Special Report

The Most Unusual Ancestry in Every State

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Hawaii
> Most unusual ancestry: Portuguese
> Concentration in Hawaii of residents with Portuguese ancestry: 8.0 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Hawaii residents identifying as having Portuguese ancestry: 3.38% (Total: 48,129)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Portuguese ancestry: 0.42% (total: 1,358,190)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Portuguese ancestry living in Hawaii: 3.54%

The Portuguese began to immigrate to Hawaii in the late 19th century, when sugarcane plantations offered economic opportunities to skilled laborers from the Madeira and Azores Islands of Portugal.

Today, some 48,129 Hawaiians identify as Portuguese, 3.54% of the 1.4 million Americans who claim the ancestry nationwide. Portuguese Hawaiians make up 3.38% of the state’s population, eight times the 0.42% of Americans who identify as Portuguese nationwide.

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Idaho
> Most unusual ancestry: Basque
> Concentration in Idaho of residents with Basque ancestry: 23.9 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Idaho residents identifying as having Basque ancestry: 0.45% (Total: 7,667)
> 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 Idaho: 12.51%

Some 7,667 Americans in Idaho identify as Basque — or 0.45% of the state’s population — the highest Basque concentration of any state. Americans with Basque heritage trace their roots to a region along the Spanish and French border. Early Basque immigrants largely came to the United States through South America during the California gold rush in the mid-19th century.

Today, Americans of Basque descent are heavily concentrated western states such as California, Nevada, and Oregon. Cities in Idaho with high concentrations of people who identify as Basque include Shoshone, Cascade, and Rupert.

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Illinois
> Most unusual ancestry: Bulgarian
> Concentration in Illinois of residents with Bulgarian ancestry: 3.5 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Illinois residents identifying as having Bulgarian ancestry: 0.11% (Total: 13,952)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Bulgarian ancestry: 0.03% (total: 101,027)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Bulgarian ancestry living in Illinois: 13.81%

In Illinois, 13,952 residents identify as having Bulgarian ancestry, or 0.11%, which is almost four times the share of residents identifying as having Bulgarian ancestry in the overall U.S. population.

One major wave of Bulgarian immigration to Illinois began in the early 20th century, when Bulgarians came to work in factories in cities like Granite City, Madison, and Venice, as they fled the political upheaval in the Balkans at that time.

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Indiana
> Most unusual ancestry: Macedonian
> Concentration in Indiana of residents with Macedonian ancestry: 3.8 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Indiana residents identifying as having Macedonian ancestry: 0.07% (Total: 4,837)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Macedonian ancestry: 0.02% (total: 61,976)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Macedonian ancestry living in Indiana: 7.80%

Macedonian Americans are descendants of an ethnic group who came from the Balkan Peninsula. Currently, some 61,976 Americans claim Macedonian heritage — and about 1 in every 13 of them live in Indiana.

The largest waves of Macedonian immigration to the United States took place in the early 20th century, before the outbreak of World War I and again in the 1990s. Poor economic conditions in the Balkans and economic opportunity in the United States largely explain the mass migration.

Source: Ron_Thomas / Getty Images

Iowa
> Most unusual ancestry: Luxembourger
> Concentration in Iowa of residents with Luxembourger ancestry: 11.7 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Iowa residents identifying as having Luxembourger ancestry: 0.15% (Total: 4,666)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Luxembourger ancestry: 0.01% (total: 40,979)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Luxembourger ancestry living in Iowa: 11.39%

Though Luxembourgers, who come from one of the world’s smallest countries, can trace their ethnicity’s presence in the United States as far back as 1630, the first major wave of immigrants from Luxembourg was in the 1830s and 1840s, after many faced difficulty attempting to settle in South America.

Driven by economic opportunity — inexpensive Midwestern farmland in particular — immigration from the landlocked Western European country to the United States continued through the later half of the 19th century. The looming threat of fascism and ethnic cleansing in Europe drove several hundred Jewish Luxembourgers to the United States in the early 20th century. Currently, about one in every nine Americans claiming to be of Luxembourger descent live in Iowa.