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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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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Specifying the African Origins of the Afro Diasporan Genome (part 1)

Montinaro (2015) - Fig. 1 Samplegroups & Clusters

Unravelling the hidden ancestry of American admixed populations (Montinaro et al., 2015)


Montinaro (2015) - Supplement - 3way Breakdown

Own calculations based on “Unravelling the hidden ancestry of American admixed populations” (Montinaro et al., 2015)


“Although our sampling of Africans is incomplete, we see variation among groups in similarity to present-day populations from different parts of Africa. In all groups, the Yorubans from West Africa are the largest contributor, confirming this region [Lower Guinea] as the major component of African slaves” (Montinaro et al., 2015, p.3)

“In addition, more than 30% of the total slaves arriving in mainland Spanish America up to the 1630s came from Senegambia, and we accordingly find that the relative contribution from the Mandenka is higher in all areas historically under the Spanish rule.(Montinaro et al., 2015, p.4)


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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 African to Creole


In the previous post i already discussed the following:

  • Creole” can mean many more things than just referring to Louisiana Creoles.
  • Cape Verdean Creoles/Crioulos are probably the historically oldest self-identified Creole population in the world.
  • In the colonial era the term “Creole” was also used to distinguish between African born slaves and locally born (within the European ruled colonies) slaves.
  • the dating of the socalled Creolization process/transition is fundamental for tracing back African ethnic roots.

I will continue this discussion but in this post i will apply it more generally for Afro-descendants in the Americas and in more detail for African Americans. Lees verder

Shared Upper Guinean roots between Cape Verdeans and Latin Americans

Cape Verde was used by the Portuguese in the 1500’s/1600’s as a midway station for collecting, “seasoning” and reexporting captives born in Upper Guinea to the labour-starved cities, mines and plantations of the Spanish Carribean, Central America, Mexico, Colombia and Peru.  Unlike what you might have expected very few slaves exported via Cape Verde were actually going to Brazil in this particular time period.  Lees verder