South Carolina 23andme results

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Summary of survey findings
      • Continental breakdown
      • Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, pay attention: 100% African scores 😉
      • African breakdown
      • Comparing with other US states
      • Substructure within South Carolina
  3. Screenshots of 23andme results for African Americans from South Carolina
  4. Screenshots of AncestryDNA results for African Americans from South Carolina

1) Intro

This page features screenshots of both AncestryDNA as well as 23andme results from African Americans with deep family roots in South Carolina.1 My discussion in section 2 will be mainly based on 23andme results though. When reviewing these results it is essential to be aware that 23andme has implemented several updates in the last two years. Often beneficial for Tracing African Roots! Starting with the introduction of a new African regional framework in 2018. In 2019 new reference samples were added for especially North Africa. While also the potentially very useful Recent Ancestor Locations feature has been greatly expanded. In 2020 an upgraded algorithm was introduced. In fact the differences between the 2018 & 2019 versions tend to be very slight for most people, when looking only at the %’s.

But the 2020 update did have a greater impact. Although again nothing too drastic, atleast on average. In particular it seems that as mentioned by 23andme themselves “Nigerian” scores have been on the increase generally speaking (on average around 4%). However from what I have seen especially for people who already had primary or even predominant “Nigerian” scores. The new homogenizing or “smoothing” algorithm on 23andme serving to magnify main tendencies. But in many other cases actually the 2020 update has also resulted in minor increases (<5%) for other African regions. Arguably especially the predictive accuracy of “Angolan & Congolese” has improved somewhat. Mostly at the expense of “Broadly African” scores. Then again “Broadly West African” is remaining with a considerable (scaled) share of around 10%-13%. So still some ground to cover by 23andme.

Overall speaking 23andme’s African breakdown remains a meaningful tool for distinguishing West African and Central African components for African Americans and especially for people from South Carolina. However it should be noted that 23andme is still missing a category similar to “Mali” on Ancestry. And this circumstance is most likely resulting in additional DNA from Mali and surrounding countries being covered by “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” as well (see this map and also this page for the 23andme results of a few (mixed) Malian persons). Also unfortunately it seems that “Senegambian & Guinean” scores may have become underreported for some people. Due to 23andme’s upgraded “box car” algorithm being biased towards diluted admixture segments. 23andme is still able to detect and pinpoint distinctive types of minor regional admixture. But it will now tend to assign them to related but more prevailing admixture categories whenever the segments happen to be adjacent and located on the same chromosome. For greater understanding of how 23andme is able to come up with these results and how to correctly interpret the African breakdown read these links:

2) South Carolina group averages

In order to attain greater insight for these South Carolina 23andme results I have performed a survey based exclusively on the 2020 version.2 The main focus being on the African breakdown. Given the robust sample size of my survey (n=100 for South Carolina) it will be useful to look into their group averages and compare with my additional survey of 100 African American updated 23andme results from other states as well (FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, VA). See links below for my online spreadsheets which features all of the individual results:

Also in your personal quest it might serve as a helpful baseline so to speak. Which makes it easier to see how your own results fit in the greater picture. Do keep in mind that in my surveys I always scale the African breakdown to 100%! So in order to compare you will first have to calculate your own scaled results. Which is very simple. Basically: % for a given African region divided by % of total African amount. Naturally individual variation is a given and is not to be denied! Any meaningful deviations from the group averages hopefully serving as useful clues.

I have actually already blogged about my more extensive survey findings for 200 African American 23andme results (based on the 2018 version). That previous research effort included 20 results from South Carolina. Although this page is exclusively discussing updated results (2020 version) it will still be very useful to compare with my 2018 survey findings. As many aspects remained pretty much consistent. When dealing with African Americans as a whole my discussion will also be more detailed than on this page.

Aside from a strictly personalized perspective of course also on a more broader population level the relevant historical context will remain essential to really get the most out of your own admixture results. As most of the time your results will actually conform more or less with the results of other people with similar backgrounds. And therefore in the greater scheme of things your own personal African roots will be pretty much the same as for other people with your particular background.

Afterall most of our more distant African lineage will be shared with fellow countrymen and even more so with people from the same state/area with whom we share more recent ancestral ties. Reinforced by relative endogamy at times. Probably especially in the foundational period of the 1700’s when African Americans emerged as a distinctive ethnic group within its own right. And intriguingly this is also the timeperiod which saw the formation of the Gullah in the coastal areas of South Carolina. The Gullah, a.k.a. Geechee, being one of the more distinctive African American subgroups.4 See also:

However Domestic Slave Trade and Post Slavery migrations have resulted in great deal of additional intermingling and diversification of African lineage. On top of what was already the result from both Trans-Atlantic and Intra-American Slave Trade combined. This is especially true for the USA because of its continental size. The resulting mix actually being quite distinctive for African Americans as a whole. Even when of course individual variation will remain a given. On the other hand localized genepools for the main entrypoints of Africans within the USA may still exist as well. In fact genetic substructure according to earliest known state origins does seem to occur among certain subsets of African Americans. In particular for people from South Carolina as I will demonstrate on this page. Further reading:

Continental breakdown

Table 1 (click to enlarge) 

Similar to other African Americans also people from South Carolina tend to be clearly of predominant African descent combined with minor other ancestral components. Despite inner-state variation it is however quite likely that people from South Carolina might have the highest degree of African DNA, nation wide. At least on average. Tellingly also the most frequent African admixture interval being 90%-100%, instead of 80%-90%.  See this screenshot for an overview of my previous 23andme survey findings (n=200). As well as this one specifying the group average for 20 results from South Carolina (2018 version).

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Table 2 (click to enlarge)

The within-South Carolina origins of my survey participants are not based on a 4 grandparents criterium per se. But often this was indeed confirmed by their profile details on 23andme. Obviously minimal sample size for the most part. But still insightful variation on display. Take notice especially of the highest subgroup averages which have been highlighted in red. As expected the highest African group average is found in the Lowcountry. With the interior areas of Upstate and Midlands actually more so conforming with national group averages. And Pee Dee being somewhat intermediate, although tending more so towards Lowcountry.

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Of course my 23andme survey may have several limitations. The group averages I have calculated for my survey-(sub)groups are neither absolute or conclusive but rather to be seen as indicative. One main aspect to take to heart is that there will always be individual variation around the mean! Still the sample size of n=100 should be sufficiently robust to pick up on the main tendencies. Furthermore this continental breakdown on 23andme is also greatly similar or even practically identical to my previous survey findings on both Ancestry and 23andme. I already established then that African admixture among African Americans seems to be peaking in South Carolina. The group average of 87% African for African Americans from South Carolina already being obtained in 2015 during my Ancestry survey (n=350 among whom 59 from South Carolina). While in my previous 23andme survey (based on the 2018 version) I calculated a group average of 88% African for 20 African Americans from South Carolina (out of 200 in total).

My findings with relation to the continental breakdown are in agreement with published studies on African American genetics as well. Also when referring to South Carolina.5 But zooming into coastal areas and contrasting with inland areas might be a first (along with the inclusion of Southeast Asian admixture statistics). Atleast as far as I know and also when dealing with regional admixture within Africa as well (otherwise see Parra et al. (2001) for a truly pioneering study). Such a comparison is however particularly insightful when wanting to grasp the localized formation of the Gullah people in the Lowcountry and adjacent Pee Dee area! Both coastal areas being part of the wider so-called Gullah-Geechee corridor. Which in fact also extends into the coastal area of Georgia and a few directly bordering counties of North Carolina and Florida. See maps below for regional definitions:

In Table 2 above I am exploring if there is any differentiation based on regional origins within South Carolina. The results are more preliminary than shown in Table 1. Because the sample size for the 4 main regions within South Carolina is of course minimal. And obviously these regional divisions are only meant to be approximate. As I am aware various definitions may exist. Also naturally I did not have complete knowledge about the family origins of all of my survey participants. Although often I was actually able to confirm the county birthplaces of all 4 grandparents. Merely meant as an exploratory excercise therefore. But still already quite insightful for indicating that as expected African ancestry is most elevated in the Lowcountry. While the interior areas of Upland and Midlands are actually conforming with nationwide group averages!

