How many ethnicities do you have? How many do you identify with?

Two-part question:

  1. How many ancestral ethnicities do you have?

  2. How many of those, if any, do you have a cultural or emotional connection to? In what ways?

Example: say your dad’s family was 100% Irish, your maternal grandmother was French, and your maternal grandfather was Cuban. For question #1 you would count three ancestries. For question #2, you might answer that you’ve inherited no family culture, legacy, or traditions from your Irish and French ancestors, but from your Cuban grandfather a few Spanish words and traditional Cuban dishes have trickled down.

Someone will undoubtedly take issue with my terminology; the point is not to debate what is meant by “ethnicity,” what counts as an Irishman, etc. Substitute “culture,” “national origin,” or whatever term you like - I think you can tell what I’m going for.

For myself:

  1. I count four primary ancestral ethnicities: Irish, Italian, French, Scottish. Who knows how many more are in there going back through the family tree.

  2. My Catholic upbringing is the primary - and almost only - inheritance, from the Irish/Italian/French side. There is an extremely tenuous cultural connection to Ireland, manifested mainly in eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. From the Italian side my mother may have cooked spaghetti and lasagna slightly more than the average American housewife. But on the whole I feel no personal connection or identification with Ireland, Italy, France, or Scotland.

Surinam and Dutch. I self indentify 100% Dutch.

  1. Scottish, English & German that I know of.

  2. No connection. No old world recipes or traditions were pass down, unless you count anger & dysfunctional attitudes.

I consider myself a New Zealander. Period.

Two. French and Irish. The Jewish side of my father’s mother went culturally extinct with his line – it was never a cultural or ethnic point, and, in fact, as far as my father and his sisters were concerned, it was swept under the rug. Wasn’t until I was married for a … number&@^%%#&&*T$T of years to a strong ethnically Jewish family that I realized what I might have been missing.

There’s some mixture on my father’s side – some English (spit!) and some German blood. But I was raised French-Irish in a secular household – speaking French with my grandparents and hearing war stories from the Irish (much larger family, especially what with descendants not being slaughtered by those fucking German pigs). English and Germans were hated by everyone.

Father’s side is spotty – nobody really talked about anything. His grandparents were happy to come over to Canada well before the shit went down. Fuck, I can’t piece it all together without looking at the family tree.

Irish side is pretty much textbook – lace curtain Irish with lots of documents, and random people’s walking sticks hung on the wall and old strange musical instruments. Landed, my mother’s father’s family did, in Boston and went West, and met with another Irish woman of similar circumstance.

  1. On my mom’s side, mostly Irish. A small proportion of Pennsylvania German ancestry, which included a small proportion of American Indian mixed, I believe, with black.
    On my Dad’s side, Sicilian. Which in turn breaks down into a grab-bag of ethnicities—Greek, Italian, Arab, Berber, Anatolian, Carthaginian, French, Spanish, and even a bit of Norse via the Normans. I’m fascinated with all of the above.

  2. I feel my Sicilian and Irish ethnic backgrounds vibrantly in my identity. I take after both my grandmothers in distinct ways and am conscious of their life energies living on in me. I love cooking for my family and for one example, I have learned to make my grandmother’s Sicilian pizza from the old country, a distinctly different traditional recipe which is never found in American pizzerias. My upbringing on the whole, though, isn’t as influential in my ethnic identity. As a Pagan I’m inspired by the roots in very deep antiquity of the ancient Pagan religions and my descent from them holds great meaning for me. The same goes for the Irish side of my heritage and Celtic pagan lore.

My mom’s Irish ancestors immigrated to America farther back in history, and became completely Americanized over the years. By contrast, my Sicilian grandparents were immigrants and I grew up familiar with the strongly Old World atmosphere of their home in a very large, vibrantly ethnic family where my grandmother made and bottled her own tomato sauce and made giant doughy frosted cookies for Easter that were so big they incorporated one or more whole eggs in the shell, and my grandfather grew grapes in the backyard and made his own wine, and he even grew a fig tree and coaxed fruit from it in Northern Ohio’s unpromising climate, so that I had my first taste of fresh figs many years before they became available in American groceries. Of course, when we visited relatives in Sicily, they fed us all the homegrown fresh figs we could eat, under the shade of an olive tree.

But my mom and I got interested in our genealogy because her mother gave her original manuscripts of our ancestors’ birth and death data handed down from my great-great-great-great grandmother and copied from her Bible after she died in 1847. We found that our ancestors first immigrated to America 300 years ago, and that was how we found that we have an Indian (or Black Indian) ancestor born in Montgomery County, PA in 1757 which then was still Indian country beyond the western frontier. I’ve been deeply absorbed in Native American studies for many years, and most of all recently. I’ve been teaching myself Lenape language and history. I have too little Indian ancestry to qualify for tribal membership, and I do not claim Indian identity, but the subject is a passion of mine.

I didn’t pick up anything in my family from the German side, except that my mom made her mom’s recipe for Anisplätzschen every Christmastime.

Yeah, exactly—that describes my upbringing too, and pretty much the total extent of Irish ethnic expression I was exposed to (until Mom started traveling to Ireland after I was grown). Never mind that the corned beef was a tradition originated in America that I read was unknown in Ireland. “Extremely tenuous,” indeed.

