I have created a new page featuring the AncestryDNA results for persons from Central Africa as well as Southern Africa. I will create a new section for West Africa shortly. Despite the minimal number of results i have collected sofar i also provide some statistical data, background information and relevant context.
Follow this link to view the page:
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In addition i also discuss the implications these results might have for Afro-Diasporans. Generally speaking when it comes to tracing back the main strains of regional African lineage for Afro-Diasporans in the Americas undoubtedly results from the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Angola will be most relevant, given historical plausibility and cultural retention. Although also Cameroon, Mozambique, Madagascar and directly surrounding countries, such as Zambia, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and Malawi are not to be overlooked. As a general disclaimer of course in individual cases several ancestral scenarios might apply. And with corroborating evidence a Cameroonian or rather a Bight of Biafra connection might still be demonstrated to be valid for many persons. Even when based on the discussion below Congolese & Angolan ancestry seems much more likely on average.
Implications for Afro-Diasporans:
1) Congolese & Angolan ancestry more likely than Cameroonian ancestry?
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I have posted a very insightful selection of Central & Southern African AncestryDNA results on this page. Even if still quite limited in number and scope. In particular analyzing results from the Congo as well as Angola will be most relevant when it comes to tracing back the regional African lineage of Afro-Diasporans in the Americas. Followed with some distance by Mozambique. Given that an overwhelming majority of enslaved Central & Southeastern Africans was shipped through and also hailing from these countries. Furthermore the cultural retention from these countries among the Afro-Diaspora is pivotal and undeniable.
Regrettably at this moment i do not have sufficient results available from either Angola, Congo (DRC & Brazzaville) or Mozambique. However the mere circumstance that these results are not yet plentifully represented on my blog should not distract from the very high likelyhood that generally speaking Angola & Congo will be the chief source for any socalled “Cameroon/Congo” reported for Afro-Diasporans (at least Trans Atlantic ones). While quite likely Angola and Mozambique will be the chief source for any socalled “Southeastern Bantu”. On the other hand of course also their directly neighbouring countries are bound to have ancestral significance for the Atlantic Afro-Diaspora, even if to a (much) lesser degree. Afterall only a few centuries ago their territories would just have been a continuous part of a borderless hinterland for slave trading routes to the coast. These countries being Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Madagascar. For more background information on these countries see:
- Central Africa (maps & ethnohistorical info)
- Southeast Africa (maps & ethnohistorical info)
- From beyond the Kwango – Tracing the Linguistic Origins of Slaves Leaving Angola, 1811-1848 (very insightful and recent research. See especially the chart at the end of the article).
***Map 1 (click to enlarge)
***Chart 1 (click to enlarge)
***Chart 2 (click to enlarge)
“It now appears that from 1751 to 1840, about 62,000 captives left from the Cameroons River and Bimbia for the Americas, with possibly a few hundred more taken to the islands in the Bight. This was between 5 and 6 per cent of the total carried off from the Bight of Biafra in this period and, of course, a much smaller share again of the total traffic.” (Characteristics of captives leaving the Cameroons for the Americas, 1822-37, 2002, p.194)
It is well advised to remain cautious when exploring any genuine ancestral ties with Cameroon despite the country name labeling being applied by AncestryDNA. Historically speaking it is known that the participation of ethnic groups from Cameroon in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade was relatively quite minimal. According to estimates only about 5% of all the people being carried off from the Bight of Biafra (= eastern Nigeria + Cameroon). Although the true share might be somewhat obscured due to the fact that mainly slave ports nowadays located in eastern Nigeria were being used (such as Calabar). Rather than slave ports located on the Cameroonian coast (such as Bimbia) which was the least frequented part of the Bight of Biafra together with Gabon. Still even for (old) Calabar which is closest to the Cameroon border it is assumed that Igbo captives made up a clear majority and not people of modernday Cameroonian origin. As can be verified from charts 1 & 2 shown above. Furthermore (West-)Central African slave ports all combined are known to have exported even greater numbers than the most frequented ports (incl. Bonny) of Bight of Biafra (chart 2 only showing a subselection) as can be seen in map 1.
On the other hand it also seems quite conceivable that the genetic importance of Cameroon in DNA testing for Diasporans has been overstated because of a relative abundance of Cameroonian samples to be matched with (both uniparentally and in autosomal testing such as AncestryDNA). While other samples from especially non-Igbo groups within southeastern Nigeria but also from the Congo and Angola are relatively lacking. I will eventually do a follow-up blogpost on this topic.
