Discovering your African roots. : ThyBlackMan

Monday, September 16, 2019


Discovering your African roots.

September 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Health, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Understanding our ancestors used to be a matter of guesswork and family fables. Over the past decade, genetic testing has revolutionized how much we can discover about where we come from. Fortunately, access to this level of scientific study is not a matter of paying extortionate amounts to private health care professionals to perform genetic tests. Instead, the DNA test kit has become commercialized and taken under the wing of mainstream business. In fact, much of science is becoming commercialised right now.

The DNA test kits on the market currently are aimed at discovering a wide variety of things. There are tests to assess how prone we are to specific diseases, to see the IQ forecast for a child, and many more. The most popular however, is to see our ancestry and heritage.

There are many reasons why this has become so popular. For under $100, you can see where you come from. The results are incredibly digestible, too. The reports are essentially a percentage breakdown of your ethnicity, and will pinpoint where your DNA matches different corners of the world.

This has become a great gift, particularly at Christmas time. The results are usually back within a month and they can be shared among the family (ready for Christmas), creating a very special moment at a very special (family-orientated) time of year.

Often, for an extra $30 or so, you can include health analysis too. This will detail your health profile, highlighting things such as what disease you’re prone to getting and what to look out for in particular.

Black ancestry 

Cultures in the black communities place a special emphasis on heritage. It is extremely important to know about your ancestry and be proud of where we come from.

For this reason, there are several ancestry DNA companies that focus specifically on black ancestry. Usually, a company that focuses on certain cultures tends to have a much greater understanding, which leads to better service. This is not the case with DNA test kit companies.

It’s tempting to use an ancestry company with this focus, but the reality is they have even less data on black ancestry than the leading companies.

DNA testing is all about data. The essence of it is to match your DNA patterns closely with the DNA around the world. The one thing that underpins this service is having data – and lots of it.

The best DNA test kit for ethnicity will always be the leading ones with the most data, regardless of ethnicity. 23andMe and Ancestry are two of the leading services which excel in this area.

Andre Kearns, a genealogist from Washington, DC, states “As African-Americans, we have a distinct challenge in terms of tracing our ancestry, because slavery is a research brick wall. But we’ve got our family history essentially etched into our DNA. Those stories are there to be uncovered.”

Despite this, Andre and his wife used the DNA testing to help them discover that his wife (from Haiti) has a family connection to Lisa Fanning, an African-American genealogist who has ancestry from Georgia, Wilkes County. Upon some research on Lisa Fanning, it showed French slave trader Louis Prudhomme, who landed in Wilkes County, Georgia after escaping the Haitian revolution. They discovered a lot more than they expected to about their family past, which would have been impossible without the testing.

Is my African ancestry from my mother’s or father’s lineage?

What African regions do my ancestors come from?

I know my immediate family is from Ghana, but what about the rest of my heritage?

These are the questions that are most often asked that DNA tests answer. The issue with the African-only DNA test companies are that, it extremely unlikely that anyone outside of Africa remains 100% African. The leading companies cover the world over, which really throws out some surprises to most customers. The African ancestry composition is still comprehensive however. For example, here is the regions that 23andMe report (if the results match):

  • Congo
  • West African coast
  • Sudan
  • Nigeria
  • Ethiopia
  • South East Africa
  • Senegal & Gambia
  • Broadly: Congolese, west African, Northern East African and/or Sub-Saharan East African.

AncestryDNA is also very similar but includes Togo/Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Southern Bantu people, Mali and South-central hunter-gatherers.

Staff Writer; Calvin Love


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