My first DNA test I took was with 23andme. This was in 2010 so I was probably among the “early adopters” 🙂 Throughout the years there have been several features available on 23andme. Which enabled me to learn many valuable things about my own origins as well as those of the wider Afro-Diaspora. But only with 23andme’s latest update in 2018/2019 did I get the feeling I was really zooming into something substantial & meaningful!

In this section I will provide a brief overview of some of the useful features on 23andme to help Trace African Roots. I aim to expand my discussion of these various features eventually. More detailed discussion can be seen by clicking on the subsections which already have a link below. Or also via the main drop-down menu (below the banner).

Survey of the African breakdown on 23andme

Since 23andme’s update in 2018 I have been collecting updated Ancestry Composition results in a spreadsheet in order to conduct a survey of the African origins being reported by 23andme for both Africans and Afro-descended nationalities. At this moment of writing it contains at least 1,100 results for 60 nationalities. Among which 200 are for African Americans and 100 for Cape Verdeans. In order to enable easier comparison with the results for native Africans I have recalculated the original African percentages so that they add up to 100%. Whenever needed. In other words the scores mentioned in my speadsheet represent fractions of a person’s total African ancestry and not fractions of their entire ancestry. It is a scaled breakdown. Below is a link to the spreadsheet which contains all the results. Besides a tab for the main statistics there are several other tabs on the bottom of the sheet where the individual results can be found, sorted according to nationality.

These are the links to the blog posts I have written so far in an attempt to analyze and illuminate the African breakdown for each group. More are to follow:


African breakdown for 314 African 23andme testers from 36 countries

Table 1 (click to enlarge)


This table contains my main survey findings: the group averages for 314 people from 36 countries. It illustrates how 23andme’s African breakdown (2018/2019 version) is performing for people of known background. Click on this link for an expanded & up-to-date version of this table. Also including group averages for “Broadly West African”, “Broadly Congolese & Southern East African” and “Broadly Northern East African”. These scores have been left out of this overview because of lack of space.


African breakdown for 889 Afro-descendants from 28 different countries

Table 2 (click to enlarge)

This table contains my main survey findings: the scaled group averages for 889 Afro-descendants from 28 different countries! Notice how Brazilians and Afro-descendants from the Indian Ocean show the highest degree of Central & Southeast African DNA. While Cape Verdeans and Jamaicans show the highest degree of West African DNA. In accordance with expectations and therefore quite coherent already. Click on this link for an expanded version of this table. Also including group averages for “Broadly West African” and “Broadly Congolese & Southern East African”.



Due to additional updates on 23andme in October 2019 as well as in October 2020 I have actually discontinued this survey for now. Although I might restart it again eventually. See also:



17 thoughts on “23&me

  1. How can I know if my African trait could be Cabo Verde l linked?
    I am supposedly 2nd generation of Cape Verdean emigrant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Joseph have you taken the 23andme test? If so look at your ancestry report and see if the region called “Cabo Verde” is showing up under your West African %. You will see more details by clicking on “See all tested populations” or “scientific details”.
      These socalled “recent ancestor locations” are a newly added feature on 23andme. And even when not a perfect measure I find it’s very predictive indeed for indicating Cape Verdean lineage! The number of dots are reflecting match strenght with the Cape Verdean samples in 23andme’s database. I am half Cape Verdean but I received the maximum number of dots (5).

      Generally speaking the frequency of DNA matches with fellow Cape Verdeans as well as the actual shared amount of DNA will be most indicative. If you have tested with Ancestry as well you can check this most easily by seeing if you belong to their socalled “Portuguese Islander” migration. But also certain regional combinations on Ancestry can be said to be highly suggestive of Cape Verdean ancestry (predominant “Senegal” : >50% of the African breakdown as well as predominant Southwest European regions: “Iberian Peninsula” + “Europe South”). For more details see:



        • Hello Ali, if you’re referring to “Southeastern Bantu” this is a category specific to AncestryDNA. However it appears that 23andme will be FINALLY providing a detailed African breakdown as has been highly anticipated for 5 years already! Really glad to see the distinction being made between West African and Bantu DNA especially! But also the breakdown within West Africa looks promising. If you follow this link you can see the proposed update in full detail:


          Aside from “Congolese Bantu” also “Great Rift Valley Bantu” and “Sudan” are appearing as new categories!


  2. Hey, Felipe. I wanted to ask what are your thoughts of the 23andMe updated test and when do you think you’ll have a blog on it. I plan to order my test around Christmas, but how promising does it look? How does it seem to correlate with the old and new versions of AncestryDNA. Which regions seem to be prevalent among African Americans. I’ve taken AncestryDNA, but am rather disillusioned with the update except for the East Africa, which seems to show I do have Malagasay ancestry as I suspected.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Taylor, 23andme’s update does look quite promising from what I have seen sofar. I have not yet really delved into it though to be honest. I intend to blog about it in greater detail next year, as soon as I get updated myself.


