The Most Common Ancestry In Every State

By Kathy Morris - Apr. 5, 2021

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America is a melting pot.

People of every nationality call the US home, bringing with them their rich cultural traditions.

However, like any soup, it’s not always evenly distributed. Some nationalities are more prominently represented in certain states than others.

We analyzed data from the ACS Census to find the three most common ancestries in each state.

Keep reading to see our top findings, and the second and third most common ancestries.

Key Findings On Most Common Ancestry

  • The most common single ancestry in the US is German, with over 50 million Americans of German descent and 21 states claiming German heritage the most.
  • To put into common how prevalent German heritage is, prior to WW 1 when it fell out of favor, German was the second most common language in the US.
  • German remains the second most spoken language in North Dakota.
  • 19 states claim “American” as their ancestry the most.
  • Massachusetts and New Hampshire have extra reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
  • Maryland was the only state for Sub-Saharan African to be the most common ancestry.

Second Most Common Ancestry In Each State

  • American remains a common response.
  • 10 states claim “English” as the second most common primary ancestry, almost all in the South.
  • Unsurprisingly, French heritage is common in Louisiana where visitors can see the French influence all around them.
  • Norwegian was the 2nd most common ancestry in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
  • West Indian enters the map for the first time, as the 2nd most common single ancestry in Florida.

Third Most Common Ancestry In Each State

  • Unsurprisingly as we look at the third most common ancestry, we see previously popular heritages (Irish, English, German, and American) pop up in other parts of the country.
  • Portuguese is the third most common single ancestry in Rhode Island.
  • Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois all claim Polish as the third most common single ancestry.

How We Determined This

To find the most common ancestry in each state, we turned to US Census Ancestry data.

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From there, we simply found the single ancestry the highest number of residents reported, then finding the second and third highest.

This data is self-reported, which relies on people accurately knowing their own heritage. Considering, 21% of Americans are unable to name a single great-grandparent, chances are good these results are skewed.

This may have contributed to the large number of respondents in every state who chose “American” as their ancestry– because the more distant heritage has been lost to history.

Similarly, the data is for those who report a single ancestry–so doesn’t take into account all the people whose personal heritage is their own melting pot and have multiple ancestries.

You can see a table of each state’s 3 most common single ancestries below:

Most Common Ancestries

State First Second Third
Alabama American English Irish
Alaska German American Irish
Arizona German American English
Arkansas American English German
California American German European
Colorado German American English
Connecticut Italian Irish American
Delaware American Irish German
Florida American West Indian German
Georgia American English Irish
Hawaii German Irish English
Idaho English American German
Illinois German American Polish
Indiana German American English
Iowa German American Irish
Kansas German American English
Kentucky American English German
Louisiana American French French Canadian
Maine English American Irish
Maryland Subsaharan African American German
Massachusetts Irish Italian American
Michigan German American Polish
Minnesota German Norwegian American
Mississippi American English Irish
Missouri German American Irish
Montana German American Irish
Nebraska German American Irish
Nevada American German Irish
New Hampshire Irish French Canadian English
New Jersey Italian Irish American
New Mexico American German English
New York Italian American West Indian
North Carolina American English German
North Dakota German Norwegian American
Ohio German American Irish
Oklahoma American German Irish
Oregon German American English
Pennsylvania German American Italian
Rhode Island Italian Irish Portuguese
South Carolina American English German
South Dakota German Norwegian American
Tennessee American English Irish
Texas American German English
Utah English European American
Vermont American English Irish
Virginia American English German
Washington German American European
West Virginia American German Irish
Wisconsin German American Polish
Wyoming German American English

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Kathy Morris


Kathy Morris

Kathy is the head of content at Zippia with a knack for engaging audiences. Prior to joining Zippia, Kathy worked at Gateway Blend growing audiences across diverse brands. She graduated from Troy University with a degree in Social Science Education.

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