Wednesday, May 18, 2022

My African Roots are Back


You may remember that back in 2017, Dave and I both did Ancestry DNA tests. We thought it would be fun to see what our DNA revealed about our roots and how accurate the tests were. Since then, Ancestry has sent me occasional updates as they test more and more DNA from other people and refine the results.

Above is my latest update, showing basically the same results as before -- with one curious exception. My initial DNA report indicated a tiny sliver of DNA from West Africa. They weren't specific about it, and called it a "low confidence" result. A later update pinpointed it to Mali, and then it disappeared altogether from a subsequent report. I figured it was just an error that had been refined out of the results by greater sample sizes from more and more people.

But no! My latest results show that sliver of African DNA once again -- from Ivory Coast or Ghana. I am completely perplexed about this. There are no stories in my family (as far as I'm aware) that would explain any African connections. (Nor Scandinavian ones, come to think of it, though I suppose that DNA could come from Viking invaders in England.)

If any of my relatives were canoodling with slaves, and I was somehow descended from such a union, I think my percentage of African DNA would be much, much higher. What if, on the other hand, I had an ancestor who visited that part of the world (on a slaving ship, for example) and canoodled there, leaving behind some DNA that became incorporated into that local population? Could one person affect the DNA profile of a whole region? Seems doubtful.

It's a mystery.


Ancestry has a new feature that shows your DNA contributions by parent. Unfortunately, they don't tell you which parent is which! So as we can see, in my case, the African DNA (as well as my Scandinavian and Welsh contributions) came from Parent 1. The other parent is relatively boring -- British Isles all the way.

I would love to know which parent is No. 1. You'd think they could figure that out somehow. I really haven't a clue.


Still interesting are my DNA "communities," where people most genetically linked to me live. My maternal grandmother's family comes from North Carolina; my dad's from Arkansas. So this is pretty accurate. (Mysteriously absent is any community related to my maternal grandfather, who was from Pennsylvania -- maybe there's been too much population shift and dispersal in those areas?)


In fact, Ancestry can pinpoint the specific towns in North Carolina where I have close genetic relatives. My grandmother was born in Lumber Bridge, near Fayetteville -- so this is correct.


And although my dad grew up in California, his parents came from the area around Imboden, Arkansas, which is just north of that little lake shown on the right side of the orange blob above. So, again, this is accurate. (I do not have a genetic "community" in California, even though many of my relatives on his side lived there. They were probably mixed in with too many other migrants from different places and dispersed over too wide an area. In fact, many of them don't live in California anymore.)


Dave's results, meanwhile, are still all about Europe. (His ancestors immigrated to the United States much more recently than mine did.) In his case, it's easy to tell which parent is which. His mom's family is from the Czech Republic, and his dad's is from Germany. Mom is obviously Parent 2.

His DNA "communities," where he shares common DNA with other residents, are in Central Germany, Eastern Czechia and Western Slovakia.


He also shares DNA with people in northern Ohio and Indiana. He was born in southern Michigan, so that makes sense too.

All this is very interesting and I continue to be amazed at the accuracy. I'm mystified by that African result, though!

24 comments:

Moving with Mitchell said...

Fascinating. This prompted me to check my updates (haven’t looked for a while). I DID have originally 1% African, but that’s now gone. However, in addition to my now 23% Southern Italian, there is 4% East Iberian. So, I’m closer to home. Thanks for the reminder.

River said...

My DNA shares similarities with Dave's. I have Germanic Europe, Czech republic, Slovakia, plus a few others, but most of my DNA is Swedish, 40%.
I haven't bothered to find out more, I was looking for information of my Paternal side, but there's nothing.

Boud said...

Interesting musing. Never having done a DNA test, not genealogy, I still have only family folklore and loudly disputed accounts to go by!

Ed said...

DNA tests only indicate the last 500 years at most so keep that in mind. In my case, Parent 1 was definitely my mother. I’ve read that Ancestry is working on labeling the parents in Sideview so stay tuned. I like it because it pretty much matches my research.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Visit https://ashantiempress.com/ in order to source clothing that will celebrate your rich Ghanaian heritage. Learning to play traditional fontomfrom drums would also strengthen the connection though the Russians upstairs might not be too happy about it.

Dov said...

That's interesting. My results are all Ireland and England. With some European countries mixed in. My parentage was 1 parent 100% Irish and 1 parent 100% English.

Andrew said...

Very interesting. I would never do a DNA test though for family research. I already know the 20th C 'connections' it would bring up.

So are there any black African male attributes you might have picked up?

Bob said...

I should do this, just to see what comes up.

The Bug said...

Ooo - I haven't checked mine a while. I think I had lost Africa the last time I checked, so it will be interesting to see what's there now.

Ms. Moon said...

I wonder if Glen and I should do this. And sometimes I wonder if I should start investing time in doing genealogy. Seems like people who get into it REALLY get into it. I think I just want Henry Louis Gates, JR. to show up at my door with a huge book with it all already written down with charts and maps and photos. Is that too much to ask?

Sharon said...

This really is fascinating. I had the same thought as Ms. Moon. It would be great if the team of researchers that Henry Louis Gates Jr. uses could work up the family tree. They do such an amazing job.

NewRobin13 said...

I haven't checked my Ancestry results in quite a while. Now I want to take another look. This is so interesting and detailed.

Margaret said...

Fascinating! My older daughter is a little bit Basque which fascinates me. The latest update is very accurate as to what I've always thought I was--mostly Scottish, Italian and French with some Scandinavian thrown in. My parents, like Dave's, are very different so they're easily identifiable.

Kelly said...

