Amerike married a Lucy Wells and settled at West Camel, near Ilchester in Somerset, before deciding to move his family to Bristol. At the time the city was growing in importance as a port, second only to London, and was attracting merchants and adventurers from all over the country. There Amerike became a wealthy and important merchant and dignitary, holding the post of King's Customs Officer three times and becoming the Sheriff of Bristol in 1497.
Richard Amerike's connection with the Americas' name surfaced in the 1890s, when the 1497 and 1498 customs rolls, archived in Westminster Abbey, were found to contain his name in connection with the payment of John Cabot's pension.
In 1908 local Bristol antiquarian and butterfly collector Alfred Hudd first proposed the theory that the word America had evolved from Amerike or ap Meryk. Alfred Hudd was a gentleman of some leisure, known as an antiquary who was a member of the Clifton Antiquarian Club of Bristol, founded in 1884 to arrange meetings and excursions for the study of objects of archaeological interest in the west of England and south Wales, and a butterfly-collector and local naturalist and member of the Bristol Naturalists' Society around Bristol.
Hudd proposed that the word "America" was originally applied to a destination across the western ocean, possibly an island or a fishing station in Newfoundland. This would have been before the existence of a continent on the other side of the Atlantic was known to Europeans. However, no maps bearing this name or documents indicating a location of this supposed village are known.
According to Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage, "While it has been difficult to pinpoint the exact time frame of these North Atlantic probes, evidence that they were indeed occurring by the 1490s is found in a report sent by Pedro de Ayala, a Spanish envoy located in London. The year after Cabot's successful transatlantic voyage he wrote Ferdinand and Isabella stating that for the previous seven years the Bristolians had been equipping caravels to look for the islands of Brasile and the Seven Cities. While it is not possible to ascertain whether or not these were large scale ventures and precisely what their motives might have been, Ayala's words seem to supply some proof of westward bound voyages."
There had long been a suspicion that fishing ships in search of cod were regularly crossing the Atlantic from Bristol to Newfoundland before Columbus' first voyage. Bristol merchants bought salt cod from Iceland until 1475, when the King of Denmark stopped the trade. In 1479 four Bristol merchants received a royal charter to find another source of fish. Records discovered in 1955 suggest that from 1480, twelve years before Columbus, English fishermen may have established a facility for processing fish on the Newfoundland coast. In 1960 trading records were discovered that indicated that Richard Amerike was involved in this business. A letter from around 1481 suggests that Amerike shipped salt (for salting fish) to these men at a place they had named Brassyle. The letter also states that they had many names for headlands and harbours. Rodney Broome and others suggest that one of these names may have been "America".
John Cabot (originally Giovanni Caboto, a Venetian seaman) had become a well known mariner in England, and he came to Bristol in 1495 looking for investment in a new project. On March 5 1496, Cabot received a letter of authority from King Henry VII to make a voyage of discovery and claim lands on behalf of the monarch. It is believed that Amerike may have been one of the principal investors in the building of Cabot's ship, the Matthew.
Cabot is known to have produced maps of the coast from Maine to Newfoundland, though none have survived. He named an island off Newfoundland St. John's. Copies of these maps were sent to Spain by John Day, where Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci would have seen them. The theory suggests that Cabot may have written the name America (or similar) on his maps, but no extant maps are available to prove this assertion.
Vespucci sailed to South America and the Caribbean with Alonso de Ojeda (Hojeda) in 1499 and Gonçalo Coelho in 1501 and became convinced that these were new lands, not Asia as Columbus believed. Martin Waldseemüller, a German map-maker, published a world map in 1507 using Vespucci's previously published letters. The theory suggests that Waldseemüller assumed that the "America" that Vespucci used was derived from his first name. Waldseemüller provided an explanation of this assumption as an attachment to the map. Vespucci himself never stated that this was the case. There were immediate protests from Columbus' supporters to get the continent renamed for Columbus, but attempts were unsuccessful, since 1,000 copies of the map were already in circulation. On later maps Waldseemüller substituted the words "Terra Incognita," but it was too late; the name America was now firmly associated with the entire northern and southern continent across the Atlantic from Europe.