census as black, rather than mixed race, and in the UK, in both of which countries greater flexibility is also now allowed for people to describe themselves racially.[37][38][39][40][41]

Portuguese immigration, from Atlantic islands including the Azores, Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands, began in the 19th century to provide labour for the nascent agricultural industry. From the beginning, Portuguese labourers, who have emigrated under special agreements, have not been allowed to do so on the basis of permanent immigration. They were expected to return to their homelands after a fixed period. Some were able to stay, however and by the 1940s there was a sizeable number Portuguese-Bermudians who were legally Bermudian (and British by citizenship). Until the recession of the 1990s, however, Bermuda continued to rely on large-scale immigration of temporary Portuguese workers who laboured at jobs Bermudians considered unworthy (notably, anything to do with agriculture or horticulture). Many of these immigrants lived and worked in Bermuda for decades on repeatedly renewed work permits, without gaining the right to permanent residence, British citizenship, or Bermudian status. When work permits were not renewed, especially during the recession, many were forced to return to the Azores, often with full-grown children who had been born and brought up in Bermuda. Although the numbers of Portuguese guest workers has not returned to its former levels, the number of Bermudians today described as Portuguese (often considered a distinct racial group from Whites of Northern European ancestry, and historically stigmatised by all other Bermudians) is usually given as ten percent of the population. This number does not include many Black Bermudians with White Portuguese ancestry, and obscures also that some of the Portuguese immigrants were Blacks from the Cape Verde Islands. The actual percentage of Bermudians with Portuguese ancestry is likely far larger.[42]

Noting that Bermudians of Portuguese heritage have made considerable contributions to the Island – from politics and public service, to sport, entertainment and industry - Premier Edward David Burt announced that 4 November 2019 "will be declared a public holiday to mark the 170th anniversary of the arrival of the first Portuguese immigrants in Bermuda.[43] Those first immigrants arrived from Madeira aboard the vessel the Golden Rule on 4th November 1849."[44]

Bermuda Census 1950
Population born abroad according to country of birth and length of residence in Bermuda
of birth
Years resident in Bermuda
0-4 5-9 10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40 and over Not stated Total
British Isles 1,436 118 187 149 281 236 107 47 91 66 2,718
Canada 384 62 40 52 50 48 14 9 29 39 727
Jamaica 12 2 5 6 11 5 2 1 9 8 61
Trinidad 3 3 2 3 3 8 1 1 1 3 28
Barbados 13 19 4 2 8 21 2 8 21 4 102
Other British
53 29 14 48 243 201 100 134 276 99 1,197
Bahamas 1 3 1 5
Azores 180 141 54 43 179 140 12 8 79 54 890
USA 1,439 165 107 102 91 91 46 33 55 78 2,207
France 29 1 2 2 2 36
Spain 3 1 4
Italy 6 1 7
Germany 17 1 1 2 21
Other European 12 1 1 2 1 2 1 20
India 18 3 5 6 2 2 2 1 3 42
China 4 1 1 26 32
Others 136 16 18 14 34 35 15 7 29 17 321
Not stated 21 1 1 1 3 1 208 236
TOTAL 3,767 557 436 429 913 788 308 250 597 609 8,654

Source populations and genetic research

The founder population that settled in Bermuda between 1609 and the 1630s was almost entirely English. Typical Bermudian surnames that date to the Seventeenth Century indicate that the primary area of England from which settlers were sourced during that period was East Anglia. This ancestry is shared, today, by both white and black Bermudians (the latter demographic group, as noted above, being made up of individuals of a blend of African, European and Native American ancestry, though not necessarily in that order). A continuous inward flow of immigrants from other parts of the British Isles, other British (or formerly British) territories, and foreign countries has added to the white population over the centuries, including sustained immigration from Portuguese Atlantic islands from the 1840s, and numerous Royal Navy and British Army personnel who were discharged and remained in Bermuda to contribute to the permanent population (white and multi-racial). The white population (that is, those Bermudians presumed to be entirely of European ancestry) has consequently grown more diverse. No genetic study has as yet been conducted either of or including the white population of Bermuda. Although European ancestry is the largest component of Bermuda's ancestry, and those entirely of European ancestry are by far the largest mono-racial group (based on actual ancestry, rather than self-identification), whites (and the European ancestry of blacks) are often excluded when Bermuda's source populations are discussed. By example, National Geographic's Genographic Project Reference Population (Geno 2.0 Next Generation) for "Bermudian" (as of 28 June 2020) was described on its website[45] (which was taken offline after 30 June, 2020[46]) as "based on samples collected from mixed populations living in Bermuda" (this was not based on a survey of even the mixed, or other-than-entirely-European population, of Bermuda, as no such survey of all of Bermuda has been carried out).