      • Got you. I’m just seeing your comment. Sorry for the nuisance. I’m excited. Me and my dad are about to get ours. As soon as we do, I’ll be sharing my results which you’re free to use for greater insight. I suspect they’ll line up fairly close with the old Ancestry results and not with the new Ancestry ones where Cameroon Congo and Southern Bantu peoples and Benin Togo are each inflated. From what I see with 23andMe’s update, Nigeria is a lot of African American’s biggest region which is in line with historical plausibility. Coastal West African might be Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Senegambian would be Senegal, Gambia, and Guinean. South East African would be East Africa and maybe Angola? I think Cameroon and some other countries fall under Broadly West African. Congolese would obv be Congo.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Taylor, no problem man! Great that you are taking the 23andme test, I would love to see how it lines up with your old Ancestry results! I will eventually blog about 23andme’s update but only when I have sufficient information to make a balanced assessment.

          Did you already read about this new beta feature they are providing? It may help you zoom into African matches (a few not all!). From what I have seen 23andme provides you with an overview of about 3-5 DNA matches linked to different parts of your admixture, incl. West Africa! But regrettably it also includes people who are only partially African. As it is based on self reported family tree details about the birth places of the grandparents of your DNA matches. If only one of those grandparents happens to have been born in Africa this match may already be singled out by 23andme. Even if you may be related to this match by way of their other grandparents… So a bit misleading and not yet a polished feature but still quite promising!



          • Wow that’s cool. My dad and I are ordering the test next week so I’ll definitely keep you abreast. Did your results ever update? By the way, I just want to thank you for all the work you put in for this site. In terms of finding out ancestry for African descended people, your site is the best resource on the web (hands down). Thanks for being always engaging, informative, and answering my many questions.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks a lot man for the appreciation! I love performing this kind of research. But knowing that it’s also meaningful for other people makes it all the more worthwhile!

              My own results have not updated yet btw. But from having seen other updated Cape Verdean results I can already say that 23andme’s “Senegambian & Guinean” category seems to be very predictive.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Felipe!
    Have you gotten an update from 23and me yet?I checked to see if I had received an update to my percentages and lo and behold they were updated to a whopping 98.9% Senegambian out of the 99.1% total of African ethnicities that I was assigned. I am curious to know if you have any personal knowledge of anyone else’s Senegambian percentages being that high?
    Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ameera, yes I have been updated last week. I was on V2 so I’m guessing the update has now finally been rolled out to everyone! I am actually preparing a blog post about it. As i will be conducting a survey of how this update has impacted the results of native Africans.

      Very high Senegambian score indeed! Where is your family from? I would love to see a screenshot or if you’re okay with it perhaps we can share profiles on 23andme?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. With 23andMe’s big update, my mother, her siblings, and one of my first cousins now all show small amounts of both Broadly Subsaharan African and Broadly Northern East African. They all share a triangulated match of SSA on the X chromosome. We are from rural coastal North Carolina, and although we are white, there are well-documented interracial relationships in our family history.

    My question is about the Northern East African population, identified by 23andMe as Sudan, Somali, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. I know that this region did not play a role in the transatlantic slave trade; is it possible the Northern East African could be showing up as a misidentification of another population? For example perhaps Hausa or Fulani?

    Another possibility is that we have some Swiss ancestry and one of the families from which we descend carries the y-haplogroup E-V22. I know this originated in the NE area of Africa and was brought into Europe during neolithic migrations. However, would that be too far back to show up in atDNA results for my family?

    Any insights you might have concerning Northern East African DNA would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Lee, thanks for your comment! I have recently blogged about 23andme’s update as well as the actual results of Northeast Africans:


      In regards to the possibility that y-haplogroup E-V22 might be resulting in trace amounts of NE African admixture. To be frank I am not sure but I would imagine that this would then also be valid for other Europeans carrying that haplogroup. And sofar I have not read or heard anything suggesting that this is the case. Rather I would assume it is to be linked to your North Carolina background. As (very) minor African admixture among European Americans is both historically plausible and also already confirmed through this study performed by 23andme:

      The genetic ancestry of African, Latino, and European Americans across the United States.

      Click to access 009340.full.pdf

      How high is the total of your mother’s SSA admixture on 23andme? Generally speaking 23andme has a good track record in detecting smaller amounts of African admixture. And I have read about cases where even admixture of <1% has been confirmed by paper trail. Then again I also remember reading on the 23andme forum that there seems to be an issue of widely reported trace amounts of African admixture for European Americans, even when previously nothing was showing up. This could be a “bug” issue. I am not sure but i think they were referring to very minimal amounts though of around 0.1%.

      is it possible the Northern East African could be showing up as a misidentification of another population? For example perhaps Hausa or Fulani?”

