Family Roots

"There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his." - Helen Keller

There are thirty-one ancestral groups in the United States that have at least a million members, and thousands of smaller ethnic groups that make up our family roots. White Americans, lumping together Americans of German-descent, Irish-descent, and English-descent, constitute the largest group; Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing groups. But let's take a closer look at ancestral groups and where they are dominant in the United States:

  • German. The American Midwest is populated with Americans of German descent, as is much of the rest of the country.
  • Mexican. Southern California, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and southern and western Texas-all of what can be referred to as the "Mexican frontier" is populated by Americans whose family roots are in Mexico.
  • Spanish. In central New Mexico, many people claim old Spanish ancestry as their family roots.
  • African. People claiming African ancestry are the dominant group in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
  • Native American. Those with Native American ancestry are primarily concentrated in Alaska, Oklahoma, parts of South Dakota, and the Four Corners region (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado).
  • English. Only in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Utah do most residents claim English descent as their primary ancestral group.
  • Irish. Those claiming Irish family roots reside mostly in New England.
  • Italian. Italian-Americans reside mostly on the mid-Atlantic seaboard, especially in New York and Pennsylvania.

In West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, a majority of the residents in a recent survey claimed "American" ancestry. Whether or not they understood the question being posed to them is debatable, but it raises another interesting question: is there a distinctly American ethnic group? If one's ancestors had come to American in the early days of colonization and were already settled here in the first half of the seventeenth century, can one claim American ancestry? That remains debatable. But one thing is not debatable: whatever our dominant ancestral heritage, whatever our preferred ethnic identity, as Americans we are all really one thing: a blend. A melting pot, a patchwork quilt; call it what you will, but it amounts to the same thing. We are all mixed Americans.

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