About me

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Getting to the roots of the most famous tree on Cape Verde, “Pe di Polon”. It’s a socalled Kapok or Cotton tree, to be found in both West Africa as well as the Americas. Sort of symbolizing the Trans Atlantic connections of Cape Verde.

This blog was basically born out of my personal quest to explore my own African roots. I took the 23andme DNA test already in 2010. Initially I was merely told that I had an x amount of African ancestry, without further specification. Of course I already knew I had African DNA as I am of Cape Verdean descent with Cape Verde being a West African island group (see also “What Tribe Am I?” ). I was also told that my maternal lineage originated in Mozambique out of all places! An African country which is probably furthest removed from Cape Verde  geographically speaking, located right at the other end of the continent, thousands of miles away from Cape Verde. With little known documented ancestral connections between the two countries besides both having been part of the Portuguese colonial empire. Safe to say I was confused and clueless about this one single concrete hint provided about my African heritage!

While overall my 23andme test experience has been enriching in many ways and I gained more insights after subsequent updates of my results. It did leave me wanting to know more about exactly which regions and which ethnic groups would be connected with my African heritage, beyond Cape Verde obviously. That sort of got the ball rolling as I tried to find more information myself from reading up on both Cape Verdean and African Diasporic history as well as following online discussions on genetics and DNA testing. I’ll never claim to be a trained expert in either field but I will attempt to use my blog to share whatever knowledge I have gathered in the last 10 years after having taken my first DNA test. I still love reading about anything that’s related to personal DNA testing. There’s so many areas of interest that come together: history, genealogy, anthropology, population genetics and even the psychology of how people react to their results as it confronts them with how they self-identify I suppose. I can honestly say it never bores me.

I’m convinced that new insights are often generated by just putting two and two together. In other words I think a multidisciplinary approach, combining history, ethnography, linguistics etc. with genetics, often works better than just limiting yourself to a onesided view. I’m also a firm believer of democratizing knowledge. Despite much academic progress being made in African & Afro-Diasporic studies many people taking DNA tests seem to be not aware. So that’s why aside from posting on whatever captures my imagination, I also intend for this blog to be some sort of repository of useful links, resources, charts, maps etc. (navigate the menubar). Anything to make it easier to understand the ethnic origins of Afro-Diasporans from all over the Americas and even located within Africa 😉 I would advise anyone to familiarize themselves at the very least with the vast diversity of Africa (see ethno-linguistic maps) and also whatever’s been documented historically about the African ethnic groups being present in your own country (e.g. see  ethnic/regional charts for the USA or the Anglo-Caribbean among others).

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At the roots of probably the oldest and biggest tree of Cape Verde “Pe di Polon”. Standing tall for over 500 years on Santiago island.

Tracing the African roots of the Afro-Diaspora is also about reaffirming the lost identities of ancestors who were caught up in the most dehumanizing circumstances of slavery. I personally strongly believe that in order to truly honour your many dozens or even hundreds of African born forefathers and foremothers (see “Fictional Family Tree incl. African Born Ancestors“) taking a critical stance regarding the claims of DNA testing is a must. Naively taking your results at face value and just going for quick and easy answers could very well lead to gravely misidentifying the main lineages of your African ancestry, which would be tragic indeed inspite of all good intentions.

Don’t get me wrong: you can still get very valuable clues about your ancestry from DNA testing! But much depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to spend to do some own research, getting to know the basics of DNA testing, finding out about population genetics, learning about African history (again taking a critical stance and not just going by whatever seems either mainstream or fanciful but only what’s backed up by solid evidence). All these things will help improve your understanding and interpretation of your DNA test results which do provide helpful clues as long as you’ve done your homework.

Finding out about your ancestry can often be very daunting indeed. It takes a lot of perseverance, patience and luck. But I’ve found that when you finally get to learn something meaningful and verifiable it’s also very gratifying. Finding out you’re not alone in this quest is a true comfort and engaging in online discussions about this topic has always been very enriching for me and a great learning process. I invite all readers of this blog therefore to feel free to post any comments, questions, remarks or helpful criticism!

Just as a last statement I would like to emphasize it’s not my intention to push anyone’s own research into one direction only as it’s always wise to keep all options open. Even when the most plausible scenario usually is closest to the truth. Also i would hate to give any impression of a Mr.Know It All as I know how annoying that can be 😀 I’m aiming to keep opinions separate from facts and I will mention my sources as much as possible. I will also always make a conscious attempt to be as unbiased as I can be. However given human nature some bias might still be there even unintentionally. That’s why all the main research findings featured in my blog posts can also be found in “Ethnic/Regional Origins” in the menubar. That way readers can access the information without having to bother with my subjective opinions or attempts at (over) lenghty analysis 😉

For a blog series which summarizes my take on Tracing African Roots:

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Dragoeiro tree in Santo Antão. It’s one of the most distinctive tree species on the Cape Verde islands.

145 thoughts on “About me

  1. Hi Felipe,
    I came across your blog during the last month and it’s been a real revelation to me. I did an Ancestry DNA test and found out that I am roughly 45% African, 30% Indian, 15% South East Asian and 10% European. Being from Mauritius and what I already know from creating my family tree going back 4 generations, the result did not surprise me that much.
    However, it’s my African ancestry that really interests me. I am Mauritian creole with African roots mainly from Mozambique and via Madagascar with South East Asian admixture.
    It would be amazing if you could add a small ‘Indian Ocean Islands’ section to your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Lelio,

      Thank you for your kind words! I have been wanting to add a Indian Oceanic Diaspora section for a while now actually. However because of other projects I have not found the time yet 😉 I have already discussed the individual DNA test results for a few Indian Ocean Creoles, both on 23andme (see this link) and Ancestry (scroll down to “Indian Ocean Islander Results” on this page).

