Photo: Flickr/Chris Zerbes
The majority of people living in the United States descended from European immigrants who arrived as early as the 17th century. In fact, nearly 48 million people, or about 15.5 per cent of the U.S. population, reported German ancestry, according to the 2010 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau defines ancestry as a “person’s ethnic origin or descent, ‘roots,’ or heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.”
The ACS data represents the number of people who reported each ancestry as either their first or second response.
The ancestries also include groups covered in the questions on Hispanic or Latino origin, such as Mexican.
During the 19th century, Swedish emigration to the United States was largely motivated by economic advancement.
From 1851 to 1930, more than 1.2 million Swedes crossed the Atlantic, traditionally settling in Midwest homesteads. By the turn of the century, however, more Swedes moved to urban centres in search of industrial jobs.
Today, Minnesota has the largest concentration of Swedish descendants in the country.
Norwegian emigration reached its peak between the end of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century.
Between 1880 and 1893, Norwegian emigration was the second largest in Europe behind Ireland.
Historically, the majority of Norwegian Americans live in the upper Midwest, especially Minnesota, western Wisconsin, northern Iowa and the Dakotas.
New York City (originally New Amsterdam) was established by Dutch Immigrants in the early 17th century. Although Dutch immigration slowed in the 18th century, a new wave of Dutchmen came to America following World War II.
Today, Dutch Americans are concentrated in several counties in Michigan and Ohio. Many Dutch Americans also live in California, New York and Pennsylvania.
Notable Dutch Americans include Thomas Edison, Walt Whitman and Theodore Roosevelt.
More than one million Scots left for the United States in the 19th century, many in search of work in the shipping industry. Scottish immigrants continued to trickle in through the 1920s, especially as economic conditions worsened in Scotland.
California, Florida, Texas, New York and Michigan have the most Scottish descendants.
Historically, the number of immigrants from France has been smaller than from other European nations. Figures may also be lower since French Americans are more specifically identified as French Canadian, Acadian, or Louisiana Creole by the U.S. Census.
States with the largest French communities include California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York.
Polish Americans are the largest of the Slavic groups in the United States and represent some of the earliest colonists in the New World.
Immigration reached new heights between the mid-19th century and World War I, when an estimated 2.5 million Poles entered the United States. These new arrivals who were in search of a better economic life flocked to industrial cities like New York, Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Chicago.
Between 1880 and 1920, more than four million Italian immigrants -- mostly peasants from Southern Italy -- arrived in the United States.
Immigrants formed 'Little Italies' in many large northeastern cities as well as remote areas in California and Louisiana. As these communities grew and prospered, Italian food, entertainment, and music greatly influenced American life and culture.
After World War II, which confirmed Italian Americans' loyalty to the United States, another large wave of immigrants arrived.
Today, the largest concentration of Italian-Americans can be found in Suffolk County, New York.
Many people who are of several different European ethnicities or only know part of their ancestry reported their ancestry as 'American.'
The number of people who listed themselves as 'American' more than doubled since 1990 when 12.4 million citizens reported their ancestry as American.
In 2000, American was the most commonly reported in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.
According to the Census Bureau, areas with the largest 'American' ancestry populations were mostly settled by English, French, Welsh, Scottish and Irish.
English Americans are found in large numbers in the Northwest and West, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
The number of people who reported English ancestry decreased by at least 20 million since the 1980 U.S. Census, partly because more citizens of English descent have started to list themselves as 'American.'
California has the largest population of self-reported English Americans followed by Florida, Texas and New York.
Between 1990 and 2000 the number of people who reported Mexican ancestry nearly doubled in size.
Mexican is the most commonly reported ancestry along the southwestern border of the United States and leading ancestry in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas and San Antonio, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.