- These charts are NOT meant to be taken as an absolute or definitive display of ethnic origins for modernday populations!
- Ethnic labels given by Europeans do NOT per se reflect how the slaves would have self-identified themselves! (see this article for more discussion)
- Take note of the sample size, time period, region and any other details given to familiarize yourself with the CONTEXT of the chart!
- Even if limited in scope, valuable information can still be obtained if you look for the patterns!
- Sorry for all the exclamation marks 😉 It’s just that i’ve seen these kind of charts being misinterpreted so many times, not only online but also by trained historians. Which is a shame really because misleading conclusions can easily be avoided if you just take these charts for what they are: a randomized subset of slaves who might provide us with extra clues about the ethnic composition of other slaves during a given time period and for a given place/region. All depending on how representative the samples might have been.
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
Table 1.1 (click to enlarge)
Table 1.2 (click to enlarge)
Table 1.3 (click to enlarge)
Table 1.4 (click to enlarge)
- Screenshots above have been taken in 2020 from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade database. Follow this link for more details on disclaimers/pitfalls
- Coverage of slave trade data from Cape Verde has increased tremendously! When compared with the 2010 version of the database a tripling in number of disembarked captives has occurred (35,669 versus 108,700; see also this previous screenshot taken in 2014).
- Keep in mind that Cape Verde was serving as a collection/transit hub for captives born on the mainland from the wider Upper Guinean area (incl. both Senegambia and Sierra Leone actually). Hardly any locally-born islanders would be among these captives. Although incidentally (especially during droughts) Cape Verdean-born captives have been recorded as well. The preceding slave voyages which took place between Cape Verde and Upper Guinea are regrettably not well in scope yet. Although there is much historical evidence available about the main trends. See also:
- Regional Origins of Cape Verdeans (CVRAIZ.com)
- Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (part 1)
- Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (part 2)
- Take notice that overwhelmingly slave trade departing from Cape Verde took place in the 1500’s (~75%) and was mostly directed to the Spanish ruled colonies of Latin America (incl. Hispanic Caribbean around 90%). This addition has been very beneficial therefore for showcasing the early Upper Guinean founding effect for Hispanic Americans. Something which I have been blogging about since starting this blog in 2014. For more details:
Ethnic origins of slaves on Fogo island, 1610-1758
For many more charts & discussion follow this link: http://www.cvraiz.com/?page_id=66
African origins captives onboard slave ship sailing from Cape Verde to Cuba (1572)
- For more details read “Documented African Roots of Dominicans“
Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856
- For more details read Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (part 1) & Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (part 2)
***(vf=male & female, v=male)
***(vf=male & female, v=male)
Bissau, Cacheu, Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (combined)
- For more details read Cape Verde Slave Census of 1856 (part 2)
Bight of Biafra ancestry
- For more details read “The Igbo Connection for Virginia & Virginia-Descendants”
I am absolutely in love with your site. There is so much that I’m learning that I couldn’t get from my DNA results alone. I am a Black American (USA) with Asperger’s Syndrome, and my obsession right now is genealogy and geography. My DNA results from Ancestry include:
11% West Europe
My trace regions include but are not limited to:
3% Ivory Coast/Ghana
2% Africa South-Central Hunter Gatherers
<1% Africa Southeastern Bantu
I remember you saying that one shouldn't take the country label too seriously, since that ethnic region can also consist of neighboring countries. However, the "Mali" ethnicity estimate does correspond with Upper Guinea roots among black people in the U.S. I've done my research on ethnic groups in Senegambia and Sierra Leone and deduced that my ethnicity is likely Mandinka, Bambara, Soninke, and Susu (probably from my maternal grandfather's side), with some Kissi, Bassa, and maybe Senufo blood on my maternal grandmother's side. Also, with my "Cameroon/Congo" estimate, I've deduced that that could derive from the Igbo, Fang and Bassa tribes, also most likely from my maternal grandmother's side since her family lived in Virginia. I'm assuming that the rest of my Cameroonian/Congo DNA is on my father's side with possibly legit Cameroonian and/or Congolese DNA (Bakongo? Douala? ) I think "Benin/Togo" could mark Ewe, Ga-Dangme, Akan, and/or Fon ancestors. As for "Africa South-Central Hunter Gatherers", could that be a marker for Fulani as well as Liberian DNA, since Fulani are nomadic? I'd like to know your thoughts. Thanks!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Brianna, thanks so much for your feedback, very glad to know you find my blog useful!