We have to keep in mind that samples from two very diverse countries, Cameroon & Congo, have been joined together in one single region named “Cameroon/Congo” on AncestryDNA. By the manner it has been designed this socalled “Cameroon/Congo” region is most unfortunately describing ancestral connections to both Central Africa and the Bight of Biafra hinterland. As we can verify from actual Cameroonian and Congolese results, this socalled “Cameroon/Congo” region does indeed have a high prediction accuracy for both countries. However in addition it might also describe (Bantu) origins from other countries such as Angola, Zambia and even Madagascar! In theory therefore any of these places and also a combination of them might qualify as being the ancestral source for a socalled “Cameroon/Congo” score being reported for an Afro-Diasporan.
To complicate things even further also southeastern Nigerians tend to score substantial amounts for this region. Although on average the “Nigeria” region will still be primary for them. For 11 Igbo results in my survey (see this sheet for an overview) i have found a group average of almost 15% “Cameroon/Congo” and a maximum score of 34%. While for 1 single person from Cross River State (possibly Efik) “Cameroon/Congo” was as high as 35%, impressive but again still secondary. This might imply that a substantial degree of Igbo or related southeastern Nigerian ancestry would not only result in “Nigeria” amounts being inherited. But in addition could also have resulted in inherited DNA markers nowadays being described as “Cameroon/Congo” by AncestryDNA. Although given that sofar this region is only secondary for eastern Nigerians i would personally refrain from making such an assumption when the test results of an Afro-Diasporan show “Cameroon/Congo” in first place or with an amount >15%. A Central African explanation than seems to be most plausible. Even when a Cameroonian ancestral option might still also be taken into consideration when other supporting evidence exist (in particular DNA matches). For further reference see also:
- Nigerian AncestryDNA results
- Another Transatlantic Slave Port Uncovered. Dr Lisa Aubrey on Bimbia
- The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Cameroon Historic Diaspora
- Map of Bight of Biafra Slave Ports
- Ethnic Origins of Recaptives from Bight of Biafra, c. 1850
***Chart 3 (click to enlarge)
***Chart 4 (click to enlarge)
Seeking a proper context is always essential when trying to interpret your own personal “Cameroon/Congo” test results. Not only your unique family history will matter in this regard but also your nationality or even your provincial/regional origins within your home country. In order to provide more solid ground to determine the plausibility of various ancestral scenarios i have performed a search in the invaluable Slave Voyages Database. It should be pointed out though that only Trans Atlantic data is being included and not Inter-Colonial data so these charts are not intended to reflect the full picture. Especially English contraband slave trading was very significant for Latin America and to a lesser degree also Haiti. While for the USA especially Domestic Slave Trade from the Upper South looms large. For all countries obviously also Post-Slavery migrations should be taken into consideration (for more disclaimers see this page).
As can be seen in the above screenshots the relative importance of either Bight of Biafra (incl. Cameroon but only to a minor degree) or West Central Africa (mainly Congo & Angola) varies a lot for each particular destination within the Americas. And just to reiterate a credible Cameroon proportion of the total Bight of Biafra numbers has been estimated to be no more than 5%. Taking a less conservative stance this estimate might perhaps be increased to 10-15% but either way it will only be a minor share. As most historians believe that the Igbo’s formed a majority or atleast a plurality among Bight of Biafra captives. Hence it seems reasonable to assume that a Bight of Biafra connection will be described by AncestryDNA, primarily by reporting a hefty “Nigeria” score and quite likely also some minor “Benin/Togo” in addition to secondary “Cameroon/Congo” amounts.
Reviewing the charts above it seems generally speaking that only for Virginia and Jamaica a good case might be made to suspect an increased probability of genuine origins from Cameroon or southeastern Nigeria based on a socalled “Cameroon/Congo” score. In this light the socalled Moco or Moko people from the Anglo-Carribean Slave registers seem especially research worthy. This was a commonly used ethnic label to refer to captives from the borderlands of Nigeria/Cameroon. Often thought to refer to either the Efik or Ibibio but quite likely also including other ethnic groups. Also Puerto Rico and Cuba show quite balanced Biafra versus Central Africa proportions. And in fact there is also plentiful evidence of southeastern Nigerian (“Carabali”) and even Cameroonian presence in the Hispanic Caribbean.
