English Americans

English Americans (also referred to as Anglo-Americans) are Americans whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in England. In the 2017 American Community Survey, English Americans are (7.1%) of the total population.[1][2]

English Americans
English Americans and English Canadians as percent of population by state and province.
Total population
23,074,947 (2017)[1][2]
American Community Survey
7.1% of the total U.S. population[3]
Regions with significant populations
Throughout the entire United States
New England, the Delaware Valley, the Mormon Corridor and the South
Plurality in New York, the Pacific Northwest, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Idaho and New Hampshire
New York2,320,503[4]
North Carolina1,778,008[4]
English (American and British English dialects)
Related ethnic groups
Other English diaspora, American ancestry

The term is distinct from British Americans, which includes not only English Americans but also Scottish, Scotch-Irish (Northern Ireland), Welsh, Cornish and Manx Americans from the whole of the United Kingdom.

Demographers regard the reported number of English Americans as a serious undercount, as the index of inconsistency is high and many if not most Americans from English stock have a tendency to identify simply as "Americans"[6][7][8][9] or if of mixed European ancestry, identify with a more recent and differentiated ethnic group.[10] In the 1980 Census, over 49 million (49,598,035) Americans claimed English ancestry. At 26.34%, this was the largest group amongst the 188 million people who reported at least one ancestry. The population was 226 million which would have made the English ancestry group 22% of the total. [11] Scotch-Irish Americans are for the most part descendants of Lowland Scots and Northern English (specifically - County Durham, Cumberland, Northumberland and Yorkshire) settlers who colonized Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the 17th century.

In 1982, an opinion poll showed respondents a card listing a number of ethnic groups and asked, "Thinking both of what they have contributed to this country and have gotten from this country, for each one tell me whether you think, on balance, they've been a good or a bad thing for this country." The English were the top ethnic group, with 66% saying they were a good thing for the United States, followed by the Irish at 62%. Ben J. Wattenberg argues that this poll demonstrates a general American bias against Hispanics and other recent immigrant populations.[12]

The majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States were of English extraction. English immigrants in the 19th century, as with other groups, sought economic prosperity. They began migrating in large numbers, without state support, in the 1840s and continued into the 1890s.[13]

Sense of identity

Americans of English heritage are often seen, and identify, as simply "American" due to the many historic cultural ties between England and the U.S. and their influence on the country's population. Relative to ethnic groups of other European origins, this may be due to the early establishment of English settlements; as well as to non-English groups having emigrated in order to establish significant communities.[14]

Since 1776, English-Americans have been less likely to proclaim their heritage, unlike African Americans, Irish Americans, Scottish Americans, Italian Americans or other ethnic groups. A leading specialist, Charlotte Erickson, found them to be ethnically "invisible," dismissing the occasional St. George Societies as ephemeral elite clubs that were not in touch with the larger ethnic community.[15] In Canada, by contrast, the English organized far more ethnic activism, as the English competed sharply with the well-organized French and Irish elements.[16] In the United States the Scottish immigrants were much better organized than the English in the 19th century, as are their descendants in the late 20th century.[17]

Number of English Americans

Self-identification per U.S. census
Year Population % of the United States population
1980[18][19]49,598,035 26.34 26.34
1990[20]32,651,788 13.1 13.1
2000[21]24,515,138 8.7 8.7
2010[22]25,927,345 8.4 8.4

The original 17th century settlers were overwhelmingly English. From the time of the first permanent English presence in the New World until 1900, these immigrants and their descendants outnumbered all others firmly establishing the English cultural pattern as predominant for the American version.[23]

Colonial period

According to studies and estimates, the ethnic populations in the British American Colonies of 1700, 1755 and 1775 were:

Ethnic composition of the American Colonies
1700 Percent 1755 Percent 1775 Percent
English / Welsh80.0 English / Welsh52.0 English48.7
African11.0 African20.0 African20.0
Dutch4.0 German7.0 Scots-Irish7.8
Scottish3.0 Scots-Irish7.0 German6.9
Other European2.0 Irish5.0 Scottish6.6
- -Scottish4.0 Dutch2.7
- -Dutch3.0 French1.4
- -Other European2.0 Swedish0.6
Twelve*100.0 Thirteen100.0 Colonies100.0
Source:[24][25][26] (*Province of Georgia not included)
Colonial English ancestry 1776
Colonies Percent of approx population
New England70.5

