Welcome! Bienvenue! Céad míle fáilte! Velkommen! Ongi etorri! Welkom!
CELEBRATE YOUR CAN-AMERITAGE!
Can-Ameritage? Yes. For many of us in Canada and the U.S. our ancestors travelled freely. Tracing our heritage takes us many places throughout both countries so when it comes to celebrating our past, there are no borders.
Find a free gift at the bottom of this page!
If you are curious what languages are used at the top of this page to greet you, they are: English, French, Irish, Norwegian, Basque, and Flemish.
Can-Ameritage Mix & Match: What’s Yours?
|Scottish: Between 25 to 30 million North Americans including James Monroe, Sam Houston, Washington Irving, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Stewart, Ginger Rogers, and Reese Witherspoon claim Scottish descent. Many began arriving around the time of the Jacobite rebellion and later, the massive exodus from Scotland would continue in the face of the brutal and violent Highland Clearances. Recent studies by Professor Willie Ruff, a Black American ethno-musicologist at Yale University, has concluded that African American gospel music was actually introduced and encouraged by Scottish Gaelic speaking people from the Hebrides. Is it possible Motown is here, at least in part, because of people who played the bagpipes? Gaelic was also the first foreign language learned by many African Americans and was the language of worship in a church in Alabama as late as 1918.
Scots-Irish or Scotch-Irish are the Ulster Scots from Ireland, most of whom descend from the families of the Scottish Borderlands and were actively involved as Border Reivers, warrior raiders who plundered both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border. They were sent to Ulster to colonize after land was confiscated from the Irish by King James. Needless to say, this was not well received by the Irish and the fighting continued for decades, culminating in a massacre. Scots-Irish emigrated in large numbers to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States where an overwhelming majority were active supporters in the Revolutionary War. Between 27 to 30 million Americans claim Scots-Irish heritage. Among their descendants and those of Scotland are Sir John A. MacDonald (first Prime Minister of Canada), Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Alexander Graham Bell, Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables author), and John Wayne.
|Spanish: Almost 27 million people claim Spanish heritage and they are the earliest European group to have colonized America. The earliest settlers arrived in what would become St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. They are not to be confused with Hispanics or Latinos, terms coined in the 1970s referring to those who self-identify as particular ethnic groups though not necessarily Spanish-speaking nor of Spanish descent. Spanish Americans brought horses, cattle, and ranching traditions including cowboys. Horses had been extinct in the Americas since the last ice age but they quickly repopulated and became an integral part of daily life. Many more Spanish people arrived from intermediary destinations like Mexico, Cuba, and Central and South America. Raquel Welch, Rita Hayworth, Martin Sheen, Jerry Garcia, Desi Arnaz, and Wonder Woman’s Lynda Carter are only a few in a very long list of Spanish American celebrities.|
|Irish: More than 36 million people claim Irish heritage in the United States, the number second only to the Germans. Irish emigration sent people from the tiny island to all parts of the globe but especially to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.S. and Canada where those of Irish heritage make up 14% of the population. In 1899, the Montreal Shamrocks won the Stanley Cup. President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline (her mother was Irish), Eugene O’Neill, Diane Keaton, Ed Sullivan, Dakota Fanning, Clint Eastwood, Drew Barrymore, Anne Hathaway, and Robert Downey Jr. are only a few in a long list of famous Americans who claim Irish heritage. Eight Irish Americans signed the Declaration of Independence and 22 presidents claim at least some Irish heritage. This is one group that maintained their cultural heritage for generations, and still do today. Perhaps it is in part because of the hardships faced in Ireland, on the coffin ships that brought them to America, and the discrimination and racial profiling that met them when they arrived. In Canada, the Irish were the second largest ethnic group after the French at the time of Confederation in 1867. They are the fourth largest today.|
|Lebanese: Over 3.5 million Americans including Ralph Nader, Marlo Thomas and her comedian father, Danny Thomas, and Challenger crew member Christa Corrigan MacAuliffe (her grandfather was Lebanese) claim at least some Lebanese descent. The first Lebanese immigrant arrived in the mid-1800s and the numbers increased substantially around the turn of the century and continued until about 1930 when immigration declined until the late 1960s. Although often noted as Syrian in immigration papers, the overwhelming majority of immigrants were Christians from Mount Lebanon. Other famous Americans of Lebanese descent are William Peter Blatty (author of The Exorcist), Khalil Gibran, football player Doug Flutie, actress Salma Hayek, and Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar. If you enjoy pita bread and hummus, thank the Lebanese!|
