History of Immigrant nations: What is it like to be American?

Jul 2013
9,514
San Antonio, Tx
#21
One angle on the melting pot question is the contrary view, that describes it as the 'indigestible masses'.
But they do intermarry and interconnect, though I admit to great similarities between the Irish and the Spanish and Portugese. And not that they are all nominal at least nominal observers . Temperamentally they are even closer.
 
Jun 2010
3,292
Colorado Springs (PA at heart)
#23
I am answering these both as an American and also from my experience as a genealogist.

1. Is it a general thing for Americans to attach themselves to the history of their ancestral lands? Or is it only a small fraction of people?
It is mostly people with more recent immigrant ancestors - from the "golden age" of immigration (late 1800s/early 1900s) or afterwards, or people who are into genealogy. However, lots of Americans have immigrant ancestry from that era so it is quite typical for Americans to at least partly identify by their ancestral lands.

2. For people unsure of their exact roots, do they just consider themselves by their continent of origin or skin colour, or is their surname generally enough?
In my experience, most people who don't know their roots tend to be people with purely colonial ancestry - because it's been so long since their ancestors immigrated, unless they research their roots (and not everyone does), that history is lost. Many people have an ambiguous surname that doesn't necessarily point them towards any specific country of origin, so they can't even go by that. Often, people in this situation are southerners, since there was more 19th/20th century immigration to the northeast and midwest (excluding the more recent immigration from Latin America). In my experience, people in this situation often simply consider themselves American and some have no wish to learn more (which I, as a genealogist, think is a shame, but oh well). I haven't had a chance to read all the responses in this topic, but I know there is a member here who identifies this way - just American, nothing else.

The vast majority of white colonial immigrants were British, German, Dutch, or French Huguenot. British is most likely for most white southerners with colonial ancestry.

3. Is this common that African Americans, those descended from the slave trade, not to link to a specific cultural group in Africa?


Yes, most African Americans are not able to research back to a specific country or population in Africa, due to the lack of records of slaves (if they choose to research to begin with, obviously not everyone is into genealogy). DNA is starting to help with that, but there are limitations so most African Americans just consider themselves African American, or black. Most slaves primarily came from the Ivory Coast, but that's not a sure thing to assume. It is almost unheard of for African Americans to be able to identify a slave immigrant ancestor.

4. Are other black groups: Kenyan immigrants, Congolese immigrants, Nigerian immigrants, Jamaicans, etc... Are these people counted among the African American ethnic group, or are they considered something separate?
I probably can't speak too much to this since I am not African American, I do not know how much the African American descendants of slaves identify with African immigrants who arrived after slavery. But I can say that genetically, they have different admixture because descendants of slaves always have some amount of European ancestry too. I know we're not supposed to talk about DNA in detail here, but hopefully that wasn't technical enough to break the rule.

7. For people who are descended from Europeans, but of multi-national background (and this includes part German, part Italian, part English, etc...) how do you identify yourselves? (e.g. European, white, literally a percentage of everything you know, or the most dominant culture - like Italian even if you are part Italian blood but have an Italian surname)
In general, I identify as a white American, or American of European descent, mainly because I wouldn't wish to bore people with talk of genealogy if they weren't interested. If you were to press me further, I would say I'm an American of mostly British, German, Italian, and Norwegian descent because those make up most of my ancestry.

I used to identify as primarily Italian-American, because my Nan was Italian, my dad's whole side of the family was very Italian-American and I grew up surrounded by them, and I had yet to research my tree. But in more recent years, I've grown apart from that. I still feel nostalgia for it, but I am no longer close with that side of my family and to be honest, although the culture was a large part of my life, I personally am not very stereotypically Italian-American. If anyone has ever seen Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the scene where Gina feeds Rosa details on how to be Italian-American in an undercover job is literally every female cousin on my dad's side, lol. But that's not me.


Lol, genius. Anyway. Today, I would likely identify most with my British heritage, since my husband is British and I lived in England for 8 years. I also feel ties to my German heritage, because both my maiden name and my mom's maiden name are German, and my German ancestry on both sides goes back to colonial times in areas of Pennsylvania where I'm from. So I feel a connection through my experiences and my genealogy research, and the fact that I have so many German ancestors on both sides. My Norwegian ancestry I don't feel a strong connection with, even though I acknowledge it as a significant branch of my tree. I've had almost no experience with this culture, and my Norwegian ancestors settled in the midwest, which I've never even been to.

In my research, I do find it incredibly more easy to read Italian records than German or Norwegian, but that's perhaps just because I took Spanish in high school so I am more familiar with romance languages.

I also have some Dutch and French Huguenot ancestry, but that's so far back in my tree, I don't identify with it at all (been fun to research though).

It's interesting that you would ask about this, because I usually found living in England for 8 years, that British people had zero interest in my background apart from being American. No one ever asked me where my ancestry came from, I guess because they are used to everyone they know simply being British. It's a bigger topic of interest in America, since we all know our ancestry came from somewhere else, unless one is from an indigenous tribe. Only once in England, someone wound up noticing my maiden name on a document and said "I didn't know we had a German in our midst" and I shrugged and said "Most Americans have some German ancestry."
 
Sep 2015
1,437
England
#24
The vast majority of white colonial immigrants were British, German, Dutch, or French Huguenot. British is most likely for most white southerners with colonial ancestry.
As i understand things the DNA map shows major areas of the North East with English origin. North-central America with lots of German ancestry etc. Does that sound about right, and why is talking about DNA evidence frowned upon, and by whom exactly??
 