Eventhough the difference might seem trivial and obviously based on minimal samplesize I do suspect that the 0.8% Southeast Asian score for Upstate might be suggestive of greater reliance on overland/Domestic slave trade with Virginia/North Carolina for this interior part of South Carolina. As it is known that going by direct Trans-Atlantic Slave Voyages South Carolina mostly received Mozambican captives from Southeast Africa. While most of the Malagasy captives went to Virginia and New York. Their (mixed) American-born descendants were later on dispersed into the Deep South by way of Domestic Slave trade (see this page).

Compare also with my previous survey findings:

See also pioneering (but low-resolution) researchfindings from Parra et al. (2001):

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Pay Attention!

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The average African-American is 24 percent European.“, (Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., 2019)

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Chart 1 (click to enlarge)

This chart is showing the full extent of African ancestry among my South Carolina survey participants. The most frequent African admixture interval is 90%-100%.  Very useful to compare with my overall African American surveyfindings (n=200, see this chart). As actually for African Americans as a whole it is instead the 80%-90% admixture interval which seems to be most frequent. Notwithstanding wider variation of course.

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In Table 1 it was already shown that the group average of African admixture for my South Carolina survey group was around 87%. And according to Table 2 African admixture seems to peak among my survey participants from the Lowcountry with 92%. Chart 1 is demonstrating that more than 75% of my South Carolina survey group has African DNA falling within the 80%-100% bracket (36+41). While the most frequent African admixture interval was 90%-100%. Very useful to compare wih my previous survey findings for 200 African Americans (incl. 20 with South Carolina origins). Because nationwide it seems that the most frequent African admixture interval is rather 80%-90%. The relative share of people falling in the 90%-100% bracket still being substantial (20%) for African Americans as a whole but obviously less prominent than for African Americans from South Carolina (41%).

Of course more research is needed for greater substantiation. But still these outcomes are already in agreement with prior expectations and previous studies (e.g. Baharian et al. (2015, p.5) also has a group average of 88% African for its South Carolina survey group). In particular Gullah people from the Lowcountry in South Carolina are often said to have retained their African heritage to the greatest degree. Both culturally and genetically (Zimmerman et al., 2020). But actually my survey participants hailed from other parts of South Carolina as well. And many of them likewise also attained African scores of 90% and higher. Therefore one should be careful when applying generalizing statements about “the average” African American. As I always mention it is wise to also take into account other statistical measures besides the mathematical mean (such as median, full range etc.). As well as keeping in mind that wider variation may exist according to state origins!

Generally speaking the topic of European admixture among African Americans of course remains relevant.6 But wider variation and localized contexts should not be obscured by constantly focusing only on “the average“, as calculated in one single study. As mentioned in the quote below Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. has also (repeatedly) mentioned that he is not aware of any African Americans who are “100% African”, genetically speaking. Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is of course a well known scholar. And rightfully respected for his widely acclaimed and highly inspirational Finding Your Roots TV show. However many people right now seem to believe that African Americans with African admixture greater than 90% are some kind of rarity. Or even “unicorns”. Even when this is far from the case!

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Most DNA companies in the United States will tell you that they have never tested an African-American who is 100 percent from sub-Saharan Africa.“, (Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., 2019)

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AncestryDNA results for a confirmed Gullah person

2020 version. Notice that all the various African regional scores add up to 100% African! Not a single trace amount of European or Native American admixture. I have been told by PM that this person hails from a Gullah speaking family, located in Jasper county/ Lowcountry. Something which is also independently confirmed by the genetic community “South Carolina Lowcountry African Americans”.

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Already in my previous Ancestry survey (2015) I managed to include no less than 4 multi-generational African Americans with 100% African admixture. And since then I have seen several African Americans scoring 100% African on Ancestry. A proportion of about 2% of all my observations within the 2013-2018 period (10/515). Again this refers to verified African Americans without any recent ancestral ties to either Africa or the Caribbean. Often (but not always!) with South Carolina origins. See also section 4 for more screenshots.

In my 23andme surveys I have not yet seen any African American scoring 100% African sofar. This outcome is most likely caused by 23andme’s algorithm being more finetuned when dealing with trace amounts. However contrary to oft repeated assumptions African American results without any European admixture do exist on 23andme as well! In my current South Carolina survey group (n=100) in fact 3 persons combined nearly 100% African ancestry (96.1%-98.8%) with additional minor admixture being either Native American, Southeast Asian or North African. But otherwise 0% European!  See section 3 for their results. Also in my previous 23andme survey (based on the 2018 version) one person from South Carolina scored 99.4% African and the remaining part was only Native American and Southeast Asian (see this screenshot).

Compare also with my previous survey findings:

African breakdown

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Table 3 (click to enlarge)

Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean”  is slightly more prominent than “Nigerian” for my South Carolina survey group. Very telling outcome because for African Americans as a whole it is actually the other way around! See this overview for 100 African American 23andme results (2020 version). Also noteworthy that “Angolan & Congolese” showed up as primary region a few times (see ranked #1).  Aside from the group averages do take notice too of the complete range (min-max) for greater insight!

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Looking at the the regional group statistics shown above it is quite striking how “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” is somewhat more outstanding than “Nigerian” for my South Carolina surveygroup. In fact the difference is quite close when going by group averages (29.7% vs. 28.1%) but more clearly to be seen when going by frequency of primary ranking (54 vs. 41). This is a quite revealing outcome because for African Americans as a whole it is “Nigerian” which is much more prevailing, generally speaking. To be kept in mind is that the “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” category can have various ancestral implications. Also covering Mali and surrounding countries in fact (see this map and also this page for the 23andme results of a few (mixed) Malian persons). But given the South Carolina context a main Sierra Leone connection or better yet a proxy of Rice Coast lineage should be very likely. Looking into associated DNA matches will usually provide greater clarification. See also:

However other regional scores are also showing up with substantial amounts. In particular “Angolan & Congolese” is indicative of significant Central African lineage. While also “Senegambian & Guinean”, indicative of strictly Upper Guinean lineage is at a considerable level of around 10% on average. While there are also some more elevated “Senegambian & Guinean” outliers surpassing even the 20% level (maximum score unscaled was 21.5%)! Also taking into account the “Broadly” scores this makes for an overall quite balanced and varied breakdown. Macro-regionally speaking clearly covering both Upper Guinea and Central Africa, aside from also Lower Guinea, mainly indicated by “Nigerian” scores (see this map).

Although 23andme’s West African breakdown is less detailed than on Ancestry it should be useful to compare again with my previous AncestryDNA survey findings from 2013-2018 (n=68). Keep in mind that even with similar labeling the regions will not be exact equivalents. Basically this is due to differences in reference samples as well as in algorithm applied by each separate DNA test. I greatly suspect that many of the prominent “Benin/Togo” and also some of the “Cameroon/Congo” scores on Ancestry will now be read as mostly “Nigerian” instead on 23andme. Above average “Mali” scores on Ancestry are likely to be included in prominent “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean” scores. Aside from also possibly to be included in the “Broadly West African” category on 23andme.