In the British West Indian islands (and also in the southern continental colonies that were to become states of the United States of America), the majority of enslaved blacks brought across the Atlantic came from West Africa (roughly between modern Senegal and Ghana). By contrast, very little of Bermuda's original black emigration came (directly or indirectly) from this area. The first blacks to arrive in Bermuda in any numbers were free blacks who came in the mid-seventeenth century from Spanish-speaking areas of the West Indies, and most of the remainder were recently enslaved Africans captured from the Spanish and Portuguese. As Spain and Portugal sourced most of their slaves from South-West Africa (the Portuguese through ports in modern-day Angola; the Spanish purchased most of their African slaves from Portuguese traders, and from Arabs whose slave trading was centred in Zanzibar).

This history has been well understood from the written record, and was confirmed in 2009 by the only genetic survey of Bermuda, which looked exclusively at the black population of St. David's Island (as the purpose of the study was to seek Native American haplogroups, which could be assumed to be absent from the white population) consequently showed that the African ancestry of black Bermudians (other than those resulting from recent immigration from the British West Indian islands) is largely from a band across southern Africa, from Angola to Mozambique, which is similar to what is revealed in Latin America, but distinctly different from the blacks of the British West Indies and the United States.[47]

68% of the mtDNA (maternal) lineages of the black islanders were found to be African, with the two most common being L0a and L3e, which are sourced from populations spread from Central-West to South-East Africa. These lineages represent less than 5% of the mtDNA lineages of blacks in the United States and the English-speaking West Indies. They are, however, common in Brazil and the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. L3e, by example, is typical of !Kung-speaking populations of the Kalahari, as well as of parts of Mozambique and Nigeria. The modern nation where it represents the highest percentage of the population is actually Brazil, where it represents 21% of mtDNA lineages. 31% of the mtDNA lineages of blacks in Bermuda are West Eurasian (European), with J1c being the most common. 1% were Native American.

For NRY (paternal) haplogroups among black Bermudians, the study found about a third were made up of three African ones (of which E1b1a, the most common NRY haplogroup in West and Central African populations, "accounted for the vast majority of the African NRY samples (83%)" ), with the remainder (about 64.79%) being West Eurasian excepting one individual (1.88%) with a Native American NRY haplogroup Q1a3a. Of the individuals with European NRY haplogroups, more than half had R1b1b2, which is common in Europe and is found at frequencies over 75% in England and Wales. None of these percentages can be taken as equivalent to the percentage of ancestry in the black population from the specific regions as genetic drift tends to erase minority haplogroups over generations. This explains the near absence of Native American haplogroups despite the hundreds of Native Americans known to have been involuntarily brought to Bermuda in the seventeenth century.


Demographics of Bermuda, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.
Demographics of Bermuda, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.

According to the 2016 census the de jure population was 63,779,[48] compared to 64,319 in 2010[49] and 62,098 in 2000.

The estimated mid-year population of 2018 is 62,756 (medium fertility scenario of the 2019 revision of the World Population Prospects[50][51]).


The predominant language on Bermuda is Bermudian English. It exhibits characteristics of British, West Indian, and American English. Perhaps most interesting is its closeness to acrolectal English compared to varieties in the West Indies.

