African DNA Cousins reported for people across the Diaspora

This blog post features the AncestryDNA results of 8 persons from 7 different countries. In particular i will list the (most likely) African DNA matches i was able to find for each profile. Using the tutorial i blogged about in my previous blog post:

Naturally this overview is not meant to be representative per se because these persons are in the first place individuals with unique family trees. It is mainly to show the variation across the Afro-Diaspora. Nonetheless I strongly suspect that many patterns to be observed will still be valid as well for other people of the same nationality or ethnic (sub)group.

***(click to enlarge)

Diaspora Overview


For this overview I specifically chose people with one single predominant African regional score on AncestryDNA. In order to see how Ancestry’s “Ethnicity Estimate” lines up with predicted African DNA matches. More detailed analysis will follow in this blog post. If you continue reading you will also come across a section featuring inspiring stories of people who were able to reconnect with their African kin through DNA testing.

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AncestryDNA Results Across the Diaspora

In 2013 AncestryDNA updated their Ethnicity Estimates to include a very detailed breakdown of West African ancestry (see this article). Soon afterwards I started collecting AncestryDNA results in an online spreadsheet in order to conduct a survey of the African regions being reported by AncestryDNA, among both African Americans as well as other Afro-descended nationalities. Attempting to establish how much the AncestryDNA results on an aggregated group level can already (despite limitations of sample size) be correlated with whatever is known about the documented regional African roots for each nationality.

Rumour has it that AncestryDNA will shortly start rolling out a new update of their Ethnicity Estimates. So it seems the time is right to finalize my survey. The sample size for most groups appears to be suffciently robust now to allow a meaningful intercomparison. In the AncestryDNA section of my blog (see the menubar) you can find a detailed summary of my survey findings based on 707 results for 7 nationalities:

Gathering all the results was a great learning experience. It has been a very satisfactory project! My survey report merely represents my personal attempt at identifying generalized, preliminary and indicative patterns on a group level inspite of individual variation. Everyone has a unique family tree of course first of all.

I would like to thank again all my survey participants for sharing their results with me. I am truly grateful for it!


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.”


FREQ #1 regions

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Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (part 2)

Origins from across Upper Guinea, not just from Guinea Bissau


Map of Upper Guinea, western Mali should also be included for ancestral purposes


Bissau, Cacheu, Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856


Total ethnically specified: 1,615
Guinea Bissau’s Coastal Zone: 843 (52% of ethnically specified)
Upper Guinea Interior: 670  (42% of ethnically specified)
Senegal, Guinea & Sierra Leone: 102 (6% of ethnically specified)


Mandinga (Upper Guinea) 262 – 16% of ethnically specified
Tilibonca (Upper Guinea) 229 – 14% of ethnically specified
Bijago (Guiné Bissau) 226 – 14% of ethnically specified
Source: Hawthorne (2003)


In the first part of this blogpost i already discussed the main Guinean Bissau origins for Cape Verde according to its 1856 slave census, in this second part i will continue exploring origins outside of Guiné Bissau. When asked about their mainland African roots many Cape Verdeans might assume they only have ancestry coming from Guiné Bissau, this is however not completely true. It’s indeed correct that Guiné Bissau shares a very long and intimate history with Cape Verde. Both countries being ex-Portuguese colonies, united in their independence struggle during the 1970’s. Because of ever increasing English and French encroachment the formal Portuguese influence area within Upper Guinea during the 1600’s was already pretty much confined to modernday Guiné Bissau and Casamance (a region in southern Senegal which only was ceded to the French in 1888 and where a Portuguese-based Creole is still being spoken!).

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Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (part 1)



Cape Verde, an independent country since July 5th 1975!
Cape Verdeans: an indomitable people for more than 500 years!


Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856


Number of slaves 5,182
Creole (i.e. born in Cape Verde) 4,266 (82% of total)
African (mainland) 867 (17% of total)
African specified ethnically 130 (2,5% of total)


Mandinga (Upper Guinea) 34 – 26% of African specified
Fula (Upper Guinea) 19 – 15% of African specified
Bijago (Guiné Bissau) 18 – 14% of African specified
Source: Carreira (1972)

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Documented African Roots of Dominicans

Lemba 4200976_African ethnonyms in Dominican historical sources: 1547-1606


Estimated number of Africans: 9,648 – 30,000
African origins specified: 79


Bran” (Guiné Bissau) 15 – 19% of African specified
Zape” (Sierra Leone) 15 – 19% of African specified
Biafara” (Guiné Bissau) 10 – 12% of African specified
Source: Deive (1980, p.239).