Although 23andme has somewhat improved its predictive accuracy of “Angolan & Congolese” I do suspect that it is still underestimating the full extent of Central African DNA among my survey group (possibly hiding under “Broadly West African”?). Because my previous Ancestry surveyfindings were much more in line with a prominent and well documented Central African heritage for South Carolina. As indicated by “Cameroon/Congo” being reported most frequently as primary region (19/68). While the combined share of “Cameroon/Congo and “Southeastern Bantu” was around 30%. In contrast on 23andme “Angolan & Congolese” did show up in first place for a few persons, but only 5 times. While the combined scores indicating Central African & Southeast African DNA  reach a level of atmost 20%. Which is still quite impressive of course and greatly indicative! But somewhat less than expected when going solely by documented Trans Atlantic Slave trade patterns which mention a share of Central African slave trade of around 30-35% for South Carolina. See also:

The “Senegambian & Guinean” scores for my survey group are quite similar to the “Senegal” scores on Ancestry. At least in Ancestry’s 2013-2018 version. Quite comparable also in scope although this proxy for Upper Guinean DNA is also covering Guinea Conakry on 23andme (see this map). Which might explain a slightly higher group average of 10.5 % in my current 23andme survey versus 9.5% in my Ancestry survey (n=68). But obviously this is in the same order of magnitude. In my discussion of my Ancestry findings in 2015 I already mentioned why such scores might be lower than anticipated for African Americans. In particular caused by a possibly greater dilution of Senegambian bloodlines. And a possibly misreckoning of Upper Guinean origins for African Americans hailing more so from areas directly bordering Senegambia proper to the south and the east. Even when actually for the South Carolina context also substructure appears to be valid for especially the Lowcountry and Pee Dee, as discussed further below.

Compare with my previous survey findings:

Comparing with other US states

Table 4 (click to enlarge)

This table is combining the data from my South Carolina survey with the findings from my additional African American survey which did not include any South Carolina results. The data has been sorted on lowest to highest score for “Nigerian”. The highest group averages for each region have been encircled in red. Obviously several limitations might apply, however the ranking order is mostly in agreement with historical plausibility. The greatest contrast existing between South Carolina and Virginia. Compare also with my previous findings based on the 2018 version of 23andme.

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Table 5 (click to enlarge)

This overview shows how many times each African region was reported as number 1 region with the highest amount in the African breakdown. Measured as a relative frequency. The data should be interpreted carefully because hypothetically if a region is consistently mentioned in second place it will not be shown in this overview. Main takeaway being that only South Carolina has “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” as most frequent primary region. However a declining gradient seems to be at work whereby Georgia and Florida as well as Louisiana are shown to have similar regional patterns as South Carolina.

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“I suppose this can serve as some sort of confirmation already that South Carolina has higher than average Upper Guinean ancestry as well as from Central Africa.” (Fonte Felipe 2015)

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This section is looking into regional substructure within the African American population, according to state origins. In my previous research efforts (ongoing since 2013) I have focused on three key states when considering the African origins of African Americans. Aside from South Carolina also Virginia and Louisiana. This time around I am very pleased to be able to provide potentially insightful substructure for a wider array of US states.  Although often based on an admittedly minimal number of samples. And also other shortcomings might apply. But actually I did always obtain confirmation of atleast 4 grandparents being born in the same state for my additional African American survey (n=100, excl. South Carolina). See also my online spreadsheet:

In upcoming blog posts I will discuss these preliminary findings in more detail. Just to mention a few stand-out features. “Senegambian & Guinean” , “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” as well as “Angolan & Congolese” are all peaking for South Carolina. While “Nigerian” is clearly culminating for Virginia. This roughly conforms with known differences in Trans-Atlantic slave trade patterns between South Carolina and Virginia (see this overview). Similar patterns have been established already by my previous Ancestry survey from 2015. As well as more recently my 23andme survey based on the 2018 version indicated the same.

A new and very useful aspect suggested by Table 4 & 5 is that the relative impact of either South Carolina or Virginia derived African origins can be deduced from looking into results of neighbouring states. Georgia and Florida being more similar to South Carolina. As indicated especially by above average scores for “Senegambian & Guinean” and “Angolan & Congolese”. As well as a greater frequency of primary “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” scores. Probably indicative mostly of Rice Coast lineage, although additional Ghanaian DNA will also be included to varying degree.

While North Carolina is clearly tilting towards Virginia and its main Bight of Biafra origins. Especially noticeable from its elevated “Nigerian” level. My Louisiana survey group (incl. 5 most likely Creole persons) is showing more similar patterns to South Carolina. Although probably for independent reasons. Intriguingly next-door state Mississippi is much more so following the prevailing “Nigerian” trend. As most clearly demonstrated and probably also mostly originating from Virginia.

It is essential to be aware that so-called “Nigerian” on 23andme is also including genetic connections with Gbe speakers (incl. the Fon from Benin but also the Ewe from Ghana/Togo). And probably to a lesser degree also genetic ties with (western) Cameroon are covered. Even when the main ancestral implication will usually indeed be Nigerian lineage. See this map. “Nigerian” scores for most people will probably be a bit inflated and even more so after the 2020 update. Because afterall 23andme does not have a category similar to “Benin/Togo”. But otherwise this outcome is quite indicative already of how genuine Nigerian ancestry will indeed be significant for many if not most African Americans. Actually also reinforced by African DNA matching patterns for African Americans.7

Although further research is required I greatly suspect that already the genetic consequences of a heavily Virginia sourced Domestic Slave Trade throughout the Deep South are being revealed. In fact such Domestic Slave Trade, involving Virginia-born persons, also covered South Carolina itself.8 As shown above South Carolina does show its own distinctive regional patterns. With a clear tendency towards Upper Guinean (incl. Rice Coast) & Central African components. But when going by Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade records the average degree of 28.1% “Nigerian” among my overall South Carolina survey group still seems rather high. Even if it is secondary to “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean”, which seems to be unique sofar in the wider African American context.

Compare with my previous survey findings:

Substructure according to within-state origins

Table 6 (click to enlarge) 

This overview is exploring regional substructure between various parts of South Carolina. Obviously only preminary due to minimal sample size. However already a very insightful constrast between coastal and inland areas is surfacing. The Lowcountry and Pee Dee clearly  having relatively elevated group averages for “Senegambian & Guinean” and especially “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean”. While “Nigerian” scores are much more prominent in Upstate and Midlands. Intriguingly the substantial Central African level showing up in coastal areas is also maintained into Midlands.

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Table 7 (click to enlarge) 

This overview shows how many times each African region was reported as number 1 region with the highest amount in the African breakdown. Measured as a relative frequency. The data should be interpreted carefully because hypothetically if a region is consistently mentioned in second place it will not be shown in this overview. Main takeaway being that only the Lowcountry and Pee Dee have “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” as most frequent primary region. The inland areas of Midlands and especially Upstate showing a greater prevalence of “Nigerian” scores. Probably indicative of a greater reliance on Domestic Slave Trade, originating mostly from Virginia.

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The Sierre Leone connection is probably most heavily publicized perhaps at times to the detriment of other major African origins receiving media attention.” (Fonte Felipe 2015)

However we should not forget about the substantial intercolonial slave trade taking place between the West Indies and South Carolina and to some degree also with Virginia and other northern states. […]  Likewise it could be that more Igbo’s ended up in South Carolina via the West Indies or even via Virginia than by direct slavevoyages from Africa” (Fonte Felipe 2015)

“As a closing thought about the Congolese/Angolan, and more specifically Bakongo legacy in South Carolina, we should realize this heritage is not only measured in cultural/linguistic terms […] It’s even more profoundly in bloodlines and genetics that we might find substantial traces of Central African ancestry in South Carolina. Future DNA testing will undoubtedly uncover more of these inherited connections.” (Fonte Felipe 2015)

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Tables 6 and 7 are providing an even finer resolution of regional substructure among African Americans within South Carolina. A continuation of the same line of research I have applied in Tables 4 & 5. Genetic substructure is basically referring to subgroups within greater populations. Despite commonalities various localized factors may still have caused differentiation between various subgroups within a given population. In particular pointing towards a distinctive mix of African regional origins. Localized substructure might exist whenever slave trade patterns are known to have been markedly different for various entry points within one country or even a particular state such as South Carolina! Showing overlap to be sure but still recognizable due to deviating proportions. With proper interpretation this can be very helpful in your quest to Trace African Roots!

