Update: Afro-Diasporan AncestryDNA Survey (part 1)

In 2013 AncestryDNA updated their Ethnicity Estimates to include a detailed breakdown of West African DNA. Pioneering when compared with other DNA testing companies. Soon afterwards I started collecting AncestryDNA results in an online spreadsheet in order to conduct a survey of the African regional scores being reported by AncestryDNA. At first only for people of the Afro-Diaspora and later on also among Africans. My main research goal has always been to establish how much the AncestryDNA 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.

In May 2016 I published my first summary of my Afro-Diasporan survey findings based on 707 results for 7 nationalities (see this blog post). My survey has been ongoing ever since. Right now an update of AncestryDNA’s Ethnicity Estimates seems even more imminent than it was in 2016 (when it was canceled in the beta phase). So that’s why I will yet again provide a “final” overview of my survey findings 😉 . Mainly based on 1,264 results for people from 8 nationalities. Although the total number of results and nationalities in my survey is even greater.

A major addition is the inclusion of 45 Brazilian results. Their predominant Central African profiles (as measured by both “Southeastern Bantu” and “Cameroon/Congo”) are quite striking when compared with my other sample groups. This outcome reinforces how the African breakdown on AncestryDNA has been reasonably in alignment with historically documented origins of the Afro-Diaspora. Unlike any other DNA testing platform I’m aware of and therefore not to be lightly dismissed despite inherent imperfections.

In the second part of this blogseries I will also provide an overview of the non-African regions (Amerindian, Asian, Pacific etc.) being reported for Afro-Diasporans. As well as a more detailed analysis of their European breakdown.

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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.”

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Chart 1 (click to enlarge)

Afro piechartsa

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DNA matches reported by 23andme for 75 Africans

Wishing to share the vibranium 😉 I have created a new page featuring the DNA matches reported by 23andme for 75 Africansall across the continent. These results were collected by me in 2015 when 23andme’s Countries of Ancestry (CoA) tool was still available.

My survey results might have limitations in several regards but I do believe these African CoA results can still reveal relevant tendencies in DNA matching. I intend to compare these preliminary matching patterns eventually with my more recent findings for Africans who tested on Ancestry. I provide detailed background info as well as screenshots of the individual results on this page:

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“South-Central Hunter-Gatherers” suggestive of remnant West African Pygmy DNA?

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

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

 SC Hunter-Gathers” can also be predictive of West African ancestors

  • In particular Liberian, Ivorian and Sierra Leonean ancestors might have passed on socalled “Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers” DNA markers, which are also present in their own genome. The “Africa South-Central” labeling by AncestryDNA is therefore not to be taken too literally. Despite usually appearing as “low confidence” trace region this still represents a very distinctive type of DNA.

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PS (4x)a

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“Cameroon/Congo” = moreso Angola/Congo for Diasporans?

I have created a new page featuring the AncestryDNA results for persons from Central Africa as well as Southern Africa. I will create a new section for West Africa shortly. Despite the minimal number of results i have collected sofar i also provide some statistical data, background information and relevant context.

Follow this link to view the page:

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compilccdiasp2

AncestryDNA results from Cameroon & Congo contrasted with AncestryDNA results from across the Diaspora showing maximum scores of socalled “Cameroon/Congo”.

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In addition i also discuss the implications these results might have for Afro-Diasporans. Generally speaking when it comes to tracing back the main strains of regional African lineage for Afro-Diasporans in the Americas undoubtedly results from the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Angola will be most relevant, given historical plausibility and cultural retention. Although also Cameroon, Mozambique, Madagascar and directly surrounding countries, such as Zambia, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and Malawi are not to be overlooked. As a general disclaimer of course in individual cases several ancestral scenarios might apply. And with corroborating evidence a Cameroonian or rather a Bight of Biafra connection might still be demonstrated to be valid for many persons. Even when based on the discussion below Congolese & Angolan ancestry seems much more likely on average.

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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!

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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.”

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FREQ #1 regions

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Louisiana: most African diversity within the United States?

Louisiana Slave Database 1719-1820

SUMMARY

Number of slaves with origin specified 29,769
American born (“Creole”) 13,618 (45% of total)
African born 16,099 (54% of total)
African specified ethnically 8,994 (30% of total)

TOP 3 BREAKDOWN OF AFRICAN BORN SLAVES

Congo (Central Africa) 2,988 – 33% of African specified
Mandinga (Upper Guinea) 922 – 10% of African specified
Mina (Ghana, Togo, Benin) 628 – 7% of African specified
Source: Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links (Hall, 2005).

Congo Square

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Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s remarkable relational database of Louisiana slaves and freedmen (1719-1820), which contains records of over 100,000 enslaved people, includes nearly 9,000 individual Africans by specific ethnicity. The database was first published in 2000 as a CD-ROM, and it is now available free on the Internet. The database is derived largely from notarial and ‘‘succession’’ (probate) records, mostly in French, in which slaves often self-identified their ‘‘nations’’ or ‘‘countries’’. There are 217 different ethnicities recorded, of which 96 have been identified, and a further 121 (comprising 152 individuals) which have not been identified. Of those identified, just 18 ethnicities account for over 96% of the Africans in the Louisiana records. In addition, within that set of 18 principal ‘‘nations,’’ the seven most common (in order, Kongo, Mandingo, Mina, Senegal/Wolof, Igbo, Bamana, Chamba), comprise over three-quarters of the sample. The single most numerous ‘‘nation’’ in the dataset was Africans from Kongo (nearly 3,000 individuals), the vast majority of whom arrived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries” (Chambers, 2008, pp.335-336).

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For a direct link to this extremely fascinating and online searchable database created by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall see below:

Louisiana Slave Database 1719-1820

A full overview of the 18 most frequently named African origins can be seen in the remaining part of this blogpost in which i will attempt to provide more details and context about Louisiana’s African diversity. Continue reading

Ethnic Origins of South Carolina Runaway Slaves

South Carolina Runaway Slaves 1730-1790

Francisco Menendez, a Mandinga runaway slave from South Carolina, became leader of the free black militia at Fort Mose in the Spanish ruled Florida of the 1700’s.

SUMMARY

Number of runaway slaves: 2,424
African origins specified: 508

TOP 3 BREAKDOWN OF AFRICAN BORN SLAVES

“Angola” (mostly Bakongo) 149 – 29% of African specified
“Gambia” (incl. Mali/Senegal) 61 – 12% of African specified
“Ebo” (Igbo & related ethnic groups) 49 – 10% of African specified
Source

Above summaries are based on the HIGHLY interesting collection of runaway slave advertisements published in American newspapers in the 1700’s:Runaway Slave Advertisements : a Documentary History from the 1730’s to 1790, Volume 3, South Carolina”. This very extensive work was put together by Lathan Windley in 1983 and has been used by many historians ever since.  Besides ethnic/regional origins you can discover many more fascinating details about these advertised runaway slaves if you read the texts closely. The advertisements can be consulted online (after registration) via this great website: The African American Experience.

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