Special Report

The Most Unusual Ancestry in Every State

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Massachusetts
> Most unusual ancestry: Cape Verdean
> Concentration in Massachusetts of residents with Cape Verdean ancestry: 29.8 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Massachusetts residents identifying as having Cape Verdean ancestry: 1.04% (Total: 71,084)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Cape Verdean ancestry: 0.03% (total: 112,715)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Cape Verdean ancestry living in Massachusetts: 63.07%

Some 71,084 people in Massachusetts are from — or are descendants of people from — the African island nation of Cape Verde, or more than 63% of all U.S. residents identifying as having Cape Verdean ancestry.

Droughts and famines on the Cabo Verde first drove large waves of immigrants to the Americas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many Cabo Verdeans settled in Massachusetts after finding employment on Massachusetts whaling ships that stopped at the island. Leading up to WWI, Cabo Verdeans continued to settle in Massachusetts, many finding work in cranberry bogs in Cape Cod.

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Michigan
> Most unusual ancestry: Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac
> Concentration in Michigan of residents with Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac ancestry: 14.3 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Michigan residents identifying as having Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac ancestry: 0.46% (Total: 45,929)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac ancestry: 0.03% (total: 104,381)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac ancestry living in Michigan: 44.00%

About 44% of Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac Americans, or 45,929 people, live in Michigan today.

The first large wave of Assyrian immigration to Michigan was in the early 20th century, as Assyrians left the Middle East and found employment in Detroit’s growing automobile industry. More Assyrians followed their friends and family to Michigan in the 1970s as political turmoil in the Middle East drove large swaths of the population out of the region. The 1970s also created numerous economic opportunities for immigrants in Michigan as white residents left downtown Detroit following the 1967 riots and the decline of the auto industry. Residents of Assyrian descent took over the area’s grocery industry, and today they own an estimated 90% of the region’s food stores.

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Minnesota
> Most unusual ancestry: Somali
> Concentration in Minnesota of residents with Somali ancestry: 21.6 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Minnesota residents identifying as having Somali ancestry: 1.06% (Total: 58,844)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Somali ancestry: 0.05% (total: 158,782)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Somali ancestry living in Minnesota: 37.06%

The share of Minnesota residents identifying as having Somali ancestry is 1.06%, or 58,844 people, compared with 0.05% of the overall U.S. population identifying as having Somali ancestry. After a devastating famine swept Somalia between 2010 and 2012, many Somali refugees found new homes in Minnesota, adding to the population that had come throughout the 20th century as sailors, students, and war refugees.

Minnesota is an attractive part of the country for many people of Somali descent because of the availability of jobs and the presence of NGOs and nonprofits related to resettling refugees. One of the state’s most famous residents, Ilhan Omar, is the first Somali-American to serve in Congress as a representative.

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Mississippi
> Most unusual ancestry: Cajun
> Concentration in Mississippi of residents with Cajun ancestry: 2.2 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Mississippi residents identifying as having Cajun ancestry: 0.08% (Total: 2,279)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having Cajun ancestry: 0.04% (total: 113,065)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having Cajun ancestry living in Mississippi: 2.02%

Some 0.08% of Mississippi residents, or 2,279 people, identify as Cajun, more than twice the 0.04% national share. Cities with the largest shares of residents who claim Cajun descent in the state include Biloxi, Clarksdale, Pascagoula, and Gulfport.

Cajuns are largely the descendants of the Acadian people, French colonists from the Acadia colony in eastern Canada who were exiled from the region and forced to move to rural communities throughout the East Coast. Many migrated to port cities in the South and established small French-speaking communities. While roughly half of all Cajun Americans live in Louisiana today, there are significant populations in Southern states such as Florida, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

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Missouri
> Most unusual ancestry: German
> Concentration in Missouri of residents with German ancestry: 1.7 times higher than share of U.S. population
> Share of Missouri residents identifying as having German ancestry: 23.23% (Total: 1,414,924)
> Share of US pop. identifying as having German ancestry: 13.68% (total: 44,164,758)
> Share of all US residents identifying as having German ancestry living in Missouri: 3.20%

Nearly one-fourth of Missouri residents, or 1,4 million people, identify as having German ancestry, about twice the overall share of the U.S. population claiming to have German ancestry. An area comprising 16 counties has been designated by the Missouri Humanities Council as the German Heritage Corridor..

The percentage of Germans in the Missouri population is not surprising. Germans have been coming to Missouri since the early 19th century because of the lure of cheap land, political turmoil in Germany, and industrialization.