British English spellings and conventions are used in print media and formal written communications.[52]

Portuguese is also spoken in Bermuda;[53] this is owing to immigration from Portugal, particularly from the Azores, as well as from Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands.[54]

Vital statistics

Average population (x 1000) Live births Deaths Natural change Crude birth rate (per 1000) Crude death rate (per 1000) Natural change (per 1000) TFR
1934 29 842 303 539 28.7 10.3 18.4
1935 30 727 278 449 24.3 9.3 15.0
1936 30 748 300 448 24.7 9.9 14.8
1937 31 728 329 399 23.7 10.7 13.0
1938 31 769 332 437 24.7 10.7 14.1
1939 32 729 308 421 23.1 9.8 13.4
1940 32 739 314 425 23.2 9.9 13.4
1941 32 765 400 365 23.7 12.4 11.3
1942 33 827 394 433 25.3 12.0 13.2
1943 33 920 308 612 27.8 9.3 18.5
1944 34 879 337 542 26.1 10.0 16.1
1945 34 886 337 549 25.9 9.9 16.1
1946 35 878 348 530 25.3 10.0 15.3
1947 35 1,042 341 701 29.6 9.7 19.9
1948 36 914 311 603 25.5 8.7 16.8
1949 37 929 330 599 25.5 9.0 16.4
1950 37 1,138 352 786 30.7 9.5 21.2
1951 38 1,046 375 671 27.7 9.9 17.8
1952 38 1,095 316 779 28.4 8.2 20.2
1953 39 1,026 333 693 26.1 8.5 17.6
1954 40 1,102 308 794 27.5 7.7 19.8
1955 41 1,052 337 715 25.7 8.2 17.5
1956 41 1,153 334 819 27.8 8.0 19.7
1957 42 1,087 354 733 25.8 8.4 17.4
1958 43 1,059 359 700 24.6 8.3 16.3
1959 44 1,182 374 808 27.0 8.5 18.4
1960 45 1,208 363 845 27.3 8.2 19.1
1961 46 1,183 310 873 26.6 7.0 19.7
1962 46 1,185 334 851 26.6 7.5 19.1
1963 47 1,215 333 882 26.7 7.3 19.4
1964 48 1,173 363 810 25.2 7.8 17.4
1965 49 1,117 358 759 23.5 7.5 16.0
1966 50 1,004 355 649 20.7 7.3 13.4
1967 50 980 328 652 19.8 6.6 13.2
1968 51 984 404 580 19.5 8.0 11.5
1969 51 934 369 565 18.2 7.2 11.0
1970 52 1,062 385 677 20.3 7.4 12.9
1971 52 1,119 428 691 21.3 8.2 13.2
1972 53 1,008 388 620 19.2 7.4 11.8
1973 53 919 366 553 17.4 6.9 10.5
1974 54 894 349 545 16.9 6.6 10.3
1975 54 837 398 439 15.8 7.5 8.3
1976 55 856 384 472 16.0 7.2 8.8
1977 55 809 375 434 15.1 7.0 8.1
1978 55 745 374 371 13.9 7.0 6.9
1979 56 791 358 433 14.7 6.7 8.0
1980 56 807 397 410 14.9 7.3 7.6
1981 56 777 457 320 14.3 8.4 5.9
1982 57 805 379 426 14.7 6.9 7.8
1983 57 913 398 515 16.5 7.2 9.3
1984 57 840 396 444 15.1 7.1 8.0
1985 58 914 421 493 16.3 7.5 8.8
1986 58 889 415 474 15.3 7.1 8.1
1987 59 899 438 461 15.3 7.5 7.9
1988 59 935 399 536 15.8 6.8 9.1
1989 59 912 462 450 15.3 7.8 7.6
1990 60 895 445 450 15.0 7.4 7.5
1991 60 901 452 449 15.0 7.5 7.5
1992 60 909 462 447 15.0 7.6 7.4
1993 61 821 480 341 13.5 7.9 5.6
1994 61 851 462 389 13.9 7.6 6.4
1995 61 839 423 416 13.7 6.9 6.8
1996 62 833 414 419 13.5 6.7 6.8
1997 62 849 437 412 13.7 7.0 6.6
1998 62 825 505 320 13.2 8.1 5.1
1999 63 828 427 401 13.2 6.8 6.4
2000 63 838 473 365 13.3 7.5 5.8 2.11
2001 63 831 442 389 13.2 7.0 6.2 2.08
2002 63 830 404 426 13.1 6.4 6.7 2.08
2003 64 834 434 400 13.1 6.8 6.3 2.09
2004 64 831 406 425 13.0 6.4 6.6 2.07
2005 63.571 835 437 398 13.1 6.8 6.3 2.09
2006 63.797 798 461 337 12.5 7.2 5.3 2.01
2007 64.009 859 468 391 13.4 7.3 6.1 2.14
2008 64.209 821 443 378 12.8 6.9 5.9 2.03
2009 64.395 819 470 349 12.7 7.3 5.4 2.02
2010 64.129 769 475 294 12.0 7.4 4.6 1.82
2011 63.193 670 429 241 10.6 6.8 3.8 1.65
2012 62.408 648 422 226 10.4 6.8 3.6 1.59
2013 61.954 648 471 177 10.5 7.6 2.9 1.59
2014 61.777 574 478 96 9.3 7.8 1.5 1.42
2015 65.292 583 478 105 8.9 7.3 1.6 1.45
2016 65.391 591 492 91 9.1 7.5 1.6
2018 527 481 46 8.2 7.5 0.7