As mentioned earlier zooming into coastal areas and contrasting with inland areas can be particularly insightful when wanting to grasp the localized formation of the Gullah people in the Lowcountry and adjacent Pee Dee area! Both coastal areas being part of the wider so-called Gullah-Geechee corridor. Which in fact also extends into the coastal area of Georgia and a few directly bordering counties of North Carolina and Florida. See maps below for regional definitions:

This is a theme I have been researching for African Americans already since 2013 when I first started my previous Ancestry survey (n=350). In fact then already I was also able to zoom into the results of 14 self-identified Gullah persons out of a greater South Carolina/Georgia survey group (n=68, see this chart). My current surveyfindings shown above are of course in a exploratory phase, due to minimal sample size.  But I find it very remarkable how much can already be supported by additional reasoning. Resulting in plausible outcomes when looking at the relevant context and the relevant statistics! Unlike commonly assumed you do not need to sample entire populations to obtain informational value with wider implications. Naturally greater sample size does (usually) help matters (see this article). In upcoming blog posts I will discuss these preliminary outcomes in more detail.

For now I would just like to point out the following. An increased level of Upper Guinean DNA in the Lowcountry and Pee Dee is of course in line with historical expectations. First of all indicated by above average “Senegambian & Guinean” scores. However even more so by “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean” which is clearly emerging as a stand-out category for coastal South Carolinians.9 Naturally the well known and evocative Sierra Leone connection for the Gullah seems to be corroborated by this finding firstmost. See also:

But actually also other/additional ancestral implications might be valid. Not only restricted to either Ghana or Liberia (see this chart). But also involving Mali and even Gambia in fact (see this map and also this page for the 23andme results of Gambians and Malian with high “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean” scores). Possibly indicative of how it has traditionally been misconstructed that Upper Guinean origins for African Americans are hailing more so from areas bordering Senegambia proper to the south and the east. Extending into Sierra Leone/ Liberia  as well as Mali. The Rice Coast in its broadest definition arguably being a more appropriate concept than “Greater Senegambia”. See also:

Also quite reassuring that as anticipated a substantial Central African level is showing up in the Low Country and Pee Dee. Affirmative of a major Central African heritage I blogged about already in 2015. Even when quite likely “Angolan & Congolese” scores are still somewhat underestimated. Naturally a greater sample size is required for further substantiation. But still I find it intriguing how prominent Central African scores of nearly 20% are also maintained in the Midlands. Even showing up as primary region a few times! Just speculating at this stage but perhaps suggestive of how Central African lineage has become less diluted and more dispersed than strictly Senegambian lineage? Possibly also to be correlated with relatively late Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (1790-1820) involving the greatest share of Central African captives for South Carolina. See also:

The perhaps higher than expected “Nigerian” scores seem to be most surprising at first sight. Especially prevailing in Upstate and Midlands. More subdued in coastal areas but still at a considerable level there as well. This outcome seems to highlight the additional significance of Domestic Slave Trade originating from in and around Virginia and its main Bight of Biafra connection. As well as Intra-American Slave Trade from the West Indies. Various historical sources testify that this incoming flow of people was also relevant for South Carolina.10 When restricted to only overland Domestic Slave Trade probably more so for the interior part of South Carolina than for the coastal areas. Quite likely also correlating with main crops on the plantations being either cotton or rice.

I have insufficient data at this moment to make any conclusive statements but I aim to further investigate this topic of which regional African slave trade patterns have been most impactful on the overall African American genepool: those from Virginia or those from South Carolina. Of course I do realize things might be more complex and other factors may play a role as well. But a heavily Virginia sourced Domestic Slave Trade could very well offer a (partial) explanation for the high frequency of primary “Nigeria” scores among most African Americans.  And even within South Carolina this seems apparent (see Table 7). Because as established within my current survey this frequency was 41% for my overall group (41/100). And even 100% for my Upstate survey participants (8/8). However quite tellingly it was only 20% (5/25) for my Lowcountry subgroup! For more info:

Compare with my previous survey findings:

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3)  23andme results from South Carolina

As far as I know and was able to verify all of these screenshots below are from African Americans with 4 South Carolina-born grandparents. Unless mentioned otherwise. Meant to illustrate the individual variation among South Carolinians in the first place. But given that my sample size (n=100) is quite robust these results will usually also be quite representative. In particular for coastal South Carolinians. Because most of the screenshots available to me are from either the Lowcountry or Pee Dee. At times self-identified Gullah although I did not verify this in most cases.

Consult my spreadsheet for a complete overview. The results have been arranged from highest degree of African admixture to lowest. But I am starting first with a small grouping based on regional origins within South Carolina. I mention such regional or even county origins whenever such details were available to me. But naturally I did not have perfect information about everyone’s complete family tree. So the headings on top of the screenshots are only meant as an approximation of recent family origins! Even when actually for many people I was able to find confirmation from their 23andme profile page about the county origins for all 4 grandparents.

I like to thank again all the persons who kindly agreed to share their results with me. In particular I want to give a shout-out to Darius, Kwabena, Teresa and X! Their great help has been essential for my efforts to collect a representative sample group of 100 South Carolina 23andme results! I am truly grateful for it! Follow the links below to get in tune with all sorts of highly valuable online resources made available by African American genealogy bloggers:

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Beaufort 4gp)

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2020 version. Quite typical results for my Lowcountry subgroup. This person being of confirmed Gullah descent.  The prominent “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” scores are a common theme for many South Carolinians. But in particular for people from the Lowcountry and Pee Dee. Do also notice that secondary regions such as “Angolan & Congolese” can still be substantial (20%) as well. The 5.5% “Senegambian & Guinean” score being somewhat subdued. But most likely underreported as before the 2020 update this person had 9.5% “Senegambian & Guinean”! (see also this screenshot).

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Pee Dee: Georgetown 4gp )

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2020 version.  Highest “Senegambian & Guinean” score in my survey. Possibly the reason why “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” is a bit subdued. While “Nigerian” is ending up as primary region. Something which actually only happened for a minority of my Pee Dee subgroup (7/20).  Interestingly Haiti is mentioned as RAL. However this could reflect several ancestral scenarios. Due to migrations going in both directions across the generations (see this page and this one). In fact it might also indicate shared African lineage.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Midlands: Richland 4gp )

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2020 version. Primary “Nigerian” scores have been more frequent among my Midland survey participants (7/11) than for either my Lowcountry or Pee Dee subgroup. Possibly a indication of (partial) lineage hailing from Virginia and its main Bight of Biafra connection.  An additional reason for such a scenario seems to be suggested by the relatively high “Southeast Asian” score.  Second-highest score in my survey.  But intriguingly rather high “Angolan & Congolese” scores were also still reported for persons from Midlands.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Upstate: Laurens, Anderson, Spartanburg)

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2020 version. Highest scaled “Nigerian” score in my survey. Representing more than half of the African breakdown (41.7/80.3=51.9%). Not surprising that it should occur for someone from Upstate. As my 8 survey participants from that area showed the highest “Nigerian” group average overall (44.1%). Also in other aspects being more similar to African Americans nationwide rather than coastal South Carolinians.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Pee Dee: Sumter)

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2018 version. This profile shows the highest amount of African admixture in my previous survey. Notice that additionaly only a tiny amount of Native American is appearing and even 0.1% Southeast Asian admixture but no European admixture at all! Underlining that such profiles do exist, unlike persistent reports to the contrary. Also interesting that this person is from a place located more inland within South Carolina state at the border with Midlands. The particular settlement history of Sumter county may possibly account for this person’s relatively elevated level of “Nigerian”.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Pee Dee: Williamsburg, 4gp )

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2020 version.  Another nearly 100% African profile without any European admixture! Unlike the previous profile this person is showing a more pronounced Upper Guinean as well as Central African imprint. In fact with the 2020 update this person’s “Angolan & Congolese” score has even become primary with 28.2%! See this screenshot for this person’s earlier results. Curiously his Southeast Asian admixture (all of it on the X chromosome) was then described as Native American! Possibly he has both types of admixture but due to 23andme’s homogenizing algorithm it is being fit into just one category.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (4gp)

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2020 version. I do not know this person’s county origins however 4 South Carolina-born grandparents have been confirmed by profile.  Another example of 0% European admixture. Also interesting to see that “Nigerian” is quite subdued and in fact only showing up in fourth place within the African breakdown. Behind “Senegambian & Guinean” even.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Beaufort 4gp)

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2020 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Beaufort 4gp)

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2020 version. This person of confirmed Gullah descent has done impressive research into his African DNA matches as well as genealogy. He was able to confirm & specify practically all African regional scores by way of associated DNA matches! Incl. matches rom Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria (both Yoruba and Igbo), Cameroon and Congo. Also intriguing that this person has a 0.8% “Greek & Balkan” score. Generally speaking such minimal trace scores are likely to be within the “noise” range. But in this case it is very likely to be genuine because he has dozens of Gypsy and/or Balkan DNA matches on both 23andme and Ancestry!

