“Ivory Coast/Ghana” also describes Liberian DNA

I have created a new page featuring the AncestryDNA results for West Africans from the following countries: Liberia, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo & Benin. I will create a new section for the remaining part of West Africa (Upper Guinea) shortly. The number of results I have collected so far might be minimal but already my survey findings turn out to be quite insightful. I also provide some statistical data, analysis and relevant context. Follow this link to view the page:

In addition I also discuss the implications these findings might have for Afro-Diasporans in an attempt to improve proper interpretation of their West African regional scores, in particular for “Ivory Coast/Ghana” and “Benin/Togo”. One of these implications I will also discuss in greater detail in this blog post:

“Ivory Coast/Ghana” is also predictive of Liberian & Sierra Leonean DNA

The socalled “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region is indeed quite predictive of both Ghanaian and Ivorian origins. However in addition ancestry from Liberia and to a lesser degree (southern) Sierra Leone might also be described by this region. You will need to perform your own follow-up research in order to find out more specifics.

Map 1 (click to enlarge)

IvcGhana region

Source: ancestry.com. (text in red added by myself)

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Chart 1 (click to enlarge) 

Stats (GH=22)

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How to make more sense of “Ivory Coast/Ghana” scores

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IvcGH (4x)

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Performing follow-up research based on your AncestryDNA score for the so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region might very well enhance your understanding of the actual ancestors who passed on this part of your DNA. In some cases it might even help you pinpoint specific ethnic lineage! However as always it pays to be careful and not jump to conclusions, lest you may misidentify any of your ancestors. Below I will just describe a schematic approach. Intended in the first place for people with substantial amounts of “Ivory Coast/Ghana”.1 Naturally other approaches can be fruitful as well.

Some considerations

  • Realize that any so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” % can also be indicative of either Liberian or Sierra Leonean DNA (among other less likely possibilities which I will exclude for now because of decreased odds)2.
  • Realize that your “Ivory Coast/Ghana” amount is likely to be traced back to numerous family lines and not just one (unless you happen to have relatively recent West African ancestry). Just as an example: a 25% score “Ivory Coast/Ghana” for a typical Jamaican might be due to the genetic contributions of inbetween 15 to 50 different African-born ancestors. On average the DNA contribution of an ancestor living in the mid 1700’s could be around 0.5%-1.5%. See also:
  • Realize that therefore your “Ivory Coast/Ghana” score could include ancestors from various countries, all at the same time. For example a 25% score “Ivory Coast/Ghana” for a typical African American might be traced back to 10 ancestors from Ghana, 5 ancestors from Liberia and 5 ancestors from Sierra Leone.

Action plan:

  • Build up your family tree and attempt to trace back to your earliest known ancestral location in the Americas for all lines. The so-called “migrations” (a.k.a. genetic communities) you have been assigned to by AncestryDNA will usually be quite indicative in this regard! For example for African Americans it might be truly worthwhile to know if most of their ancestry is to be traced back to either Virginia or South Carolina. For West Indians it will be useful to know if there has been any inter-island migration within their family tree.
  • Research the documented slave trade patterns for these earliest known ancestral locations. This will give you an approximate idea of the odds involved with having for example either Liberian or Ghanaian ancestry. It’s advisable to also study all other relevant aspects of local history (incl. possibly African retention) associated with these earliest known ancestral locations in the Americas. See also:
  • Perform a full scan of your DNA matches and filter them for 100% African profiles. Determine if there are any matches among them from Ghana, Liberia Ivory Coast or Sierra Leone. Be sure to also check if “Ivory Coast/Ghana” is being reported for them as a main region.Provided they are genuine IBD matches this could directly inform you if you happen to have any lineage from Liberia, Ghana etc.. However many reservations are to be taken into consideration! Firstly your MRCA might not be of the same background as your match. Also be aware that these matches will give you an indication of only one single family line. Furthermore realize that certain West African nationalities (Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo) are underrepresented among Ancestry’s customer database, while others might be fairly well represented (Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria). Stacking the odds in favour of receiving matches from those last countries. Which however may not per se be in line with their overall proportional contribution to your DNA. Moreover absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!
  • Try fitting your West African matches into your family tree. This will be very tricky given scanty information and will also require a lot of patience. But it might still be worthwhile for eventually zooming in closer to your West African origins along a certain family line or even actually identifying a West African ancestor! Breaking down those brick walls based on paper trails! Having either your parents or other close family members also DNA tested will of course be greatly helpful. Especially if they share the same West African matches with you. However any shared matches for your West African match might do the trick I suppose. As long as you can figure out how these shared matches are to be placed in your family tree. More advanced techniques such as triangulation and DNA painting might also open up promising avenues.

