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Erin go bragh, y’all! How Irish is Virginia?

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Posted at 10:43 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 22:43:27-04

About one in 10 Virginians claim Irish ancestry, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s approximately the proportion for the nation as a whole.

But the statewide average is deceptive. In some Virginia communities, the proportion of residents with Irish roots is much higher – and in other communities, it’s non-existent. For example, Nottoway Court House, in Southside Virginia, has a population of 78 people – and 45 of them are descended from Ireland, the Census Bureau estimates.

In more than 30 communities, at least 20 percent of the residents trace their roots to Ireland. At the other extreme, the bureau’s data indicate that more than 50 communities in the commonwealth may have no residents with ties to Ireland.

At the county level, Mathews and Fauquier counties have the highest percentage of residents with Irish ancestry – about 17 percent. Then come Bath and Clarke counties at around 16 percent. In contrast, about 2 percent of Petersburg’s residents can trace their background to Ireland.

Among the 50 states, Massachusetts has the highest proportion of people with Irish ancestry – 22 percent. Virginia ranks No. 34, at 10 percent.

In a press release for St. Patrick’s Day, the Census Bureau noted that about 11.5 percent of the population of South Bend, Ind., home to the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame, claim Irish ancestry. At least 190 towns and 40 cities and counties in Virginia can top that.

Virginia even has a town called Dublin, in Pulaski County. About 500 – or 19 percent – of its approximately 2,600 residents have Irish roots.

Related: The history behind St. Patrick’s Day