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Beaufort)

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2020 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Pee Dee: Clarendon 4gp)

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2020 version. Quite evenly balanced African breakdown. With all 4 major regional components within the 15-25% range. “Senegambian & Guinean” standing out because it was the second-highest such score in my survey.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (4gp)

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2020 version. Highest “West Asian & North African” score in my survey. Such scores have become somewhat more noticeable after the 2020 update. Although the group average was still only 0.1%. By looking into associated DNA matches you will often obtain greater clarity. “North African” scores might usually be derived from Fula ancestors. But in this case various ancestral scenario’s might apply. Not only limited to the countries suggested by the labeling. But also diluted Armenian ancestry I suppose.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Jasper 4gp )

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2020 version. Again regionally quite balanced breakdown but favouring Rice Coast lineage. Notice the 20.3% “Senegambian & Guinean” score!  Also interesting to see Jamaica being specified as recent ancestor location. But this is quite ambivalent as it might signal various ancestral scenario’s based on DNA matching strength! See also my detailed discussion on this page. Generally speaking Jamaicans and African Americans will often show similar results. But is is very apparent from this distinctive South Carolina breakdown that African Americans show greater variety and more balanced results. For understandable reasons of course. Aside from more elevated “Senegambian & Guinean” scores also often featuring more elevated “”Angolan & Congolese” scores.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry & Pee Dee: Florence, Dorchester)

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2020 version. “Angolan & Congolese” is showing up in first place! This happened 5 times in my survey. The 2020 update leading to an improved detection of Central African DNA. Although overall speaking it might still be underreported.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry & Midlands: Beaufort, Colleton, Aiken)

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2020 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (3gp)

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2020 version. Although mostly of South Carolinian background actually this person also has 1 grandparent from North Carolina. Because this is a neighbouring state I have made an exception in this particular case. Either way the striking “Angolan & Congolese” score is from what I have seen sofar much more likely for the South Carolina context. North Carolina arguably having more in common with Virginia’s African origins (see Table 4).

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry, Midlands and Upstate: Kershaw, Greenville, Barnville)

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2020 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Charleston )

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2020 version. Highest “North African” score in my survey. Such scores have become somewhat more noticeable after the 2020 update. Although the group average was still only 0.1%. By looking into associated DNA matches you will often obtain greater clarity. “North African” scores might very well be derived from Fula ancestors.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Midlands: Aiken )

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2020 version. One of the lowest overall African scores in my survey. But still also featuring the highest scaled “Angolan & Congolese” score. Representing a whopping share of nearly 40% of this person’s African breakdown (23.9/61.6=38.8%). Very intriguing that it should be for a person from Midlands.

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4)  AncestryDNA results from South Carolina

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“Looking at the 3-way regional breakdown of my own making, it seems only South Carolina/Georgia results stand out for being more Upper Guinean as well as more Central African on average than nationwide.”(Fonte Felipe, 2015)

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Table 8 (click to enlarge)

2013-2018 version. My final AncestryDNA surveyfindings are clearly demonstrating how results from South Carolina can be distinguished from nationwide African American results. Reflected among other things in a lower “Nigeria” group average.  But notice especially how the 24% Upper Guinean share (esp. “Mali”) and 34% Central African share are highest for my Gullah survey group.

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Results below are mainly reflecting the previous 2013-2018 version on Ancestry! However I will also include some updated results. AncestryDNA’s ethnicity estimates have been updated several times now. With a more mixed trackrecord than 23andme’s updates. In my opinion not yet providing any meaningful improvement. Which is why I discontinued my AncestryDNA survey in 2018. To be sure the 2013-2018 version itself also had several shortcomings. In particular the ability to detect Nigerian DNA was sub-optimal due to genetic overlap with especially “Benin/Togo”. While so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana”  was also indicative of DNA found further north in Liberia, Sierra Leone and at times even Mali! The “Mali” region itself arguably having the weakest predictive accuracy. But still generally speaking suggestive of generic Upper Guinean/Rice Coast lineage. So-called “Southeastern Bantu” was usually a misnomer for actual southwestern Bantu (incl. Angola) DNA being indicated. See these blog posts for more detailed discussion:

In 2015 I already blogged in greater detail about AncestryDNA results for persons from South Carolina. At that time my survey included 59 results from South Carolina as well as a few results from Georgia. Table 8 above is showing my final surveyfindings in 2018 when I had collected a total number of 68 results from mainly South Carolina. Including 14 self-identified Gullah persons. Anticipating and mostly in agreement with the substructure between the coastal areas and inland areas of South Carolina I have explored in greater detail on this page (see Tables 6 and 7). Notice especially how  the 24% Upper Guinean share (esp. “Mali”) and 34% Central African share are highest for my Gullah survey group. If you scroll all the way down to end of this section you will also see some results from Midlands and Upstate which clearly show different patterns than the results featured from mainly the Lowcountry and self-identified Gullah.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr, Pay Attention! 

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Most DNA companies in the United States will tell you that they have never tested an African-American who is 100 percent from sub-Saharan Africa.“, (Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., 2019)

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As shown in Table 8 also the overall degree of African admixture was highest among my 14 Gullah survey participants (92.6%). Because unlike stated by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. several persons were tested with 100% African scores! Already in my previous Ancestry survey (2015) I managed to include no less than 4 multi-generational African Americans with 100% African admixture. And since then I have seen several African Americans scoring 100% African on Ancestry. A proportion of about 2% of all my observations within the 2013-2018 period (10/515). Again this refers to verified African Americans without any recent ancestral ties to either Africa or the Caribbean. Often (but not always!) with South Carolina origins. To be sure I have also seen 100% African scores for African Americans from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. More research is required but quite likely the relative frequency of such scores will still be most elevated for South Carolina.

SOUTH CAROLINA 

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AA100c

2013-2018 version. On Ancestry primary “Mali” scores often seem to overlap with “Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean” scores on 23andme for South Carolinians. In both cases highly suggestive of broader Rice Coast lineage.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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AA100d

2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Charleston, Berkeley)

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AASC1

2013-2018 version. The so-called “Ivory Coast/Ghana” region on Ancestry was also suggestive of Liberian and Sierra Leonean DNA, see this blog post for more details.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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GEORGIA (Savannah)

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2013-2018 version. Despite being from neighbouring Georgia this person with confirmed Gullah background is still being assigned to the genetic community of  “South Carolina African Americans”. Highlighting the close  genetic connections along the Gullah-Geechee Corridor! Also noteworthy that this person’s Central African share is probably around 40%. As so-called “Southeastern Bantu” was really usually indicative of southwestern Bantu DNA! See also this blogpost.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Sea Islands)

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2013-2018 version. Interesting to see “Nigeria” in first place. Although less likely to occur (similar to my 23andme survey) of course there will always be individual variation. And in fact the presence of Nigerian captives in the Lowcountry has also been well-documented.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Jasper)

