I came across an article the other day that pointed out there are more Americans who report they are of German ancestry (like myself) than of any other.
A report from Business Insider said that 49.8 million Americans who claim German ancestry, versus 35.7 million Irish, 31.7 million Mexicans, 27.4 million English, and 17.5 million Italians, to name the largest groups.
There are 19.1 plain “Americans” who don’t report foreign ancestry, either as a political statement or because they don’t know it. And there are 5.2 million American Indians and Alaska natives, who of course comprise many nations.
Why don’t we hear more about German-Americans? The reason is that nationality is not a question of ancestry and blood, but of upbringing and, in the USA at least, choice.
I think that very few Americans of German ancestry think of themselves as German-Americans. Certainly General Eisenhower and Admiral Nimitz didn’t. Certainly I don’t.
It is interesting to know that some of my ancestors came to Pennsylvania and Maryland from Germany in the 18th century, and that an ancestor, Johann Ebersole, fought in the Continental Army under George Washington. But if I learned tomorrow that none of these things is true, it would not change my sense of who I am.
In fact, I grew up with a certain amount of prejudice against Germans. I used to think of Germans as authoritarian, hierarchical and rule-bound, and a perfect contrast to us freedom-loving, democratic and practical Americans.
Since then I’ve come to see us Americans take on all the qualities that I saw as defects in the German national character. And, although I don’t have a close knowledge of Germany, my impression is that Germany is more egalitarian and more respectful of basic civil liberties than the USA.
Here is a complete list of ancestry groups in the Business Insider article.
48.9 million Germans.
35.7 million Irish.
31.7 million Mexicans.
27.4 million English
19.1 million self-described “Americans”.
17.5 million Italians
9.8 million Poles
9.3 million French (except Basques)
5.8 million Scots
5.2 million Scotch-Irish (Ulster Presbyterians)
4.95 million Dutch
4.6 million Puerto Ricans
4.6 million Norwegians
4.3 million Swedes
3.8 million Chinese (except Taiwanese)
3.4 million Filipinos
3.2 million Asian Indians
3.1 million Russians
2.1 million French-Canadians
1.9 million Welsh
Here is a list of broader census groups.
231.0 million white people
50.5 million Hispanics
42.0 million African-Americans or black people
17.3 million Asians
5.2 million American Indians and Alaska natives.
1.2 million Hawaii natives and Pacific Islanders
Maps of Ancestry Groups Across America by Gus Lubin for Business Insider.