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Old 01-07-2014, 01:29 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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I have a friend from the Boston area. Her family's been in Eastern Massachusetts for five generations. But she's 100% Irish, in her grandparents generation there was less intermarriage and she knows her grandparents were 100% Irish.
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Old 01-07-2014, 01:52 PM
 
Location: The analog world
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
I have a friend from the Boston area. Her family's been in Eastern Massachusetts for five generations. But she's 100% Irish, in her grandparents generation there was less intermarriage and she knows her grandparents were 100% Irish.
That supports my point. Her family recently emigrated. That's about 125 years give or take, within the era of Ellis Island and Castle Gardens Immigration Centers, along with fairly decent record-keeping. Much beyond that, though, and you're relying mostly on family lore. Individuals get lost, particularly those up maternal lines. Add in shifting national identities and boundaries since Europeans first set foot in what has become the United States, and things get very, very messy. So, again, I don't place much stock in any attempt to quantify which nation, Germany or England, has the most descendants in the U.S.

Last edited by randomparent; 01-07-2014 at 02:37 PM..
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Old 01-07-2014, 02:38 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 23 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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^^Agreed. And the farther back the immigration is, the more people are involved, all of whom have their own "pedigree". While there was less intermarriage in generations past, it was not unheard of. My parents' generation, the WW II veteran generation, did a lot of intermarriage at least in my part of PA.
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Old 01-07-2014, 03:07 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by randomparent View Post
That supports my point. Her family recently emigrated. That's about 125 years give or take, within the era of Ellis Island and Castle Gardens Immigration Centers, along with fairly decent record-keeping
A bit more than that, since she's nearly 30 years old. So 1860, maybe a bit earlier. That's certainly not recently immigrated. Even 125 years ago is still a long time ago.
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Old 01-07-2014, 03:48 PM
 
Location: Shaw.
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Originally Posted by randomparent View Post
I think you, Eschaton, and nei belong to an unusual group. I'm also very familiar with my family history, but only because it is an area of interest to me. My own mother couldn't give a hoot about genealogy and had little to no information about her forebears until I told her about them! (And she's of British ancestry.) I've met many, many people just like her. They don't know, and they don't particularly care.
I don't know if I belong to that unusual of a group, since I'm talking about my friends as well. But I will admit it's more of a regional thing. The more I meet people from outside of the Northeast, the more I find people who have family that goes back longer or doesn't know about their family history.

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Originally Posted by randomparent View Post
I suppose if all eight of one's g-grandparents came through Ellis Island, it is plausible that one has a pretty clear understanding of one's heritage. But many of us have ancestors who came through long before 1892. In my case, as far as I can tell based on the research I've completed, the earliest arrivals showed up in 1636. The latest arrived in 1853. That's a whole lot of people, more than I could legitimately trace given an entire lifetime of working everyday on genealogy, and some of them for various reasons will never be traceable.
Well, none of my great-grandparents came through Ellis Island, but I get your point. I think the earliest any of my ancestors came to America was about 1880 or so.
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Old 01-07-2014, 04:02 PM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
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Originally Posted by randomparent View Post
I suppose if all eight of one's g-grandparents came through Ellis Island, it is plausible that one has a pretty clear understanding of one's heritage. But many of us have ancestors who came through long before 1892. In my case, as far as I can tell based on the research I've completed, the earliest arrivals showed up in 1636. The latest arrived in 1853. That's a whole lot of people, more than I could legitimately trace given an entire lifetime of working everyday on genealogy, and some of them for various reasons will never be traceable. The numbers are just mind-boggling huge! And that's my point. Even those of us with a bent toward family history can't possibly know the nation of origin of every person in our trees unless all of our ancestors were very recent immigrants to the U.S. So, to me, the quantification required by the OP is a fool's errand. I just don't think it's possible to say one way or the other with any degree of certainty.
Even if your great-grandparents came through Ellis Island, it's still possible you might not know much about your roots since there was strong pressure on many immigrant groups to downplay their ethnicity. Many German-Americans all but white-washed their identity. You had a lot of people like Michael Corleone in the Godfather who wanted their pure as snow, New England-bred Kay Adams in order to become more "American." Ethnic identity was something that was often concealed, if not deliberately "forgotten," so that could present another source of confusion or ignorance concerning one's background. I don't think Madeleine Albright, for example, knew she was Jewish until very late in life.
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Old 01-07-2014, 05:55 PM
 
