Cool Map

Here. It's amazing how much of the country has "German" as its most prevalent ancestry.

But here's a puzzle: Almost all of Kentucky and Tennessee, and good bits of the South otherwise, list their ancestry as "American." Not "American Indian" -- that's a separate category. Did the population of large swathes of the South simply not grasp the question they were being asked?


  1. I found this on the Census Bureau's site:

    "Some people identify their ancestry as American. This could be because their ancestors have been in United States for so long or they have such mixed backgrounds that they do not identify with any particular group. Some foreign born or children of the foreign born may report American to show that they are part of American society. There are many reasons people may report their ancestors as American, and the growth in this response has been substantial."

  2. Could be they didn't want to volunteer any more info than necessary to the government snoops. (I'm not kidding. I could totally see some of my neighbors putting down "American" to spite the Census, and putting down "Mr." for a first name etc.)

    But why not make fun of black people too Gene? After all, they put "African American" instead of just "African" for their ancestry. Didn't they understand the question?

  3. "Could be they didn't want to volunteer any more info than necessary to the government snoops."

    So, you are saying they are paranoid rather than confused?


  4. Very cool map. Finland being represented in da UP, woohoo! :)

    I don't think it's that most Southerners don't know about their ancestry, it's that comparatively most people who don't know about their ancestry live in the South. For example, in the counties most densely populated by Finnish-Americans the percentage is actually only 17-38%, yet it's the biggest ancestry so it gets mentioned. Similarly you only need about 20% of people who answer "I dunno, 'Merkun I guess." to have a county listed as "American", even if the remaining 80 percent consists of self-described Germans, Mexicans, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans etc. At least that's how I interpret it.

  5. Anonymous12:27 AM

    The upper peninsula has a special place in my heart. But i prefer that it were still commonly represented as Canadian, or Wisconsin territory on Maps.

    Fun fact: the soo locks carry the most freight by weight of any locks in the world (iron ore is heavy). Or so a drunken mining engineer told me.

    "And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

    Watoosh, you make a good point concerning the data collection, but I would like to add that there is still another possibility; Mixed ancestry. Let me elaborate; my Grandparents surnames are English, Swedish, Polish and Russian. How should I answer the survey? By tradition I might answer by the male line, but that is mixed with Native American, and therefore wouldn't even give me a plurality of ancestry.

    Of course this is just a hypothetical, and only some empirical research would settle the question ;)

    Bob, 'African American' is an ethnicity unto itself, distinguishible from African nationalities or ethnic groups, for historical reasons that you may be aware of. Of course this is a self-identification survey and some who might legitimately answer Kenyan, for example may identify as 'African American', while the owners of 'The Blue Nile' restaurant list Ethiopian.

  6. Yes, we understand the question. In general we white Southerners do not like to identify (or simply do not identify) with our European ancestry, unlike people in the North. In general, it does not much interest us, though there are exceptions. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it has been that way for so many generations that most of us are hopelessly mongrelized, so that it is almost a senseless question.

    Basically, most of us look at this question as rather meaningless, and some even as racist and divisive that it is even asked. We don't dwell on our ethnic ancestry much, if at all. If you ask one of us 'what he is?,' he's more likely to tell you he is a Presbyterian or a carpenter than his race. The South, I think, is far more a melting pot than the North, which seems more like a 'tossed salad,' though I'm going on hearsay because I've never been there. Beyond white, black, and 'Mexican,' which are obvious to the casual observer, in general people don't really care, and will think you stupid for asking.

    BTW, I was made aware of this difference in regional ethnic interest because I once dated a 'Chinese' girl from Boston who used to bring up this issue all the time and liked to call me a 'mutt.' At least she tried to bother me about it; I had no interest and accepted the epithet without reservation. The ironic thing is that as much as she identified her very special self as 'Chinese,' all the real Chinese students thought that she was an idiot and a slut (which she was) and referred to her as an American. They wanted nothing to do with her.

    So much for racial identity.

  7. There was a big push leading up to the last census from the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck demographic to get people to put down "American" for their race to protest the government collecting information on race/income/etc.


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