The Most Unusual Ancestry in Every State

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Virginia
> Most unusual ancestry: Sierra Leonean
> Concentration in Virginia of residents with Sierra Leonean ancestry: 6.6 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Virginia residents identifying as having Sierra Leonean ancestry: 0.04% (Total: 3,637)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Sierra Leonean ancestry: 0.01% (total: 21,003)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Sierra Leonean ancestry living in Virginia: 17.32%

Between 1550 and 1850, over 10 million people from the African continent were brought to North America and Brazil as slaves. Many of those slaves were from Sierra Leone. While some Sierra Leonean slaves returned to Africa in the 1700s after gaining freedom, a majority stayed in the United States.

More recently, beginning in the 1970s, large waves of Sierra Leonean immigrants have come to America seeking educational and economic opportunities, as well as to escape political turmoil in their own country. Today, 21,003 Americans identify as having Sierra Leonean ancestry, a majority of whom live in states along the East Coast. About 1 in 5 of all Americans identifying as Sierra Leonean live in Virginia.

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Washington
> Most unusual ancestry: Icelander
> Concentration in Washington of residents with Icelander ancestry: 5.7 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Washington residents identifying as having Icelander ancestry: 0.09% (Total: 6,437)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Icelander ancestry: 0.02% (total: 49,559)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Icelander ancestry living in Washington: 12.99%

Large groups of settlers from Iceland first immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s. Estimates of the number of people who left Iceland for the United States during that period ranges from 10,000 to 15,000 — close to one-fifth of the population of Iceland at the time. They initially settled in Midwestern states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, while others were drawn to Utah by the Mormon faith.

Eventually, Icelandic Americans moved west to states like California, Oregon, and Washington. Immigration decreased considerably in the early 1900s and did not pick up again until after WWII, when brides of American troops stationed in Iceland relocated to the United States.

Today, some 6,437 people in Washington, or 0.09% of the population, identify as having Icelander ancestry — about six times the comparable national share.

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West Virginia
> Most unusual ancestry: Scotch-Irish
> Concentration in West Virginia of residents with Scotch-Irish ancestry: 2.0 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of West Virginia residents identifying as having Scotch-Irish ancestry: 1.86% (Total: 33,940)
> 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 West Virginia: 1.12%

The Scotch-Irish Americans are descendants of immigrants who came to America primarily from the Ulster province of Ireland in the 18th century. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States today. Approximately 3 million ACS respondents nationwide claim Scotch-Irish ancestry, or about 1% of the U.S. population. In West Virginia 1.86% of respondents claim the ancestry.

The first major wave of Scotch-Irish settlers immigrated to the United States seeking religious freedom and economic opportunities. Having originally settled in Philadelphia, the Scotch-Irish eventually found a greater degree of religious freedom in the Southern states — where their descendants largely remain today.

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Wisconsin
> Most unusual ancestry: Luxembourger
> Concentration in Wisconsin of residents with Luxembourger ancestry: 9.0 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Wisconsin residents identifying as having Luxembourger ancestry: 0.11% (Total: 6,569)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Luxembourger ancestry: 0.01% (total: 40,979)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Luxembourger ancestry living in Wisconsin: 16.03%

The world’s only cultural center celebrating the heritage of Luxembourg opened in 2009 in Belgium, Wisconsin. The location is appropriate as about 6,600 people claiming Luxembourger heritage live in Wisconsin — more than in any other state. Some 16.0% of the 40,979 Luxembourg Americans call Wisconsin home.

The first major wave of immigrants from Luxembourg came to the United States in the 1830s and 1840s, after many faced difficulty attempting to settle in South America. Pulled by economic opportunity — inexpensive farmland in particular — many Luxembourgers were drawn to the Midwest.

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Wyoming
> Most unusual ancestry: Basque
> Concentration in Wyoming of residents with Basque ancestry: 10.0 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Wyoming residents identifying as having Basque ancestry: 0.19% (Total: 1,108)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Basque ancestry: 0.02% (total: 61,264)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Basque ancestry living in Wyoming: 1.81%

Approximately 61,000 Americans today identify as Basque, and about 1,100 of them live in Wyoming. Many Basques moved away from their homeland in the 19th and 20th centuries, eventually settling in places in South America, the Philippines, Australia, and the United States. In the U.S., Basques had a reputation of being hard workers in sheepherding communities.

Americans who identify as having Basque ancestry comprise 0.02% of the state population, about 10 times the national figure and the most of any ancestry in the state relative to the comparable national share.

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