A study which gives similar results can be found in The American Revolution, Colin Bonwick in percentages for 1790: 47.9 English, 3.5 Welsh, 8.5 Scotch Irish (Ulster), 4.3 Scottish, 4.7 Irish (South), 7.2 German, 2.7 Dutch, 1.7 French, 0.2 Swedish, 19.3 Black. The difference between the two estimates are found by comparing the ratios of the groups (adding and subtracting) to accommodate and adding the Welsh.[28] The category 'Irish' in the Bonwick study represents immigrants from Ireland outside the Province of Ulster, the overwhelming majority of whom were Protestant and not ethnically Irish, though from Ireland. They were not Irish Catholics. By the time the American War for Independence started in 1776, Catholics were 1.6%, or 40,000 persons of the 2.5 million population of the 13 colonies.[29][30] The Catholics were English (especially in Maryland), Irish, German and Acadians (of those 8,000 transported to the Colonies in 1755 who chose to remain).The distinction between Scots-Irish (Protestant) and Irish (Catholic) came about in the mid-19th century: prior to this time all Irish persons whatever religion were identified as 'Irish.'


National origins, 1790

In 1790 the U.S. conducted its first national population census. The ancestries of the population in 1790 has been estimated by various sources, first in 1932 then again in 1980 and 1984 by sampling distinctive surnames in the census and assigning them a country of origin. There is debate over the accuracy between the studies with individual scholars and the Federal Government using different techniques and conclusion for the ethnic composition.[31][32] A study published in 1909 titled A Century of Population Growth by the Government Census Bureau estimated the English were 83.5% of the white population.[33][34] The states with the highest percentage by the same Census Bureau data in 1909 (% of the total European population) of English ancestry were Connecticut 96.2%, Rhode Island 96.0%, Vermont 95.4%, Massachusetts 95.0%, New Hampshire 94.1%, Maine 93.1%, Virginia 85.0%, Maryland 84.0%, North Carolina 83.1%, South Carolina 82.4%, New York 78.2%, Pennsylvania 59.0%.[35][36]

Another source by Thomas L. Purvis in 1984[37] estimated that people of English ancestry made up about 47.5% of the total population or 60.9% of the white or European American population (his figures can also be found, and as divided by region, in Colin Bonwick, The American Revolution, 1991 p. 2540-839-1346-2).[37][38] Some 80.7% of the total United States population was of European origin.[39] Around 757,208 were of African descent with 697,624 being slaves.[40]


In 1980, 23,748,772 Americans claimed only English ancestry and another 25,849,263 claimed English along with another ethnic ancestry.[41] It must be noted that 13.3 million or 5.9% of the total U.S. population chose to identify as "American" (counted under "not specified") as also seen in censuses that followed.[42] Below shows the persons who reported at least one specific ancestry are as follows.[43][44]

Single ancestry23,748,77247.92,984,9314,438,22312,382,6813,942,937
Multiple ancestry25,849,26352.15,190,0457,099,9617,235,6896,323,568
Total reported49,598,0358,174,97611,538,18419,618,37010,266,505


At a national level the ancestry response rate was high with 90.4% of the total United States population choosing at least one specific ancestry and 9.6% ignored the question completely. Of those who chose English, 66.9% of people chose it as their first response. Totals for the English showed a considerable decrease from the previous census.[45]

First ancestry21,834,16066.9%
Second ancestry10,817,62833.1%
Total reported32,651,788

Responses for "American" slightly decreased both numerically and as a percentage from 5.9% to 5.2% in 1990 with most being from the South.[46]


In the 2000 census, 24.5 million or 8.7% of Americans reported English ancestry, a decline of some eight million people. At the national level, the response rate for the ancestry question fell to 80.1% of the total U.S. population, while 19.9% were unclassified or ignored the question completely.[47] Some Cornish Americans may not identify as English American, even though Cornwall had been part of England since long before their ancestors arrived in North America. Responses were:[48]

First ancestry 16,623,938 -24.9%
Second ancestry 7,885,754
Total reported24,509,692

Top ancestry groups in the 2000 census with English descent as the third most common European ancestral origin.

