Ancestry Map in Census 2000

In the 1750s British settlers in Pennsylvania began to fear and resent the fact that a third of their fellow Pennsylvanians were German speakers.  Frederick Muhlenberg, the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, abstained from voting in the 1794 House vote proposing to translate some of the laws into German. The vote was defeated, 42-41.  Muhlenberg, who abstained from the vote, commented later, “the faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be.” Despite not having voted against the bill, the Muhlenberg Legend developed in which he was responsible for prohibiting German as an official language of the United States.

Nevertheless, German is the 3rd most offered language at U.S. colleges, after French and Spanish. Any wonder why we have so many words in common use that stem from German:

wunderkind, concertmeister, kitsch

frankfurter, hamburger, delicatessen, sauerkraut, spritzer, coffee-klatch, kindergarten, Oktoberfest, pretzel

schnauzer, doberman pinscher, dachshund, rottweiler

Why all the fuss about German? According to this chart from the U.S. Census Bureau, 42.8% of the population identifies themselves as being of German or part-German ancestry.  Who knew?

This map (discovered by my husband, an economist) also shows that the census reported in 2000 that the plurality of people in a preponderance of U.S. counties identified themselves as being of German ancestry. Wherever you see light blue, that county claims Germans as the highest percentage of their population’s ancestry.

The U.S. Census 2000 gathered data on 86 ancestry groups

Acadian/Cajun
Afghan
Albanian
Alsatian
Arab
Arab/Arabic
Egyptian
Iraqi
Jordanian
Lebanese
Moroccan
Palestinian
Syrian
Armenian
Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac
Australian
Austrian
Basque
Belgian
Brazilian
British
Bulgarian
Canadian
Celtic
Croatian
Czech
Czechoslovakian
Danish
Dutch
English
Estonian
European
Finnish
French
French Canadian
German
Greek
Guyanese
Hungarian
Icelander
Iranian
Irish
Israeli
Italian
Latvian
Lithuanian
Luxemburger
Macedonian
Maltese
Norwegian
Pennsylvania German
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Russian
Scandinavian
Scotch-Irish
Scottish
Serbian
Slavic
Slovak
Slovene
Subsaharan African
African
Cape Verdean
Ethiopian
Ghanian
Nigerian
South African
Swedish
Swiss
Turkish
Ukrainian
United States or American
Welsh
West Indian (excluding Hispanic origin groups)
Bahamian
Barbadian
Belizean
British West Indian
Dutch West Indian
Haitian
Jamaican
Trinidadian and Tobagonian
West Indian
Yugoslavian

© 2012 Copyright Billie Elias

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About Billie Tekel Elias

Author of upcoming book, Pearl's Party...and you're invited.
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3 Responses to Ancestry Map in Census 2000

  1. boomeresq says:

    Interesting that there is a swath of people through the deep south and Appalachia identifying themselves as of “American” ancestry, but not Native American. I wonder if “mixed ancestry” was an option.

  2. billietoy says:

    This question was a fill-in-the-blank, so people were able to write in whatever they wanted. Your point begs the question, after how many generations of living in this country does one consider their ethnicity American? Is my ancestry Polish/Ukrainian/Romanian? I feel very assimilated since on one side of my family, I’m 3rd generation American. The Census Bureau reports that “Seven percent of the U.S. population reported their ancestry as American. The number who reported American and no other ancestry increased from 12.4 million in 1990 to 20.2 million in 2000, the largest numerical growth of any group during the 1990s.5 This figure represents an increase of 63 percent, as the proportion rose from 5.0 percent to 7.2 percent of the population.”

    Further, “1 percent reported an unclassifiable ancestry such as “mixture” or “adopted.” Another 19 percent did not report any ancestry at all, a substantial increase from 1990, when 10 percent of the population left the ancestry question blank.”

  3. Pingback: Genealogy and Economics | Elias Economics

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