      But it has always been my intention to eventually also perform a more thorough analysis. Based on both regional admixture within Africa as well as associated African DNA matches. Preferably including atleast 20 survey participants from the region. If you would be willing to colloborate with me in this future effort I would be very grateful!

      In addition I also wish to create a separate page listing the documented African origins for Indian Ocean islanders as well as South African Coloureds in this section:

      https://tracingafricanroots.wordpress.com/tables-on-ethnicregional-background/

      If you should have any suggestions for good sources please let me know!

      Thanks in advance!

      Like

  2. Hi Felipe,

    I was sent to this blog from twitter; for the last hour i’ve been surfing through your blog and website and all I can say is I am amazed.

    I am a final year university student in London. I am writing to you to request an interview for an assignment I am working on. The central aim is to understand whether Direct-to-customer commercial ancestry services accurately reflect the full spectrum of human genetic variation and diversity; I am looking specifically at African Ancestry.

    I have been interviewing both geneticists and bioethicists at the moment, but I am looking for an emotional and experienced persons interview comments on taking ancestry tests as an african that is trying to in some way ‘reaffirm the lost identities of ancestors who were caught up in the most dehumanizing circumstances of slavery’.

    Your understanding of population genetics, Ancestry Direct-to-customer services and admixture biogeographics makes me reach out to you. Your experience and knowledge would exponentially better my article.

    This sentence- ‘Naively taking your results at face value and just going for quick and easy answers could very well lead to gravely misidentifying the main lineages of your African ancestry, which would be tragic indeed inspite of all good intentions’- sums up many of the arguments in my article.

    Please let me know if you are willing to take up this request, and I will attach questions about the topic for you to read before committing to an interview; this would be via email.

    If you want to know more about my topic, I would be happy to send more information to you through email.

    I hope this interests you and I look forward to hearing back,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you very much for the kind words! I am flattered to know you should want to take me into consideration. Your article certainly sounds very interesting and in line with the theme of my blog! Please check your email as I sent you a PM.

      This sentence- ‘Naively taking your results at face value and just going for quick and easy answers could very well lead to gravely misidentifying the main lineages of your African ancestry, which would be tragic indeed inspite of all good intentions’- sums up many of the arguments in my article.

      This has indeed always been one of my main concerns. However I should add that I firmly believe that despite inherent limitations and given correct interpretation DNA testing (regional admixture estimates and African DNA matches) can be very useful as a stepping stone for follow-up research. And just to get a general idea of where most of your African ancestors hailed from. All according to the latest state of knowledge. Which naturally may be improved upon across time. Also of course each DNA testing company should be judged on its own merits. As there will often be variation in performance.

      I find it important though to stay positive and focus on whatever informational value you can obtain despite imperfections. Instead of taking a dismissive stance. As I always say I prefer to see the glass as half full rather than half empty 😉 You do need to make an effort yourself and stay engaged to gain more insight!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Felipe,

    Is there an email where I can send you some thoughts? I am hoping to explore DNA as it relates to those with Haitian ancestry for a nonprofit that serves those who have aged out of orphanages in Haiti and have zero information about their biological roots. Your blog is the first that came up when I googled this issue and hoped maybe you’d be willing to provide some guidance. I would be so very grateful!

    Thanks so much,
    Caroline

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey FELIPE !! I’m saw your African data from Veracruz Mexico. I’m also from Veracruz Mexico and would love for you to add my results.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there, thanks for reaching out! My Mexican survey is actually already finished. But very cool that you’re from Veracruz, really interesting results from that area. I will be posting my findings about the African DNA matches I found on Ancestry for 10 Mexicans in a couple of months. So keep an eye out for that!

      Like

  5. Long time, no see.

    Just a heads up; Ancestry announced this month that they are doing another update. I also got around to finally doing 23&me, and I’m expecting my results from them sometime next week.

    BTW, would it be too much work to add a search function to this site? I was looking for an old post for some research I wanted to share with someone, but found it too difficult to go back through all of the threads to find what I was looking for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Damon, good to hear from you again! I’m not that excited about the Ancestry update to be frank..but we’ll see 😉 Very cool though that you did 23andme!. Let me know when you get your results in. Will be interesting to see how you fit in with my recent surveys based on African American 23andme results. Did you read this post yet?

      Are African Americans really mostly “Nigerian”?

      I added a search box, was easier than I thought lol. Let me know if it works. I tend to use the category search tool myself.

      Like

      • From a quick search, it seems to work as well as it needs to.

        I have not yet had time to read it, but will definitely do so. Anyway, what do you know of the AncestryDNA update that doesn’t give you much hope in it? Is it just how often they’ve done it and the predictitive nature simply hasn’t improved?

        I will let you know when my 23andMe results come in. They were supposed to come in earlier this week, but haven’t yet.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I haven’t read that much about Ancestry’s upcoming update so they might yet surprise me. But from what I’ve heard sofar it might possibly only be one extra African region. Attempting to separate Egyptian DNA from generic Middle Eastern DNA. Which is of course welcome in itself but is not helpful at all for understanding the main lineage of Atlantic Afro-Diasporans!

          Apparently there’s also been one new genetic community for East Africa. Which again is great for those people of such descent. But I can’t help but notice that further specification of West and Central African DNA still seems far from being a priority…

          So again I hope I am wrong and Ancestry will still make some meaningful improvements in this regard. But otherwise my plea from last year to make Ancestry’s experience truly inclusive for everyone does not seem to have much effect yet. And it will just be a repeat show all over again lol!

          Ancestry’s new African Breakdown: merely cosmetic changes?

          Like

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