2000 Census[38]
Ancestry Number % of total
United States281,421,906100.00

In 1900, an estimated 28,375,000 or 37.8% of the population of the United States was wholly or primarily of English ancestry from colonial stock.[49] As with any ethnicity, Americans of English descent may choose to identify themselves as just American ethnicity if their ancestry has been in the United States for many generations or if, for the same reason, they are unaware of their lineages.

Geographical distribution

Percentages by county in the 2000 census.
Population by state in the 2000 census.
Percentages by U.S. State in the 2000 census.


English Americans are found in large numbers throughout America, particularly in the Northeast, South and West. According to the 2000 US census, the 10 states with the largest populations of self-reported English Americans are:

States with most English Americans & with the highest percentage
RankState NumberRank StatePercent
1California(3,521,355 - 7.4% of state population)1Utah29.0
2Florida(1,468,576 - 9.2%)2Maine21.5
3Texas(1,462,984 - 7%)3Vermont18.4
4New York(1,140,036 - 6%)4Idaho18.1
5Ohio(1,046,671 - 9.2%)5New Hampshire18.0
6Pennsylvania(966,253 - 7.9%)6Wyoming15.9
7Michigan(988,625 - 9.9%)7Oregon13.2
8Illinois(831,820 - 6.7%)8Montana12.7
9Virginia(788,849 - 11.1%)9Delaware12.1
10North Carolina(767,749 - 9.5%)10Colorado, Rhode Island, Washington12.0 each

English was the highest reported European ancestry in the states of Maine, Vermont and Utah; joint highest along with German in the Carolinas.


Following are the top 20 highest percentages of people of English ancestry, in U.S. communities with 500 or more total inhabitants (for the total list of the 101 communities, see the reference):[50]

Top 20 highest cities with over 500 Population: English Ancestry (In Progress)
Rank City State Percentage
1 Hildale Utah 66.9
2 Colorado City Arizona 52.7
3 Milbridge Maine 41.1
4 Panguitch Utah 40
5 Beaver Utah 39.8
6 Enterprise Utah 39.4
7 East Machias Maine 39.1
8 Marriott-Slaterville Utah 38.2
9 Wellsvile Utah 37.9
10 Morgan Utah 37.2
11 Harrington Maine 36.9
12 Farmington Utah 36.9
13 Highland Utah 36.7
14 Nephi Utah 36.4
15 Fruit Heights Utah 35.9
16 Addison Maine 35.6
17 Farr West Utah 35.4
18 Hooper Utah 35.0
19 Lewiston Utah 35.0
20 Plain City Utah 34.7

On the top right, a map showing percentages by county of Americans who declared English ancestry in the 2000 Census. Dark blue and purple colours indicate a higher percentage: highest in the east and west (see also Maps of American ancestries). Center, a map showing the population of English Americans by state. On the right, a map showing the percentages of English Americans by state.


Early settlement and colonization

English settlement in America began with Jamestown in the Virginia Colony in 1607. With the permission of James I, three ships (the Susan Constant, The Discovery, and The God Speed) sailed from England and landed at Cape Henry in April, under the captainship of Christopher Newport,[13] who had been hired by the London Company to lead expeditions to what is now America.[51]

The second successful colony was Plymouth Colony, founded in 1620 by people who later became known as the Pilgrims. Fleeing religious persecution in the East Midlands in England, they first went to Holland, but feared losing their English identity.[52] Because of this, they chose to relocate to the New World, with their voyage being financed by English investors. In September 1620, 102 passengers set sail aboard the Mayflower, eventually settling at Plymouth Colony in November.[53] Of the passengers on the Mayflower, 41 men signed the "Mayflower Compact" aboard ship on November 11, 1620, while anchored in Provincetown Harbor. Signers included Carver, Alden, Standish, Howland, Bradford, Allerton, and Fuller.[54][55] This story has become a central theme in the United States cultural identity.