In sharp contrast with the Virginia data it seems that generally speaking for South Carolina primarily Central African origins will be implied by “Cameroon/Congo”. And this goes even more so for Brazil and other parts of mainland Latin America. Interestingly Bahia does show a slight inclination to Bight of Biafra though compared with Southeast Brazil (Rio & Minas Gerais). The numbers for Haiti might be a bit skewed because a substantial Igbo/Biafran presence has been historically attested in slave registers as well as cultural retention. Still again a Central African interpretation for the socalled “Cameroon/Congo” region also seems unquestionable for Haitians in most cases. The Dominican case perhaps being most undecided because of the large degree of undocumented slave trade. To be sure the Central African documented presence is overwhelming and ubiquitous for practically all parts of the Americas, and in fact also for Jamaica and Virginia. For more details see:
- West Indian Slave Registers mentioning slave ethnicity such as Moco but also Eboe and Congo
- The Igbo Connection for Virginia & Virginia-Descendants
- Ethnic Origins of South Carolina Runaway Slaves
- Ethnic Origins of Liberated Africans in Cuba (incl. “Carabali Camaron”)
- The Abakuá institution: a Carabalí foundation in Cuban society
- Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora
- My Slave Ancestors: From Angola? (by Henry Louis Gates Jr)
***Chart 5 (click to enlarge)
The above chart is displaying the current findings of my ongoing cross-Diaspora survey of AncestryDNA results (see this page for a full overview). We can verify that sofar the socalled “Cameroon/Congo” region is most prevalent among Brazilians and Haitians. I have sofar also observed the highest maximum individual “Cameroon/Congo” scores for a Haitian and Brazilian (see the compilation picture in the opening section of this blog). Which is in line with expectations as Brazil and Haiti had a greater share of slave trade with Central Africa than the other countries being mentioned in the overview (see this page). The other “Cameroon/Congo” proportions are usually also closely related to the documented share of Central Africa in Slave Trade for each nationality. Even more so when combined with the “Southeastern Bantu” scores. For example for the USA, “Cameroon/Congo” and “Southeastern Bantu” combined would be 26,5% (20% + 6,5%). Which corresponds very nicely with an estimated share of Central Africa in the slave trade to the US of about 25% (see this chart). Eventhough due to limited samplesize this data is preliminary it is still also cross-sectional because it was collected from various parts of the Diaspora and also at random. Overall contributing to the robustness of the data. Therefore based on these findings i am inclined to say that indeed on average “Cameroon/Congo” will be more likely to signal Central African (incl. Congo & Angola) origins rather than Biafran (southeast Nigeria & Cameroon) ones. Although again context is everything and combined with additional supporting evidence a Biafran or even a strictly Cameroonian connection could still be feasible in many cases.
2) Southwestern Bantu ancestry much more likely than Southeastern Bantu ancestry
***Map 4 (click to enlarge)
***Chart 8 (click to enlarge)
HGDP database incl. Namibian samples (“Bantu S.W.”= Southwestern Bantu)
I will eventually provide a follow up to this section. I will then focus in greater detail on the implications for Afro-Diasporans looking into possible interpretations for their socalled “Southeastern Bantu” scores. Right now I will however already point out the following. Unless guided by wishful thinking or delusional ideology it is advisable to be very mindful of “false positives”. That is DNA results which on first sight seem to suggest East African origins to some degree. But on closer and more critical inspection they actually are referring to much widerranging origins, including Central & Southern Africa. Usually this occurs because of ambigious phrasing or inadequate sampling by DNA companies but it is also caused by incorrect interpretation and having insufficient knowledge about the relevant context as well as inherent limitations of DNA testing. Furthermore the widespread Bantu migrations across this greater part of Africa also tend to complicate things genetically speaking.
Various and at times mutually exclusive ancestral scenarios will be implied by AncestryDNA results. All depending on your own family history and especially the population history of the ethnic group you belong to. The socalled “Southeastern Bantu” regional score being reported for a Kenyan or a South African will trace back to an entirely different set of ancestors than for let’s say a Jamaican. Afterall also Southwestern Bantu origins, especially from Angola, might be referred to by this socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region. As can be seen in the map above and also the fact that this region is most likely based on Bantu speaking samples from not only Kenya and South Africa but also Namibia, which is a neighbouring country for Angola! This can be verified from the overview of the HGDP database (chart 8) which according to Ancestry’s own information was utilized for their reference panel (see AncestryDNA Regions for sources).
