In the last couple of years 23andme has implemented several updates. Often beneficial for Tracing African Roots! Starting with the introduction of a new African regional framework in 2018. Finally providing a meaningful breakdown of West & Central African ancestry! Soon afterwards I started a survey of 23andme results among Africans as well as African Americans and other Afro-descended nationalities.1 Similar to my previous Ancestry surveys my main research goal has always been to establish how much these results on an aggregated group level can already (despite limitations of sample size and other shortcomings) be correlated with whatever is known about the documented regional African roots for each nationality. As well as to improve correct interpretation of personal results.
Two years ago in February 2019 I published the first part of my examination of 23andme’s African breakdown. Which was based on my surveyfindings for 173 African 23andme testers from 31 countries (see this blog post). My 23andme survey has been ongoing till 23andme’s update in October 2019.2 Because of other projects I have not been able to process my entire data-set earlier. But in this blog post I will at last present my main 23andme survey findings based on 889 results from 28 different countries across the Afro-Diaspora! Actually I have already analyzed these results in greater detail (incl. screenshots of individual results) on these pages:
- African American 23andme results
- Brazilian 23andme results
- Cape Verdean 23andme results
- Dominican 23andme results
- Haitian 23andme results
- Hispanic 23andme results
- Jamaican 23andme results
- Puerto Rican 23andme results
- West Indian 23andme results
Figure 1 (click to enlarge)
To summarize: I do indeed believe that 23andme’s African breakdown has passed the test! Although obviously there are several shortcomings to take into account. Based on both my African and Afro-Diasporan surveyfindings I find it quite impressive though that 23andme is often able to describe a person’s African origins in a meaningful regional framework. Which will usually quite closely correspond with either known genealogy or historical plausibility. The additional non-African scores and Recent Ancestral Locations actually reinforcing the robustness of 23andme’s predictions. In the remaining part of this blog post I will discuss the following:
- African Breakdown
- Main outcomes
- Upper Guinean Founding Effect for Hispanic Americans
- Virginia’s African roots most impactful on African American overall genepool?
- Meaningful differentiation between Anglo-Caribbeans, Dutch Caribbeans and Garifuna
- Frequency of primary African regions
- Historical plausibility
- Main outcomes
- African Americans, Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, Haitians, Hispanic Americans, West Indians
- Continental Breakdown
- Southeast Asian admixture indicative of Madagascar connection
- Recent Ancestor Locations:
- Pinpointing African lineage
- Cross-Diaspora connections
- Distinctive results across the Diaspora
- Similar results across the Diaspora
- Underrepresented parts of the Afro-Diaspora
- Hispanic results reflecting Upper Guinean Founding Effect
- Partially Cape Verdean results
1) African breakdown
Table 1.1 (click to enlarge)
“Establishing where each African region is relatively more pronounced or instead more subdued might provide insightful clues for the unique ethnogenesis of each nationality being shown as well as for African Americans.” (Fonte Felipe 2015)
The group averages I have calculated for my various survey (sub)groups are neither absolute or conclusive but rather to be seen as indicative. One main aspect to take to heart is that there will always be individual variation around the mean! Still the overall sample size of n=889 for this Afro-Diaspora survey should be sufficiently robust to pick up on the main tendencies. The range of my survey has become quite extensive: covering 28 different countries across the Afro-Diaspora. Despite the limited sample size for most of the separate nationalities this wide array does still seem to contribute to the coherency of my overall data set as well. Which should make it suitable for performing Afro-Diaspora comparisons. For greater understanding of how 23andme is able to come up with these results and how to correctly interpret the African breakdown read these links:
- Ancestry Composition (2018-2020)
- 23andme’s new African breakdown put to the test (2019)
- Update of 23andme’s African breakdown (2020)
Actually also in your personal quest for Tracing African Roots this overview might be beneficial. As it might serve as a helpful baseline so to speak. Which makes it easier to see how your own results fit in the greater picture. Do keep in mind that in my surveys I always scale the African breakdown to 100%! So in order to compare you will first have to calculate your own scaled results. Which is very simple. Basically: % for a given African region divided by % of total African amount. Again individual variation is a given and is not to be denied! Any meaningful deviations from the group averages hopefully serving as useful clues.3 See also links below for a more expanded version of Table 1.1. As well as my more recent findings for African 23andme results.
- Afro-Diasporan 23andme results (2018 version) (online spreadsheet)
- African 23andme results (2018 version) (online spreadsheet)
In Table 1.1 I am using a macro-regional framework. Combining overlapping regional scores from within West Africa versus Central & Southern Africa versus Northeast Africa (not shown in Table 1.1 but see this overview). More basic than the actual African breakdown on 23andme (featuring atleast 12 categories). But I find such an approach to be potentially quite insightful as it enables an intermediate perspective which is often easier to make sense of.4 However due to fewer West African regions available on 23andme it is not completely the same as what I have used for my previous Ancestry surveys (Upper Guinea, Lower Guinea, Central & Southeast Africa, see this map). Similar regions to “Mali” and “Benin/Togo” are lacking on 23andme at this moment. Another big difference is caused by 23andme’s more conservative approach than on Ancestry. Whereby African DNA which cannot be classified reliably (given 23andme’s limited set-up) is put under either “Broadly West African”, “Broadly Congolese & Southern East African”, or “Broadly African”. Such scores are often exceeding the double-digit level even (when scaled)!
This inevitably results in some shifts within 23andme’s African breakdown. Nonetheless still useful to see that for my Atlantic survey groups Central African DNA is peaking for Brazilians and West African DNA is highest among Cape Verdeans and Jamaicans. While the less commonly reported Southeast African component is clearly most prominent among South African Coloureds and Indian Ocean Creoles. These survey groups arguably represent the outer extremes among Afro-Diasporans based on other considerations as well (such as geography and documented slave trade patterns). Therefore looking into their results makes it easier to see how well 23andme performs. And actually these outcomes do indeed correspond with historical expectations and published DNA studies.
And actually my current findings are mostly in agreement as well with my previous Ancestry survey! In 2016 & 2018 I already observed similar patterns but I was able to be more specific then because of Ancestry’s more detailed West African breakdown. With Jamaicans showing a highest degree of Lower Guinean ancestry (mostly indicated by “Nigerian” on 23andme) and Cape Verdeans showing a highest degree of Upper Guinean DNA (mostly indicated by “Senegambian & Guinean” on 23andme). And in fact in my current survey Cape Verdeans are indeed attaining the highest group average (73.1%) for “Senegambian & Guinean”. While Jamaicans are obtaining the highest “Nigerian” group average (49.7%).
Central & Southeast African scores are already quite distinctive and in the expected ranking order for most survey groups. Not only for Brazilians and Indian Oceanic Afro-descendants. Notice for example also the relatively elevated group averages for Mexicans (29.1%) and Haitians (21.2%). Corresponding with heavy Angolan/Congolese presence already known to have existed in those countries. However this mainly Central African component is most likely underestimated in 23andme 2018/2019 version. This can be most easily seen by contrasting with my previous Ancestry survey findings, my African 23andme surveyfindings as well as by comparing with Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade patterns. Fortunately it seems that after the 2020 update 23andme has improved its detection of Central African DNA. The “Broadly African” scores also to be taken into account and probably to be added mostly to the Central African proportion.
I have left out the Northeast African group averages in Table 1.1 because these were generally speaking around noise level (<0.5%). And in fact for the greater part of my survey participants simply absent.5 Of course this outcome is yet again in line with prior expectations for the Atlantic Afro-Diaspora. Because their African ancestry is known to be overwhelmingy West & Central African. With only a minor part (<5%) coming from Southeast Africa as well. Providing an additional corroboration of how 23andme’s African breakdown is behaving in a predictable manner. Whenever so-called Northeast African scores do appear it is usually appearing as minuscule amounts of “Sudanese”. If truly genuine such trace scores are most likely representing a very faint DNA signal inherited from Sahelian West African ancestors (such as the Fula, Hausa-Fulani or Tuareg).