“Ivory Coast/Ghana” across West Africa & the Diaspora (sorted) 

Chart 2 (click to enlarge)

Diaspora Comp. (IvCGhana)

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Chart 3 (click to enlarge)

TAST - Gold Coast highlight (%)

Source: TAST Database (2018). Follow this link for underlying numbers.

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Chart 2 is displaying the current findings of my ongoing survey of both Afro-Diaspora as well as West African AncestryDNA results (see this page for a full overview). Even though due to limited sample-size this data is preliminary it is still also cross-sectional because it was collected at random from various parts of the Diaspora and also within West Africa. Overall contributing to the robustness of the data. Chart 3 is taken from the Trans Atlantic Slave Voyages Database and features the proportional shares of each African slave trade region for selected parts of the Diaspora.4 The share of the so-called Gold Coast being highlighted, this would conform to the coastline of modernday Ghana. See also this map.

We can establish that so far the so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region is most prevalent among first Liberians, followed by Ghanaians and Ivorians. Also take note that as expected among other West Africans it is most subdued for Beninese and Nigerians. Given my discussion of West African results (see this link, section 3) this outcome can be considered as roughly corroborating the prediction accuracy of the “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region among West Africans themselves.

In regards to the Afro-Diaspora we can observe how so far “Ivory Coast/Ghana” is peaking for Anglo-Caribbeans while it is most subdued for Brazilians, Cape Verdeans and Mexicans. This conforms with what we know already about slave trade patterns. The Gold Coast being heavily visited by especially English slave traders but also Dutch ones (see chart 3). The Gold Coast Diaspora arguably being the greatest in the West Indies. While Upper Guinea and Central Africa are overwhelmingly the most important areas of provenance for Cape Verdeans, Mexicans and Brazilians. So again this would seem to be corroborating the prediction accuracy of the “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region.

It’s interesting to ponder about a finer-grained composition of these “Ivory Coast/Ghana” scores (distinguishing between genuine Ghanaian origins versus Liberian origins etc.) for Jamaicans, Barbadians and Guyanese. We should then naturally also take into consideration the slave trade records for Windward Coast and Sierra Leone. While furthermore keeping in mind that Guyana was supplied with African captives also by the Dutch as after all Guyana used to be a Dutch colony, just like Surinam. From such a perspective it seems that so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” might entail the most varied origins for Guyana (as well as Surinam) and a follow-up research into possible Liberian, Ivorian or Sierra Leonean origins could potentially be most beneficial for them.

Also noteworthy how “Ivory Coast/Ghana” shows up more strongly for Haitians than might have been expected based on documented slave trade records: 15,1% “Ivory Coast/Ghana” versus 4.6% Gold Coast (Haiti is referred to as Saint Domingue in chart 3). This outcome is most likely to be explained by undocumented contraband slave trade by the English into Haiti by way of either Jamaica or Barbados. However otherwise also genetic ties due to slave trade with both Sierra Leone and the Windward Coast will be reflected. Also including actual Ivory Coast connections (Cap Lahou)! See also:

This factor of largely undocumented slave trade is even more valid for the Hispanic Caribbean which also received captives by way of French, Dutch and Danish contraband traders. And in addition we should probably also take into account post-colonial migrations by English speaking West Indians into Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Making for a rather convoluted situation which thanks to genetics is now however becoming more clearer. I suspect that for Hispanic Caribbeans with a relatively larger total amount of African DNA (>50%) also an increased relative share of “Ivory Coast/Ghana” might be observed. Especially for Puerto Ricans. In line perhaps with more recent African origins (1700’s/1800’s versus 1500’s/1600’s). I will devote a separate blog post to this topic eventually.