In order to improve the interpretation of the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region it is indeed crucial to be aware that this region is based on HGDP samples from Kenya (unspecified Bantu), South Africa (Pedi, Sotho, Tswana and Zulu) and Namibia (Herero, Ovambo). Obviously for South Africans a genetic similarity to the South African samples will apply just as for East Africans a genetic similarity to the Kenyan samples will apply. However for Afro-Diasporans in the Americas any socalled “Southeastern Bantu” score will in most cases be the result of genetic similarity to the Namibian samples used by AncestryDNA. Namibia being a neighbouring country to Angola, which together with the Congo has been a significant region of provenance for practically all Afro-Diasporans in the Americas. See charts 9-11 below.
While Southeast Africa, in particular Mozambique, did indeed function as a source for Trans-Atlantic Slave trade as well, the numbers involved are much more reduced. And for East African countries further up north (the socalled “Swahili Coast”) barely any documented evidence seems to exist1. Proportionally speaking Southeast Africa represents less than 5% of the total slave trade for practically all of the Americas, safe for Brazil (still less than 10%). While for the USA it was even less than 2%. The proportional share of Central Africa in Trans Atlantic Slave Trade is estimated to have been 8 up to 15 times greater than for Southeast Africa! As can be seen in the following charts taken from the Slavevoyages Database.
***Chart 9 (click to enlarge)
***Chart 10 (click to enlarge)
***Chart 11 (click to enlarge)
Another strong indication of southwestern rather than southeastern Bantu origins being prevalent for Diasporans (in the Americas) has been established during my ongoing survey of AncestryDNA results among Afro-descended nationalities (see this page for a full overview). In which sofar socalled “Southeastern Bantu” reaches its highest group average among Brazilians followed by the Mexicans. Both countries having an undeniably well attested historical connection with Angola! Also for other Latin Americans rather elevated group averages are arising. For American Americans the “Southeast Bantu” region is showing up more pronounced than for Jamaicans on average. Which is in line with general slave trade statistics. And again it’s very likely referring to more than just strictly Southeast African origins. Mozambican and Madagascar ancestry remain theoretical possibilities but more remotely so based on slave trade statistics (see charts above). When combined with additional evidence the Madagascar options may be made more plausible though.
As Angola doesn’t have its own separate region yet on AncestryDNA (despite probably being the greatest source of African slaves to the Americas as a whole) it is very likely that most of Angolan ancestry will be described by socalled “Southeastern Bantu” in combination with “Cameroon/Congo”. Undoubtedly given that only 18 samples were used by AncestryDNA there is much room for improving the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” category. Obviously adding samples from Mozambique and Angola will provide a much better picture.
***Chart 12 (click to enlarge)
It is good to keep all of the above in mind as the DNA testing science is still in full development and personal DNA-test results will be imperfect and preliminary. Any outcomes seemingly suggestive of non-conventional African ancestry among Afro-Diasporans should therefore be evaluated critically in order to rule out any false positives. See below claims of Kenyan ancestry by an African American politician and how they were received by Kenyans. Rather similarly to the claims of Zulu ancestry by Oprah Winfrey:
- Another US president from Kenya? Ben Carson claims Kenyan roots
- My ancestor was a Turkana, says US presidential candidate Ben Carson
- Dr. BEN CARSON caught red-handed lying about his Kenyan roots
- Go away, you are a political CONMAN” TURKANA elders disown Ben Carson
- Is Oprah Zulu? Sampling and Seeming Certainty in DNA Ancestry Testing
- Oprah’s baffling claim of Zulu blood
- Based on the records available in the standard reference database of the Slave Voyages website this East African share in Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade might be less than 0.1% (=6324/6709327). Comparing the total number (6,324) of disembarked captives for Kilwa, Zanzibar and Mombasa, all Swahili ports to the north of Mozambique, with the total number of disembarked captives from Southeast Africa (308,775, overwhelmingly from Mozambican ports with main destination being Brazil) and all of Africa (6,709,327). Naturally all of this is according to what has been documented and excluding voyages with unknown itineraries.
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