      Generally speaking yes! It is funny you should mention this because I actually also discuss it myself in my newest blog post! My Northern Nigerian survey samples received minor but still clearly detectable (around 5%) “Sudanese” scores and also “Southern East African” scores. I have suggested it may be caused by (ancient) migrations/geneflow with neighbouring Chad. The Hausa also speaking a Chadic language.

      It is intriguing though that you have already managed to triangulate this SSA segment. By any chance have you also tested with Ancestry? If so this scanning & filtering method in Excel may be useful to you in order to zoom into your African American DNA matches and possibly even single out an African match!



  5. Felipe my father just received his DNA results. Is there anyway I can send them to you so you can give me your feedback. I’m interested in what you think tribal analysis might be. My dad showed up 1.7 percent Asian (mostly Southeast Asian with no Native American). Is it fair to assume we have Malagasay. He was 34 percent Nigerian. I also want to get your perspective on his haplogroup. His paternal one was common among African American men, but his maternal one is apparently uncommon among African Americans. It’s L3f1b1

    Liked by 1 person

  6. By the way, where do you think Cameroon, Angola, Mali, and Mozambique fit into the equation. Would they be broadly West African or do you suspect they would fall under one of the more specific categories? Sorry to bombard you with questions. This is all just so interesting. I’ll be sending you my results soon. Let me know if you want to use my father’s for your database and same with mine. I’ll send them to you.

    How’s it going, Felipe. It’s Taylor. My 23andMe results came in (my father’s came in last week) and I wanted to see what you thought of them (how typical they seem relative to other African Americans and other diaspora populations). I am 35.2 percent Nigerian, 15.1 percent Congolese, 15 percent Ghanaian, Liberian, and Sierra Leonean, 7 percent Senegambian and Guinean, 2.6 percent Southeast African, 0.1 percent Southcentral Hunter Gatherer, 11.8 percent Broadly West African, 1.1 percent broadly Congo and Southeast African, 0.1 percent Northeast African, and 1.7 percent Broadly Sub-Saharan African. Overall, I am 89.7 percent African, 9 percent European (4 percent of this is English/Irish and 1 percent is French/German). I am 0.9 percent Asian with 0.6 percent Indonesian, Thai, Khmer, and Myanmer, 0.1 percent Filipino/Austronesian, and 0.2 percent broadly Southeast Asian and Chinese. Is it safe to conclude that’s I have Malagasay ancestry (my dad took it and was 1.7 percent Southeast Asian). I also wondered if my Nigerian ancestry is more likely to be Igbo, Yoruba, or both? Is the Congolese more likely to be Bakongo or some other group? Where do you think Angolan ancestry fits in this test? Is Akan or Mende ancestry more likely? I can give you my haplogroups and whatever else you need. I’m excited. My gut tells me this is much more accurate than Ancestry’s new test and maybe more accurate than Ancestry’s old test. What do you think? I’m eager to hear your thoughts

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Taylor, congratz on receiving the results! I am also excited about 23andme’s new update. I have blogged about it the other day. It may already shed some light on some of the questions you are raising:


      On this page you can see the screenshots of Malagasy results:

      I definitely think the SE Asian scores received by yourself and your father are indicative of Malagasy lineage. Especially your father’s score seems above average. You will need to find corroborating clues though. For more details and links in reagrds to the Madagscar connection scroll down to MADAGASCAR (Toliara province) on this page:


      About your father’s haplogroup I am actually not that knowledgeable. I believe that 23andme’s statistics about it being “uncommon” are actually fairly standard for other haplogroups as well 🙂 See my haplogroup section to find more background studies:


      Thanks for the offer to share your results! I am not yet starting my survey for AA results but I will let you know. From what I have seen your results are in line for the most part. Perhaps the “Congolese” is a bit elevated. This region is probably underestimating your true proportion of Central African lineage, although also ancestry from Cameroon might be covered by it. Also the 2.6% SE AFrican seems distinctive! Also in light of your quite likely Madagascar connection. But I really need to have more data to say anything meaningful about whether it might be deviating from the standard.

      My gut tells me this is much more accurate than Ancestry’s new test and maybe more accurate than Ancestry’s old test.

      Haha this is a great question! I might blog about it in more detail. Right now I am already pretty certain that 23andme’s update has been far better than the one Ancestry did last year. Otherwise (comparing with the pre-update version of Ancestry) it depends on exactly which populations you’re talking about I guess. Things might be different for specific parts of Africa and also specific segments of the Afro-Diaspora.


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