Location: The analog world
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I don't necessarily disagree that a huge number of people who present as Caucasian (and many more) are descended from "German" roots, but it's really hard to quantify. Even during the Castle Gardens era, which predates Ellis Island by 35 years or so, there are reasonably good immigration records, mitigated by the excellent point made in the previous post. Prior to that, it's pretty much hearsay, because records are difficult to come by and decipher unless you're very lucky.

Many of my English ancestors arrived in the 17th century. That's a lot of generations to today (13 in my case), and a ton of time to intermarry into later-arriving groups of immigrants. Just because a surname changes to reflect a different nation of origin does not negate the legitimacy of the lines whose names are lost in the process.

I am a descendent of the Towne/Blessing union of 1629, among other English forebears, through several family branches. They emigrated to what became the United State in the 1630s from Great Yarmouth. Over the past nearly 400 years, descendents of the couple have grown exponentially and married into succeeding waves of immigrants, very few of whom still carry the name Towne. We are all part of an enormous generation of people whose origins in part derive from England, and I bet relatively few of us have any idea that's the case.

I grew up thinking I was German, because the family lore associated with my surname and the dearth of information passed down from other lines allowed me to think so, but the story is much more complex than that. I am of both English and German* descent, with lots of other interesting bits mixed in. That I know so much makes me extremely fortunate, but not the norm.

So, again, I think the OP's question is unanswerable with any degree of certainty, even though our guts might tell us otherwise.

* Not exactly true. My known "German" ancestors emigrated from the Duchy of Hessan in 1710, a long, long, long time before Germany came into being.

Last edited by randomparent; 01-07-2014 at 07:10 PM..
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Old 01-09-2014, 01:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
Not caring doesn't mean you don't know. If it's easy to know (your grandparents or even great-grandparents were 100% of one ethnicity) you'd know whether you care or not.
Imagine someone whose early ancestors came in the 16th or 17th century and since then hasn't had ancestors who came directly from Europe or an other continent but only American ancestors who were already settled here. I know it must be hard nowadays but it may be possible and I can understand that he has no ideas where he came from.
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Old 01-09-2014, 02:07 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by Smash XY View Post
Imagine someone whose early ancestors came in the 16th or 17th century and since then hasn't had ancestors who came directly from Europe or an other continent but only American ancestors who were already settled here. I know it must be hard nowadays but it may be possible and I can understand that he has no ideas where he came from.
Yes, I can imagine your situation. However, my point was that for many Americans doing your ancestry isn't difficult nor requires you to care about geanology. The situation of early ancestors from the 1600s or 1700s isn't particularly unusual for New England*. But then it would obvious where your ancestors came from, they would have to be English as New England was almost entirely English then. For myself, of the 1/8 I can't trace to any immigration, it's a safe assumption that it's English together with the last name.

*Actually, 1600s is more likely than 1700s. New England migration from England was mostly done by 1670 or so. The next major migration wave would be around 1840 from Ireland and at roughly the same time, French Canadians.
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Old 01-09-2014, 02:10 PM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
45,990 posts, read 42,008,719 times
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Originally Posted by pgm123 View Post
I don't know if I belong to that unusual of a group, since I'm talking about my friends as well. But I will admit it's more of a regional thing. The more I meet people from outside of the Northeast, the more I find people who have family that goes back longer or doesn't know about their family history.
Where I grew up in the Northeast [Long Island] it was unusual to much roots before the late 1800s, especially from colonial times. I think I was different from most locals that I had any ancestry from colonial times.

But not all the Northeast is like that. In the rural areas, it's the norm to have colonial-era hertiage. New England cities and suburbs are a mix. And then there's parts of eastern Pennsylvania, which had German settlement in the early 1700s and then the locals kept their culture and language till the early 1900s. So it's not that hard for them to know their roots.
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