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What will we come to With all this pride of ancestry, we Yankees? -- Robert Frost
October 28, 2003 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Ancestry Maps from the 1990 census: Which states have the highest percentage of people of Danish ancestry? Greek? Hispanic? Who (perhaps) doesn't realize that we almost all came here from somewhere else? Using the data provided on 1990 Census question 13, which asked respondents to identify the ancestry groups with which they identified most closely, the State of Minnesota provides us with these nifty Ancestry maps. More info here on 'the ancestry question' from the US Census Bureau. link via ::crabwalk.com::
posted by anastasiav (38 comments total)

 
US Ancestry = Native American. Who doesn't realize what a Native American is?
posted by jmccorm at 11:28 AM on October 28, 2003


Maybe me. I see they put that as a general category now that I read it. But these Ancestry Groups they have listed seem limited.
posted by jmccorm at 11:31 AM on October 28, 2003


um, am i missing something? i was all set to test a theory about southeast asian (cambodian, vietnamese, thai, indian, laotian, etc.) populations in midwestern cities, but i can't find any info on those "ancestries."

any reason they ignore Asians? or is my head up my ass again? i can't believe there's not enough to count, especially in CA.

from question 1 of the faq:

Ancestry refers to 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.

"or ancestors" seems incredibly vague. what would i say? i'm scotch-irish-german-english, though i'm well over a hundred years away from any of those "natives," nor do i identify with those cultures. would i be "U.S. Ancestry"?

if forced, i supposed i'd say "Southeastern African," since it seems like we all started there, b4 there were countries or ethnicities.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:31 AM on October 28, 2003


US Ancestry = Native American. Who doesn't realize what a Native American is?

didn't a lot of them migrate over from Asia? or likewise, up from Central/South America? North America was unfortunately a final destination for almost all of them, but *their* ancestry was from somewhere else.

without a proper structure, or "rules" for identifying ancestry (instead of vague words in quotes like "roots"), that census question seems like a waste of time.

after all, most people probably don't even know. they're just guessing, or working off bad info.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:42 AM on October 28, 2003


US Ancestry = Native American. Who doesn't realize what a Native American is?

My point with the link is that the survey responses as mapped here don't match up with the highest concentrations of Native populations in the US.

i was all set to test a theory about southeast asian (cambodian, vietnamese, thai, indian, laotian, etc.) populations in midwestern cities, but i can't find any info on those "ancestries."

From the census.gov link:

" Some groups are not listed in our tables because too few people identified with them. There are hundreds of ancestry groups, and we do not have room to show all of them in every product. Issues of confidentiality also arise when the size of groups are too small to show."

This link shows the actual codes used - the 700's ('Other Asia') seems to encompass at least some of the groups you mention - I know that Minnesota chose not to map all the groups, but why the census.gov site doesn't give more specific information for those groups I have no idea.

If you can get the link to open (I couldn't in Mozilla), there might be more information available here.
posted by anastasiav at 11:52 AM on October 28, 2003


Lithuanian: Issues of confidentiality also arise when the size of groups are too small to show."
Wonder what we know?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:02 PM on October 28, 2003


SLC Greek?
posted by condour75 at 12:03 PM on October 28, 2003


Wow, that list of codes is great—they can classify everybody, even if they don't bother mapping them: 031 Ladin, 055 Basilicata, 133 North Caucasian Turkic, 159 Gagauz, 174 Husel, 104 Carpatho Rusyn, 119 Voytak, 172 Lemko, 444 Kuria Muria Islander, 407 Ifni, 412 Alhucemas, 787 Ma... ("Gin a Voytak meet a Lemko, comin' through the rye...")

And note the generous provision of 900 Afro American, 901 Afro, 902 African American, 903 Black, 904 Negro, 905 Nonwhite, 906 Colored, 907 Creole, 908 Mulatto: nobody's left out!
posted by languagehat at 12:14 PM on October 28, 2003


Ethic distributions in Minneapolis
posted by gimonca at 12:21 PM on October 28, 2003


I used to find all this mildly interesting. Now it's just frustrating.

My mom was adopted, so I only have a scant idea where her heritage stems (french cajun mostly). On my dad's side it's pretty much all the rest of Europe and some of the former soviet union, so I'm all over the map. A literal example of the American Melting Pot. Some members of my Dad's family even think we have "native american" blood, but it was never proven in court cuz my great great grand mother.. well, she wouldn't kiss and tell. At the same time, to the best of my knowledge I'm at least a third generation American. Possibly fourth. I know for certain my grandparents were born on this soil.

Yes my ancient ancestry is all over the planet, but I'm an American first and all those other things a distant second. At what point does one become native to the soil upon which one was born?
posted by ZachsMind at 12:47 PM on October 28, 2003


> US Ancestry = Native American. Who doesn't realize what a
> Native American is?

Soon as that damned Alaskan land bridge opened up, there went the neighborhood. Naked apes everywhere, littering, burning stuff, shooting folks with arrows. And chatter, chatter, chatter, they just won't shut up. (I myself am descended from giant ground sloths.)
posted by jfuller at 12:53 PM on October 28, 2003


This is a nice post.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2003


Weird, I never thought the South was an Irish hotspot (maybe it's the lack of Cletus Jeb O'Flannigans I know).