A number of English colonies were established under a system of proprietary governors, who were appointed under mercantile charters to English joint stock companies to found and run settlements.

England also took over the Dutch colony of New Netherland (including the New Amsterdam settlement), renaming it the Province of New York in 1664.[56] With New Netherland, the English came to control the former New Sweden (in what is now Delaware), which the Dutch had conquered from Sweden earlier.[57] This became part of Pennsylvania.

English immigration after 1776

Cultural similarities and a common language allowed English immigrants to integrate rapidly and gave rise to a unique Anglo-American culture. An estimated 3.5 million English immigrated to the U.S. after 1776.[58] English settlers provided a steady and substantial influx throughout the 19th century.

English immigration to the United States
Period Arrivals Period Arrivals
Total (1820-1970): 3,084,066[59][60][61]

The first wave of growing English immigration began in the late 1820s and was sustained by unrest in the United Kingdom until it peaked in 1842 and declined slightly for nearly a decade. Most of these were small farmers and tenant farmers from depressed areas in rural counties in southern and western England and urban laborers who fled from the depressions and from the social and industrial changes of the late 1820s-1840s. While some English immigrants were drawn by dreams of creating model utopian societies in America, most others were attracted by the lure of new lands, textile factories, railroads, and the expansion of mining.

A number of English settlers moved to the United States from Australia in the 1850s (then a British political territory), when the California Gold Rush boomed; these included the so-called "Sydney Ducks" (see Australian Americans).

During the last years of the 1860s, annual English immigration grew to over 60,000 and continued to rise to over 75,000 per year in 1872, before experiencing a decline. The final and most sustained wave of immigration began in 1879 and lasted until the depression of 1893. During this period English annual immigration averaged more than 82,000, with peaks in 1882 and 1888 and did not drop significantly until the financial panic of 1893.[62] The building of America's transcontinental railroads, the settlement of the great plains, and industrialization attracted skilled and professional emigrants from England.

English-born in the United States
Year Population % of foreign-born

Also, cheaper steamship fares enabled unskilled urban workers to come to America, and unskilled and semiskilled laborers, miners, and building trades workers made up the majority of these new English immigrants. While most settled in America, a number of skilled craftsmen remained itinerant, returning to England after a season or two of work. Groups of English immigrants came to America as missionaries for the Salvation Army and to work with the activities of the Evangelical and LDS Churches.

The depression of 1893 sharply decreased English emigration to the United States, and it stayed low for much of the twentieth century. This decline reversed itself in the decade of World War II when over 100,000 English (18 percent of all European immigrants) came from England. In this group was a large contingent of war brides who came between 1945 and 1948. In these years four women emigrated from England for every man.[62] In the 1950s, English immigration increased to over 150,000.and rose to 170,000 in the 1960s.[65] While differences developed, it is not surprising that English immigrants had little difficulty in assimilating to American life. The American resentment against the policies of the British government[66] was rarely transferred to English settlers who came to America in the first decades of the nineteenth century.

Political influence

As the earliest colonists of the United States, settlers from England and their descendants often held positions of power and made and enforced laws,[67] often because many had been involved in government back in England.[68] In the original 13 colonies, most laws contained elements found in the English common law system.[69]

The majority of the Founding Fathers of the United States were of English extraction. A minority were of high social status and can be classified as White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP). Many of the prewar WASP elite were Loyalists who left the new nation.[70]

While WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants usually of English origins) have been major players in every major American political party, an exceptionally strong association has existed between WASPs and the Republican Party, before the 1980s. A few top Democrats qualified, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Northeastern Republican leaders such as Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts, Prescott Bush of Connecticut and especially Nelson Rockefeller of New York exemplified the pro-business liberal Republicanism of their social stratum, espousing internationalist views on foreign policy, supporting social programs, and holding liberal views on issues like racial integration. A famous confrontation was the 1952 Senate election in Massachusetts where John F. Kennedy, a Catholic of Irish descent, defeated WASP Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.. However the challenge by Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the Eastern Republican establishment helped undermine the WASP dominance.[71] Goldwater himself had solid WASP credentials through his mother, of a prominent old Yankee family, but was instead mistakenly seen as part of the Jewish community (which he had never associated with). By the 1980s, the liberal Rockefeller Republican wing of the party was marginalized, overwhelmed by the dominance of the Southern and Western conservative Republicans.[72]

Asking "Is the WASP leader a dying breed?" journalist Nina Strochlic in 2012 pointed to eleven WASP top politicians—typically scions of upper class English families. She ended with Republicans G.H.W. Bush elected in 1988, his son George W. Bush elected in 2000 and 2004, and John McCain, who was nominated but defeated in 2008.[73]


English is the most commonly spoken language in the U.S, where it is estimated that two thirds of all native speakers of English live.[74] The American English dialect developed from English colonization. It serves as the de facto official language, the language in which government business is carried out. According to the 1990 census, 94% of the U.S. population speak only English.[75] Adding those who speak English "well" or "very well" brings this figure to 96%.[75] Only 0.8% speak no English at all as compared with 3.6% in 1890. American English differs from British English in a number of ways, the most striking being in terms of pronunciation (for example, American English retains voicing of the letter "R" after vowels, unlike standard British English) and spelling (one example is the "u" in words such as color, favor (US) vs colour, favour (UK)). Less obvious differences are present in grammar and vocabulary. The differences are rarely a barrier to effective communication between American English and British English speakers, but there are certainly enough differences to cause occasional misunderstandings, usually surrounding slang or dialect differences.

Some states, like California, have amended their constitutions to make English the only official language, but in practice, this only means that official government documents must at least be in English, and does not mean that they should be exclusively available only in English. For example, the standard California Class C driver's license examination is available in 32 different languages.


"In for a penny, in for a pound" is an expression to mean, ("if you're going to take a risk at all, you might as well make it a big risk"), is used in the United States which dates back to the colonial period, when cash in the colonies was denominated in Pounds, shillings and Pence.[76] Today, the one-cent coin is commonly known as a penny. A modern alternative expression is "In for a dime, in for a dollar".

Cultural contributions

Much of American culture shows influences from English culture.




  • Baseball was invented in England.[81] English lawyer William Bray recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey; Bray's diary was verified as authentic in September 2008.[82][83] This early form of the game was apparently brought to North America by British immigrants. The first appearance of the term that exists in print was in "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book" in 1744, where it is called Base-Ball.[84]
  • American football traces its roots to early versions of rugby football, played in England and first developed in American universities in the mid-19th century.[85]


The American legal system also has its roots in English law.[86] For example, elements of the Magna Carta were incorporated into the United States constitution.[87] English law prior to the revolution is still part of the law of the United States, and provides the basis for many American legal traditions and policies. After the revolution, English law was again adopted by the now independent American States.[88]


Before 1931, other songs served as the hymns of American officialdom.

English ballads, jigs, and hornpipes had a large influence on American folk music, eventually contributing such genres as old time, country, and bluegrass.

English family names

Of the top ten family names in the United States, seven have English origins or having possible mixed British Isles heritage, the other three being of Spanish origin.[97] Many African Americans have their origins in slavery (i.e. slave name). Many of them came to bear the surnames of their former owners. Many freed slaves either created family names themselves or adopted the name of their former master. According to 2000 US Census data, eight of the top ten surnames in the United States are of British Isles origin, while two are the most common surnames among Hispanics.[98] In the UK Census in 2001, surnames in England can be compared to the United States with 6 of the family names in England being in both their top ten.[99]

