Ethnic Origins in America

Emigrants-Arriving-Ellis-IslandWe sometimes think of all of us as Americans, which we are. However, doing your family tree you also think in terms of your family’s homeland – its ethnic origin. It interesting to review the make-up and sheer numbers of of the different ethnic groups in the United States.

The largest in numbers are those Americans of German background. With the 2010 US Census the numbers are about 49,206,934 people of German heritage. The largest influx of German arrival was in the mid-1800s, when many left Germany due to political unrest an high unemployment. Of course Germans have been coming to America since about the 1670s, many first settling in Pennsylvania and New York.

The next largest ethnic group are the 41,284,752 Black or African Americans. For many, but not all, they were forced as slaves from West and Central Africa.

It was the great famine of the 1840s that sparked mass migration from Ireland to America. Some 4.5 million Irish between 1820 and 1920, moved to the United States and settled in the large cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. Now, about 12 percent of the total population of the United States claim Irish ancestry, some 35,523,082 people with Irish roots.

Next in numbers are those of Mexican heritage, about 31,789,483 in number. Those with Mexican ancestry are most common along the Southwestern border of the United States and with high population numbers in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas and San Antonio.

Some 26,923,091 people claim English ancestry. This can be confusing, because many who are English, really refer to their heritage as ‘American’, about 20 million people.

From Italy, between 1880 and 1920 more than 4 million Italians came to America. After the end of World War Two, another wave of Italian immigrants settled in America. This makes about 17,558,598 Italians now claiming this heritage.

The list continues with Polish-Americans at 9.7 million and the French (some from France, others from French Canada) about 9.1 million. So many other ethnic groups make the melting pot of the United States. This is why so many people today are trying to learn their ‘roots’, their ethnic background.

Photo:  Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island.

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