The Swedes are like the anti-south.
posted by mathowie at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2003


Wha-?! That list doesn't have "Jewish" as a possible ancestry choice! So what the hell am I supposed to put down as my ethnicity? My great-grandparents may have come from the Ukraine, but they didn't consider themselves Ukrainian--probably only lived there 200 years, tops, starting when Catherine the Great opened up the Pale of Settlement--and the Ukies sure didn't consider them Ukrainian either, as evidenced by what they did to their Jewish neighbors during WWII. If Ruthenian can be a perfectly valid ethnicity choice, why not Jewish?

I suspect that in trying to not ask religious questions--which is illegal under U.S. law--they threw out the baby with the bathwater and dumped out all the Jewish responses as incorrect or ineligible data.

(Note that Gypsies, a.k.a. the Roma, don't have an ancestry choice listed either. Bah.)
posted by Asparagirl at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2003


See also the US census results, including the mapping possibilities off the American Fact Finder.
posted by SealWyf at 12:58 PM on October 28, 2003


I take it back--code 124 is for the "Rom", presumably the Roma.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:59 PM on October 28, 2003


> Weird, I never thought the South was an Irish hotspot
> (maybe it's the lack of Cletus Jeb O'Flannigans

Hmmmm. Gone with the Wind? Scarlett O'Hara? Mansion named Tara after the Irish seat of kings? The Hollywood South, at any rate, is Irish as Killarney.
posted by jfuller at 1:02 PM on October 28, 2003


Matt... Surely our Scotch-Irish heritage is made obvious by the way we speak. Isn't it?
posted by grabbingsand at 1:12 PM on October 28, 2003


This is my favorite.
posted by jpoulos at 1:27 PM on October 28, 2003


people of Danish ancestry? Greek? Hispanic?

I don't think that's Hispanic. I think it includes anyone who gives their race as their ancestry. But "race" in the US is always "race or Hispanic ancestry" since you can be Latino and black, Latino and white, Latino and Indian...

I certainly don't think that 20-40% of the coastal plains of North Carolina and Virginia are Latino, as the map would indicate if it were referring to Latinos.

A lot of the hotspots on this look like black belts to me, too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:41 PM on October 28, 2003


214 La Raza

??
posted by signal at 1:57 PM on October 28, 2003


What's with the hot spot of Italians in southeastern Colorado?

Asparagirl -- despite the feelings of the Jewish culture, "Jewish" is not considered an ethnicity by the census; rather, it is a religion. It's kind of hard to lump those Mexican, African , Slavic, etc. jews into the same ethnicity. (I'm not saying it's right or wrong, just explaining why it would be a potentially ineffective category for the purposes of this map.)
posted by me3dia at 1:58 PM on October 28, 2003


It has always amused me here in Maine that even though we have a very small Hispanic population, big corporations like McDonald's and Walmart have their bilingual signs printed in English and Spanish.
posted by JanetLand at 2:18 PM on October 28, 2003


med3dia- Okay, but then they should have broken-down categories for Jewish too, like Ashkenazic Jewish (eastern Europe), Sephardic Jewish (Mediterranean), Mizrahi Jewish (Middle Eastern), Yemeni Jewish (ethnically isolated community in Yemen), Ethiopian Jewish (Ethiopia), Lemba Jewish (Africa), Ben Ami Jewish (India), etc...

I mean, if they can have categories for ex-Austro-Hungarian-Empire-provinces that don't exist anymore and aren't (I don't think) even ethnicities--like Bessarabian or Bukovinan, both of which are today in northern Moldova, nevermind that Moldovan is also a valid category of its own--then surely this might warrant it too? Granted, we're talking piddly little numbers of people here, but surely more than registered as Bessarabian on the last census.

A map of Jewish America's ethnic roots would probably show a big Sephardic community in California (my soon-to-be-mother-in-law is one of 'em) and the Southwest (from the ex-conversos), a huge Ashkenazic community in New York, Chicago, and South Florida, a small Lemba/African community in New York, and a few surprises, like that there's a long-standing Ashkenazic community in Des Moines, Iowa. Maybe some Jewish organization will undertake it.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:35 PM on October 28, 2003


Wow, no Asians whatsoever. How can you have Slovak and not Chinese, Japanese or Indian? I saw the link to the group ID's, but why didn't anyone bother to actually map them?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:46 PM on October 28, 2003


Seeing as we all originally came from the same place, I think this should look something like ...
african (3k image)
posted by seanyboy at 3:53 PM on October 28, 2003


Obvious that the compilers have significant biases. Anti-asian, anti-semitic. Seriously, I refuse to characterize my ethnicity as anything but Jewish.
posted by billsaysthis at 5:46 PM on October 28, 2003


Beautiful, seanyboy. Thanks.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:53 PM on October 28, 2003


I think that Asians have been left unmapped because the major Asian nationalities are listed under "race" rather than "ancestry" by the U.S. Census. At first, I thought that it might just be a lack of Asian-descended people in Minnesota, but there are some (2.9%, according to the 2000 census). There are also certain areas in Minnesota where Asians form a significant portion of the population. When part-Asian people are included, the maximum proportion rises to 9.6% in at least one county. At the level of census tracts, some go as high as 62% in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. As usual, it's all a matter of somewhat arbitrary categorization that's to blame. But then, that's just a part of ethnic categorization anyway.