Compare with my previous Ancestry survey findings:
- Blog posts
- African macro-regional breakdown on Ancestry (2018, n=1264)
- Complete overview of my AncestryDNA survey findings (2018, n=1377)
“My main survey findings [on Ancestry]:
- Multiregional origins within Africa, also for Cape Verdeans
- African regions not tied to just one single nationality
- Hispanic Americans show higher degree of Upper Guinean roots than African Americans
- Jamaicans show greatest degree of Lower Guinean ancestry
- Central African regions less prevailing than West African regions, also for Haitians
- Dominicans most evenly mixed in their African regions
- Documented African origins mostly confirmed on group level” (Fonte Felipe 2016)
The list shown above is actually based on my previous Ancestry survey findings from 2016. Based on 707 AncestryDNA results for 7 nationalities (see this chart). At that time I already established most of the main outcomes which are now yet again surfacing in my current 23andme survey. Keeping in mind also the addition of Brazilian results in my finalized Ancestry survey findings from 2018. Overall speaking I suppose therefore that my current 23andme survey serves as some form of independent corroboration of my previous Ancestry findings. To be sure there are some differences to be taken into account due to especially a more detailed West African breakdown on Ancestry. And a more extensive range of survey groups on 23andme. However practically all 7 points mentioned above are again validated. Signalling that these research outcomes may be quite robust already!
I will revisit some of my main findings from 2016/2018 in my discussion further below. But first I would like to highlight some additional insightful results from my current 23andme survey. At times with potentially far-reaching implications for our understanding of prevailing African regional roots across the Afro-Diaspora. I intend to perform follow-up research based on African DNA matching patterns in order to explore these preliminary findings.
- Upper Guinean Founding Effect demonstrated for a more varied group of Hispanic Americans (n=305).6
- In particular due to my inclusion of El Salvadorean, Colombian, Venezuelan and Cuban samples. While for my bigger Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican survey groups I was able to replicate previous findings from 2015-2018. Already clearly visible from the group averages for “Senegambian & Guinean” (see Table 1.1). But even more so when taking into account substructure among Hispanic populations!
- Virginia’s African roots most impactful on African American overall genepool?
- This is still a preliminary outcome to be enhanced by follow-up research. Mostly suggested by the greater prevalence of “Nigerian” scores for my overall African American survey group. Already anticipated by my previous Ancestry findings from 2015 which also had “Nigeria” showing up as most frequent primary region. See also: The Igbo Connection for Virginia & Virginia-Descendants (2015)
- Meaningful differentiation between Anglo-Caribbeans, Dutch Caribbeans and Garifuna
- Actually already to be deduced from my Ancestry findings from 2018. But due to 23andme’s set-up such insightful differences are now put into sharper focus. This concerns principally the relatively greater share of “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” scores for Guyanese, Surinamese and Bahamians (see Table 1.1). But also the relatively greater share of “Angolan & Congolese” for again Bahamians but also Garifuna!
- Improved coverage of small yet distinctive parts of the Afro-Diaspora.
- In particular the inclusion of numerous Garifuna results (n=53) as well as a few Afro-Mexican results from Veracruz and Guerrero being highly evocative! Previously on Ancestry I had already included a few results from Suriname and the Indian Oceanic Afro-Diaspora as well. Because of 23andme’s particular set-up these results (despite minimal sample size) have now become even more useful for demonstrating certain trends within a broader Afro-Diasporan context.
- Substructure: distinctive mix of African regional origins for certain subgroups within a given population.
- Already explored since atleast 2014 actually for both African Americans and Puerto Ricans! In 2018 I also described substructure for Haitians and Dominicans. In this 23andme survey I have mostly replicated or even solidified my earlier findings for these groups. Furthermore I have extended my substructure analysis for Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, Colombians, Cubans and Mexicans.
- Madagascar Connection as indicated by Southeast Asian admixture.
- My Southeast Asian admixture findings for African Americans clearly stand out when compared with other parts of the Afro-Diaspora (except for Mexico and possibly also Suriname). Even if usually only reported at tracelevel. This is most apparent when comparing with Anglo-Caribbeans and Haitians who are otherwise quite similar to African Americans.
- Cape Verde-specific outcomes, beyond the reaffirmation of overwhelming Upper Guinean lineage
- “Senegambian & Guinean” sort of acts as a signature region for Cape Verdeans.7 But “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” scores were still quite substantial as well at around 10%. And also consistently appearing up till the 2020 update. Most likely describing an additional part of Upper Guinean lineage for Cape Verdeans. Sierra Leonean ancestry (Temne) is historically speaking quite likely in fact. Furthermore in my continental survey minimal but still distinctive group averages for South Asian and Native American admixture arised as well.
Frequency of primary African regions
Table 1.2 (click to enlarge)
“This frequency of regions being ranked #1 (regions with the highest amount in the African breakdown) is perhaps the best indicator of which distinct African lineages may have been preserved the most among my sample groups.” (Fonte Felipe 2016)
Determining the largest regional components within the African breakdown, on average, for each of my sample groups has been one of my main research efforts during this survey. Afterall these most prominent regional scores can be considered to have the highest reliability at this stage and might also be confirmed independently by historical sources as well as associated DNA matches. Establishing where each African region is relatively more pronounced or instead more subdued might therefore provide insightful clues into localized ethnogenesis across the Diaspora. It should be noted though that my research outcomes are in part based on minimal sample size. Therefore they are not intended for easy generalizations!
Of course several limitations need to be taken into account. When reviewing Table 1.2 it is essential to realize it represents a simplification of more complex patterns. So this frequency of primary regions is only to be used with discretion and in combination with Table 1.1 and any other relevant details! Focusing on the primary regions can indeed put certain things into clearer perspective but as a consequence secondary regions are being left out of consideration. Also to be kept in mind is that 23andme’s West African breakdown is quite restricted. While the “Broadly..” scores also tend to reach high levels.
Therefore when wanting to compare with my previous findings on Ancestry the outcomes on 23andme tend to be less varied. As soon as 23andme introduces new African categories undoubtedly new patterns will arise (although macro-regionally speaking things should still be quite consistent). And actually right now with the latest upgrade of 23andme’s algorithm already some changes can be observed. Especially “Angolan & Congolese” seems to appear more frequently as primary region for some people. But also “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean”.
Although 23andme’s West African breakdown is less detailed than on Ancestry it should be useful to compare again with my previous survey findings in 2016/2018. Keep in mind that even with similar labeling the regions will not be exact equivalents. Basically this is due to differences in reference samples as well as in algorithm applied by each separate DNA test. I greatly suspect that many of the prominent “Benin/Togo” scores on Ancestry are being read as mostly “Nigerian” instead on 23andme. To a lesser degree this might also go for some of the “Cameroon/Congo” scores. Above average “Mali” scores on Ancestry are likely to be included in prominent “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean” scores. Aside from also possibly to be included in either the “Broadly African” or “Broadly West African” categories on 23andme.
Still unlike what is sometimes assumed 23andme is not just randomly dishing out results for Afro-descendants! The seemingly consistent and usually quite high “Nigerian” scores on 23andme may have seemed like a common and perhaps overplayed theme for especially African Americans. But actually for other parts of the Afro-Diaspora other regions tend to show up with greater frequency. Making for a significant distinction. As demonstrated in Table 1.2. Just to repeat myself: the labeling of ancestral categories is not to be taken as gospel! In all my blog posts I always use quotations to refer to categories such as “Nigerian”. And not for nothing! Because inherently there wil be some border crossing overlap. Fanning out into neighbouring areas according to some declining gradient (see this map). But this doesn’t mean you cannot still derive a great deal of informational value from 23andme’s African breakdown!3
For example “Nigerian” will also possibly be indicative of ancestral ties with neighbouring countries such as Benin, Togo or even (eastern) Ghana. As well as Cameroon. Even when its main ancestral implication will usually indeed involve Nigeria. Furthermore while for many people southeast Nigerian (Bight of Biafra) lineage will be indicated. For other people instead it will be mostly southwest Nigerian (Bight of Benin) lineage which is being suggested. The likelihood depending on your particular Afro-Diasporan background. Hopefully in its next update 23andme will be able to achieve greater specification. Either way, my overall survey findings clearly confirm that 23andme does not report non-sensical or randomized results. Or even just automatically assign certain regions to all Afro-descendants, regardless of their actual background!
Generally speaking I would say that with its 2018/2019 version 23andme provided quite reliable estimates of especially Upper Guinean lineage by way of “Senegambian & Guinean”. Clearly manifested among Cape Verdeans. As well as among many Hispanic Americans, mostly due to an early Upper Guinean Founding Effect. Furthermore also among some of my Guyanese survey participants a relatively high “Senegambian & Guinean” level could be observed because actually some of them had distant Cape Verdean ancestry from the 1800’s! Providing a further corroboration of this category’s predictive accuracy.