Even though this summary is based on a rather small sized dataset (n=79) and reflecting only a limited timespan, there are many indications from other Hispanic American countries to confirm these 3 ethnic groups from Upper Guinea having a significant presence in the Dominican Republic throughout the 1500’s. But they were not the only ones in that particular timeperiod of course and in later decades/centuries the ethnic compostion of Africans within Hispaniola would change constantly with other ethnic origins from Lower Guinea and Central Africa becoming more prevalent.

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African origins of Hispanic Caribbeans according to DNA studies

Moreno-Estrada, (2013) - Fig.6A

Reconstructing the Population Genetic History of the Caribbean (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013)


We find evidence of two pulses of African migration.The first pulse—which today is reflected by shorter, older ancestry tracts—consists of a genetic component more similar to coastal West African regions involved in early stages of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The second pulse—reflected by longer, younger tracts—is more similar to present-day West-Central African populations, supporting historical records of later transatlantic deportation.” (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.1)

“Overall, we found evidence for a differential origin of the African lineages in present day Afro-Caribbean genomes, with shorter (and thus older) ancestry tracts tracing back to Far West Africa (represented by Mandenka and Brong), and longer tracts (and thus younger) tracing back to Central West Africa.”  (Moreno-Estrada et al., 2013, p.11)


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Locating Afro-Diasporan haplogroups within Africa

Dissecting... (Tabel S6, country breakdown)a

Dissecting the Within-Africa Ancestry of Populations of African Descent in the Americas (Stefflova et al., 2011)


Limitations of our study

Our database and analyses have several limitations. First, there remains limited data from W/WC Africa, where the published literature does not cover Ivory and Gold Coasts. Thus, the analysis of genotype data is limited by the available published data.”  […] 

“Second, mtDNA is a single locus that can inform us only about group maternal ancestry and needs to be complemented with study of NRY and AIMs. While NRY analysis is complicated by limited resolution and coverage of the published data in Africa as well as Bantu speakers’ migrations.” (Stefflova et al., 2011, p.7)


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Ethnic identities of African-born slaves: valid or imposed?


Mandinga/Mandingo is undoubtedly one of the best known African ethnonyms in the Afro-Diaspora. Not only in the USA but also in the Hispanic Americas, Brazil and Cape Verde the Mandinga name is still alive in popular imagination but with very different associations it must be noted 😉 Nowadays in Brazil it is used to refer to a distinct capoeira style. In Cape Verde the socalled Mandinga parades are part of carnival celebrations. While in some Hispanic countries (Peru, Puerto Rico) there still exists a popular saying which goes:  “El que no tiene (de) Inga tiene Mandinga“, meaning Lees verder

From Creole to African

Nos tud nos é criol


Cape Verde football team participating in Africa Cup 2013

“Ethnic groups of Cape Verde:
Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%”
Source: CIA Factbook,

“Statistics from Portuguese administration in the sixties stated that the racial composition of the inhabitants was 71% of mestiços, 28% of “Africans” (i.e. blacks) and 1% of “Europeans” (i.e. whites). Those figures have been overused in several sites, in spite of not being up to date [and misleading]. Since the independence in 1975 the official statistics in Cape Verde have no longer made statistics based on racial groups. Official sources[1] only states “the majority of the population is mulatto” (“…maioritariamente mestiça…”) without stating any number. Ethnically, Cape Verdeans see themselves as a single group, regardless of being mulatto, black or white.”

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Do Cape Verdeans and African Americans share African ethnic roots?

In the previous posts i have established that:

  1. most of the slave trade that passed through Cape Verde took place in the 1500’s/1600’s
  2. involved people from the Upper Guinea region
  3. with destinations in the Hispanic Americas
  4. only northern Brazil had significant Upper Guinean slave imports in the 1700’s/1800’s
  5. a separate Cape Verdean diaspora arrived in the Americas out of their free will, most of them living in the USA but many also residing in Argentina.

This brings me to my next question: to what degree do African Americans and Cape Verdeans show overlap in their African ethnic/regional origins? Lees verder