Your 33% ” Mali” score is impressive and far above average based on my survey findings. Even when quite a considerable number of AA’s do score similar amounts. I agree with your assessment. In my survey i have also considered “Mali” to be an indicator of Upper Guinean roots together with “Senegal”. Even when there is also some overlap with mostly Gur speaking ancestry hailing from Burkina Faso, northern parts of Ghana/Ivory Coast/Togo & Benin. These are all additional areas where “Mali” scores may be derived from aside from Upper Guinea proper.
As you may have read already (see my latest blog posts) Ancestry is most likely going to implement an update soon. Eventhough it seems they will not be adding any new West African regions. It could still very well be that they will increase the reference samples for some of the existing regions. Right now it’s VERY minimal for both Senegal and Mali (see the AncestryDNA regions page). This could potentially impact your results in a major way. I have already seen a few AA results which have been updated and they showed some rather drastic shifts within the West African breakdown, often also “Mali” amounts going either up or down. It might be very telling what will happen with your pronounced “Mali” score”.
The Fula people are indeed originally nomadic people. However they were traditionally herdmen roaming the Sahel zone of West Africa with their cattle. While the nomadic people (the Biaka, Mbuti and Khoi-San) who were sampled for the “Africa South-Central Hunter Gatherers” region are traditionally living either in the rainforest zone of Central Africa or the semi-desert areas of Southern Africa. So there is no ancestral link between these people per se. From actual AncestryDNA results I have seen from Fula people they indeed tend to score practically zero % for this region. “Senegal” and “Africa North” are much more useful as possible markers of Fula ancestry (but not exclusively so!) see also this overview:
You have done great research already and I agree that all those ethnic groups you mentioned could be plausible given your results, background and relevant history. Have you looked into your DNA matches yet to see if you have any African matches? I find that they can often be very helpful in pinpointing ethnic lineage, although you have to be careful (as always) and not jump to conclusions. I would love for you to try out this tutorial of mine. If you get stuck at any of the steps please feel free to let me know!
First off, I’d like to say thank you for this website! I’ll admit that it’s hard not to take away some of the information and try to claim the tribe as your own based on AncestryDNA results 🙂 I see you’ve done some research on Louisiana Creoles. My father is Creole and my mother’s family is from Kentucky/Tennessee with roots from Virginia. After this update that we just had with Ancestry, I believe my results make a lot more sense, especially for my Louisiana heritage.
My new results are as follows:
29% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe
19% Cameroon, Congo and Southern Bantu Peoples
5% Ireland and Scotland
4% Ivory Coast/Ghana
2% NIGERIA! (Previously 17%!)
1% Native American – North, Central, South
1% Eastern Afric
1% Africa South-Central
1% North Africa
I’d like to get your opinion on these results. I’ve read that majority of the Louisiana slaves were either Congolese (unknown ethnicity) or Bambara. One of my direct ancestors (Marie Thereze CoinCoin) was said to have been Ewe from Togo. I’ve found an Igbo relative on my mother’s side who says his family has never been to America…in fact, he immigrated here a few years ago and does not know how he and I are connected (I found him through Gedmatch). Even though he says he’s FULL IGBO, his Gedmatch results have made him mostly Hausa. Obviously, it’s been easier pinpointing family origins on my father’s side due to all of the European mixing, but my mother’s has been quite difficult. Her initial results gave her 25% Nigerian but after this update Nigerian isn’t even in her results anymore and her top region is Cameroon/Congo at 31%.
I can talk about this stuff all day! I hope to hear from you soon and thank you!
Yes, “Nigeria” scores seem to be going down a lot for a lot of people since the recent Ancestrydna update. From what I have seen and read (including on this website), this is because the new samples they are using for Nigeria since the update are (our tend to be) less representative of southern Nigerian ethnic groups (like the Igbo, Yoruba and Edo) than the old ones were, and the Nigerian scores of many people (in including those of full Nigerians) have been, in many cases, drastically reduced since the update (and even before the update, many southern Nigerians, even including Southeasterners like Igbos, scored significantly in “Benin/Togo”, often as their second largest/highest region after “Nigeria”, or even occasionally as their first largest region—as apparently the Gbe-speaking peoples of Benin/Togo/Eastern Ghana share a certain common ancestry with those of southern Nigeria, with both belonging to branches of what is sometimes known as the Western branch of the Benue-Congo subgroup of the Niger-Congolanguage language family—Bantu and Bantuoid languages, for instance, belong to the Eastern Benue Congo branch.
