Who You Calling British, Boy?

Graphic credit: StatChat
Graphic credit: StatChat

In 2000 the U.S. Census Bureau published a popular map showing the distribution of the most common ancestry broken down by county (and in Virginia, by independent city). Hamilton Lombard over at the Weldon Cooper Center’s Stat Chat blog has updated the map using 2010 Census data with a new ancestry classification. The Census combined closely related ethnicities such as Swedish, Danish and Finnish into Scandinavian, and those of the British Isles into British. The result is the map above.

No surprises here for Virginia. The state is still dominated by people descended from Africa and the British Isles, with German ancestry common in the Shenandoah Valley. But what’s that yellow category, “American”? There are large segments of Virginia’s population, especially in the western part of the state, who don’t identify themselves as having a pre-American ancestry at all. Lombard suggests that those areas coincide with Scotch-Irish settlement.

My ancestry is predominantly British with a little Dutch and French Huguenot thrown in but the first Bacon in my family set foot in Sussex County, Delaware, in the late 1600s, so I have to say, if the Census Bureau ever comes calling me, I’ll be inclined to identify my ancestry as “American” as well.


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5 responses to “Who You Calling British, Boy?”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    If your relatives arrived in Delaware in the 1600s, were they poultry farmers? If so, how did they handle federal loan guarantees and firms like Tyson Foods?

    1. My dad’s cousin was a poultry farmer. But that was a long time ago. I don’t know if he had federal loan guarantees! Perdue is the big rooster on the Eastern Shore. What’s Perdue’s reputation?

  2. Breckinridge Avatar

    My Irish ancestors (County Wexford) would probably have killed somebody who called them British, and I’m not sure how my Swiss ancestors would have taken being called German, although within a generation I’m sure they had married with Germans and the distinction was lost. Yet we don’t miss a beat lumping all who were brought here from that giant continent of Africa in one broad category, as if Brits, Irish, French and Italians were all just “Europeans”. Depriving them of a more distinct cultural heritage may be one of the worst things we did to the slaves.

    1. oh Indeed!… You can be English, or French or German if from Europe but only “African” if from that continent…. of course we also tend to do similar to Asians and Hispanics…

      but Breckinridge throws a real zinger !!!

      any poll that allows people to self-identify their ancestry and includes “American” as a choice kinda pollutes the data anyhow…

      and then of course I’d be really remiss by not giving some credit to some industrious people who have done yeoman service in helping to nail down more specifically some African ancestry – like those from Kenya.

  3. Darrell Avatar

    What’s amazing is that most of those areas who identified as American are often chastised by the rest of Virginians as being too Rural, Rednecked, or simply Hillbilly. Dig into those roots and you will find ancient family names like Morris, Bolling, Frame or Lincoln, and many current residents can probably recite from memory the Revolutionary exploits of the Augusta County militia. Yeah, I’d say they are American.

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