NameRank - 2010NumberCountry of OriginEngland - 2001[99][100]
Smith12,442,977England,[101] Scotland,[102] Ireland[103] (Common however also among German Americans who are likely originally held the surname "Schmidt") Smith
Johnson21,932,812England, Scotland[104][105]Jones
Williams31,625,252England, Wales[106]Taylor
Brown41,437,026England, Ireland, Scotland[107]Brown
Jones51,425,470England, Wales[108]Williams
García61,166,120Spain[109], Mexico and other Hispanic nationsWilson
Miller71,161,437England, Ireland, or Scotland (Miller can be the anglicized version of Mueller/Müller - a surname from Germany)[110]Johnson
Davis81,116,357England, Wales[111]Davies
Rodríguez91,094,924Spain[112]Robinson, Roderick
Martinez101,060,159Spain, Mexico and other Hispanic nationsWright

English place names in the United States

Boston, Massachusetts, is named after Boston, England.
In 1664, the English renamed "New York" after (James II of England) the Duke of York.[113]

There are many places in the United States named after places in Great Britain as a result of the many British settlers and explorers; in addition, some places were named after the English royal family. These include the region of New England and some of the following:







New Hampshire

New Jersey

New York


The Carolinas



American Architecture, particularly in the nation's earlier years, has long been strongly influenced by English styles. The United States Capitol building, for example, was first designed by English-educated American Architect William Thornton, and bears a resemblance to St Paul's Cathedral in London. Also, many American college campuses, such as Harvard, Penn, Yale, Brown, Williams, Princeton University, and the University of Delaware, have English Georgian or English gothic architecture.

Notable people

Presidents of English descent

Most of the Presidents of the United States have had English ancestry.[134] The extent of English heritage varies in the presidents with earlier presidents being predominantly of colonial English Yankee stock. Later US Presidents' ancestry can often be traced to ancestors from multiple nations in Europe, including England.

18th century

George Washington[135][136], John Adams[137][138].

19th century

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison[139] John Quincy Adams[137][138], Andrew Jackson[140][141], William Henry Harrison[142], John Tyler[143], Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore[144], Franklin Pierce[145], Abraham Lincoln[146][147], Andrew Johnson[148], Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes[149], James A. Garfield[150], Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley.

20th century

Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft[151][152], Warren G. Harding[153], Calvin Coolidge[154], Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman[155][156], Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter[157], Ronald Reagan[158], George H. W. Bush[159][160], Bill Clinton.

21st century

George W. Bush[161], Barack Obama[162][163]

The U.S. Presidents who lacked recent English ancestry were James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, James K. Polk, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. Also, President Donald Trump does not have recent English ancestry, with all of his recent ancestry coming from Germany and Scotland.[164]

See also


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  2. SELECTED SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS IN THE UNITED STATES - 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates
  3. In the 1980 census, 49,598,035 Americans identified as being of English ancestry, although in later censuses most of these same people identified as being of "American" ancestry, when that was added as an option.
  4. "Table 3. Persons Who Reported at Least One Specific Ancestry Group for Regions, Divisions, and States: 1980" (PDF). Census.gov. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  5. Bureau, U.S. Census. "American FactFinder - Results". factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
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  8. Stanley Lieberson and Lawrence Santi, 'The Use of Nativity Data to Estimate Ethnic Characteristics and Patterns', Social Science Research, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1985), pp. 44-46.
  9. Stanley Lieberson and Mary C. Waters, "Ethnic Groups in Flux: The Changing Ethnic Responses of American Whites", Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 487, No. 79 (September 1986), pp. 82-86.
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  12. Ben J. Wattenberg (1985). "Chapter 14. The First Universal Nation". The Good News Is the Bad News Is Wrong. American Enterprise Institute. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-671-60641-1.
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  16. Tanja Bueltmann, and Don MacRaild, "Globalizing St George: English associations in the Anglo-world to the 1930s" Journal of Global History (2012) 7#1 pp. 79-105
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  30. Maynard, 126-126
  31. People of Western European origin - CSun
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  34. Surnames in the United States Census of 1790: An Analysis of National Origins of the Population - By American Council of Learned Societies. Committee on Linguistic and National Stocks in the Population of the United States
  35. A century of population growth from the first census of the United States to the twelfth - by United States. Bureau of the Census, Publication date 1909 (Page:111-117)
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