The Most Unusual Ancestry in Every State

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Oklahoma
> Most unusual ancestry: Dutch West Indian
> Concentration in Oklahoma of residents with Dutch West Indian ancestry: 30.3 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Oklahoma residents identifying as having Dutch West Indian ancestry: 0.39% (Total: 15,192)
> 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 Oklahoma: 36.72%

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 were 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.

Dutch West Indians comprise 0.39% of the Oklahoma population, about 30 times the 0.01% of Americans who claim Dutch West Indian ancestry.

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Oregon
> Most unusual ancestry: Basque
> Concentration in Oregon of residents with Basque ancestry: 4.4 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Oregon residents identifying as having Basque ancestry: 0.08% (Total: 3,380)
> 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 Oregon: 5.52%

Basque Americans trace their roots to a region that covers parts of northern Spain and southwestern France where the Basque language is primarily spoken. Basque people first arrived in Oregon en masse in the late 1880s, many leaving California after the gold rush. Upon settling in Oregon, the Basque people spread across the state, and many became sheepherders. In addition to California, much of Oregon’s Basque population moved to the state from Nevada, which still has a relatively heavy concentration of Basque Americans.

Today, 5.5% of the 61,264 Americans who identify as Basque live in Oregon.

Source: S. Greg Panosian / Getty Images

Pennsylvania
> Most unusual ancestry: Pennsylvania German
> Concentration in Pennsylvania of residents with Pennsylvania German ancestry: 12.4 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Pennsylvania residents identifying as having Pennsylvania German ancestry: 1.17% (Total: 149,860)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Pennsylvania German ancestry: 0.09% (total: 305,551)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Pennsylvania German ancestry living in Pennsylvania: 49.05%

Pennsylvania Germans are the descendants of a group of southern German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. The immigrants established a unique dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch that was spoken by more than a third of the state’s population by the time of the American Revolution.

Today, some 305,551 Americans identify as Pennsylvania German, about half of whom live in Pennsylvania. The ethnic group comprises 1.17% of the Pennsylvania population, more than 12 its 0.1% share in the U.S. population.

Source: Meybruck / Getty Images

Rhode Island
> Most unusual ancestry: Cape Verdean
> Concentration in Rhode Island of residents with Cape Verdean ancestry: 57.2 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Rhode Island residents identifying as having Cape Verdean ancestry: 2.00% (Total: 21,111)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Cape Verdean ancestry: 0.03% (total: 112,715)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Cape Verdean ancestry living in Rhode Island: 18.73%

Cape Verde is an island nation off the western coast of Africa. About 1 in every 5 Americans who identify Cabo Verdean as their primary ethnicity live in Rhode Island. Americans identifying as Cabo Verdeans often also have Portuguese ancestry as Portugal colonized the African island nation in the 1400s.

The Cabo Verdean people first arrived in New England after being employed on whaling ships — which often stopped at Cape Verde — from the northeastern United States. Another state with a relatively high concentration of Americans with Cabo Verdean ancestry is Massachusetts.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

South Carolina
> Most unusual ancestry: Scotch-Irish
> Concentration in South Carolina of residents with Scotch-Irish ancestry: 2.5 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of South Carolina residents identifying as having Scotch-Irish ancestry: 2.34% (Total: 115,721)
> 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 South Carolina: 3.83%

Scotch-Irish Americans are descendants of immigrants who came to America primarily from the Ulster province of Ireland in the 18th century seeking religious freedom and economic opportunities. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States today.

Approximately 3 million Americans identify as Scotch-Irish, or 1% of the population. States with the largest shares of Scotch-Irish American residents include southeastern states such as Tennessee, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina. The Scotch-Irish comprise 2.34% of the South Carolina population, 2.5 times the national share.

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