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2020 version. Notice that all the various African regional scores add up to 100% African! Not a single trace amount of European or Native American admixture. This person hails from a Gullah speaking family, located in Jasper county/ Lowcountry. Something which is also independently confirmed by the genetic community “South Carolina Lowcountry African Americans”. The following 3 results are close relatives of this person.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Jasper)

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2020 version. Another 100% African result

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Jasper)

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2020 version.  I have not done any extensive surveying yet for updated AncestryDNA results among African Americans. However from what I have seen sofar I greatly suspect that both “Mali” and “Cameroon, Congo & Western Bantu” will be more prominent for many people from South Carolina’s coastal areas. When compared with African Americans nationwide but also infact from South Carolina’s inland areas who instead will much mor frequently show primary “Nigeria” scores.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Jasper)

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2020 version.  Closely related to previous three persons.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version. Depsite having a traceamount of 1% Native American notice that this person does not have any European admixture.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Beaufort)

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2020 version.  This person of confirmed Gullah descent has done impressive research into his African DNA matches as well as genealogy. He was able to confirm & specify practically all African regional scores by way of associated DNA matches! Incl. matches rom Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria (both Yoruba and Igbo), Cameroon and Congo. Very useful to compare with this person’s 23andme results (see this screenshot)

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Beaufort)

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2020 version. These results belong to the mother of the person directly above. Useful when wanting to consider how Ancestry deals with genetic recombination. Between parents/children or also among siblings. From my observation 23andme generally speaking does a better job at keeping things consistent, more or less. Also by way of its parental phasing option. Although obviously there’s always an element of randomization due to reshuffling. But not to an exaggarated degree as is sometimes assumed.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Lowcountry: Beaufort)

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2020 version. Closely related to the persons shown directly above. So again interesting to see how recombination works out. Also noteworthy that this person only has African and Native American admixture. The “Mexico” labeling not to be taken too literally but merely indicating a southern shift for this person’s Native DNA. Which makes perfect sense given the close genetic relationships between Native Americans from Mexico and the southern parts of the USA.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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AACON1

2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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AASEN2

2013-2018 version. Elevated “Senegal” score showing up in first place even! Within my entire African American survey on Ancestry (n=350) only 5 persons obtained “Senegal” as primary region. As far as I know only for people with origins from South Carolina and Louisiana. In line with historical expectations. On 23andme I have sofar not seen any person from South Carolina with a primary “Senegambian & Guinean” score. However several persons did reach the 20%-21% level for this category.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2020 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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AASEN1

2013-2018 version. Highest “Senegal” score in my Ancestry survey. This region has produced very few high scores among my African American survey group. Also this maximum original score of 25% “Senegal” is rather subdued and implies a relatively greater degree of dilution when compared with most of the other regions, incl. also “Mali”. Pretty much the same patterns also emerged during my 23andme survey. “Senegambian & Guinean” being a close equivalent of the “Senegal” region.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Upstate, 8ggp)

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2020 version. Very intriguing results for this person from the interior part of South Carolina. Although I have only seen a few such results I greatly suspect that the same patterns apply as revealed during my 23andme survey. In particular a higher “Nigeria” level but also at times prominent Central African scores. Such as seen in this screenshot. The genetic community tool on Ancestry being very helpful to illuminate such interstate substructure! Notice also the additional “Early North Carolina AA’s” assignment. This person actually has 8 great-grandparents from South Carolina! Therefore this might be greatly suggestive of earlier connections by way of Domestic Slave Trade.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version

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SOUTH CAROLINA

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Midlands 4gp: York & Chester)

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2020 version. Another person from the interior part of South Carolina. As confirmed also by the genetic communities. Very insightful primary combination of  “Nigeria” as well as “Cameroon, Congo & Western Bantu”. And “Mali” being relatively subdued. Notice also the additional “Early Virginia AA’s” assignment. Combined with the minimal but distinctive “Southeast Asian” score greatly suggestive of  Domestic Slave Trade reaching interior parts of South Carolina. And in fact through extensive familytree research this person was already aware that on almost all of his family lines his American roots trace back to Virginia.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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2013-2018 version.

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SOUTH CAROLINA 

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AASEN3

2013-2018 version. Three South Carolinians in my Ancestry survey had “Senegal” in first place. For other African Americans (aside from two Louisiana Creoles) this did not happen at all. So quite revealing of South Carolina’s more prominent Upper Guinean lineage. Not reaching dominating proportions though. Even when it is mentioned as the region with the highest amount in the breakdown. Wider Rice Coast connections extending into Liberia being more notable, overall speaking.

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SOUTH CAROLINA (Upstate or Midlands?)

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2020 version.  Fascinating results, tending more so towards Lower Guinea (“Nigeria”) and Central Africa. With Upper Guinean DNA being rather subdued.  I have no certainty about this person’s exact background within South Carolina. But his African breakdown is already quite suggestive of the inner-state substructure I have explored between coastal and interior areas of South Carolina. Apparent not only when based on 23andme results but also to be seen through Ancestry results!

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Notes

1) The results included in my survey have been shared with me by the DNA testers themselves as well as by friends from among their own matches/connections. I have naturally taken great care to cut away any name details in order to safeguard everyone’s privacy. Apologies in advance to anyone who recognizes their results and is not comfortable with this blog page featuring them. Please send me a PM and I will remove them right away.

Naturally I verified the South Carolina state background of each sample to the best of my capabilities going back at least 2 generations. Taking a cautious approach and preferring to leave out possible survey participants when in doubt. The profile pages on 23andme actually being very useful for confirming 4 USA-born grandparents from South Carolina state. And even specific counties in many cases. I was able to do so for a greater majority of the results (70/100). However in some cases I only was able to establish both parents being born in South Carolina or that person himself being a South Carolina native. Whenever I found an indication of recent family origins from other states such results would be discarded. However I made two exceptions for persons with 3 South Carolina-born grandparents and 1 single grandparent being from adjacent states (Georgia and North Carolina). See also columns A & B within my online spreadsheet:

2) My survey of South Carolina 23andme results is exclusively reflecting results which were obtained after the 2020 update. In fact the differences between the 2018 & 2019 versions tend to be very slight for most people, when looking only at the %’s. But the 2020 update did cause a greater impact. See also:

This page features a selection of these surveyed results. I do actually have more screenshots available. However these were mostly obtained from the DNA Relatives page. And therefore these screenshots are in a less viewer-friendly format (see for example this screenshot). Their results are fully detailed though within my online spreadsheets. I like to thank again all the persons who kindly agreed to share their results with me. In particular I want to give a shout-out to Darius, Kwabena, Teresa and X! Their great help has been essential for my efforts to collect a representative sample group of 100 South Carolina 23andme results! I am truly grateful for it! Follow the links below to get in tune with all sorts of highly valuable online resources made available by African American genealogy bloggers:

3) I firmly believe that despite inherent limitations and given correct interpretation 23andme’s regional admixture estimates 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. I find it important to stay positive and focus on what ever informational value you can obtain despite imperfections. Instead of taking an overtly dismissive stance. Preferring 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 though!

In particular your follow-up research may include a focus on your African DNA matching patterns and how your African DNA matches may validate or correlate with your regional admixture scores. For example if you find around 10 African matches and 4 of them appear to be Igbo Nigerians then this solidifies and also potentially specifies any major “Nigerian” score you might have obtained. See also:

  • African DNA matches reported by Ancestry for 50 African Americans (under preparation)

Furthermore you will want to expand your knowledge about the historically documented presence of Africans in your earliest known places of origin within the Americas. In order to establish the historical plausibility of your 23andme scores. For example if you happen to be African American it is vital to be aware of not only Trans-Atlantic and Intra-American Slave Trade. But also learning about Domestic Slave Trade and Post Slavery migrations will be crucial for your deeper understanding. As actually going by sheer numbers Domestic Slave Trade was most significant for the USA. An estimated 1 million enslaved African Americans (often with Virginia background) are known to have been victimized by the so-called Second Middle Passage (see this link). For more detailed discussion and references see:

Any follow-up research is of course to be customized according to your own personal situation and also according to your own research preferences. Plain genealogy is indepensable for dilligently building up a decent family tree. Which is very valuable in itself. But regrettably these strictly genealogical efforts will usually not lead you back all the way to Africa. Save for some rare exceptions (Questlove on Finding Your Roots). Hence why I always insist on avoiding any source snobbery with relation to regional admixture analysis, such as performed by 23andme.

