Where Americans say their ancestors came from, in 17 maps

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
  • Americans come from a wide variety of ancestries.
  • Using data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, we found how common various ancestries are in all 50 states.
  • For instance, Irish ancestry is most concentrated in the Northeast, while Mexican and Mexican-American ancestry is most common in the states that share a border with Mexico.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


Americans come from all over the world, and American families have countless stories about their origins.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey asks several questions about residents’ economic, social, and demographic characteristics and situations. One of the questions on the survey asks respondents to report their families’ ancestries.

Using individual-level data from the Minnesota Population Centre’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series for the 2017 American Community Survey, we found the total number of respondents in each state reporting various ancestries as either their first or second response to that question.

About 83% of respondents listed at least one ancestry. The following maps show the percentage of those who gave at least one answer that said they had a particular ancestry for 17 of the most common ancestries in the US.


Americans with German ancestry are common in the upper Midwest.


Irish ancestry is most concentrated in the Northeast.


A large part of the African-American and Afro-American population in the US lives in the South.


Mexican and Mexican-American ancestry is most common in the states that share a border with Mexico.


States with a relatively high proportion of residents identifying as having English ancestors are scattered across the country.


Americans who simply identified their ancestry as being from the United States are common in the inland Southern states.


The mid-Atlantic region is home to many Americans of Italian ancestry.


Alaska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota have large numbers of residents with American Indian ancestry.


Many Americans with Polish ancestry live in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Connecticut.


French ancestry is most common in Louisiana and the Northeast.


Scottish ancestry is common in the Northeast and Utah.


Puerto Rican ancestry is most common in the mid-Atlantic states and Florida.


Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all have many residents with Norwegian ancestry.


California and Hawaii have relatively large shares of residents with Chinese ancestry.


South Dakota, Iowa, and Michigan have relatively large numbers of residents with Dutch ancestry.


Swedish ancestry is most common in the Great Plains and Mountain states.


New Jersey and Connecticut have large Asian Indian populations.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.