It seems likely, that in many cases, post-update (depending on the background of those tested), the Benin/Togo score (or the majority of it) may be more indicative of south Nigerian ancestry—as discussed elsewhere on this website—(and sometimes some part of the Congo/Cameroon score could derive from south Nigerian ancestry as well). This would be especially true of those of known Nigerian origin, as well as of African Americans (who are known, generally, to have significant Igbo admixture, but likely in general, have little to no Fon, Ewe, or other Gbe ancestry) and possibly of many from the Spanish Caribbean and Brazilians (whose Yoruba ancestry, as far as I know, is usually likely to be greater than their Gbe or genuine “Benin/Togo” ancestry—though this likely varies by region). People of British Caribbean origin may have generally more Igbo/S.E. Nigerian ancestry than genuine Gbe ancestry as well (though from what I have read, they are more likely to have Gbe ancestry than are African Americans, or have at least modestly more on average than African Americans do)
In the case of other people of African descent, it may be less clear. I know there certainly is much evidence of substantial Gbe-speaking/Benin-Togo ancestry in Haitians for example—and perhaps other French Caribbeans (as well as in some Afro-Surinamese and Afro-Guyanese).
See some of the comments here, especially those by commenter “Jennifer”, as well as the responses/comments to her by the host of this blog (FonteFelipe):
To quote one of the comments:
“You are a bone fide Nigerian yet you only received 11% “Nigeria”, so that already sets off alarm bells for me haha… Frankly I’m not happy with it at all! This is the first updated breakdown I have seen for a West African. But this makes me very anxious about Ancestry’s upcoming update leading to more people being confused or even mislead by their updated DNA results.
“something I already feared would happen after seeing several other updated results for African Americans who like wise showed huge shifts in their African breakdown, especially involving the newly created region “Cameroon, Congo & Southern Bantu Peoples” and “Benin/Togo”. Both of these regions seem to “eat away” any former “Nigerian” scores.”
Aside from any possible change in the sample composition for the “Benin/Togo” and “Nigeria” regions I have a feeling that also the newly combined “Cameroon, Congo & Southern Bantu Peoples” region is having a drastic effect on the updated breakdown. Regrettably not in a good way judging from your results… It is definitely not adding any informational value from what I can gather. Quite the opposite actually!”
“I had a look at the new maps for “Benin/Togo” and “Nigeria” in your results and it seems that going by the description given by Ancestry itself you can already assume that a new interpretation is now called for. Especially when comparing with the current maps you can see that the areas being covered have changed/expanded significantly. With “Nigeria” being less predictive of actual Nigerian DNA (perhaps it is shifted now more so to northern Nigeria?). While even more so than in the current set-up “Benin/Togo” will be VERY commonly reported for southern Nigerians as well as Ghanaians. Therefore as I always have been saying the country name labeling is not to be taken as gospel”
Also see the comments section at the link below (especially the comments by commenters “Damon”, “Joshua” and the host of this blog):
My own Nigerian score from Ancestrydna was originally about 9% pre-update (I am about 43% subsaharan African overall), and my Benin/Togo was 5%. My black ancestry is all north American (It comes from North Carolina, deriving from Virginia on my grandmother’s side. And on my grandfather’s side, it comes from Louisiana and nearby Mississippi, I believe mainly from English-speaking blacks who came in after the Louisiana purchase and who derived from the southeastern US, rather than from French-speaking Creoles—though there may be a small amount of French creole ancestry as well.). Large amounts of influence from Igbos are known from the upper south (Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina)—large numbers of Igbos were brought there and there is evidence that their genetic contributions are/were significant-large among the Afro-descendants in the region. And it seems likely that much of my Benin/Togo percent may have been Nigerian as well (likely Igbo/southeastern, since Yorubas and northerners were very rare among the slaves in North America). This would make me roughly 12-14% (9%+5-part of 5%) Igbo/southeast Nigeria (or possibly slightly more if a small part of my Cameroon/Congo score is interpreted as S.E Nigerian).
and see this link (and the comments below)
Some of my Cameroon/Congo fraction, which was 12%, could be Nigerian as well (as is sometimes the case, as as this blog also discuses), but I strongly suspect that most of it is genuinely Congo/Angolan ancestry, since there is much evidence of a large Congolese influence/contribution in the areas my family came from and in North America (as well as among most African-descended communities of the Americas in general). My Southwestern Bantu was about 3-5% (which seems likely to be Angolan or mostly so, and thus possibly more of the same ethnic stock as or related to that of my Congo percentage—making me around 15% Congo/Angolan).
