German Americans: Background information when reading A Good American

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A Good American

A Novel

By Alex George

A Good American
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2012,
    400 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2013,
    432 pages.

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Beyond the Book:
German Americans

It might surprise you to learn that in the latest census, 51 million Americans self-identified as having German ancestry (estimates suggest that about 1/3 of these are of German ancestry alone, the rest are of partial German ancestry). That's a whopping 17% of the population, more than any other heritage group - over 13 million more than claim Irish heritage and almost double those who claim English heritage.

Because Germany as a country did not exist until 1871, many of the ancestors of today's German Americans would not have emigrated from Germany itself but from other parts of Europe that were dominated by German speakers during the height of the Holy Roman Empire (which had its center in the Kingdom of Germany, just one of the many kingdoms that were unified to form modern day Germany). So perhaps the easiest way to think of this group is that their ancestors arrived, not necessarily from Germany, but speaking German.

The first German arrived with the English at Jamestown ...

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