Sea-level rise is a significant indicator of broader climate changes, and the time of emergence concept can be used to identify when modern rates of sea-level rise emerged above background variability. Yet a range of estimates of the timing persists both globally and regionally. Here, we use a global database of proxy sea-level records of the Common Era (0–2000 CE) and show that globally, it is very likely that rates of sea-level rise emerged above pre-industrial rates by 1863 CE (P = 0.9; range of 1825 [P = 0.66] to 1873 CE [P = 0.95]), which is similar in timing to evidence for early ocean warming and glacier melt. The time of emergence in the North Atlantic reveals a distinct spatial pattern, appearing earliest in the mid-Atlantic region (1872–1894 CE) and later in Canada and Europe (1930–1964 CE). Regional and local sea-level changes occurring over different time periods drive the spatial pattern in emergence, suggesting regional processes underlie centennial-timescale sea-level variability over the Common Era.