Structure of the population

Structure of the population (2016 Census):

Age Group Male Female Total %
Total 30 690 33 089 63 779 100
0-4 1,482 1,511 2,993 4,69
5-9 1,705 1,648 3,353 5,26
10-14 1,650 1,523 3,173 4,97
15-19 1,521 1,629 3,150 4,94
20-24 1,451 1,514 2,965 4,65
25-29 1,659 1,809 3,468 5,44
30-34 2,160 2,282 4,442 6,96
35-39 2,253 2,328 4,581 7,18
40-44 2,437 2,321 4,758 7,46
45-49 2,533 2,472 5,005 7,85
50-54 2,712 2,741 5,453 8,55
55-59 2,505 2,846 5,351 8,39
60-64 2,045 2,338 4,383 6,87
65-69 1,584 1,865 3,449 5,41
70-74 1,208 1,477 2,685 4,21
75-79 789 1,110 1,899 2,98
80-84 631 846 1,477 2,32
85 & Over 365 829 1,194 1,87
Age group Male Female Total Percent
0-14 4,837 4,682 9,519 14,92
15-64 21,276 22,280 43,556 68,29
65+ 4,577 6,127 10,704 16,78


Ethnic groups

Ethnic groups of Bermuda (2016) [48]
Ethnic groups percent

As noted above, only in recent years have Bermudians been given the option to define themselves by more than one race on census returns (and birth registrations[58]), with the 2000 Census giving respondents the options of black, white, Asian, black and white, black and other, white and other, other, and not stated.[59] For a variety of reasons, most Bermudians have continued to identify themselves by a single racial group.

One race

The 2016 Census results reported roughly 91% of the population self-identifying as only one racial group which was slightly lower than the 2010 Census.[48] The largest group reported Black alone, which decreased slightly from 54% in 2010 to 52% in 2016. The White population remained constant at about 31% of the total population in 2016. The remaining 8% of the 2016 population who reported one race consisted of persons reporting Asian only (4%), and those reporting an other race from the ones listed (4%). The proportions of these respective racial groups were similar to what they were in 2010.

More than one race

Nine percent of the population reported belonging to more than one race in 2016, up from 8% in 2010.[48] The black and white category was the most common, representing 39% of the number reporting multi-racial groups and 4% of the total population of Bermuda. The proportion of 'black and other' increased from 2% to 3% of the total population, making up 35% of the people identifying as mixed race. The remainder were of 'white and other' mixed descent, and remained unchanged at 2% of the total population. The changing racial composition of Bermuda’s population is a reflection of the Island’s diversity due to immigration and an increase of persons choosing mixed racial heritage.


Religion of Bermuda (2010) [60]
Religion percent
Roman Catholic 
Other Christian
African Methodist Episcopal
Seventh-day Adventist 
Other Protestant
Jehovah's Witness
Church of God
Salvation Army

During the intercensal period, the distribution of persons across the various religious affiliations shifted but remained generally widespread.[49] All religious groups experienced declines in their followings with the exception of Roman Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists and non-denominational groups. Nearly one fifth or 20% of the population claimed no religious affiliation in 2010 compared with a 14% share in 2000. Although the number of Roman Catholics increased to 9,340 persons, its share remained constant at 15% compared to 2000. Over the ten-year period, nondenominational congregations increased a strong 33% while the Seventh-Day Adventist following rose 6%.

Religion in Bermuda (2010)[61]

  Protestant (46.2%)
  Roman Catholic (14.5%)
  Other Christian (9.1%)
  Unaffiliated (17.8%)
  Other religion (12.4%)

See also


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