|German: More than 50 million Americans and 3 million Canadians are of German descent. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Albert Einstein, John Steinbeck, Meryl Streep, Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Lauren Bacall, Christopher Walken, Rene Zellweger, Bruce Willis, and Sandra Bullock are a few who share this ancestry. Famous German Canadians are former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, musicians Randy Bachman and Justin Bieber, and six-time Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen. Chrysler, Westinghouse, Rockefeller, Trump, and Boeing have changed the face of business in America and around the world. Other more modest contributions are so ingrained in North American life that we often overlook the origins; kindergarten, Christmas trees, hotdogs, hamburgers, and beer were all brought to America by the German people. The Germans came from several areas including the Rhineland, Switzerland, Ukraine, Austria, and what is now Alsace in France.|
|African: There are nearly 40 million people in North America of African heritage. They first arrived in the early 1500s as slaves of the Spanish, landing in the area that is now known as South Carolina. During a revolt, they fled and sought refuge with the Native American tribes living in the area. In 1565, another Spanish colony was established in Florida that included a number of both free and enslaved Africans. Further north in Virginia, Africans began arriving in the early 17th century to work as laborers. Many were treated as indentured servants, something that was common for poor English settlers as well. Passage to the New World was often exchanged for an agreement to work for a specified number of years. Many people raised crops and cattle to purchase their freedom and then married other Africans and sometimes intermarried with Native Americans and English settlers. The race-based slave system did not develop for several more years, when it was introduced in what would become New York City by the Dutch West India Company. This dark period in North American history came to a close with the emancipation of Texas in 1865 but the repercussions would be felt for generations. After the revolution, many journeyed north to Canada settling mainly in Nova Scotia. A small group of black settlers were also the first inhabitants of Salt Spring Island off Canada’s west coast.
Most African Americans are descendants of people from West Africa, Central Africa, and the Caribbean.
Famous African Americans include Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Louis Armstrong, Barak Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Jesse Owens, Denzel Washington, Rosa Parks, BB King, Maya Angelou, Alex Haley, James Earl Jones, Beyoncé Knowles, Chuck Berry, and Mohammed Ali.
|Native American/First Nations: In the U.S., two and a half million people are registered as Native Americans and many more claim at least some heritage that is recognized by specific tribes. In Canada, aboriginal people are called First Nations and Métis (mixed native and European heritage) and number about 1.2 million. Some names you may recognize are Elvis Presley, Cherokee; Jeanne Cooper and her son, Corbin Bersen, Cherokee; Heather Locklear, Lumbee; James Garner, Cherokee; Will Rogers, Cherokee; Charles Curtis, Kaw, Osage & Pottawatomie; Louis Riel, Métis. Perhaps the most famous 20th century example are the Native American heros of WWII, the Navajo, Hopi, Sioux, and Comanche Code Talkers. Like their WWI forbearers, the Choctaw, they relayed messages using their native languages in a code that was never broken by the enemy. Historical figures include Sitting Bull, Joseph Brant, Sequoyah, and Tecumseh. Today, the native people make up less than 1.5% of the population of the United States.|
|French: Around 1534, the French began arriving in Canada with Samuel de Champlain but few, except for some hardy fur traders, stayed until Port Royal was established in 1605. The winters were bitterly cold and settlements were repeatedly decimated by disease or abandoned. When the British seized the land and demanded the settlers swear an oath to the British crown or face expulsion, thousands fled south to the thirteen colonies and over the next generation spread though New York state, the Midwest, and further south to Louisiana. The French were in America before it was founded as a nation and are part of the original American fabric. They are also a major part of the Canadian identity. Jack Kerouac, Henry David Thoreau, J.J. Audubon, Céline Dion, Maurice Richard, and Pierre Elliott Trudeau are a few famous French names you may recognize.|
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Beautiful badge with the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland used from the 12th century to 1603. The motto of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle on the frame is in Scottish Gaelic.
Credits: Photo of Céline Dion by Anirudh Koul. All other portrait images on this page have been represented as being within the Public Domain in the United States and Canada.