The Most Unusual Ancestry in Every State

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South Dakota
> Most unusual ancestry: Norwegian
> Concentration in South Dakota of residents with Norwegian ancestry: 10.0 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of South Dakota residents identifying as having Norwegian ancestry: 13.60% (Total: 117,510)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Norwegian ancestry: 1.36% (total: 4,403,008)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Norwegian ancestry living in South Dakota: 2.67%

Some 13.6% of South Dakota’s population identifies as Norwegian compared to only 1.4% of the U.S. population. South Dakota is not the only state in the Upper Midwest with a high concentration of Norwegians. North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have relatively large Norwegian populations as well.

Norwegians first settled in South Dakota in the mid-1800s. Their numbers increased rapidly in the region throughout the remainder of the 19th century. Today, about 117,500 people living in South Dakota identify primarily as Norwegian.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

Tennessee
> Most unusual ancestry: Scotch-Irish
> Concentration in Tennessee of residents with Scotch-Irish ancestry: 2.3 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Tennessee residents identifying as having Scotch-Irish ancestry: 2.14% (Total: 142,538)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Scotch-Irish ancestry: 0.94% (total: 3,021,077)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Scotch-Irish ancestry living in Tennessee: 4.72%

When they first came to North America, the Scots-Irish settled in Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. They later moved inland where land was inexpensive. When Tennessee became a state in 1796, these settlers set up schools and churches in the state. Among other traditions, the Scotch-Irish brought the tradition of distilling whiskey.

Today, nearly 1 in 20 Americans identifying as Scotch-Irish live in Tennessee. The state is home to more than 142,000 Scotch-Irish Americans, who make up 2.14% of the Tennessee population.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Texas
> Most unusual ancestry: Dutch West Indian
> Concentration in Texas of residents with Dutch West Indian ancestry: 2.7 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Texas residents identifying as having Dutch West Indian ancestry: 0.03% (Total: 9,538)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Dutch West Indian ancestry: 0.01% (total: 41,368)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Dutch West Indian ancestry living in Texas: 23.06%

Dutch West Indian Americans are descendants of the Netherlands Antilles, a former country that consisted of a series of islands in the Caribbean under Dutch rule for approximately four centuries. The islands were conquered by settlers of the Dutch West India Company in the 17th century and remained under Dutch rule until October 2010, when the five islands that comprised the Netherlands Antilles — Curacao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius — became fully autonomous territories.

Immigrants from the Dutch West Indies came to the United States throughout the 20th century. Dutch West Indian Americans comprise 0.03% of the Texas population, nearly three times the comparable national share — the highest location quotient of any ancestry in the state.

Source: CodyHaskell / Getty Images

Utah
> Most unusual ancestry: Danish
> Concentration in Utah of residents with Danish ancestry: 12.0 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Utah residents identifying as having Danish ancestry: 4.76% (Total: 145,082)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Danish ancestry: 0.40% (total: 1,278,457)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Danish ancestry living in Utah: 11.35%

The first major wave of immigration from Denmark to the United States was in the mid to late 19th century, when converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints moved throughout the Midwest and to Utah. Mormon missionaries had arrived in Denmark in 1850, just months after the 1849 Constitutional Act of Denmark granted the Danish people freedom of religion. Immigration continued into the 1900s, as economic opportunities in Denmark became limited and the United States offered settlers cheap farmland through generous land policies such as the Homestead Act.

Today, 145,082 Utah residents identify as Danish, more than in any state other than California. Danish Americans comprise 4.76% of the Utah population, nearly 12 times the comparable 0.4% U.S. share.

Source: Samturgeon / Wikimedia Commons

Vermont
> Most unusual ancestry: French Canadian
> Concentration in Vermont of residents with French Canadian ancestry: 12.6 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Vermont residents identifying as having French Canadian ancestry: 8.18% (Total: 51,119)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having French Canadian ancestry: 0.65% (total: 2,095,503)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having French Canadian ancestry living in Vermont: 2.44%

French Canadians began to immigrate to New England in large numbers from Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario in Canada for textile and logging jobs in the 19th century. Today, the largest shares of U.S. residents claiming the ancestry live in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. Some 8.18% of Vermont residents claim French Canadian ancestry, nearly 13 times the 0.65% national share — the highest location quotient of any ancestry in the state.

Due to their proximity to Quebec, French Canadian Americans may have been able to preserve francophone culture in the United States more than descendants of other ancestries. Some 1.4% of Vermont residents today speak French, the most of any language other than English and the fourth largest share of French speakers of any state.

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