I've never had any desire to do something like this and I have other family members who've done all the genealogy research. My brother had the DNA test, though, and I presume my results would be pretty much the same as his. If I remember correctly, mostly British Isles with an emphasis on Ireland.

Thanks for sharing all the charts and graphs, they're interesting to see!

gigi-hawaii said...

Ancestry.com is interesting but sometimes far fetched. My daughter is 1/2 Irish 1/2 Korean. Her test revealed she is related to Cleopatra of Egypt. Go figure.

jenny_o said...

You have put a lot of time into analyzing the results. Hopefully at some point the company will be able to identify which parent is which.

Edna B said...

Your foxgloves are beautiful. I think all your DNA research is amazing. Enjoy your day, hugs, Edna B.

Red said...

I sometimes think the DNA tests raise more questions than answers. I didn't know that there were updates as more information was collected.

Claudia said...

I did the DNA for myself and my granddaughter. Parent one and parent two are clear in our case as my granddaughter has more European and Less Sub Saharan African DNA in parent one, who is undoubtedly her mother, and vise versa in Parent two. Since your ancestors go back to slavery in the south on both sides having African ancestry isn't surprising. I don't know any black American or Caribbean friends who have done their DNA who don't have European DNA. It works both ways. Rape was rampant in the slave system.

Steve Reed said...

Mitchell: Interesting! You're back in your ancestral homeland!

River: If you did a DNA test through Ancestry you should be able to get a breakdown by parent, like I did. That might give you more information about your dad.

Boud: Ah yes, family legends! We have those too! I suppose every family does.

Ed: I read that belatedly -- that they mostly reflect recent ancestry. I didn't realize that initially.

YP: The funny thing is, I've actually been to both Ghana and the Ivory Coast. I had no idea I was traveling in the footsteps of a forefather! (Or mother!)

Dov: Most of mine is the same, as you can see -- British Isles.

Andrew: I'm not going there!

Bob: It's quite fascinating and fun, though I think it's important to take the accuracy with a grain of salt. I still think it's entirely possible those African results are wrong.

Bug: Yes! Check! Maybe it's come back!

Ms Moon: It is a lot of work. My grandfather and father both put a lot of time into it. Of course it's much easier now, though, with sites like Ancestry. I think you CAN pay people to help you, though probably not Gates!

Sharon: There are genealogy "nuts" who love to work on such projects and would probably do so for a fee. I'm sure some are better than others, though, and it's easy to get sidetracked by a deceptive historical record and get the wrong lineage altogether.

Robin: It IS fascinating how detailed and accurate it is.

Margaret: Is it just your older daughter that has Basque genes? Do you have them to, or your other children? It's fascinating how kids can inherit different portions of their parents' DNA. There's no guarantee, for example, that my brother would have that African result.

Kelly: They would probably be basically the same, but not exactly, because each kid only inherits half of their parents' DNA, and it's not the same half from one child to another. (As I understand it.)

Jenny-O: Actually I did very little analysis myself. Ancestry did it all! I just happen to know some key things about my ancestors that jibe with what Ancestry tells me.

Edna: Isn't it interesting? Have you ever dine yours?

Red: There can be a lot of questions and some people unearth information that can be quite disturbing -- proving they have a different parent from who they thought, for example.

Claudia: I can easily see how European DNA gets into the black population. It's harder to imagine how African DNA would get into the white population, though, given the prejudices of the time. A mixed-race baby would have been considered black by default, and so wouldn't have intermarried with whites, I would think -- but perhaps some were able to "pass" or were engaged in extramarital relationships (forced or otherwise) over a period of generations that eventually produced "white" children...?

Jeanie said...

I did Ancestry DNA but I never got all this stuff! I did get an update back a bit ago, which mostly just shifted percentages from one category to another. Time to dig out the census and immigration records and see how far back you can go. Maybe you'll find a spice trader or someone who traveled! Fascinating --I love this stuff!

Steve Reed said...

Gigi: Sorry -- your comment went to spam so I didn't see it until now! I didn't realize Ancestry tests would be so detailed as to pinpoint a link to a specific historical figure (however improbable)! I didn't get anything like that. I guess we're all just undistinguished.

Jeanie: Your comment was also in spam! Yeah, my percentages have shifted a bit and the information has become more and more specific to certain countries. I think my initial result was much more generally British Isles and Western Europe, with that little African bit thrown in as well.

Bohemian said...

I'm skeptical about the whole DNA Ancestry thing. My First Cousin on my Dad's Side and I both did Ancestry as a lark, just curious. Our Dads are Brothers and she's a registered Tribal Member, her Mom as well as my Uncle, being both of Native American descent. Okay, so imagine our Surprise when we got our results back and 0% Indigenous shows up, yet, they claim our Ancestors came from the East Coast of the United States HUNDREDS of Years ago {accurate... but pre-landing of any Anglos}, so we could only assume their Data Base only has a small selection of Tribes they can draw from? Also, it had the Mystery Ancestry, as yours did, of us being also of Middle Eastern descent, curious, no Family Stories of that on my Dad's side either... whatever. Then, the most curious thing for me, it showed me as 10% "Other of Undetermined Origin" and The Man was hysterical about that saying, see, I knew you were part Alien from a whole other Planet! I'm not even sure what "Other of Undetermined Origin" is supposed to mean... and BTW, it took them 3 DNA samples to even give me results of any kind... which was Weird too.

Steve Reed said...

Bohemian: Strange! How long ago did you take your tests? The DNA databases get better and more specific as more and more people participate, so it's possible that "undetermined origin" would be pinpointed by now. My stepmother was always told she was part Ojibway, but when she took a DNA test it found no Native American at all!