While the Algonquins were the land’s first inhabitants, today’s Michiganders reflect a much more diverse population. The French “empire builders” were the first Europeans to come, and in due time, the British replaced the French. Early American settlers included a large group of Yankees from western New York and New England. From Europe came immigrants seeking a better life, including Finns, Cornish, Swedes, and Italians who worked in the Upper Peninsula  mines and lumber camps. Germans, Irish, and Dutch settled in the cities and the rich agricultural lands to the south. Later, the automobile industry attracted large numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and, later, a large influx of southerners. Between 1850 and 1900, the state’s population increased by more than 600 percent.
Today, Michigan’s residents number 10.1 million, making it the eighth most populous state in the United States. The vast majority of the state’s residents live in the southern third of the Lower Peninsula, mostly near major cities. Just three counties—Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb, near Detroit —contain 40 percent of Michigan’s entire population.