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Ethnic pertains to the characteristics or background of a people, especially a group, sharing a distinctive culture, religion, national origin, or language, etc. Ethnic groups are so defined in being distinct from the dominant culture or group. America was once known as the "melting pot" owing to its early assimilation of diverse ethnic groups. Various aspects of ethnic cultures, including food, dance, and dress often become popular and widely adopted into the mainstream.

Understanding the origin and settlement of various ethnic groups within a locality is important to genealogy. Regardless of where a people immigrated, ethnic groups often clustered together for support and acceptance; in some cases such segregation was involuntary. Ethnic groups flourished in many areas, having their own shops, entertainment, and newspapers. A study of ethnic culture within region may yield significant clues in searching for one's ancestors.

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