23andme has also done a rather good job at distinguishing Southeast African DNA from Central African DNA. Something which can be tricky due to shared Bantu origins across the wider area. But my survey findings for “Southern East African” very closely follow known shares of Trans-Atlantic slave trade from Southeast Africa (Mozambique & Madagascar). As expected this region is peaking among Afro-descendants from the Indian Ocean area. And otherwise among Brazilians (see Table 1.1). But also some intriguing outliers occurred for Cubans and Mexicans as shown in Table 1.2. Although possibly somewhat distorted because these individuals had relatively low African ancestry otherwise.
The “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” category can also be very insightful but does require careful interpretation. Because its ancestral implications can vary according to your own specific Afro-Diasporan background or even your individual family tree. The circumstance that 23andme is currently missing a category similar to “Mali” on Ancestry is most likely resulting in additional DNA from Mali and surrounding countries such as Burkina Faso being covered by “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” as well (see this map and also this screenshot of the 23andme results for a Malian/Guinean person).
Even when most likely it is indeed all those three countries mentioned in the labeling which are the main ancestral implications being made by “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” for most people. On the other hand especially for Brazilians and Haitians however it will be more likely that such scores are derived from actual Beninese/Togolese ancestors! As again 23andme is currently missing an equivalent of Ancestry’s “Benin/Togo” region. Finding associated DNA matches will often be greatly clarifying.
Central African DNA as indicated by “Angolan & Congolese” was most likely underreported in 23andme’s 2018/2019 version. In my previous Ancestry survey “Cameroon/Congo” was probably a better indicator of true Central African lineage for many people. Then again this region on 23andme (previously named “Congolese” but unchanged otherwise) does show up with substantial shares for my survey groups whenever this is also historically expected. So at the very least “Angolan & Congolese” does seem to provide a credible minimum of Central African lineage. With hardly any overlap with DNA to be associated with the Bight of Biafra as was the case for “Cameroon/Congo” (2013-2018 version, see this blog post). Again with 23andme’s latest update in 2020 this will have improved for many people.
Compare also with my previous Ancestry survey findings:
- Blog posts
- Afro-Diaspora AncestryDNA results: A Comparison (2016)
- Update: Afro-Diasporan AncestryDNA Survey (2018, also includes Brazilians)
“Additional survey findings for Afro-Diasporans are needed however to see if 23andme’s new African breakdown has truly passed the test. Although based only on my African survey findings 23andme certainly did a good job already! For a follow-up evaluation such Afro-Diasporan survey findings need to then also be contrasted with historical plausibility. In particular slave trade patterns which can be verified from the invaluable Slave Voyages Database (which incidentally also had an update very recently!).” (Fonte Felipe, 2019)
Table 1.3 (click to enlarge)
Table 1.4 (click to enlarge)
The relevant historical context of Trans Atlantic slave trade patterns should be helpful for understanding most of my survey findings. Not only the arising discrepancies but also in fact the wider similarities among my survey (sub)groups are usually roughly correlating with what is known already based on documented Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The overviews shown above are taken from the invaluable Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Obviously not all of my separate survey groups are mentioned. But similar overviews from other parts of the Afro-Diaspora can be found on this page:
- Trans-Atlantic & Intra-American Slave Trade Patterns (Slave Voyages Database)
It can be very tempting to correlate slave trade records with population genetics or assumed ethnic/regional origins of Afro-descended populations. Given the absence of more straightforward information. But such an approach can hold many pitfalls as well. Even if the Slave Voyages database is deemed to provide nearly fully coverage for any particular country. This is because you cannot just simply assume that there will be a direct extrapolation from the data at hand. Reality is too complex regrettably. Several factors need to be taken into account. Mainly to do with incomplete knowledge about the demographic evolution of enslaved Africans and their descendants. Especially this aspect might be most pertinent:
“Intra-American Slave Trade, Domestic overland Slave Trade and Post Slavery migrations have resulted in great deal of additional intermingling and diversification of African lineage. This is especially true for the USA and Brazil because of their continental size. But in fact also for most parts of the Caribbean and Latin America.” (Fonte Felipe, 2020)
On the separate pages for each one of my survey groups (see this overview) you will find more detailed discussion and specific references. Actually in my discussion of my previous Ancestry surveyfindings in 2016 I already delved into this topic extensively. And much of what I established five years ago already still stands. Especially this assessment:
“Keeping in mind this section only aims for indicative analysis, most of the findings below indeed seem to be in line with the documented African roots for my sample groups, even if obviously not exactly so. Other outcomes might seem more unexpected but with additional reasoning these findings also make sense historically speaking or prove to be valuable for an improved interpretation of the AncestryDNA regions“
Obviously there might be several factors that could explain genetic results being disproportionate to what you might expect based on slave trade data. In particular substructure within any given Afro-descended population will often also be highly relevant. As shown in the next section. For more discussion:
- Documented African origins confirmed on group level? (Ancestry survey findings 2016; scroll down to section 4)
- Slave Voyages: not only Trans-Atlantic but also Intra-American!
“One of the most fascinating aspects of my survey findings is that socalled substructure is now also starting to slowly be revealed. Genetic substructure is basically referring to subgroups within greater populations. To be defined along geographical, social, cultural, or even “racial” lines. Despite commonalities various localized factors may still have have caused differentiation between various subgroups within a given population. In particular pointing towards a distinctive mix of African regional origins. Showing overlap to be sure but still recognizable due to deviating proportions.” (Fonte Felipe, 2018)
This is a theme I have been researching for African Americans already since 2013 when I first started my previous Ancestry survey. This time around I am very pleased to be able to provide potentially insightful substructure for a wide array of my survey groups! Although often based on an admittedly minimal number of samples. But still usually supported by additional reasoning. Resulting in plausible outcomes when looking at the relevant context and the relevant statistics! Unlike commonly assumed you do not need to sample entire populations to obtain informational value with wider implications. Naturally greater sample size does (usually) help matters (see this article). In upcoming blog posts I will discuss these preliminary outcomes in more detail. Also on the separate pages for each one of my survey groups (see this overview) you will find more detailed discussion and specific references already.
Table 2.1 (click to enlarge)
Table 2.2 (click to enlarge)
Table 2.3 (click to enlarge)
Table 2.4 (click to enlarge)
Table 2.5 (click to enlarge)
See also this overview for additional substructure within the Dominican Republic:
Table 2.6 (click to enlarge)
See also this overview for additional substructure within Puerto Rico:
Table 2.7 (click to enlarge)
Table 2.8 (click to enlarge)
3) Continental breakdown
Table 3.1 (click to enlarge)
“Generally speaking also the non-African group averages seem to be reasonably in line with historical plausibility. Amerindian, Asian and Pacific trace-amounts are not being left out. These scores are often labeled as low confidence regions and dismissed as just “noise”. Rightfully so in some cases. But given correct interpretation and proper follow-up research at times these [trace] scores can still potentially lead you to distinctive ancestors.” (Fonte Felipe, 2018)
The group averages I have calculated for my sample groups are neither absolute or conclusive but rather to be seen as indicative. Obviously several shortcomings may apply. One main aspect to take to heart is that there will always be individual variation around the mean. Given correct interpretation I do believe these group averages suggest insightful tendencies though. This continental breakdown on 23andme is greatly similar or even practically identical to my previous Ancestry survey findings from 2018. It also mostly complies with the findings of admixture studies published in peer reviewed journals, or at least the ones I am aware of. But my inclusion of Southeast Asian admixture statistics might be a first, as far as I know. This also goes for the equally minimal but still distinctive South Asian (0.4%) and Native American scores (0.3%) I observed for my Cape Verdean surveygroup.8
Due to lack of space and the overall focus of this blog I will not discuss the non-African admixture scores of my Afro-descended survey groups in great detail on this page. But of course these ancestral components can be interesting in their own right as well! In line with expectations as well as my previous Ancestry survey findings from 2018 the most common type of non-African admixture involves European DNA. For several of my sample groups it even represents the biggest part of their ancestry. I fully understand and respect that given the brutal history of the Slavery Period as well as continued racism afterwards many Afro-Diasporans might not be inclined to learn more about their minor European origins. Even if the possibility of this European ancestry (partially) dating from the Post-Slavery Period cannot be ruled out in advance. Muhammad Ali’s Irish great-grandfather makes for an intriguing example.
