Lithuanian Americans
Amerikos lietuviai
Total population
c. 632,169 (2019)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Majority Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups

Lithuanian Americans refers to American citizens and residents who are Lithuanian and were born in Lithuania, or are of Lithuanian descent.[2] New Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has the largest percentage of Lithuanian Americans (20.8%) in its population in the United States. Lithuanian Americans form by far the largest group within the Lithuanian diaspora.


It is believed that Lithuanian emigration to the United States began in the 17th century[3] when Alexander Curtius[4] arrived in New Amsterdam (present day New York City) in 1659 and became the first Latin School teacher-administrator; he was also a physician.[5]

Monument in Kennebunkport, Maine, dedicated for Lithuanians who died fighting for Lithuania's freedom

After the fall of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, most of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire. The beginnings of industrialization and commercial agriculture based on Stolypin's reforms, as well as the abolition of serfdom in 1861, freed the peasants and turned them into migrant-laborers. The pressures of industrialization, Lithuanian press ban, general discontent, suppression of religious freedom and poverty drove numerous Lithuanians, especially after the famine in 1867–1868, to emigrate from the Russian Empire to the United States continuing until the outbreak of the First World War. The emigration continued despite the Tsarist attempts to control the border and prevent such a drastic loss of population. Since Lithuania as a country did not exist at the time, the people who arrived to the U.S. were recorded as either Polish, German or Russian; moreover, due to the language ban in Lithuania and prevalence of Polish language at that time, their Lithuanian names were not transcribed in the same way as they would be today.[6] As a result, information about Lithuanian immigration before 1899 is not available because incoming Lithuanians were not registered as Lithuanians.[7] Only after 1918, when Lithuania established its independence, the immigrants to the U.S. started being recorded as Lithuanians. This first wave of Lithuanian immigrants to the United States ceased when the U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act in 1921, followed by the Immigration Act of 1924. The Immigration Act of 1924 was aimed at restricting the Eastern Europeans and Southern Europeans who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the 1890s.

Valdas Adamkus was a Lithuanian American working in the EPA before being elected President of Lithuania. Adamkus (right) is pictured with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney during the 2006 Vilnius Conference.

A second wave of Lithuanians emigrated to the United States as a result of the events surrounding World War II – the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1940 and the Nazi occupation that followed in 1941. After the war's end and the subsequent reoccupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, these Displaced Persons were allowed to immigrate from DP camps in Germany to the United States and to apply for American citizenship thanks to a special act of Congress which bypassed the quota system that was still in place until 1967. The Displaced Persons Act of 1948 ultimately led to the immigration of approximately 36,000 Lithuanians. Before that, the nationality quota was only 384 Lithuanians per year.[7]

Lithuanian school in Waterbury, Connecticut, United States, with the Coat of arms of Lithuania

Lithuanian Americans today were still a relatively small ethnic group in 1990, since there were 842,209 Lithuanian Americans according to the U.S. Census; of these, 30,344 were foreign-born and 811,865 were born in the United States. This number was up from the 1980 figure of 742,776. The five states with the largest populations of Lithuanian Americans in both 1980 and 1990 (in descending order) were Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and California.[7]

Immigration of Lithuanians into the U.S. resumed after Lithuania regained its independence during the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990. This wave of immigration has tapered off recently with tougher U.S. immigration requirements and the entry of Lithuania into the EU have made countries such as Ireland and the United Kingdom a more accessible option for potential Lithuanian emigrants.

Lithuanian Days in Pennsylvania is the longest-running ethnic festival in the United States.[8]


US states with largest Lithuanian populations[9]
US states with largest Lithuanian populations[9]
Distribution of Lithuanian Americans according to the 2000 census

Chicago has the largest Lithuanian community in the United States and with approximately 100,000 self-identified ethnic Lithuanians has the largest population of Lithuanians of any municipality outside Lithuania itself.[10] The old "Lithuanian Downtown" in Bridgeport was once the center of Lithuanian political activity for the whole United States. Another large Lithuanian community[11] can be found in the Coal Region of northeastern Pennsylvania, particularly in Schuylkill County where the small borough of New Philadelphia has the largest per capita percentage of Lithuanian Americans (20.8%) in the United States. There is also a large community of Lithuanian descent in the coal mining regions of Western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia Panhandle and Northeastern Ohio tri-state area. Grand County, Colorado's Lithuanian-American community has the unusual distinction in that it is the only sizable immigrant population in an otherwise fairly homogeneous population in a rural, mountainous community. There is also a small but vibrant Lithuanian community in Presque Isle, Maine. Many Lithuanian refugees settled in Southern California after World War II; they constitute a community in Los Angeles.[12] The majority of the Lithuanian community resides around the St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Los Feliz, in so-called "Little Lithuania.[13]

The states with the largest Lithuanian-American populations are:[14]

  1. Illinois – 87,294
  2. Pennsylvania – 78,330
  3. California – 51,406
  4. Massachusetts – 51,054
  5. New York – 49,083

Lithuanian-born population

Lithuanian-born population in the U.S. since 1920:[15][16]

Year Number
1920 135,068
1930 193,606
1960 121,475
1970 76,001
1980 48,194
1990 29,745
2000 28,490
2010 33,888
2011 Increase36,303
2012 Increase37,158
2013 Decrease35,514
2014 Increase38,186
2015 Decrease31,458
2016 Increase33,640

See also


  1. ^ "2019 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  2. ^ "About us". Lithuanian American Community. Retrieved September 3, 2023.
  3. ^ John E. Usalis (1991). "St. George Church: Liths Come to America". St. George Parish in Shenandoah, PA. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  4. ^ Bill Coughlin (June 24, 2009). "First Latin School of New Amsterdam Marker". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  5. ^ Egle Dudenas; Vytautas Dudenas (2011). "Lithuanian emigration to USA". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  6. ^ Karilė Vaitkutė. "Genealogy Department". Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. Archived from the original on April 14, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Schaefer, Richard T. (2008). Encyclopedia of race, ethnicity, and society. SAGE Publications. pp. 854–857. ISBN 9781412926942. OCLC 166387368.
  8. ^ John E. Usalis (August 12, 2012). "Lithuanian Days marks its 98th consecutive year as oldest ethnic festival in country". Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  9. ^ "Ameredia: Lithuanian American Demographics".
  10. ^ "Chicago is the second-biggest Lithuanian city". The Economist. August 23, 2018. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  11. ^ "Fleeing from domestic famine in the late 1800s: Hordes of Lithuanians came to Pennsylvania to work in coal mines". April 3, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  12. ^ "Los Angeles, California: Lithuanians and Lithuanian heritage | Global True Lithuania".
  13. ^ "Home".
  14. ^ "Cities with the Highest Percentage of Lithuanians in the United States". 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Place of birth for the foreign-born population in the United States". Archived from the original on February 14, 2020. Retrieved April 24, 2018.

Further reading