Since the update my Cameroon/Congo has been increased to 17%, my Ivory Coast/Ghana has been reduced from 6%-3% (which seems very plausible since there generally were not that many Akan people enslaved in the US—but were more so, as far as I know, found in the British Caribbean and parts of the Suriname/Guyana region), my 9% Senegal has been replaced by 11% Mali (So I am probably about 11% Malian Mande—likely Bambara and/or Mandinka. And I had read that their sample for Senegal was was a Mande-speaking group anyway—a Wolof sample for Senegal would have been more representative and informative).
The above changes all seem fairly plausible. But also since the update, my Nigeria was reduced from 9% to 0, and my Benin/Togo increased from 5% to 15%, which is not really plausible, both given the similar effects of the change on the score of actual Nigerians (and others with formerly high Nigerian scores),and the fact that my family came from a fairly “Igbo-rich” region (Virginia and nearby parts of North Carolina) the new Benin/Togo score, in my case, seems very likely to the reflect Nigerian ancestry (and is fairly close in amount to the Nigerian ancestry I score before the update).
I also submitted my dna to 23andme, and they have recently added several West African subcategories (though since they are new, I’m not quite sure how reliable they are). Interestingly, on 23andme I score 14% Nigerian: which fits with and is about the same number I had inferred from my original pre-update Ancestrydna results, and is also about the same as my new 15% “Benin/Togo” score (which I believe to be mis-labelled Nigerian ancestry) in my updated Ancestrydna results. This reinforces my opinion (and those of several others) that the New Ancestrydna Nigerian sample is likely not very representative (at least of much of Nigeria such as the south), and that unfortunately, post-update, the Benin/Togo category (and to a lesser extent the “Cameroon/Congo” one) in many cases, including mine, has become more indicative of southern Nigerian ancestry than their current Nigerian category is.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your comment Justin! I will reply to you in the comment section of this new bog post of mine as it will fit with the discussion over there.
Did Ancestry kill their African breakdown? (part 2)
You Probably are Ewe but, Marie Therese Coincoin has never had kids with an Ewe let alone a black. Marie Therese Coincoin also was born a long time ago and most of her descendants married French descended people. In conclusion, you are Probably Ewe but since you are partially Creole that can take away from it.
Sorrry for the late reply something went wrong while approving your comment 😉
In the meanwhile i have already posted two blog posts about the update on Ancestry. Basically i find that it has been a setback, atleast for the African breakdown. With regional amounts for “Cameroon, Congo and Southern Bantu Peoples”, “Mali” and “Benin/Togo” generally speaking tending to be inflated. While for MANY people “Nigeria” amounts have dwindled to almost nothing. These are all patterns indicating some structural flaw in the update. For more details see:
Feel free to join the discussion over there as it will be more fitting!
My results have indeed changed, and my updated ethnicity estimates are: ‘
29% Cameroon, Congo, and Southern Bantu Peoples
15% Ivory Coast/Ghana
14% England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe
Trace regions include but are not limited to:
It’s interesting that my “Nigeria” result stayed the same. I didn’t expect my “Mali” result to decrease that much, but at the same time, I didn’t expect to have “Mali” as my primary ethnicity estimate the first time around. I’m also glad that England and Wales are in the same region, because even though Wales might be culturally different from England, Wales is not close to Scotland or Ireland, so it was a bit confusing. On the other hand, I don’t like how most of central and southern Africa, so there is no telling if it is an accurate reading of Bight of Biafran, Congolese-Brazzaville, and DR Congolese and/or Angolan roots (and in some cases, ancestry from Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar!). Another interesting part of the update is that I have an estimate of 1% “Philippines”. Last time, I had only <1% “East Asia”. I know it is not a big amount, and it could be just noise, but if it isn’t, could it be an indicator of Malagasy roots? I remember you saying that for 23andMe, an estimate of 1-3% “East Asia” could be an indicator of Asian/Austronesian roots, but what about Ancestry?