Still other Afro-Diasporans will be more curious about their complete genetic make-up and how this might define them. Despite shared experiences one must also be careful to respect the localized context and different historical trajectories across the Afro-Diaspora. Instead of just letting one single perspective on inter-racial relationships overcloud things. In fact there can be several valid reasons to also explore the European origins of Afro-Diasporans in a pragmatic and open-minded manner. Ironically in the process you might often also acquire valuable details about African ancestors linked to your European ancestors as well as their biracial offspring.
Again in agreement with my previous Ancestry surveyfindings it is very useful to first take into consideration any broader macro-regions before looking into any specific regional score which might pinpoint either “British & Irish”, “French & German” or “Spanish & Portuguese” ancestry. Instead the predominance of either “Northwestern European” or “Southern European” will be more closely following historical plausibility. After the upgrade of 23andme’s algorithm in 2020 this is even more true. Possibly over-homogenized in some cases. But overall still corresponding with common knowledge about the European origins of Afro-descendants usually being in close alignement with colonial history. Even when of course also additional lineage from other European countries might exist in selected cases (at times also to be traced back to post-colonial timeperiods). But as always to be corroborated by follow-up research and not just based on regional admixture estimates.
Compare also with my previous Ancestry survey findings:
- Blog posts
- Update: Afro-Diasporan AncestryDNA Survey (2018; incl. discussion of European, Native American and Asian admixture)
- Continental breakdown for Afro-descendants on AncestryDNA (2018; n=200)
- African admixture range for African Americans on AncestryDNA (2015; n=350)
- African admixture range for African Americans on 23andme (2018/2019; n=200)
- African admixture range for African Americans on 23andme (2015; n=5269)
- African admixture range for Cape Verdeans on AncestryDNA (n=100)
- African admixture range for Cape Verdeans on 23andme (n=100)
- African admixture range for Dominicans on 23andme (n=100)
- African admixture range for Puerto Ricans on 23andme (n=100)
Figure 3.1 (click to enlarge)
“Malagasy ancestry might be surprisingly widely dispersed within the African American genepool, even if strongly diluted in almost all cases. This would be judging from personal observation and based on these indicators:
minor Southeast Asian percentages (usually inbetween 0,5%-2%) being reported for a multitude of African Americans tested on 23andme.
minor but still noticeable frequency of haplogroups associated with Malagasy ancestry among African Americans tested on 23andme.
frequent occurence of shared DNA segments between DNA tested Malagasy and African Americans.” (Fonte Felipe, 2016)
Table 3.2 (click to enlarge)
Trace amounts of admixture (<1%) are often dismissed as just “noise” or “low confidence”. Rightfully so in many cases. But given correct interpretation and proper follow-up research at times these “trace” scores can still potentially lead you to distinctive ancestors. Southeast Asian admixture scores are usually only a minimal or even absent ancestral component within the continental breakdown of my Atlantic Afro-descended survey groups. As indicated on 23andme by both “Filipino & Austronesian” and “Indonesian, Thai, Khmer and Myanma” scores. Both falling under the macro-region of “Chinese & Southeast Asian“.
The specific country labeling not to be taken too literally. It is more important to grasp that a distinction is being made for generic Southeast Asian DNA. Which also happens to be reported for people from Madagascar! This country being a very plausible place of origin for various parts of the Afro-Diapora. Firstmost for Indian Ocean Creoles (Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles) and South African Coloureds actually. I have not kept score of their continental breakdown yet. But as shown in the screenshots posted above they can show up with quite considerable levels of Southeast Asian admixture. Practically always above trace level (1%) from what I have seen! This is to be expected for Afro-descendants from the wider Indian Ocean area. Given their geographical location and also otherwise well-documented Madagascar ancestral ties. Even when for South Africans also an additional source of Southeast Asian ancestry exists (Indonesian captives brought in during Dutch rule, see this article).
However for Atlantic Afro-descendants such a possibly Malagasy connection might still come as a surprise to many. But as shown above Southeast Asian admixture findings for African Americans clearly stand out when compared with other parts of the Atlantic Afro-Diaspora (except for Mexico and possibly Suriname). Judging from relative consistency (see median score of 0.5%) and occurrence of above trace level scores (see maximum score of 6.4%). This is most apparent when comparing with Anglo-Caribbeans and Haitians who are otherwise quite similar to African Americans.
Because I have performed several surveys of 23andme results for Afro-descended populations across the Diaspora I was able to verify this systematically. With similar Southeast Asian scores being either absent or atypical elsewhere one might already rule out the theoretical possibility of an algorithm error on 23andme’s part. See this overview for links to my other surveys. I did leave out a few results for people with confirmed Chinese lineage though (from Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica and also Cuba). Because in its 2018/2019 version 23andme tended to report mislabeled Southeast Asian admixture for partially Chinese descended persons due to genetic similarity with (southern) Chinese DNA. After the 2020 update this issue has mostly been resolved though.9
As far as I know this summary of my survey findings could be the first time Southeast Asian admixture for African Americans is being analyzed on a group level. I aim to blog about these findings in greater detail eventually. Also combining with African DNA matching patterns. Actually based on the so-called Countries of Ancestry results on 23andme for two Malagasy persons I already established in 2015 that increased odds might exist for African Americans to receive Malagasy DNA matches.10 See also:
- DNA matches reported by 23andme for 75 Africans
- African DNA Matches reported by Ancestry for 50 African Americans (under preparation)
4) Recent Ancestor Locations
Table 4.1 (click to enlarge)
Table 4.2 (click to enlarge)
“These regions will provide you with information about your more recent ancestry, giving you insight into where your ancestors likely lived during the last 200 years“ (Source: 23andme)
I have also kept score of the Recent Ancestor Locations (RAL) being reported for my survey participants. But I only did this in greater detail for African Americans and Cape Verdeans. Potentially a very useful feature (based on DNA matching strength) but only to be taken as indicative. Due to a skewed reference database based on the self-reported origins of 23andme’s customers its predictions will sometimes not be perfectly in line with known family origins. For greater understanding it is advised to read this article on 23andme’s website:
- Recent Ancestor Locations (23andme Customer Care)
I find it impressive that 23andme is able to accurately pinpoint “Cabo Verde” as recent ancestral location. Not only for all of my survey participants (61/100) for whom I could verify this. But actually also for people of partial Cape Verdean descent, going back 2 or even 3 generations at times. But further island specification seems too ambitious at this point and will often be misleading. Practically all my Cape Verdean survey participants were given Brava as primary island origin. Almost as a standard rule. Even when many people would not have any recent links to that island at all!
Unlike for other parts of the world 23andme currently does not assign RAL’s within the USA. Even when this could be very helpful! Especially for determining your earliest known state origins within the USA. Not always known to people who have not done any extensive family tree research yet. But such info can be very beneficial to correlate with associated slave trade patterns. On Ancestry a similar feature of so-called genetic communities or migrations is already in place also for African Americans. And they are quite detailed! Currently 94 African American and Afro-Caribbean groups being distinguished (see this link). Ancestry usually gets it right from what I have seen. But at times you may not always get assigned to the migration you expected.
The same thing might very well also happen on 23andme when they introduce RAL’s for the USA eventually. Perhaps even more frequently so because 23andme’s predictions on sub-national level tend to be over-ambitious. Often reflecting rather the self-reported origins of 23andme customers who tend to hail from certain overrepresented areas within a given country, due to chain migration. It being known that Brava origins are overrepresented among Cape Verdean Americans due to their whaling history. And for example the British RAL’s reported for African Americans often tend to specify London. While Portuguese RALs for Cape Verdeans are often mentioning the Azores. Merely because Azorean origins are overrepresented among Portuguese Americans. Keeping this minor flaw in mind I still find the RAL feature to be very informational already. And possibly it may have even greater added value in the near future!
Pinpointing African lineage
Figure 4.1 (click to enlarge)
Figure 4.2 (click to enlarge)
19 Recent Ancestral Locations to pinpoint African lineage!
Aside from “Cape Verde” African RALs were quite uncommon for my Afro-descended survey groups. But this did still happen with some frequency. A very special outcome of my survey was to see actual Nigerian lineage being confirmed by Nigerian RAL’s for 6 Jamaicans, 4 African Americans as well as 1 Haitian. Of course the previous disclaimers I discussed still apply. To be kept in mind especially that these RAL’s are based on DNA matching strength with customer samples from within 23andme’s inherently limited database. Because only relatively few Africans are included within 23andme’s reference database the odds of being assigned to an African RAL are currently quite low.
At times these Nigerian RAL’s were even specifying Nigerian lineage on a state level. Very valuable results therefore. Even when the actual state level may not be 100% accurate. To be kept in mind that Nigerians themselves of course also have been migrating and intermingling across the generations! Still it could be very indicative already to know if the RAL will be pinpointing a state somewhere in southwestern Nigeria or rather in southeastern Nigeria. As such information might greatly correlate with the odds of having either Yoruba or Igbo lineage! Or even Hausa-Fulani lineage actually. Because 1 Haitian survey participant received Adamawa state as RAL, which is located in northeastern Nigeria! See also:
Two of my Cape Verdean survey participants (of partial Moroccan Jewish descent from the late 1800’s) received a Moroccan RAL. And this also occurred once for a Puerto Rican. Regrettably I have not yet seen RAL’s mentioning other African countries besides Nigeria, Morocco and Cape Verde. But as shown in the overview above potentially this can happen for 19 African countries! Despite a few shortcomings I therefore believe this RAL feature holds great potential for further specification of African lineage in future updates. Although the implied timeframe has to be expanded from the current 200 years to atleast the 1700’s and preferably even earlier. Afterall the 1800’s are not the most relevant time period when wanting to Trace African Roots for most Afro-descendants (see this chart).
Figure 4.3 (click to enlarge)
In my previous discussion of 23andme’s African breakdown I have mostly focused on differentiation between various parts of the Afro-Diaspora. Because this might be helpful for greater understanding and in your personal efforts to Trace African Roots. However of course there is also a great deal of shared ancestry across the Diaspora! In fact it is also highly interesting to know what binds Afro-descendants from various backgrounds and nationalities in their African ancestral breakdown. Another fascinating aspect in this regard (based on DNA matching strength rather than regional admixture) is reflected in the sometimes surprising RAL’s being reported for my survey participants. The selection above is just a small one. Just to give one further example I also saw “Haiti” being mentioned as RAL for Cubans, Dominicans, Jamaicans as well as Dutch Caribbeans!
Due to multiple migrations (both forced and voluntary) the scope of Cross-Diaspora connections is very broad and at times unexpected! In my survey I encountered many RAL’s which may seem surprising at first sight without further context given. As shown above this goes especially for Caribbean RAL’s. But actually my Hispanic American survey participants also regularly received several other Hispanic RAL’s, aside from their own nationality. For example “Puerto Rico” for Dominicans or “Cuba” for Venezuelans. Correct interpretation of these RAL’s is essential, as always. Because sometimes the implied origins might actually be the other way around due to unexpected ancestral migrations or shared ancestry from other places. Dating back to colonial times even.
This will be especially relevant for the Jamaican and other Caribbean RAL’s reported for (multigenerational) African Americans on 23andme. I verified to the best of my capabilities that my African American survey participants did not have any recent Caribbean ancestry. Atleast not within the last 2 generations. Still especially Jamaican RAL’s were quite common in my survey (25/135, see Table 4.1). To repeat myself this RAL feature is not meant to be conclusive! The prediction being based on DNA matching strength. This is of course indicative of shared ancestry. However it does not per se say anything about who those shared ancestors were. Or where they came from! Due to all sorts of migrations (incl. involuntary ones: Intra-American Slave Trade) there are always multiple scenario’s to keep in mind. Generally speaking when looking into Caribbean RAL’s/DNA matches for African Americans I think one of the following options may apply. To be verified by your own follow-up research:
1) Shared African lineage, whereby one ancestor ended up in the Caribbean and his or her relative ended up in North America
2) Shared European lineage, whereby one European ancestor left offspring in both the Caribbean and in North America
3) Shared Caribbean ancestry to be traced back to inter-colonial slave trade (see this blogpost)
4) Shared Caribbean ancestry to be traced back to voluntary migrations from the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s onwards
5) Shared African American ancestry due to African Americans migrating to or passing through the Caribbean (both during Slavery and afterwards) and leaving offspring there.
However in some cases these Cross Diasporan RALs may be less ambivalent. Provided you are aware of the relevant historical context. A very evocative outcome in my survey has been the consistent reporting of Saint Vincent, as recent ancestral location for Garifuna persons. Because this corresponds perfectly with Garifuna’s origins as “Black Carib” from Saint Vincent. Before they were exciled by the British to live in Central America instead. And even more useful is that from what I have seen this outcome is not obtained by Belizean Kriols! For more details:
- Garifuna History (Garifuna Research)
Guyanese RAL’s reported for Cape Verdeans (as well as vice versa) also represent a distinctive case. Generally speaking Cape Verdeans might share either Portuguese ancestry or direct Cape Verdean ancestors with Guyanese through contract labourers who arrived in Guyana during the mid-to-late 1800’s. They are known to have generally come from Madeira. But actually some Cape Verdeans came over to Guyana as contract labourers as well at that time! And in fact also to Bermuda as confirmed by several of my DNA cousins from Bermuda. And perhaps a few Cape Verdeans also ended up as contract labourer in other Anglo Caribbean islands (albeit with less frequency most likely). For more details:
- The Arrival of the Portuguese (The Guyana Story)
- Distinctive Results across the Diaspora
- Similar results across the Diaspora
- Underrepresented parts of the Afro-Diaspora
- Hispanic results reflecting Upper Guinean Founding Effect
- Partially Cape Verdean results
Just a small selection. At times I will also include updated results from either 2019 or 2020. I will indicate for each screenshot which version it represents. Go to the separate page for each survey group for many more screenshots.
Distinctive Results Across the Diaspora
Below screenshots have been selected to illustrate distinctive regional compositions among my sample groups for persons with a comparable level of around 75-80% African admixture (except the last one). Eventhough merely individuals I have selected them to showcase how 23andme’s African breakdown, despite inherent limitations, can already be quite useful for signaling certain key characteristics in African regional roots for different parts of the Afro-Diaspora.
CAPE VERDE (Santiago)
AFRICAN AMERICAN (Virginia)
BRAZILIAN (Sudeste: Minas Gerais)
GUADELOUPE & Réunion/Mauritius?
Similar results across the Diaspora
“Still it is possible that people of two different nationalities but with the same total African amount will obtain the exact same African breakdown or nearly so. […] Implying that in such cases it will actually be the non-African regions which might prove to be most useful then to identify each separate Afro-descended group based on their DNA results.” (Fonte Felipe, 2016)
The following results are highlighting the shared African regional roots across the Diaspora. Even when the underlying ethnic origins might still be more differentiated. Again individual results were selected with equal or comparable total African amounts. All of them with “Nigerian” in first place. The first three Hispanic American samples clearly showing above average African admixture. Which from my research findings (see substructure section) leads to less impact of any Upper Guinean Founding effect from the 1500’s. Instead Lower Guinean ancestry (as indicated especially by “Nigerian”) to be traced to mostly the 1700’s becomes more prevalent.
Among the 3 Hispanic results it seems that the level of additional Amerindian admixture is most telling (aside from the RAL’s). It being known that Native American ancestry is most concentrated in Colombia and least so in the Dominican Republic (on average, see also Table 3.1). When contrasted with the Jamaican and Haitian results this Native American component also helps to identify them as Hispanic. But it is also their overwhelmingly Southern European component which will make the difference. In contrast with the clearly Northwestern European score for the Jamaican and the more intermediate outcome for the Haitian (due to French genetics being more complex).
COLOMBIA (Pacific: Valle del Cauca)
PUERTO RICO (North & West)
DOMINICAN (Sur: Barahona)
HAITIAN (Ouest & Sud)
JAMAICAN (St. Ann)
Underrepresented parts of the Afro-Diaspora
“I also find it regrettable that the number of samples from Cuba and the Dutch and French Caribbean has been rather minimal sofar. I hope to eventually improve the coverage of these significant parts of the Trans-Atlantic Afro-Diaspora. As well as extend my survey further into the Indian Ocean Diaspora.” (Fonte Felipe, 2018)
CURACAO (1/2 Dutch?)
ECUADOR (Pacific: Guayas)
Hispanic results reflecting Upper Guinean Founding Effect
“One of the most intriguing outcomes of my AncestryDNA survey for me personally has been the seemingly resounding confirmation of what might be called a founding effect from the earliest victims of Trans Atlantic Slave Trade (1500’s/1600’s). A clear majority of these persons arrived in the Hispanic Americas from the Upper Guinea region, often by way of Cape Verde “
“It is astonishing to find out that the genetic legacy of these African pioneering co-builders of Hispanic colonial societies is still highly detectable and persistent. It seems to be a testimony to their survival skills and also their early integration in colonial populations.” (Fonte Felipe, 2015)
HONDURAS (Pacific: Valle & Choluteca)
DOMINICAN (Sur: Barahona)
Partially Cape Verdean Results
“I have always believed when it comes to regional admixture the proof of the pudding is when people who are “100%” from one particular ethnic background take the test. Or, also people of recently mixed but still known background! See how well their ancestry is being predicted or described and that already tells you a lot what you can expect for yourself. As far as I know and was able to verify all of these screenshots below are from persons with atleast one confirmed Cape Verdean parent, 1 Cape Verdean grandparent or 1 distant Cape Verdean ancestor combined with other types of lineage.
I find that especially in these mixed cases 23andme’s update really shows it added value. As you will notice that in each and every case “Senegambian & Guinean” is again consistently appearing as signature region. Pinpointing the usually diluted but still significant Upper Guinean lineage for these people. Also the Recent Ancestor Location (RAL) feature is usually spot on (atleast on a national level). Notice how “Cape Verde” is appearing for almost everybody. But usually also their non-Cape Verdean side is correctly assigned with expected RAL’s. “ (Fonte Felipe, 2020)
CABO VERDE (1/4) & BRASIL (3/4)
CABO VERDE & ANGOLA
CABO VERDE (1/4? or 1/8?) & BERMUDA (1/2) & SOMALIA (1/2)
CABO VERDE (1/8) & GUYANA (7/8)
CABO VERDE (1/2) & AFRICAN AMERICAN (1/2)
1) I like to thank again all the persons who contributed to my research! The results included in my survey have been shared with me by the DNA testers themselves as well as by friends from among their own matches and/or connections. And some results were collected by me from social media too. I have naturally taken great care to cut away any name details in order to safeguard everyone’s privacy. Apologies in advance to anyone who recognizes their results and is not comfortable with this blog page featuring them. Please send me a PM and I will remove them right away.
Naturally I verified the background of each sample to the best of my capabilities but I did not have absolute certainty in all cases. Taking a cautious approach and preferring to leave out possible survey participants when in doubt. The profile pages on 23andme actually have been very useful for confirming the birth places of all 4 grandparents being from the same country. And often also the state or provincial origins of my survey participants were verified in this manner. Or otherwise by PM.
Shout-out to Ashley, George, Lemba, Milton, Nicolas, Teresa and X! Their great help has been essential for my efforts to collect a representative sample group of 889 results from across the Afro-Diapora! I am truly grateful for it! Follow the links below to get in tune with all sorts of highly valuable online resources made available by Afro-descended genealogy bloggers:
- African-American/African Descent Genealogy Blogs
- AfroNative World (Colombia)
- BlackProGen (YouTube, Web series for and about people of color genealogy and family history research)
- Radiant Roots, Boricua Branches
- Sambumbia – Dominican-Caribbean Genetics and Genealogy
2) My survey of Afro-Diasporan 23andme results is almost exclusively reflecting results based on the 2018 update (Ancestry Composition v3.0 & v5.0). In 2019 23andme expanded their reference datasets with South Asian, West Asian and most importantly North African samples. This prompted me to stop my survey because ideally you would want to only collect DNA results produced on the same footing. In order to avoid comparing apples and oranges so to speak. However it actually turned out that this 2019 update (Ancestry Composition v5.2) produced only very slight and marginal changes for most of my survey participants. Nothing profoundly different at all. At least within the African breakdown.
In the interest of greater understanding and expansion of sample size I did therefore make a few exceptions from my general rule to only include 2018 version results. This goes especially for my Haitian, Jamaican and West Indian surveys. In some cases I might not also have been completely aware of which version my survey participants were tested with. Again I do not think that this impacts my survey findings overall speaking. As the 2018 & 2019 versions were greatly similar or even nearly identical for most people (see for example this before and after screenshot). Albeit that in particular for Cape Verdeans and Latin Americans it did have as a major consequence that their “Unassigned” scores increased a great deal. Aside from minor variations in “North African” and also “Senegambian & Guinean”. The 2020 update has been much more impactful for all my surveygroups across the range. And therefore such results have not been included at all in any of my 23andme surveys (up till now). See also:
- New African & East Asian Details in 23andMe’s Latest Ancestry Composition Update (August 2018)
- 23andMe Adds 1000+ More Regions and 30+ New Reports for Our Most Refined View of Ancestry To-Date (January 2019)
- 23andMe’s Latest Ancestry Service Adds Diversity and New Features (October 2019)
- The 23andMe Ancestry Algorithm Gets an Upgrade (October 2020)
3) I firmly believe that despite inherent limitations and given correct interpretation 23andme’s regional admixture estimates can be very useful as a stepping stone for follow-up research. And just to get a general idea of where most of your African ancestors hailed from. All according to the latest state of knowledge. Which naturally may be improved upon across time. I find it important to stay positive and focus on what ever informational value you can obtain despite imperfections. Instead of taking a dismissive stance. Preferring to see the glass as half full rather than half empty 😉 You do need to make an effort yourself and stay engaged to gain more insight though!
In particular your follow-up research may include a focus on your African DNA matching patterns and how your African DNA matches may validate or correlate with your regional admixture scores. For example if you find around 20 African matches and 10 of them appear to be either Yoruba or Igbo Nigerians then this solidifies and also potentially specifies any major “Nigerian” score you might have obtained. See also:
Furthermore you will want to expand your knowledge about the historically documented presence of Africans in your earliest known places of origin within the Americas. In order to establish the historical plausibility of your 23andme scores. For example it is vital to be aware of both Trans-Atlantic and Intra-American Slave Trade. But also learning about Domestic Slave Trade (especially for the USA but also Brazil) and Post Slavery migrations will be crucial for your deeper understanding. Also getting acquainted with the relative time framing or “waves” of various groups of Africans arriving from different regions will be very useful.
Any follow-up research is of course to be customized according to your own personal situation and also according to your research preferences. Plain genealogy is indepensable for dilligently building up a decent family tree. Which is very valuable in itself. But regrettably these strictly genealogical efforts will usually not lead you back all the way to Africa. Save for some rare exceptions (Questlove on Finding Your Roots). Hence why I always insist on avoiding any source snobbery with relation to regional admixture analysis, such as performed by 23andme.
However when duly performed your family tree research will allow you to at least identify your earliest known ancestral locations within the Americas. Which will make it easier to correlate with slave trade patterns and documented African ethnicities for those areas. And if you are very persistent and/or lucky this might also eventually allow you to find localized documentation (plantation records; private correspondence of slave owners; church records; newspaper advertisements about runaway slaves etc.) possibly even mentioning any of your African-born ancestors on 1 single family line!
Combining advanced genetic genealogy techniques such as triangulation and DNA Painter with regional admixture of shared DNA segments also holds great potential in my opinion. As it might enable you to identify an earliest family line associated with such regional admixture! Especially when this regional admixture is distinctive such an approach can be very fruitful. For example when dealing with possible Central African lineage the presence of any “Angolan & Congolese” admixture should be very useful. Even when somewhat subdued such scores are likely to be genuine still. And after the 2020 update you will probably receive a more accurate estimate even. Naturally all of this is to be combined with any other clues you might have. Also it goes without saying that extra scrutiny is always required in order to avoid jumping to conclusions!
For some very useful blog posts with detailed instructions read:
- Using DNA Painter to Verify Igbo Origins (Roots Revealed)
- Chromosome 7 – An African American Connection (Boricua Genes)
- Confirming African Matches: Abuelo’s Peul(Fula) Relatives (Dominican Roots)
4) In my previous AncestryDNA surveys for Africans & Afro-Diasporans (2013-2018) I have also made good use of a macro-regional format. Which is still sub-continental. Basically combining interrelated & neighbouring genetic regions in order to allow certain regional patterns to show up more clearly. This turned out to be particularly helpful when wanting to explore any rough correlation between aggregated AncestryDNA results and slave trade patterns. Which I indeed established for the most part. But also for European DNA I found that this approach works quite well. For example by making a distinction between Northwest European DNA ((“Great Britain”, “Ireland”, “Europe West” and “Scandinavia”) versus Southwest European DNA (“Iberian Peninsula” and “Europe South”) and East European DNA (“Europe East”, “Finland/Northwest Russia”, “European Jewish”). For more details see:
- Afro-Diaspora AncestryDNA results: A Comparison
- Update: Afro-Diasporan AncestryDNA Survey (part 1)
- Update: Afro-Diasporan AncestryDNA Survey (part 2)
5) For an overview showing my Northeast African surveyfindings as well see link below:
As can be seen for practically all my survey groups the average score for any Northeast African regions is barely around 0%! Individual outliers (usually “Sudanese”) almost never exceeding scores of greater than 1%. Again whenever truly genuine such trace scores are most likely representing a very faint DNA signal inherited from Sahelian West African ancestors (such as the Fula, Hausa-Fulani or Tuareg). However there’s one notable exception and that is my South African Coloured survey group which has a (scaled) group average of 7.6% “Northeast African” . As I describe in greater detail on this page I suspect this seemingly outlandish outcome is to be explained by the current underestimation of Khoisan DNA on 23andme. However also before the 2018 update I observed noticeable East African scores for South African Coloureds on 23andme (see this page). Possibly also the (very) ancient ancestral connections between Khoi-San and East Africa are being implied (see this link).
6) For a greater understanding of this Upper Guinean Founding Effect read the following blog posts:
- Shared Upper Guinean roots between Cape Verdeans and Latin Americans (2014)
- Dominican AncestryDNA results (2015)
- Afro-Diaspora AncestryDNA results: A Comparison (2016)
- Update: Afro-Diasporan AncestryDNA Survey (part 1) (2018)
- Fula, Wolof or Temne? Upper Guinean AncestryDNA results 2013-2018 (2019)
An overly USA-centric perspective may have prevented a full realization of how significant Upper Guinean ancestry turns out to be for many Hispanic Americans. Especially in comparison with African Americans. The recent inclusion of early Iberian (Portuguese/Spanish) Slave Voyages into the standard reference Slave Voyages database has been incredibly useful therefore for greater understanding. However it should be pointed out that Latin American (e.g. Carlos Esteban Deive ,Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán), Iberian and Cape Verdean historians (such as António Carreira) have always been aware of the significance of this early slave trade by way of Cape Verde. Their research findings may not have been so widely known in the USA merely because their work has mostly not been published in English.
Either way I myself already blogged the following a few years ago:
“The exact degree of Senegambian origins and any possible reasons for its relative greater dilution among African Americans are yet to be determined. But at any rate the often made assertion that African Americans would have the greatest proportional share of Upper Guinean ancestry within the Americas may no longer be tenable. It might very well have to be rephrased into African Americans have a greater share of Senegambian ancestry only when compared to the English speaking West Indies and Haiti but not so when compared with the Hispanic Caribbean and Mexico/Central America. The persistent Upper Guinean genetic imprint among many Hispanics […] can no longer be ignored“ (Fonte Felipe, 2016)
Overview below is featuring my final research findings based on AncestryDNA results (2013-2018 version). It can be established that the predictive accuracy of “Senegal” was not 100% accurate but still quite solid. And it was being reinforced by a somewhat weaker defined “Mali” to describe a genetic Upper Guinean component. It can be seen that “Senegal” + “Mali” is clearly culminating for Senegambians, Guineans, Malians and Cape Verdeans, as it should! But also otherwise the ranking is in line with expectations. At least when going by the latest insights and not relying on a USA-centric perspective. In regards to the (Trans-Atlantic) Afro-Diaspora we can observe how “Senegal” + “Mali” is most prevalent among Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Seemingly reflecting a major Upper Guinean founding effect among Hispanic Americans. I have blogged about this topic many times already (starting in 2014). And I intend to do so again eventually as my 23andme surveyfindings are also in support of this remarkable phenomenon!
*** (click to enlarge)
7) The so-called “Senegambian & Guinean” region is clearly serving as a primary signature region for pinpointing Upper Guinean lineage among all my Cape Verdean survey participants. Quite similar to the equivalent “Senegal” region on Ancestry. But more predictive when comparing with Ancestry’s 2013-2018 version. The group average for “Senegambian & Guinean” being 73.1% of their scaled African breakdown for 100 Cape Verdeans. Which is resulting in their African breakdown yet again being the most homogenous among my various survey groups from across the Afro-Diaspora. While on Ancestry the scaled group average of “Senegal” for 100 Cape Verdeans was 58.7% (see this chart). See also this page:
I find this very encouraging as it demonstrates that despite shortcomings these 23andme results are not totally random at all! As I always say instead of being preoccupied with finding imperfections it is wiser to adopt a “glass is half full” mentality. Focusing on anything that is worthwhile. Which is quite a lot actually on 23andme. Because by way of “Senegambian & Guinean” 23andme seems to be able to quite accurately distinguish Upper Guinean lineage from other types of African macro–regional lineage. In the first place making the distinction with Lower Guinean lineage (as indicated by “Nigerian” and to a lesser degree also “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean”). And it is even more reliably differentiating Upper Guinean lineage from Central African lineage (as indicated by “Angolan & Congolese”). As well as Southeast African lineage and North & East African lineage.
These implications of a reasonable predictive accuracy on 23andme are not only very significant for Cape Verdeans themselves but I would argue also very relevant for African Americans and other people of the wider Afro-Diaspora! Follow link below for better understanding of how a macro-regional perspective can be beneficial when looking into DNA results. Because it takes into account the various intersections based on historical and ethno-linguistic considerations, aside from merely genetic ones. Mutually reinforcing but still only meant to be indicative of course and to be used as proxies!
8) The South Asian admixture I observed among my Cape Verdean survey participants was of course quite minimal going by group average (0.4%). Usually within noise range (<1%) and therefore to be critically assessed. On the other hand such scores were also surprisingly consistent for especially my survey participants from Santo Antão or with partial origins from that island. At times (7/100) also exceeding more than 1%. The highest score of 7.8% beyond a doubt being genuine and also specified by a Goa recent ancestor location (see this screenshot)! This maximum score of “South Asian” admixture belonging to a known cousin of mine! Such lineage already being known from family lore. Intriguingly implying that also the more diluted scores might actually be genuine. Possibly inter-related to some extent but probably more than one Goan being involved. As far as I know this is the first time a Goa-Cape Verde connection is showing up in a genetic study. Although I suppose dilluted Lascar or Gypsy ancestry might also be possible.
The overview below is also showing the minor yet still consistent Native American scores being reported by 23andme for my 100 Cape Verdean survey participants. For 73 persons a trace amount of atleast 0.1% Native American was showing up. Although rarely surpassing 1% (4/100) and the maximum score only being 1.1%. Quite trivial therefore but still noteworthy as Cape Verde is an African island group! Of course these minuscule scores might very well be some fluke by 23andme. Then again it could also be suggesting distant Brazilian lineage in selected cases.
Generally speaking trace admixture is of course to be taken with a grain of salt. However 23andme is generally known to be quite finetuned when picking up on minimal amounts of distinctive admixture. I would therefore argue against complete dismissal in all cases because plentiful historical evidence can be found for ancestral connections between Cape Verde & Brazil. And to a lesser degree also between Cape Verde and other places in the Americas. Which might likewise involve the transferal of minor Native American admixture as well as African DNA from beyond Upper Guinea. See footnote seven on the page linked below for more references:
***(click to enlarge)
9) From what I have seen sofar (see column W in this spreadsheet) Southeast Asian scores being reported for Mexicans seem to show substructure. Occurring mostly for people from southwestern Mexico (Guerrero) with above average African ancestry as well. Most likely to be explained from the Trans-Pacific Slave Trade which took place between Manilla/Philippines and Acapulco. Although I have not yet observed it I do strongly suspect Southeast Asian admixture will also at times be quite elevated among multi-racial people from Suriname. As afterall Suriname has a significant Javanese descended population segment. Quite unique for the Americas. See also:
- Asian Slaves in Colonial Mexico: From Chinos to Indians (T. Seijas, 2014)
For examples of mislabeled Southeast Asian admixture reported for actually Chinese-mixed persons see screenshots below. This issue has mostly been resolved after the 2020 update.
- Cuban 23andme results (2018 version)
- Cuban 23andme results (2020 version)
- Jamaican 23andme results (confirmed Chinese grandparent) (2018 version)
- Guyanese 23andme results (1/4 Chinese) (2018 version)
- Surinamese 23andme results (2020 version)
10) I have been investigating the occurrence of Malagasy DNA matches for African Americans for quite a while now. These research findings are however still preliminary. I do intend to publish a detailed blog post about my findings eventually. In short these would be:
- Malagasy matches from Madagascar are being reported for African Americans with increased frequency when compared with other parts of the Afro-Diaspora.
- African Americans with Malagasy matches often tend to have (ultimate) Virginia state backgrounds.
- Malagasy matches intriguingly are often themselves also showing up in Ancestry’s “Early Virginia African Americans” community.
- All of which corresponds very well with a historically plausible scenario of slave trade between Madagascar and the USA focusing mosty on Virginia and taking place especially in the early 1700’s.
- Founding effects and subsequent dispersal due to Domestic Slave Trade causing Madagascar matches to also turn up for people from the Deep South.
- Minor but distinctive Southeast Asian admixture scores (more reliably shown on 23andme) also fall in line with expected dilution dating from the early 1700’s.
- Many people who receive Malagasy matches also receive small matches from other parts of the Malagasy Diaspora. Such as Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles, Comoros, South African Coloureds and even Saint Helena. Because of their mixed background (incl. European admixture) also other ancestral scenarios might be possible though.
- Follow-up research based on identifying the ethnicity of the actual shared DNA segments and triangulation could clarify things further.
For a pathbreaking blog series on this Madagascar connection see also:
- Part I: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Manhattan (Radiant Roots & Boricua Branches)
- Part II: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Manhattan & Our Family’s Malagasy Roots (Radiant Roots & Boricua Branches)
- Part III: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Virginia (Radiant Roots & Boricua Branches)
The author of this blogseries, Teresa Vega, is currently writing a highly relevant book on this topic:
- The DNA Trail from Madagascar to the Americas (to be published soon)
For my mum who is half Mauritian Creole 23andme is getting in a really good spot, Madagascar finally showed up as a location on the latest update. Ancestry are catching up and has her as mostly Southern Bantu with Cameroon, Congo and Western Bantu coming second and then some Eastern Bantu. A disappointing thing I’ve started noticing on some of the African American matches on Ancestry is that Ancestry have stopped reporting ethnicities below 1% and so some of our African American matches who match us on our Southeast Asian DNA are losing Southeast Asian on their Ancestry ethnicity reports. I know they match us on those particular segments because we share these matches also on 23andme. I’ve started recommending to my Ancestry matches who suspect Malagasy ancestry to re-test on 23andme as they often pick up minor ancestries that Ancestry doesn’t.
Her 23andme https://imgur.com/mDHp2jV
Her Ancestry https://www.ancestry.co.uk/dna/origins/share/1e63f53d-34d4-4479-b0d7-f2c8ef32afb7
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Wow that looks really awesome having Madagascar specified as RAL! Would you mind if I use that screenshot in future blog posts? I think it is super educational! Also very nice to see the predominant Southern Bantu on Ancestry indeed. I have noticed that the so-called “Asians in South Africa” community on Ancestry is also often reported for Malagasy people. So it’s most likely based on a broader basis of shared lineage across the area. Totally agreed about 23andme being better equipped to pick upon trace admixture btw.
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Hi! Apologies for not replying sooner, yes you may use the screenshot 🙂
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Here are my results:
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Thanks for sharing! It’s interesting that 23andme has mostly been able to eliminate or decrease the “Broadly” scores, except for “Broadly West African”. From what I have seen at times it even increases for some people after the 2020 update.
So still some ground to cover by 23andme. Hopefully in a next update they will add a new category for the interior of West Africa (Mali/Burkina Faso/Niger). Because such DNA is not yet covered within 23andme’s set-up. The same goes for an equivalent of Benin/Togo. Although that probably will be rather tricky to accomplish.
Even though many people feel bothered by their “broadly” scores I am personally glad that 23andme’s homogenizing algorithm is not bystepping the general rule of “don’t be more specific than your underlying data allows for”.
Hi, can’t wait for the Brazil African matches
Also, what is usually Broadly African mean? West africa?
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My survey for African matches reported by Ancestry for Brazilians is already finished. But it will take me some time to process all the data 😉
“Broadly African” scores have declined a great deal after the 2020 update. Mostly in favour of increasing Central African scores. So therefore I suspect that in the 2018 version this category was mostly Central African DNA which 23andme found difficult to classify.
“Broadly West African” may be suggestive of several things. Probably also dependent on your particular background. Because 23andme currently is lacking a separate category for the interior of West Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger) such DNA will be included at times. But probably also other types of undersampled regions within West Africa (Benin/Togo). And most likely even some Central African DNA, especially from neighbouring Cameroon.
Hi, Felipe! Could you take a look at my MyHeritage results? My mother is Black and from Maranhão (her father might be from Pará, we’re not sure — she didn’t really meet him), and my father is from Ceará. My mother’s hometown, Codó, is famous for its concentration of African-Brazilian religious centres.
Here are my results: https://imgur.com/a/TGkKZnc
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Ola Daniel, very interesting background! I see that atleast your Cearense side is already pinpointed by MyHeritage. Unfortunately MyHeritage is rather bad at regional admixture analysis, beyond the continental breakdown. You can see this already from the way your Native American DNA is described as mosty Central American and Andean rather than Amazonian…
So really I don’t think there’s much point in trying to make sense of your African breakdown as it will be distorted almost by default. Especially the East African scores (“Somali’ and “Kenyan”) are bound to be greatly misleading. And merely a consequence of MyHeritage’s reference database being skewed to Northeast African samples while being inadequate in other aspects as well. See also this review for more details:
You probably would have gotten more insightful results if you had tested with 23andme. In particular given that Maranhão is known to have a greater Upper Guinean (Mandinga) connection this might have been reflected in a noticeable “Senegambian & Guinean” score. Also any Angolan DNA would have been much better detected on 23andme by their “Angolan & Congolese” category. For Brazilian 23andme results see also this separate page:
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I didn’t test with 23andme because it is not available here in Brazil, but I plan to get tested with 23andme when I have the chance to travel to the U.S.
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Valeu! Please let me know when you get your results I would love to see them.
Could this mean that Central African DNA is likely higher for Brazilians also ?
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Yes I believe so, in particular for Brazilians from the southeast (Rio and surrounding states). In fact you can already see this from updated results such as this one for someone from Minas Gerais. He now shows almost 64% “Angolan & Congolese”. While previously he had about 55% (see this screenshot for his 2018&2019 results). It seems 23andme’s new algorithm is making sure that especially “Broadly African’ and “Broadly Congolese & Southern East African” are kept at a minimum. Also “Southern East African” is being homogenized, which might actually be a loss in informational value. However the gain at the expense of West African DNA (about 4%) could be justified. Although of course at this stage we have no way of knowing for sure.
Very interestingly this person also has 1 known great-grandparent from either Cape Verde or Guinea Bissau. Which is also clearly reflected in a distinctive “Senegambian & Guinean” score. Take notice it stays quite consistent and even increases somewhat.
Thanks for the answer.
About Central African ancestry, I noticed when comparing Ancestry DNA results and 23andme results for African Americans that when you add up Angolan & Congolese + Broadly West African, it’s almost always the same percentage as Cameroon, Congo & Southern Bantu in Ancestry DNA. Why do you think some ancestry end up in Broadly West Africa ?
Could it be ancestry from countries like Cameroon, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea who aren’t label in 23andme or maybe interior Congo ancestry ?
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Reference samples from those countries of Central Africa indeed appear to be missing in 23andme’s set-up. Either way it demonstrates the overlap between West African and Central African genetics.
See also this previous blogpost of mine which features the 23andme results of a person from Gabon. Scroll down to: “Angolan & Congolese” is not always fully covering Central African DNA” .
Hi Fonte Felipe,
Did you have a hypothesis why the Angolan & Congolese percentage isn’t strong in Cuban results ? I thought both Yoruba and Congo slaves were huge import during the 19th century but only Nigerian percentage seems to show up big.
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I think it’s because of a combination of factors. Main ones being:
1) In 2018 “Angolan & Congolese” scores on 23andme were clearly an underestimation of true Central African ancestry
2) number of Cuban samples in my survey was quite minimal (n=16)
3) also unfortunately I didn’t get to include results for Cubans of predominant African descent (>50%)
On the other hand I find it quite telling that the 14.5% “Broadly African” and also 5.8% “Southeast African” scores for my Cuban sample group were very notable when compared with other groups (see table 1.1). Obviously more research and broader sampling is required. Also taking into account African DNA matching patterns should be very clarifying. As indicated by 23andme’s new genetic group feature.
Have you done any DNA testing yourself?