The data for the USA is somewhat intermediate in all of this. However it is striking how the estimated slave trade from Gold Coast (9-13%) into the US is lower than their group average for “Ivory Coast/Ghana” (19.6%). Inter-colonial slave trade by way of the West Indies might provide one part of the explanation. But we can be practically sure that also the genetic contributions of the Windward Coast and Sierra Leone are having their impact in so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” scores for African Americans. Especially for those with strong South Carolina connections. I will explore this in greater detail in the next paragraph.

Relative %’s slave trade from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast & Ghana 

Chart 4 (click to enlarge)

TAST - Ghana vs Liberia vs Salone (perc)

Source: TAST Database (2018). Follow this link for underlying numbers.

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Map 2 (click to enlarge)

TAST - USA - countries of origin (percentages)

Source: TAST Database. Follow this link for underlying numbers.

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Seeking a proper context is always essential when trying to interpret your own personal “Ivory Coast/Ghana” test results. Not only your unique family history will matter in this regard but also your nationality or even your provincial/state origins within your home country. Especially your earliest known ancestral locations in the Americas might be very indicative as discussed above. In order to provide more solid ground when seeking to determine the plausibility of various ancestral scenarios I have performed a customized search in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade (TAST) Database.4

Chart 4 features the relative shares of slave trade originating with the regions of “Sierra Leone” (also includes Guinea!), “Windward Coast” (includes both Liberia & Ivory Coast) and “Gold Coast” (Ghana). Take note that it adds up to 100% along the row! In order to focus solely on the slave trade within this area I have left out all other slave trade regions from the equation. Map 2 is also based on TAST Database with its estimates of 388,747 captives being disembarked in North America. Very useful because it is providing more detail beyond the traditional slave trade regions. Take note for example how the so-called “Sierra Leone” slave trade region is now split up between the modern-day countries of Guinea & Sierra Leone (based on embarkation port details, see this overview). The same goes for the Windward Coast information which is now split up between Liberia and Ivory Coast. Even when similar to the AncestryDNA regions these modernday country origins are not to be taken too literally 😉 Inland slave trade routes could very well cross borders after all.

As can be seen in chart 4 the relative importance of either Sierra Leone (incl. Guinea), Windward Coast (Liberia & Ivory Coast) or Gold Coast (Ghana) varies a lot for each particular destination within the Americas. However it seems that for most destinations in the Americas slave trade by way of the Gold Coast was prevalent. Therefore so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” amounts reported for Afro-descendants from those places are likely then to be first-most referring to Ghanaian ancestry. Even when my survey findings are demonstrating that Ghanaian DNA is not exclusively described by “Ivory Coast/Ghana”. But also by “Benin/Togo” and to a lesser degree “Mali” as well.

Generally speaking these proportional shares (again they add up to 100% and exclude slave trade from other regions!) do make a lot of sense, given not only known slave trade patterns but also cultural retention. For example the primary share of 64,7% “Sierra Leone” for Cuba would be correlating with the frequently mentioned so-called Ganga or Canga presence, a slave ethnonym for captives brought in from Sierra Leone and northern Liberia. See also:

The Windward Coast has its highest relative share for the Dutch Guianas (Surinam and Guyana). It is very likely to be an underestimate even as I left out slave voyages which covered several embarkation regions at the same time (“Other Africa”). This outcome is in line with recent research revealing the great significance of not only Liberia but also Ivory Coast as a potential ancestral location for Afro-descendants in these formerly Dutch colonies. Quite unique when compared with the rest of the Afro-Diaspora! See also:

The proportional share of the Gold Coast is perhaps surprisingly peaking for Pernambuco in Brazil, with no less than 100%. But basically this just says that documented slave trade from either Sierra Leone or Windward Coast was nonexistent. This is to be explained by again Dutch slave trade patterns from their Elmina  headquarters in Ghana during its brief occupation of Northeast Brazil (1630-1654). In absolute numbers and compared to other embarkation regions this Gold Coast share is quite minor for Pernambuco even when still noticeably higher than for other Brazilian regions (see this overview). Otherwise it’s Jamaica and Barbados with the highest Gold Coast proportional shares. This is pretty much as expected as it conforms with the oft mentioned Ghana connection for the Anglo-Caribbean. Nonetheless the minor shares of Windward and Sierra Leone may still be conflated also in the “Ivory Coast/Ghana” scores for Barbadians, Jamaicans etc. See also:

Focusing only on the USA data again a varied picture is showing up. Which can be quite useful when interpreted correctly. The likelyhood of genuine Ivory Coast origins seems minuscule for African Americans. Taking a cue from map 2 the ranking for the USA as a whole would be as follows (take note this time the proportional shares are reflecting the entire slave trade from Africa):

  • Ghana: 14.46% (56,200)
  • Sierra Leone: 7.1% (27,600) (Guinea is mentioned separately with 4.45% / 17,300)
  • Liberia: 5.56% (21,600)
  • Ivory Coast: 0.05% (200)

However otherwise it’s quite apparent that the so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region as reported for African Americans is due to not only Ghanaian ancesty but also Liberian origins as well as (southern) Sierra Leonean ancestry. Reviewing chart 4 again it seems that especially South Carolina might have an increased probability for non-Ghanaian lineage being behind so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” amounts. Its Gold Coast share being one of the lowest (36.6%), while its Sierra Leone share is one of the highest (41.6%). But also for Virginia in fact the shares for Windward Coast and Sierra Leone are quite pronounced when compared with other parts of the Afro-Diaspora. Combined they are nearly equal to the Gold Coast share of 56.3%.

As always there are several reservations to keep in mind though. First of all the Sierra Leone data could also be reflecting origins from northern Sierra Leone (Temne, Sherbro etc.) as well as Guinea (chart 4). I have not yet seen many AncestryDNA results from Atlantic-Mel speaking Sierra Leoneans but I suspect that unlike the Mende from southern Sierra Leone they will be primarily described in terms of “Senegal” and “Mali” rather than “Ivory Coast/Ghana”. Furthermore there is also the influence of  inter-colonial slave trade by way of the West Indies which is likely to have been more so in favour of the Gold Coast. Another aspect to take into consideration is the time period these captives arrived. Those transplanted West Indian captives as well as early arrivals (1650-1750) in Virginia (where Gold Coast trumps Windward Coast & Sierra Leone) might very well have had a head start of several generations in producing offspring when compared with relatively late arrivals (1750-1850) in South Carolina. Many of their descendants eventually getting scattered across the Deep South due to Domestic Slave Trade. See also:

Personally I have a hunch that the breakdown for Virginia (even though less in numbers) might be more representative for the average African American than the South Carolina breakdown. But all in all I suspect that there’s not a dramatic difference between the likelihood of “Ivory/Coast/Ghana” denoting either Liberian or Sierra Leonean origins rather than Ghanaian ones for African Americans. I’m guessing the odds pretty much even out. The best way to get more certainty is finding any locally born matches from these countries. Even when actually they will (usually) only represent one single family line, which might imply a DNA contribution of about 1% on average.

Interestingly I have had the opportunity to look through the DNA matches of several Liberians already. And I was amazed by the number of not only African American matches but also matches across the Caribbean and Hispanic Americas. The total number of these matches are actually quite comparable to the DNA matches I have seen reported for Ghanaians. I intend to blog about this in greater detail in the near future. Of course when receiving a Sierra Leonean or Liberian match you will still have to be very careful and check whether they do not have any partial Krio or Americo-Liberian ancestry. Because in that case the ancestral connection might actually be reversed! And your MRCA could even be African American! Both Liberia and Sierra Leone having received freed ex-slaves from the US and the West Indies as settlers. See also:

Just as a final reminder it should be kept in mind that the actual amounts being reported for the so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” regional components are first-most a measurement of the genetic similarity to most likely Akan (Brong) samples from Ghana and possibly in addition Kru samples as well as perhaps south Mandé samples from Ivory Coast (see section 3 & 5 of my discussion of West African results).  However it will by default only be a rough estimate as more fitting sample groups to compare with may very well be missing within Ancestry’s current Reference Panel.

