There's a whole list of "totally subtle but surprising things I've noticed since moving to Canada" in my head (did you know that kids' amoxicillan is BANANA flavored here? That's just wrong), but here's one that's particularly odd: the number of students I have whose last names begin with Mc or Mac is really high. Granted, across 110 students, there are only 6 of them, but that's three per class, and that's definitely, like, 4 more than I've ever had at a time. (I also spent a lot of time alphabetizing assignments, so I have to think about last names a lot.)
This made me wonder about relative ethnic makeup. I'm not surprised that I've got more students with obviously francophone last names in Canada than in the US (not least because I teach at a francophone/bilingual university, and a reasonable chunk of my students have French as their primary language), but the Mac/Mc thing is throwing me. Generally, when we think about the European-descended populations of the US and Canada, we tend to assume that they look similar. Do they really, in terms of country/ethnic group of origin?
So I went to Statistics Canada
and the US Census Bureau's American FactFinder
. FactFinder is great because you can get some pretty specific queries in there; I'm not as experienced at using StatCan for getting data, but I was able to get to ethnic breakdown fairly quickly.
Here's the tally: In the US, 35.7 million people said they had Irish ancestry, 4.2 million said they had Scotch-Irish
ancestry, and 5.8 million said they had Scottish ancestry. The ancestry question allows for multiple answers, so we don't know if there's any overlap there. This means that 11.2% of the US population has some Irish heritage, 1.8% has some Scottish heritage, and 1.3% have some Scotch-Irish heritage. Now, obviously not every person with Scottish/Irish heritage has a last name starting with Mac/Mc (says an Irish-American named Regan*), but that gives us a potential universe.
For Canada, the stats are different. 4.7 million Canadians said they had Scottish origins, with 568,000 saying they had only Scottish origins; 4.3 million people said they had Irish origins, with 491,000 saying they had only Irish origins. (Canada doesn't have a Scotch-Irish category.) Now, these numbers are lower than the American ones, but it's important to remember that Canada has a population about 1/10 the size of the US population. So, of the entire population of Canada, 12.2% has at least some Irish heritage, and 13.3% has at least some Scottish heritage. The Irish number isn't much higher, but the Scottish is much
higher. So the frequency of individuals with some Scottish or Irish heritage in Canada, as a whole, is likely higher in the US (caveat in place because overlap is always possible).
And, in fact, in Ontario (where the majority of my students are from), the situation is even stronger. There are 2.1 million Ontarians with some Scottish heritage, and 1.98 million with some Irish heritage. Ontario has about a third of Canada's population (the GTA alone has 1/6th, which is freaky), but still, this means that 15.5% of Ontario's population has Scottish origin, and 14.7% has some Irish heritage. In New York State, where I've done all my teaching, it's 1% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, and .3% Scotch-Irish; in Pennsylvania, where I'm from, the Irish proportion is about the same and the Scottish and Scotch-Irish are both equally low.
1. Yes, it is not surprising that I'm seeing more Mac/Mc names in my classes than I ever have before, because it's likely that a higher percentage of my students have some Irish and/or Scottish ancestry.
2. While the proportion of people with Irish ancestry in the US vs in Canada is fairly similar (a percentage point is usually inside the margin of error), the number of people with Scottish ancestry is much, much higher in Canada.
3. The ratio of Irish-to-Scottish in Canada is also much closer to 1:1 than it is in the US, where it's, what, 6:1? *does math* Yeah, 6:1 if you take only Scottish and don't count Scotch-Irish.
Without knowing anything, I'm going to guess this has something to do with the dynamics of Canada's relationship to the United Kingdom--whether this was about Irish non-immigration to Canada because of the UK relationship in the 1800s (before formal Irish independence from Britain) or high Scottish immigration to Canada (facilitated by the formal relationship), I can't guess. Of course, I'm sure there are also reasons to do with chain migration, and it wouldn't surprise me if there were immigration-law reasons as well. In other words, it's caused by stuff. (Anyone know the stuff?)
Now I really should start grading...
*Regan is the name of my more-Irish side of the family, which is also the only side of my family to have decent genealogy records**. I'm not terribly into genealogy, but I'm glad to know it when someone else has done the work...
**Fun fact: the only ancestor from Ireland whose entrance details I'm 100% sure...arrived in North American at Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the Famine. How she ended up in Glens Falls, New York is anybody's guess. Will that make naturalization easier, do you think?