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Jun 2010
3,292
Colorado Springs (PA at heart)
#25
As i understand things the DNA map shows major areas of the North East with English origin. North-central America with lots of German ancestry etc. Does that sound about right, and why is talking about DNA evidence frowned upon, and by whom exactly??
The English/British settled all over the colonies (but in the south, there was less German and French and even less Dutch). If by North-central you mean the Midwest, that was primarily settled by Germans and Scandinavians. You may be referring to the map from the 2000 US census: Race and ethnicity in the United States - Wikipedia - this is interesting to study, but it doesn't give a full picture of other large populations in certain areas. It paints the midwest as primarily German, but doesn't represent the high numbers of Scandinavians who also settled there.

Talking about DNA isn't frowned upon - last I checked, it's actually a forum rule set by the admins/mods, no DNA discussions. I think the reason given is that none of the mods are well versed on the topic and therefore don't feel they can adequately moderate a topic about DNA (which doesn't really make much sense to me, because the mods aren't here to decide who is correct or incorrect in a debate - but hey, it's not my forum). They have said DNA can be mentioned, just not in technical details (like haplogroups), but that still leaves a vague line for me on what is allowed and what is not, so whenever I bring up DNA, I try to add that I hope it isn't crossing the line.
 
Likes: Futurist
Sep 2015
1,437
England
#26
The English/British settled all over the colonies (but in the south, there was less German and French and even less Dutch). If by North-central you mean the Midwest, that was primarily settled by Germans and Scandinavians. You may be referring to the map from the 2000 US census: Race and ethnicity in the United States - Wikipedia - this is interesting to study, but it doesn't give a full picture of other large populations in certain areas. It paints the midwest as primarily German, but doesn't represent the high numbers of Scandinavians who also settled there.

Talking about DNA isn't frowned upon - last I checked, it's actually a forum rule set by the admins/mods, no DNA discussions. I think the reason given is that none of the mods are well versed on the topic and therefore don't feel they can adequately moderate a topic about DNA (which doesn't really make much sense to me, because the mods aren't here to decide who is correct or incorrect in a debate - but hey, it's not my forum). They have said DNA can be mentioned, just not in technical details (like haplogroups), but that still leaves a vague line for me on what is allowed and what is not, so whenever I bring up DNA, I try to add that I hope it isn't crossing the line.
The map is bizarre, isn't it?! It makes over half of America look a bit like Germany! and south west America like Mexico! I hadn't in fact seen this particular map. The one i saw is this one, i think: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/German1346.gif

Plus the others, which together appear to tell a very different story: ie. lots of English, Scottish & Ulster in the west, Germans north-centre, together with Scandinavians.

Interesting about DNA at Historum. I had no idea there was any rules about this. There are ethical dilemmas about gene therapy patently and so forth. Perhaps it has something to do with 'the role of man in his environment, and how to handle genetic knowledge.'?
 
Jun 2010
3,292
Colorado Springs (PA at heart)
#27
The map is bizarre, isn't it?! It makes over half of America look a bit like Germany! and south west America like Mexico! I hadn't in fact seen this particular map. The one i saw is this one, i think: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/German1346.gif

Plus the others, which together appear to tell a very different story: ie. lots of English, Scottish & Ulster in the west, Germans north-centre, together with Scandinavians.
I think that's from the same census data. Here's a map showing the Scandinavian distribution - keep in mind this is all from self-reported data: Scandinavian Americans - Wikipedia

Interesting about DNA at Historum. I had no idea there was any rules about this. There are ethical dilemmas about gene therapy patently and so forth. Perhaps it has something to do with 'the role of man in his environment, and how to handle genetic knowledge.'?
I think it might have to do with the mods being concerned that it could be used to support a racial/racist agenda? I really don't know, you'd have to ask them.
 
Jun 2010
3,292
Colorado Springs (PA at heart)
#28
There seems to be a thriving Italian American culture and Chinese American culture, it's all in the food, and there are locations in New York City called "China Town" and "Little Italy."
I should also point out that there isn't much left of "Little Italy", at least not in Philadelphia. Most Italians moved out of the city in the 70s and 80s and scattered around the suburbs. Italian-American culture is still very prevalent all over the city and suburbs, but there is no longer a concentrated area of to be called "Little Italy". In Philly, they still have the "Italian" Market but it's no longer Italian - last I was there it was mostly Mexicans and my British husband joked "there was nothing Italian about that" lol: South 9th Street Italian Market - Philadelphia, PA
 
Oct 2018
33
Raritania
#29
I should also point out that there isn't much left of "Little Italy", at least not in Philadelphia. Most Italians moved out of the city in the 70s and 80s and scattered around the suburbs. Italian-American culture is still very prevalent all over the city and suburbs, but there is no longer a concentrated area of to be called "Little Italy". In Philly, they still have the "Italian" Market but it's no longer Italian - last I was there it was mostly Mexicans and my British husband joked "there was nothing Italian about that" lol: South 9th Street Italian Market - Philadelphia, PA
Manhattan’s Little Italy isn’t really Little Italy anymore either. Many immigrants moved to the outer boroughs decades ago (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens) and those boroughs have neighborhoods with large concentrations of Italians. Chinatown however is quite Chinese still.
 
Jun 2010
3,292
Colorado Springs (PA at heart)
#30
Manhattan’s Little Italy isn’t really Little Italy anymore either. Many immigrants moved to the outer boroughs decades ago (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens) and those boroughs have neighborhoods with large concentrations of Italians. Chinatown however is quite Chinese still.
Yeah, that's because the highest numbers of Chinese immigration has been much more recent (the 1980s, 1990s, possibly ongoing - I don't have stats beyond 1999).
 

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