I’m so boring…all of my ancestors (well, at least to six generations or so back) all got themselves born in the British Isles.

Makes it really damned hard to come up with something interesting at dinner parties.


Very nicely written post. :slight_smile:

I’m an American with 3 branches of national origin, but none of them had any overt impact on me as I was developing, since my parents divorced when I was a kid and there was little contact with extended family on either side. I don’t really identify with any particular culture. I grew up surrounded by Norwegians, so that’s probably the only cultural influence I can identify, but I have no Norwegian ancestors.

What I identify as: for other Spaniards, as Navarrese with a Catalan mother. For other Spaniards this provides a lot of information on cultural background, such as an untrue but evident answer to “how come you speak Catalan but not Basque?” Saves explanations.
For most foreigners, Spaniard.
For the US Census, white Hispanic.

TLDR version of ancestry: Basque-Navarrese on my Dad’s side (31 of Dad’s first 32 lastnames are clearly of Basque origin, but “Basque” as in Euskaldun, not “Basque” as in “from Euskadi”; lastname 32 is from one of the guys who founded Bilbao coming from oh-so-distant Haro; the family’s ancestral home is 10km from Pamplona), mongrel on Mom’s.

Details on Mom’s: Asturias, Salamanca (las Hurdes), Catalan (there’s a street in Sant Gervasi named after my ancestors’ farm) mixed with Italian (exact regional origin unknown, there may have been a change of lastname as a way to avoid political problems; gggggramps was from the North, gggggranny from Napoli), Turolense (southern Aragon) with a dash of probable Alsatian.

Fear not, I am even more boring than you. Both sides of my family have traced the family trees back about 300 years and we can only find English people. Not even any Scottish or Welsh, which is pretty unheard of in the British Isles. My family is mostly from the South East of England, with the most exotic addition being a grandfather from Manchester. My surname can be traced to a village on the south coast, and is anglo-saxon in origin.

I had high hopes for some mysterious mediterranean ancestor as my grandmother’s middle name was Rosetta. But maybe that was just a Victorian fashion. Weird thing is, I actually look more French than English.

(I’m English, not American, BTW).

Both sides of my family came to the US from Poland in the early 1900s, so my ethnicity is 100% Polish. When I was still living with my folks, the whole family was very into ethnic festivals and such and we were involved in the Polish community in Baltimore. Once I left home, that kinda fizzled for me. I never learned the language, never traveled to Poland, and honestly, I don’t know exactly where in Poland my various grandparents/great grandparents came from. Anyone who knew is long dead, so for me, I feel no ethnic ties. I just am who I am.

My dad’s side is 100% Danish and came to the US in the 1920s. There are no Danish traditions in his family that I’m aware of. The only vaguely interesting thing about that side of the family is my grandmother’s grandfather was from Iceland. I’ve only had one person who didn’t know my background correctly identify my last name as Danish, most people think it’s Swedish or German (even got Russian once).

On my mom’s side my grandma is 100% English, a Mayflower descendant and my granddad is 100% German- 3/4 Bavarian and 1/4 Prussian. They came over in the early 1900s. My mom speaks fluent German, has traveled there and contacted German relatives.

I’m not really that interested in any of it although I am curious to know more about the ethnic origins of my German ancestors. Many people mistake me for Eastern European and some of them did live in Poland, however my mom vehemently denies any Polish ancestry.

I speak a little German, but seeing as I speak English I guess I would identify most with my English heritage.

Complete bitser. WASA.

My mother is 100% Irish, my father was German and Polish. All of the immigration took place in the mid 1800s. Growing up, there was no noticeable cultural identification in my family, we identified as USA mutts.

I’m half Scottish, a quarter English, an eighth African (don’t know where) and an eighth Indian. I feel a bit of a connection to Scotland, I guess, but I’ve never lived there and have only visited a few times. I’m really just English. But I’m repeatedly, and often insistently (are you suuuure?) asked if I’m Irish.

I’ll bet most people don’t know their ethnicity with any certainty. By the time you go back only three generations to your great grandparents, most people only know one or two of the eight family lines. The further back you go, the more the tree expands, and the more the likelihood of unknown provenance creeps in.

I’m half Lithuanian and half Dutch. I have no particular connection to either. I mean, I guess I would be SLIGHTLY more angry if The Netherlands or Lithuania got wiped off the map than if Italy did, but not by much.

ETA: My dad was a first generation immigrant from Lithuania, a WWII refugee as a baby. Both of my mom’s set of grandparents were first generation immigrants from The Netherlands, which gives me pretty high confidence in my lineage. Granted my family could easily have a member of the family that’s not Dutch or Lithuanian that immigrated TO THOSE COUNTRIES, but I’m not going to over-complicate things.

I am a mutt of continental northwestern European ancestry, and that’s because I haven’t dug into geneology far enough to find any Brits or Irish.

Through my father’s side, my ancestry is well documented. I am of German/Swiss ancestry, and my great grandfather about 9 generations back is one of the founders of the Amish church in the US.

On my mother’s side, her mother’s family emigrated from Sweden around the turn of the 20th century, and my grandmother was born on the boat during the crossing. Her father’s family I don’t know a lot about, but the names indicate Dutch and French ancestry.

As far as ethnic identifications, I tend towards the Swedes the most. A close second is more towards the Amish/Mennonite clan than the general case of German or Swiss.