Follow-up research to make more sense of these rough estimates is therefore required. Even when in itself AncestryDNA’s regional breakdown is already quite insightful and also in line with what you might expect given West African genetics and the documented origins of the Afro-Diaspora based on slave trade records. Still one is left to wonder how might an updated and expanded configuration of Ancestry’s reference panel lead to improvement?  Firstly a careful selection of relevant reference populations to be added would seem prudent. Especially the inclusion of Gur samples from Burkina Faso might result in sharper regional delineation. Furthermore I suppose replacing the current “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region with three separate and properly labeled regions to describe and measure genetic affiliations with either Kru, Akan or southern Mandé samples could also be beneficial.

 

Example: results for a woman from Antigua

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ANT

Total African: 88%. Incl. trace regions of 7% “Cameroon/Congo”; 5% “Senegal”; 3% “Southeastern Bantu”; 2% “Nigeria”; <1% “Mali”; <1% “SC Hunter-Gatherers”.

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I will now proceed with applying some of the general guidelines from my action plan on the results of a woman from Antigua who kindly gave her permission for me to do so. Her 51% “Ivory Coast/Ghana” score, as shown above, is very impressive and one of the highest such scores I have observed for West Indians. Representing more than half of the African breakdown! Although it’s still quite typical as for many West Indians this region comes out as the biggest one. See also:

I will try to focus on outlining some potentially useful avenues of follow-up research based on her astounding 51% “Ivory Coast/Ghana” score as well as her background as an Antiguan. I would like to stress that it would be foolish to pretend there are any one-size-fits-all answers. Despite commonalities the various parts of the Afro-Diaspora are also characterized by a great degree of unique & localized aspects. Which according to your background will impact your own research. There are however many strategies which may not per se lead to pinpointing your own Juffure(s) 😉 but at the very least will increase your awareness of ancestral locations and distant relatives within Africa.

Naturally we all might have our own priorities or preferences when searching for our African roots. But if you want your research to be all encompassing you will want to rely on the complementarity of your various findings. Afro-Diasporans cannot afford to be snobbish about the imperfections of admixture analysis. Basically we will want to maximize all the informational value we can obtain. Taking any promising lead we can get and combine with other clues. Seeing the glass as half full and not half empty. Rather than be overcritical and risk loosing out on helpful information, even when only approximate or incomplete. Your admixture results will always be relevant to put things in perspective. If only to be able to (roughly) distinguish between major sources of ancestral origins versus minor lineage.

 

1) Trace back to your earliest known ancestral location in the Americas 

  • This woman from Antigua already knows that one of her grandparents was actually born in Saint Kitts. Despite all other grandparents being Antiguan-born this does illustrate the widespread occurrence of inter-island migrations across the West Indies, both during and after Slavery. It pays to be aware of this circumstance.
  • Her “migration” or genetic community on Ancestry is “African Caribbeans”. This is as expected and in line with her background. Even when not a perfect measure I find this tool to be pretty accurate for indicating ancestry from within the last 5 or 6 generations. The absence of any other migration might also be seen as an indication (not conclusive though!).

2) Research the documented slave trade patterns for these earliest known ancestral locations

  • In earlier blog posts I have already explored the documented slave trade patterns for both Antigua and Saint Kitts. We can verify from the charts below that slave trade from the Gold Coast was indeed significant but also in fact from the Windward Coast! If you also add in the proportional share for Sierra Leone the odds become quite even actually. And one should be very careful in automatically assuming that “Ivory Coast/Ghana” will only refer to Ghanaian origins. Because in reality the chances of additional Liberian and (southern) Sierra Leonean origins are quite big as well. For more details see:

Chart 5 (click to enlarge)

Clipboard01

Source: TAST Database (2015).

 

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Chart 6 (click to enlarge)

ST Kitts, Antigua, Nevis, Barbados (percentage regions)

Source: TAST Database (2018). Follow this link for underlying numbers.

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  • Obviously given the possibility of contraband trade (also by pirates!) and inter-colonial slave trade this data is only to be seen as indicative! Still it could very well be covering the greater part of African “migrations” into Antigua. Safe for the earliest time period in the 1600’s when Barbados probably acted as the biggest source of imported captives. But during the 1700’s both islands were likewise functioning more as redistribution points of African captives who came in by way of Trans-Atlantic routes and were shipped on to other destinations by way of inter-colonial trade. For a very informative and well researched source see:

 

3) Perform a full scan of your DNA matches and filter them for 100% African profiles

Chart 7 (click to enlarge)

DNA matches ANT

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  • Chart 7 shows the overview I obtained after first scanning and then filtering all of the DNA matches for this Antiguan woman in excel (see this tutorial). I took a conservative approach in order to rule out false positives. Therefore I only left in matches with not only plausible ethnic regions but also featuring plausible (African) family names and other corroborative profile details. Based on that selection I believe she has at least 14 African matches. Even when only contacting those matches might provide conclusive confirmation of their background.
  • The likely background column is mostly just an educated guess on my part. Only for one match from Ghana and also one from Liberia I could verify by way of public family tree details (marked with *). However I am quite confident based on other clues (especially surnames) that possibly 5 of her African matches are from Ghana but furthermore she also seems to have 4 Liberian matches! Suggesting that not only Ghanaian but also Liberian ancestors passed on that very sizeable part of her DNA, labeled “Ivory Coast/Ghana’ by AncestryDNA.
  • This outcome is a perfect illustration for the main theme of my West African survey findings! In that so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” aside from being quite predictive of especially Akan lineage from Ghana can also be very predictive of Liberian lineage. As most Liberians in my survey tend to receive “Ivory Coast/Ghana” scores higher than 80%. For people from the Diaspora of course one thing doesn’t rule out the other as both lineages can be combined in one person.
  • In addition possibly 5 matches appear to be from Nigeria. Which is quite amazing given that only  2% “Nigeria”  was reported for this person from Antigua! I suspect however that her 19% socalled “Benin/Togo” might actually also be inherited (in part) by Nigerian ancestors. After all despite the labeling “Benin/Togo” is quite commonly reported for southern Nigerians taking the AncestryDNA test. In fact one of her possibly Nigerian matches has this region in first place! See also:

4) Try fitting your West African matches into your family tree. 

  • This woman from Antigua has already done thorough family tree research. Including on slave owners which can also provide valuable clues. She is very fortunate in having a family tradition by way of her great-grandmother mentioning Asante ancestry. In fact atleast one of her Ghanaian matches appear to be of Asante descent. Also it’s striking that the shared segment size is biggest for her Ghanaian matches, indicative of more recent connections!
  • Another very promising lead may be forthcoming from the fact that some of her family members belonged to the Moravian Church. In a previous blog post of mine I already pointed out how very precious information about the African origins of Antiguans was documented by the Moravian Church. Going back to the mid- 1700’s even, which is quite unique! For 2,914 persons, specific Afican origins or birthplaces were recorded in between 1755-1833 (see this overview). Most relevant ethnonyms would be the Coromantee from the Gold Coast / Ghana (390x) and the Kanga’s from the Windward Coast / Liberia (241x). For more details see:
  • For Saint Kitts another very useful source of documented African origins exists. The Slave Register of 1817 mentions  2,886 African-born persons with specific birthplaces or ethnonyms. This is a relatively late resource and must be seen as a snapshot. Not covering the African origins of the greater majority people who were labeled as Creole , a.k.a. locally born. Still very intriguing that the number of Gold Coast origins is quite low (69x) while the Windward Coast origins are very well represented (140x). For more details see:
  • Generally speaking I suppose that getting close relatives tested would be very helpful in finding out where any of her African matches are to be placed in this womans’ family tree. But given that Antigua is an island with a relatively small and closely inter-related population, I suppose zooming into shared African matches with fellow Antiguans could also be very beneficial. This last step of my action plan to make more sense of “Ivory Coast/Ghana” scores is most daunting but certainly not impossible! I have no personal experience with this kind of research but I suppose it will involve tracing back to atleast the early 1800’s to feed into the extraordinary sources I mentioned directly above. For other helpful links:

 

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Notes

1. I will be working under the assumption that these “Ivory Coast/Ghana” scores are reported as main region and also with a considerable relative share within the complete African breakdown. Arguably the main regions appearing in your results might be more deserving of your research efforts. Your research results might then be more fruitful and covering a wider span of your ancestral make-up. As after all the regions with the biggest amounts can be deemed to be more solidly based on your most important regional origins (even when taken as mere proxies).

Therefore any reporting of “Ivory Coast/Ghana” as mere trace region with low confidence will be left out of consideration. As the labeling already implies in such cases you are dealing with an increased possibility of a false positive or misreading of your DNA.  Depending on the particulars actually such scores might still have informational value. But the array of ancestral possibilities simply becomes too broad for any meaningful discussion on this page.

2. As my ongoing survey is demonstrating and also in accordance with Ancestry’s own information, so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” may be reported as a main region (above trace level) for people as far north as Senegal and as far east as Nigeria. However on average these scores are likely to be subdued and minor unlike the primary and even predominant amounts reported for Liberia and (southern) Sierra Leone. It’s reasonable to assume that generally speaking such small DNA amounts will hardly be detectable for Afro-descendants after many generations of genetic recombination and dilution. Especially when only taking into consideration Afro-Diasporans with substantial amounts of  “Ivory Coast/Ghana”.

This is however pending on any forthcoming update of my survey findings for Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali. Regrettably I hardly have any results from these countries right now. But it might be expected that the group averages for the so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region in these countries might still turn out to be considerably high. For an intriguing alternative ancestral scenario of northern Ghanaian (Gur speaking) origins:

“Set in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the book tells the story of Ama. a girl from what is now northern Ghana who is kidnapped by a Dagomba raiding party and taken to the Asante capital of Kumasi, then to Elmina Castle on the coast and, eventually, to a slave plantation in Brazil.”

3. Ideally you would want to verify if the shared DNA segment with your West African matches is also showing up as “Ivory Coast/Ghana”. Because that way you could have more certainty that these matches will indeed relate to your own “Ivory Coast/Ghana” amount. Regrettably this potentially very useful information is not available because Ancestry so far has not implemented a chromosome browser. See also:

4. It should be pointed out that only Trans Atlantic slave voyages are being included in charts 3, 4, 5 and 6 as well as map 2. And not Inter-Colonial slave voyages! So this slave trade data is not intended to reflect the full picture. For example largely undocumented English contraband slave trading was very significant for the Hispanic Americas and to a lesser degree also Haiti (“Saint Domingue”). While for the USA especially Domestic Slave Trade from the Upper South looms large. In order to avoid any potentially misleading information I have therefore left out the highly incomplete data for the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Louisiana. As it is least likely that their African origins will be reasonably well represented by the TAST database. For all places mentioned obviously also post-Slavery migrations should be taken into consideration (for more disclaimers see this page).

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8 thoughts on ““Ivory Coast/Ghana” also describes Liberian DNA

  1. WOW! Thanks for this blessing! I’m going to share this with as many Antiguan’s as possible! You have offered so much food for thought and so many ways to begin the journey this will help many of us find our pasts and continue to build our futures secure in the knowledge of SELF!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an EXCELLENT blog and a very insightful analysis. Another added value are oral historical traditions. The Akan consistently state that they (at least sections of them) migrated from the Niger bend near or around Timbuktu. And prior to that, they inhabited a region in the vacinity of the Fezzan. The Mali cluster that shows up more than often in Akan trace regions seems to correlate with the oral traditions (see Eva Meyerowitz works on the Akan). Additionally, the Akan also employed Mande scribes (Muslims) in their courts to record important state proceedings long before the adoption of European writing systems.

