How Georges Bank Got Its Name

From How the Bank Got Its Name by Barbara B. McCorkle contained in Georges Bank, page 87, edited by Backus (1987), MIT Press. She writes:

The specific feature that is the subject of this book was nameless until 1611, when "S. Georges Banck" appeared on a manuscript map prepared for King James I of England. The name is not hard to explain. In honor of their patron saint, Englishmen sprinkled the English-colonized world with "St. Georges"s. The words first appeard in New England in 1605 soon after attempts at English coloniziation began there. ....

The manuscript map upon which "S. Georges Banck" appears is known as the Velasco map. It was rediscovered in the 1880s at the archives in Simancas, Spain, together with a manuscript plan of Gorges and Popham's Fort St. Georges and a letter to the king of Spain from Don Alonso de Velasco, Spanish ambassador (and spy) to the court of King James. .... The connection between the Gorges/ Popham colonists of Fort St. George and "S. Georges Banck" on the Velasco map makes it likely that the colonists were the ones who designated the bank, giving it the name of their short-lived settlement. ....

The shortened name did not come into common use, hoewever, until the second quarter of the nineteenth century, when it rapidly became the dominant form. St. George's Bank had quite disappeared from maps by 1850. (3)


Note 3. Cyprian Southack's chart of 1717 dropped the apostrophy, and it was dropped or kept, seemingly according to whim, for many years. Current usage, in the case of Georges Bank, omits it, but in general, cartographers are still inconsistent about showing the possessive case in place-names, even on individual maps or charts.

Last modified: February 16, 2001