ROOTS.NL (S1E2) – Searching for Gold

This is the second post in my blogseries about a Dutch woman (Annemieke van der Vegt) who is in an ongoing search for her West African forefather (named Christiaan van der Vegt after his baptization in 1777). In the first post i discussed how AncestryDNA can be very helpful when trying to trace African ancestry. It provided Annemieke with conclusive evidence of her African genetic inheritance. Furthermore i gave an overview of Annemiekes astonishing archival research findings sofar. Follow this link for more details:

Many fascinating details about Christiaan’s life have been uncovered by Annemieke already. The one thing she is still very eager to discover though is his original name given to him by his parents. And also his ethnic identity before getting caught up in the slave trade as a child and being forcibly relocated to the Netherlands. This blog post will therefore be centered around the question facing not only Annemieke but many Afro-descendants in the Diaspora: Is it possible to pinpoint a plausible ethnic origin for one’s African bloodline?

***Map 1 (click to enlarge)

Nsoko

Man from Ivory Coast (source) & map of Ghana showing locations of historical gold trading cities of Nsoko and Begho.

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ROOTS.NL (S1E1) – Dutch woman in search for West African forefather

OP

AncestryDNA results of a Dutch person with one single African ancestor, Christiaan van der Vegt, possibly depicted in the drawing (c. 1760) to the left.

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“Christiaan was born around 1743. This I know by his letter from 1815: (translated from Dutch)

“Letting you gratefully know Christiaan van der Vecht, born at the Coast of Guinea, 73 years of age and living in Weesp.”

Where at the Coast of Guinea he was born I don’t know and also how he came to the Netherlands is unknown to me.”

My name is Annemieke van der Vegt and I am a grand-, grand-, grand-, granddaughter (his grand-, grandson is my grand-, grandfather) of Christiaan van der Vegt”

For the complete story see: What was Christiaan’s name?

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In this blog post and two following ones i will feature the highly remarkable research findings of a Dutch woman who is in an ongoing search for her West African forefather. By simply googling her surname in 1998 she discovered that she had a West African ancestor she was previously unaware of!  She found out eventually by way of archival research that her West African forefather had been a personal servant of several members of the Dutch royal family of Orange-Nassau (at the time of his employment the Netherlands were still a Republic though). And later on (c. 1765) he was also a servant of the mayor of Weesp, a small town near Amsterdam. Most likely he had been only a child when he was brought to the Netherlands. As an adult he had several other jobs and married a Dutch woman with whom he had 10 children. He was baptized as Christiaan van der Vegt in 1777. His original African name and African ethnic identity remain unknown for now but his Dutch ggg-granddaughter, Annemieke van der Vegt, is determined to find out.

The strongly personal motivation of this sixth generation Dutch descendant to uncover the life story of her West African forefather is very inspirational. At the same time her astoundingly diligent research is proving to also have great relevance for many other people. Her work has been put in the spotlight in several Dutch media articles already, incl. the national newspaper Volkskrant, as well as a national genealogy journal. The Weesp museum has recently held a special exposition about Christiaan and three other Dutch Africans who are known to have lived in Weesp around the same time (mid 1700’s). Also historians (both within the Netherlands and internationally) are eager to tap into her specialized field of knowledge which she has been steadily compiling on her amazing blog since 2013. This was the year that marked the 150th anniversary of Dutch abolition of slavery in 1863.

If you continue reading i will discuss the following topics:

  1. What can be learnt from AncestryDNA when trying to trace African ancestry? (ROOTS.NL, part 1)
  2. Is it possible to find a plausible ethnic background for Christiaan? (ROOTS.NL, part 2, upcoming blogpost)
  3. How does Christiaan’s life story relate to the currentday discussions on race within Dutch society? (ROOTS.NL, part 3, upcoming blogpost) Lees verder

Specifying the African Origins of the Afro Diasporan Genome (part 2)

Schroeder et al. (2015) Fig1 B&C

Genome-wide ancestry of 17th-century enslaved Africans from the Caribbean (Schroeder et al., 2015)

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“The transatlantic slave trade resulted in the forced movement of over 12 million Africans to the Americas. Although many coastal shipping points are known, they do not necessarily reflect the slaves’ actual ethnic or geographic origins. We obtained genome-wide data from 17th-century remains of three enslaved individuals who died on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin and use them to identify their genetic origins in Africa, with far greater precision than previously thought possible. The study demonstrates that genomic data can be used to trace the genetic ancestry of long-dead individuals, a finding that has important implications for archeology, especially in cases where historical information is missing.” (Schroeder et al., 2015, p.3669)

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Guyanese Slave Census of 1819 , less specified but still representative?

Berbice (Guyana) Slave Census of 1819

SUMMARY

Number of slaves 23,881
Creole (i.e. born in the Americas) 10,954 (46% of total)
African 12,867 (54% of total)
African specified ethnically/regionally 1,198 (5% of total)

BREAKDOWN OF AFRICAN BORN SLAVES

Kongo (Congo) 212 – 18% of African specified
Coromantee (Ghana) 139 – 12% of African specified
Popo (Benin/Togo) 113 – 9% of African specified
Source

Origins of African-born slaves Berbice 1819 Lees verder