However when duly performed your family tree research will allow you to at least identify your earliest known ancestral locations within the Americas. Which will make it easier to correlate with slave trade patterns and documented African ethnicities for those areas. And if you are very persistent and/or lucky this might also eventually allow you to find localized documentation (plantation records; private correspondence of slave owners; church records; newspaper advertisements about runaway slaves etc.) possibly even mentioning any of your African-born ancestors on 1 single family line!

Combining advanced genetic genealogy techniques such as triangulation and DNA Painter with regional admixture of shared DNA segments also holds great potential in my opinion. As it might enable you to identify an earliest family line associated with such regional admixture! Especially when this regional admixture is distinctive such an approach can be very fruitful. For example when dealing with possible Malagasy lineage the presence of any “Southern East African” and/or Southeast Asian admixture should be very useful. Naturally all of this is to be combined with any other clues you might have. Also it goes without saying that extra scrutiny is always required in order to avoid jumping to conclusions!

For some very useful blog posts with detailed instructions read:

4) In order to avoid any assumptions being made on my part I will not use Gullah as a synonym for people from the Lowcountry and/or Pee Dee. Although of course this is the main area where they are located. Fortunately nowadays Gullah culture is increasingly being celebrated, researched etc.. However not too long ago there may also have been social stigma’s being attached to especially the Gullah language. Which is why especially older generations may not always seld-identify as Gullah and newer generations may not always be aware of having (partial) Gullah roots. See also:

To be kept in mind as well is that African Americans will have their own perspective on ethnic identity and how it may overlap with racial classification. While certain subgroups such as Louisiana Creoles or also South Carolina Gullah, have their own distinctive culture/history and may also choose to identify accordingly. Naturally I fully respect this! And obviously beyond the scope of my research no further implications are intended.

Just as a general disclaimer I should also point out the following. I am aware that admixture test results can be a sensitive topic. My research is purely scholarly. But it also stems from my deep fascination with the entire Afro-Diaspora. I highly admire the many achievements of African Americans in not only the cultural field but also in the social and political domain. But I do not condone the misuse of my research for identity politics! And I will also not allow my blog to be used as a platform for any divisive speech or extremists. DNA testing can be very educational and may have many positive effects. However in some cases it may also be abused by narrow-minded people with bad intentions.

5) Various important and insightful studies have been published on African American genetics. One does need to take into account some differences in methodology. Not meant as an exhaustive overview but these are a few recommended papers:

Follow links below for a section of my blog which features DNA studies on African American genetics which I have reviewed in the past.

6) Given the theme of this blog my survey has naturally been focused on Tracing the African Roots of my survey group. However African Americans are not exclusively of African descent. Similar to most other Afro-Diasporans they show variable amounts of non-African admixture as well. Safe for some exceptions (by no means unicorns though!). This additional ancestry consists mainly out of European DNA and to a much lesser degree also Native American and Southeast Asian lineage (see this overview). I fully understand and respect that given the brutal history of the Slavery Period as well as continued racism afterwards many African Americans might not be inclined to learn more about their mixed European origins. Even if the possibility of this European ancestry (partially) dating from the Post-Slavery Period cannot be ruled out in advance. Muhammad Ali’s Irish great-grandfather makes for an intriguing example:

Still other African Americans might be more curious about their complete genetic make-up and how this might define them. Despite shared experiences one must also be careful to respect the localized context and different historical trajectories across the Afro-Diaspora. Instead of just letting one single perspective on inter-racial relationships overcloud things. In fact there can be several valid reasons to also explore your European origins in a pragmatic and open-minded manner. Ironically in the process you might often also acquire valuable details about African ancestors linked to your European ancestors as well as your biracial ancestors.

Those latter ones are more likely of course to have been integrated within your family history in a more meaningful manner. Personal family histories are bound to sometimes deviate from the assumed narrative. Ultimately it might be self-defeating to allow generalizations about European admixture to determine how you should feel about your own unique DNA makeup. Especially without at least having done any basic genealogical & historical research of your own in advance. Also in the greater interest of racial healing within the USA such research efforts may be beneficial. See also:

7) Unlike what is sometimes assumed 23andme is not just randomly dishing out results for Afro-descendants! The seemingly consistent and usually quite high “Nigerian” scores on 23andme may have seemed like a common and perhaps overplayed theme for especially African Americans. But actually for other parts of the Afro-Diaspora other African categories tend to show up with greater frequency. Making for a significant distinction. See also this blogpost:

Also among African Americans there is a lot more meaningful nuance to be seen if you take into account substructure according to ultimate US state origins. More or less conforming with historical plausibility. Also to be kept in  mind is that the predictive accuracy of “Nigerian” among actual Nigerians is quite impressive (around 90% for southern Nigerians, see this page).

As I have always maintained the labeling of ancestral categories is not to be taken as gospel! In all my blog posts I always use quotations to refer to categories such as “Nigerian”. And not for nothing! Because inherently there wil be some border crossing overlap. Fanning out into neighbouring areas according to some declining gradient. More insight to be gained by learning how people from various known background tend to score for these categories. Which is why I have performed my surveys among both Africans and Afro-descendants throughout the years. See also chart below for my latest findings prior to creating this page:

So for example “Nigerian” will also possibly be indicative of ancestral ties with neighbouring countries. Even when its main ancestral implication will usually indeed involve Nigeria. Furthermore while for most people southeast Nigerian (Bight of Biafra) lineage will be indicated. For some people instead it will be mostly southwest Nigerian (Bight of Benin) lineage which is being suggested. The likelihood depending on your particular Afro-Diasporan background. Either way, my overall survey findings clearly confirm that 23andme does not report non-sensical or randomized results. Or even just automatically assign certain regions to all Afro-descendants, regardless of their actual background!

For immediate understanding a visual depiction might be best suited. Which is why I made this map below displaying the wider geographic distribution of “Nigerian” (see this page for similar maps). Regrettably 23andme is still not providing such maps and other types of clarifying context which may improve the ability of their customers to make more sense of their results… Beyond the potentially misleading country labeling and percentages which are not always properly understood by many people.

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8) For a quick reference on the presence of enslaved Virginians in South Carolina already in the mid 1700’s:

Governor James Glen [of South Carolina] noted in 1754 that intercolonial merchants seized the moment. “As Negroes are sold at higher Prices here than in any part of the King’s Dominions,” he reported, “we have them sent from Barbadoes, the Leeward Islands, Jamaica, Virginia and New York.” (O’Malley, 2014, p.178)

In later decades Domestic Slave Trade from Virginia and possibly also North Carolina probably increased. I suspect mostly heading towards the inland parts of South Carolina. But also affecting the Lowcountry and PeeDee judging from Runaway Slave advertisements (see also footnote 10). I am not aware yet of more detailed research on the impact of Domestic Slave Trade into South Carolina. Many historians as well as the general public seemingly seem to be focused rather on South Carolina as an exporter of enslaved labourers to other states. In line with the oft repeated narrative of Charleston being the largest slave port of the USA. Even when it is known as well that due to higher mortality rates etc. the circumstances in the Lowcountry were much less “favourable” as in Virginia for creating a self-reproducing population of enslaved people. And it appears that South Carolina only became a “net -exporter” of enslaved labourers after 1820. When official Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade had already ended. As can be seen from this map from the highly informational In Motion website:

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9) The fact that the balance between “Senegambian & Guinean” and  “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean” is clearly tending more so towards the latter category is quite telling when wanting to find out where Upper Guinean (incl. Rice Coast) lineage for South Carolians gravitates, on average. It might be useful to compare with Cape Verdean 23andme results in this regard. Because the so-called “Senegambian & Guinean” region is clearly serving as a primary signature region for pinpointing Upper Guinean lineage  among all my Cape Verdean survey participants. The group average for “Senegambian & Guinean” being 73.1% of their scaled African breakdown for 100 Cape Verdeans. But in addition also “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean” showed up as a minor but still considerable secondary component at around 10%. And also consistently appearing (atleast in the 2018/2019 version). Most likely describing an additional part of Upper Guinean lineage for Cape Verdeans. Sierra Leonean ancestry (Temne) is historically speaking quite likely in fact for Cape Verdeans. See also this page:

I find this outcome very encouraging as it demonstrates that despite shortcomings these 23andme results are not totally random at all!  As I always say instead of being preoccupied with finding imperfections it is wiser to adopt a “glass is half full” mentality. Focusing on anything that is worthwhile. Which is quite a lot actually on 23andme. Because by way of “Senegambian & Guinean”  and to a lesser degree also “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean” 23andme seems to be able to quite accurately distinguish Upper Guinean lineage from other types of African macroregional lineage. In the first place making the distinction with Lower Guinean lineage (as indicated mostly by “Nigerian”). And it is even more reliably differentiating Upper Guinean lineage from Central African lineage (as indicated by “Angolan & Congolese”). As well as Southeast African lineage and North & East African lineage. To be sure “Ghanaian, Liberian and Sierra Leonean”  is somewhat intermediate in all of this because depending on your specific Afro-Diasporan background it might of course also be indicative of mainly Ghanaian lineage. Looking into associated DNA matches will usually provide greater clarification.

These implications of a reasonable predictive accuracy on 23andme are not only very significant for Cape Verdeans themselves but I would argue also very relevant for African Americans and other people of the wider Afro-Diaspora! Follow link below for better understanding of how a macro-regional perspective can be beneficial when looking into DNA results. Because it takes into account the various intersections based on historical and ethno-linguistic considerations, aside from merely genetic ones. Mutually reinforcing but still only meant to be indicative of course and to be used as proxies!

Also see this screenshot below for an illustration of how predictive the “Senegambian & Guinean” category can get. In this case for a mixed African American person who has 1 Cape Verdean parent.

AFRICAN AMERICAN (1/2) & CAPE VERDEAN (1/2) 

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2020 version. Very insightful results. Highlighting how African American and Cape Verdean breakdowns can quite easily be distinguished from each other. Even when showing the exact same amount of African admixture. Because as my survey has demonstrated Cape Verdeans will never show “Nigerian” in first place within their African breakdown. While a “Senegambian & Guinean” score of nearly 30% will be highly atypical among African Americans.  In my survey of 200 African American 23andme results the maximum score for this region was 20.4%.  In my present South Carolina survey the maximum score was 21.5%. With scores higher than 15% already being uncommon. Although more frequently seen among South Carolinians (13/100).

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10) See also my previous foot note 8 for reference. Just to offer a further selection based on Runaway Slave advertisements published in South Carolina newspapers. It should be noted that also Igbo or “Calabar” Runaway slaves are quite frequently mentioned. And I suppose they may also (at times) have been transported to South Carolina by way of Virginia.  Aside from arriving directly by way of Trans Atlantic Slave Trade or by way of the West Indies. See also this blogpost:

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SouthCarolina Gazette (Timothy), March 12 to March 19, 1763.
RUN away about the 20th of January last, a negro man named NED; he is about 30 years old, short and well made, speaks good English, but thick; he is Virginia born, and it is supposed he will make to the Northward. Whoever will deliver him to the warden of the workhouse, or to me at Congarees, shall have ten pounds and all reasonable charges. AUDEON ST. JOH

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Charleston SouthCarolina Gazette and Country Journal, June 10, 1766.
RAN AWAY the 28th May last, a lusty Negro Fellow named JAMES, about 26 Years of Age, born in North Carolina, or Virginia, he squints a little, is about five Feet ten Inches high, had on when he went away a green Jacket, an Osnaburg Shirt, a Pair of brown Negro Cloth Breeches, an under Jacket of Swanskin lined with Check, and an old beaver Hat; his Hair is cut short; he had also an Iron Boot on his right Leg, but as he has taken two Files with him, may perhaps get it off. He is a sensible Fellow, and as I have been informed, can read and write, therefore may endeavour to pass for a free Fellow; it is supposed he will direct his Course for the back Part of North Carolina. Any Person who shall apprehend the said Negro, and deliver him to me, in St. James’s Parish, Santee, or to the Warden of the WorkHouse, in Charlestown, shall receive Ten Pounds Reward, and all reasonable Charges paid, by PETER MOUZON.

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SouthCarolina Gazette (Timothy), April 5, 1770. Supplement.
RUN AWAY from the Subscriber, in JULY last, A Likely, wellmade, black NEGRO FELLOW named TOM, about 5 Feet 6 Inches high; was some Time ago brought from Wilmington in Virginia, to Salisbury in NorthCarolina, thence sent to CharlesTown, there sold by Mr. William Glen to Mr. Francis Rose, and afterwards sold at GeorgeTown,where I bought him: It is likely he may be gone to, or harboured by some evilminded Person, at some of the above Places: I hereby offer a Reward of FIFTY POUNDS to whoever will prove his being so harboured, to be paid on Conviction of the Offender; or TWENTY

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Charleston SouthCarolina and American General Gazette, August 14 to August 21, 1776.
FIFTY POUNDS REWARD.
RUN away from the subscriber in June last, a very likely Negro Fellow named ELIJAH, of a yellow complexion, is Virginia born, and speaks with the accent of that country; he is about five feet ten or eleven inches high, and about 22 or 23 Years of age, by trade a Blacksmith, an excellent workman at that business. He had on when he went away a scarlet camblet waistcoat, buckskin breeches almost new, an osnaburg shirt and a leather jockey cap. It is supposed, as he is an artful sensible fellow, that he will endeavour to pass for a free man, but all persons are hereby forbid to harbour him on any pretence whatsoever, as any person so offending may depend on the severest prosecution. The above reward of Fifty Pounds currency will be given to any person that will apprehend and deliver the said fellow to the subscriber, or to the Warden of the Workhouse in Charlestown, besides all reasonable charges, provided he is taken out of this province. If the said fellow is harboured by any white person a further reward of One Hundred Pounds, and if by a negro of Fifty Pounds, will be paid on conviction of the offender or offenders. PETER LEPOOLE.

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4 thoughts on “South Carolina 23andme results

  1. My results compared to my first cousin. His dad my uncle is from Georgia with a grandmother from Alabama both of my dad’s parents were from inland Georgia. What I see is that my cousin’s Ghana/Rice Coast ancestry is rather higher than mine. As is his Senegambian not by much but it is higher. But my Bantu related % is higher. I have confirmed South Carolinian ancestry on my mom’s side she has it on both sides of her family. But Virginia via Kentucky and Missouri as Well. I know some of the South Carolina is from Greenville.

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    • Although I have seen fewer results from Georgia a similar contrast between inland and coastal areas seems very likely too.

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  2. I would imagine so.
    Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean
    20.1%, those are my first cousin’s results in part compared to mine. Both of our fathers are from inland Georgia. Neither my mom nor dad have tested. My mom is willing. Have to check with my dad. Nevertheless with us sharing grandparents I have some insight.

    1st – 2nd Cousin13% shared DNA: 940 cM across 28 segments

    We share the Alabama, Georgia,South Carolina genetic community. But my cosusin lacks Philippines. If I’m not mistaken on 23andme as well. My mother is the one with a proven tie to Virginia. So I’m guessing any Malagasy is from her.

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    • Yes if you happen to find an African match that is also a match to your cousin than that could be very insightful for mapping specific type of African lineage within your family tree.

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