Also, it's amazing how much you can learn about a place you've never been, without even leaving your computer.

The Jewish question is really part of a larger question about where religion ends and ethnicity begins. Religious communities can eventually develop many features associated with ethnically determined communities (insularity, in-group identity, endogamy, a communal history/"national myth", etc.) to the point where the distinction between the two becomes nonobvious. Is being Jewish a matter of religion or ethnicity? Or both? Are the Druze a religious sect or an ethnic group? To choose a less extreme (and perhaps, therefore, an even more ambiguous) example: do South Asian Muslims and Hindus comprise religious or ethnic groups? I've met more than one person who describes herself as Catholic, but never attends Mass and is lucky to believe one in three precepts of the Catholic Church (and I'm talking basic theology, like the existence of God or the divinity of Jesus). Is their Catholicism a matter of religion, or something else?
posted by skoosh at 7:44 PM on October 28, 2003


If Ruthenian can be a perfectly valid ethnicity choice, why not Jewish?

Obvious that the compilers have significant biases. Anti-asian, anti-semitic.

In part, census data on American Jews are not collected because (at one time at least), Jews did not want to be counted by the state. At least the ones who made themselves heard.

And who could blame them? I wouldn't be caught dead checking an "ethnicity" box, on anything but a medical form.
posted by dgaicun at 8:40 PM on October 28, 2003


Neat link, dgaicun, but it's about Jews not wanting to be counted on a proposed "what's your religion?" question. It doesn't say anything about having "Jewish" officially made a non-ethnicity.

Now, if the question were "what's your race?", then my answer is "human". Seriously. But ethnically I'm Ashkenazic Jewish, and if they're going to ask the question in the first place, I don't see why that's not a valid answer, especially in comparison to some of their listed bizarre-but-acceptable answers, like "Germans in Russia". Quite apart from any questions about religiosity or communal bonds, Ashkenazic Jews have known genetic markers within the population (unfortunately, most of them are ethnic-specific diseases like beta thassalemia, Tay Sachs disease, Gaucher's Disease, and the BRCA breast cancer genes). What other proof of existence-of-ethnicity is needed?

(resists urge to make jokes about stereotypical Jewish noses or Jewish women having big bazongas)
posted by Asparagirl at 10:11 PM on October 28, 2003


but it's about Jews not wanting to be counted on a proposed "what's your religion?" question. It doesn't say anything about having "Jewish" officially made a non-ethnicity . . . What other proof of existence-of-ethnicity is needed?

Asparagirl,

I think we can all agree that, though their absolute numbers may be small, Jews, especially Ashkenazic Jews, are one of the more prominent ethnic groups in America*. Much more so than "Voytaks" or "Ifni", no? So I wouldn't wager that they aren't included because they don't qualify. I suppose that the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish ethnicity is murky enough in the minds of enough people that the law prohibiting the classification of one was enough to effectively prohibit the other.

Perhaps now the climate is one where the religion category might not be so controversial. My guess is that, while few people consider it threatening anymore, no one cares enough to make a political issue out of calling for it back.

*polls I have seen of regular people, jews and non-jews, tend to estimate that the jewish percentage of America is double and triple what it really is.
posted by dgaicun at 12:15 AM on October 29, 2003


So I wouldn't wager that they aren't included because they don't qualify. I suppose that the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish ethnicity is murky enough . . .

In other words you might say the problem is that they're over-qualified. :D
posted by dgaicun at 12:26 AM on October 29, 2003


Re: religions and census results. Here is a minor factoid about census results on Britains "Fastest growing new religion".
posted by seanyboy at 2:20 AM on October 29, 2003


Obvious that the compilers have significant biases. Anti-asian, anti-semitic.

What I think is obvious is that the compilers had limited time and resources, and made maps of the groups that they felt would be most useful/interesting to their constituents. Let us not forget that these maps were created by the "Land Management Information Center" of Minnesota, and, as a State agency I'm sure they don't have limitless money and personnel to devote to this task.
posted by anastasiav at 5:44 AM on October 29, 2003


Whats with the ex-English concentration around Utah?
posted by MintSauce at 6:02 AM on October 29, 2003


Obvious that the compilers have significant biases. Anti-asian, anti-semitic.

What I think is obvious is that the compilers had limited time and resources, and made maps of the groups that they felt would be most useful/interesting to their constituents.


What is now obvious to me is that I didn't phrase my comment well enough to be interpreted as humor.
posted by billsaysthis at 11:21 AM on October 29, 2003


Mintsauce: Mormon evangelization in Britain, basically.

me3dia: railroading and coal mining.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 AM on October 30, 2003


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