    Finally, in regards to the Mande speakers, Hans Murakovsky authored an excellent work entitled Mande-Chadic common stock: a study of phological and lexicon evidence. Murakovsky proposes that the Mande and Chadic branch of the Afroasiatic languages derived from a common linguistic origin. As a sidebar, I’ve always had a gut feeling that the Western academia pusch to emphaize “Niger-Congo” over “Niger-Kordofanian” was the final straw to disassociate from probable common origin of the “Niger-Kordofanian” and “Nilo-Saharan” phyla.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks a lot for the continued support my brother! The so-called “Mali” scores among Ghanaians are very intriguing indeed. Even when my sample size is very minimal I suspect that Gur-speaking Ghanaians from the north will eventually show the highest group averages. Afterall AncestryDNA’s Reference Panel does not yet have a separate region/cluster reserved for Burkina Faso or Gur/Senoufo speakers.

      In regards to the Akan I also find their “Mali” scores very fascinating given their oral traditions you referred to. On the West African page I wrote this about it:

      Given the oft-mentioned traditions linking Ghana and especially the Akan to Sahelian origins, it might be surprising that the “Mali” region is not showing up more strongly among their results. However several modern researchers nowadays tend to assume these traditions are merely deriving from Akan elite connections with Mandé gold traders. Not to be generalized for the entire population which may have been native and living as (yam) farmers within current-day Ghana for a very long timespan already based on archaeological findings

      Ethnic Politics and the Relocation of Ghana, Benin, and Mauritania (GeoCurrents, 2011)
      Les Akan: peuples et civilisations (K.R. Allou, 2015)
      ROOTS.NL (S1E2) – Searching for Gold (Tracing African Roots, 2017)
      The Akan Diaspora in the Americas (Ch. 2) ((K. Konadu, 2010)
      Toward a New Understanding of Akan Origins (A. Klein, 1996)

      Thanks for the referral to Hans Murakovsky’s work! This topic has always been of interest to me as I am intrigued by any possible Nilo-Saharan migrations into West Africa in former times. Eventhough linguistic categorization of Africa’s languages is naturally a project in progress I find it very interesting how Mandé languages are increasingly seen as a language family on its own.

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  3. I recently found a DNA match from Sierra Leone and Judging by the Surnames on her family Tree she is mostly likely a Temne. I also Noticed her largest DNA region was Senegal followed by Ivory Coast/Ghana!

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    • Congratulation on the match! I have only seen a few possibly Temne results sofar. And indeed it seems that “Senegal” will be more pronounced for them than “Ivory Coast/Ghana” , on average. Unlike the Mende from southern Sierra Leone. Aside from just reflecting geography I suspect that also their ethnlinguistic backgrounds (Atlantic/Mel versus southern Mandé) may play a role in these preliminary trends.

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  4. i am wandering if african americans will show more matches to mel speakers or to akan or if people from south carolina and georgia are more mel than akan. I’m really curious what determines the differences between african americans and other Anglophone afrodiasporans

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    • Yes me too! I think my ongoing survey results displayed in chart 2, are already indicative of some of the differences. On average both Barbadians (31.5%) and Jamaicans (24.7%) tend to score higher for “Ivory Coast/Ghana” than African Americans (19.6%). Eventhough based on limited sample size this outcome already roughly corresponds with known slave trade patterns (chart 3).

      The next step is finding out how much of these scores are to be traced back to Ghana itself (Akan, Ga etc.), or either Liberia (Kru, Kpelle etc.) or Sierra Leone (Mende, Temne etc.). Again on average of course. Chart 4 could already be quite predictive of the main trends. But I suppose future improvements of admixture analysis as well as systematic research into the African DNA matches being reported for either African Americans or Anglo-Caribbeans might provide more detailed answers. I intend to eventually blog about these African DNA matches patterns based on my own findings.

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