I also have results from my cousin, who has been on Ancestry longer than I have:
39% Cameroon, Congo, and Southern Bantu Peoples
10% Ivory Coast/Ghana
5% England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe
Trace regions include but are not limited to:
If the updated results are to be believed, I’m deducing that I could be partially Igbo, Fang/Ewondo, Bamileke (or Tikar), Bakongo, and Ambundu, with possible Edo/Bini, Fon, Ewe, Krobo, Eastern Ghanaian (Akyem?), Sierra Leonean and/or Liberian ancestry mixed in. As for the “Mali” results, I’m not too sure about now, since even people from Senegal have had their “Mali” results increased, but it could still very well be Bambara, Mandinka, or Susu, since my maternal grandfather’s side (including the cousin who I just mentioned) come from Louisiana and the Gulf States, like Texas. Not making firm conclusions just yet, but this is my conjecture until I see more evidence to the contrary. It would help if I do another test or have a match from Africa to ensure external validity.
P.S. What are your thoughts on the new AncestryDNA test that predicts genetic traits, like hair texture, food preferences, etc.? I know you have your thoughts on the Spotify feature (which, while interesting, it did overgeneralize the regions), but I was just wondering if it’s worth the money. Thanks!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi Brianna, thanks for sharing your updated results! Very interesting to see how your “Mali” score has decreased so much (from 33% to 7%)! From what I have seen sofar for AA’s it tends to increase rather. As you may have read in my latest blog posts I do not have a high opinion of how Ancestry carried out their update. And it may not be really worthwhile to speculate about these drastic changes. Still interesting to see that your “Ivory Coast Ghana” has increased from 3 to 15%. Again for other AA’s it usually tends to be the other way around. I have a feeling much of your “Mali” amount has gone into that region. It may imply that your “Mali” score was indicative also of the overlap with mostly Gur speaking ancestry hailing from Burkina Faso, northern parts of Ghana/Ivory Coast/Togo & Benin. These are all additional areas where “Mali” scores may be derived from aside from Upper Guinea proper. As I pointed out in my previous comment.
Searching for your African DNA matches in a systematic manner will be more useful now than ever! Again let me know if you need any help with my tutorial.
Your “Philippines” score is indeed in line with a trace-amount of Southeast Asian DNA which you may have inherited by way of a Malagasy ancestor. Finding a Malagasy match will give you more certainty.
I did notice the new genetic traits tool also. But I personally have no need for it so I cannot tell you much about it.
I’d like to get your opinion on my fathers AncestryDNA results. I’ve done GEDmatch as well and it says his as well as my dna is closest to the Fang tribe of Cameroon/Gabon. Even though it’s meant for 100% African I’m around 88% African or more so it’s fairly close. I believe is accurate because of his results which are :
9% Ivory Coast
2% England wales, north Europe
2% Native American
1% Sweden(which can really be disregarded)
I have done extensive family research and have traced as far back as his 3x great grandparents on his paternal moms side. We do have some white women from the 1800s that are in my tree on that side on ancestry or a relatives tree, as well as matches with high Native American dna proving a common ancestor there as well. Ive put 3/4 of my fathers grandparents trees together EXCEPT my paternal grandfathers dad. I’m currently looking for who he was I only have possible names right now I’m trying to do a YDNA test from FTDNA to find YDNA matches that can go back 4-8 generations to help find him.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Your father’s results are reflecting the updated version of AncestryDNA (current since September 2018). Based on the before & after results of 130 African DNA testers from across the continent I think this update will NOT be an improvement in regards to the African breakdown. Instead regrettably it might lead to less insight into the African regional roots of Afro-descendants and actual Africans. In the last past years I did find that regionally speaking the previous version of AncestryDNA was reasonably in line with either historical plausibility or actual verifiable genealogy. Despite several shortcomings as well as the continued need for correct interpretation.
However I fear that this will no longer be the case after the update. If Ancestry asks you about your feedback please forward them this link (when in agreement of course):
Suggestions for improving the African breakdown on AncestryDNA
For more discussion:
The overall continental breakdown is likely to be quite accurate. But not so the African breakdown. Personally I would opt for sticking with my previous results (if you have them) and combine with follow-up research (DNA matches, genealogy, relevant historical context etc.) for more insight. Not much added value in trying to make sense of these updated and usually flawed results…
For my opinion on Gedmatch see this comment: