Krio from Sierra Leone: Afro-Diasporans with a twist?

The Krio people from Sierra Leone have a fascinating history and also very wideranging origins from West Africa, Central Africa and even Southeast Africa! Because of their mixed African lineages they are not very different from their distant African American and West Indian cousins and might therefore be considered Afro-Diasporans, even though they happen to be living in Africa.



“The Sierra Leone Creole people (or Krio people) are an ethnic group in Sierra Leone. They are the descendants of freed African American, West Indian and Liberated African slaves who settled in the Western Area of Sierra Leone between 1787 and about 1885. The colony was established by the British, supported by abolitionists, as a place for freedmen. The settlers called their new settlement Freetown. Today, the Krio comprise about 4% of the population of Sierra Leone”  Source:


They are of course not the only ones, if we define Afro-Diasporans as people of multiple African ethnic origins resulting from the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, aside from the Krio in Sierra Leone we can also refer to Cape Verdeans as such as well as the Americo-Liberians, the Aku from Gambia, the Saro & Aguda from Nigeria/Benin the people of São Tomé & Principe, the Fernandino’s and Annobonese from Equatorial Guinea,  the Coloureds of South Africa and even the Creole populations living on the islands of Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles. Even if technically speaking these islands are not located on the Atlantic side but rather in the Indian Ocean. I will explore the ethnic origins of some of these African based Afro-Diasporans in future posts.

As mentioned in the quote above, aside from freed African Americans and West Indians the Krio from Sierra Leone also descend from the Liberated Africans. These 3 subgroups gradually intermarried and fused together to form the new ethnic group of the Krio. There’s relatively much information available on their ethnic origins because it was standard procedure that these socalled Recaptives were interviewed and registered in either Freetown (Sierra Leone) or Havana (Cuba) after having been liberated by the British navy from slave ships usually heading to either Cuba, Puerto Rico or Brazil in the 1800’s (when slave trade had already officially been abolished). See also this very informative website which will feature a separate section on Sierra Leone shortly

A very intriguing display of their various ethnic backgrounds can be seen from this census taken in 1848 in Freetown. It’s NOT per se reflective of the slave trade patterns of that particular period (1800-1850’s) because the British navy had not yet started patrolling the Angolan/Congolese coastline as much as it was doing in West African waters. Also many Liberated Africans from Sierra Leone or neighbouring areas might have moved on from Freetown to their nearby ancestral locations. Either way aside from the clear majority of Yoruba recaptives there’s a bewildering array of ethnic origins mentioned ranging from Senegal to Mozambique!


Ethnic Origins of Recaptives in Sierra Leone 1848sl


Even more detailed information on the ethnic origins of liberated Africans in Sierra Leone was collected in 1854 by the German missionary Sigismund Wihelm Koelle, his pioneering book on African linguistics, the Polyglotta Africana, was based on no less than 156 different African languages, most of them he learnt about while interviewing Liberated Africans in Sierra Leone! Taken from Curtin 1969 these maps are priceless in showcasing where Koelle’s informants in Sierre Leone were originally from. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with some of the ethnic groups taken from various regions within Africa.  A full list of all the ethnic groups and their number can be found in the Appendix of Curtin’s book. It’s an impressive and at the same time deeply sad testimony of the scope and extent of slave trade in this late era (1800’s), although of course it’s not to be seen as anything complete or definite. Knowing that these people eventually all intermarried with each other as well as the freed African Americans, West Indians and Jamaican Maroons, the origins of Sierra Leonean Krio can justifiably be described as an African melting pot or rather a richly flavoured African Gumbo just as much as can be said for any Afro-Diasporans in the Americas 😉


Upper Guineasl


Bight of Beninsl


Nigeria Cameroon mapsl


C. Africa mapsl

*** SE Africa mapsl

8 thoughts on “Krio from Sierra Leone: Afro-Diasporans with a twist?

  1. I wander if maybe in part igbo or biafran origins of krio,might not be slightly higher via the Black Loyalists many of them from Virginia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good comment! I agree that this might be a possibility. I suppose that a thorough investigation of the DNA matches (IBD) reported for Krio might give more insight.


  2. What I’m fairly interested in is whether there has ever been a genetic study of people of claimed Creole ancestry? It’d be interesting to see how they match up – and how they differ – with their African American cousins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes i’d be interested in such a study too! I have seen a few Krio results on AncestryDNA. You can tell from atypically high amounts for “Benin/Togo”, “Nigeria” and “Cameroon/Congo” that their regional origins go beyond just Upper Guinea or Sierra Leone proper (“Ivory Coast/Ghana”, “Mali” and “Senegal” being the main regional components for “native” Sierra Leoneans). I have also seen the DNA matches for one Krio person. Very fascinating to see all the connections. I might eventually blog about it after having seen more Krio results.


  3. Thank you for such an interesting read!

    I wonder if you have any advice on tracing my family history back to Sierra Leone? All I know is my Grandfather left for the UK between the 1920s and 1940s. I know nothing other than that but would really like to trace back to any family in Sierra Leone and beyond. It would be a dream if I could trace pre-slave trade!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rae, thanks for your comment! I would need more context on your family’s background. Was your grandfather himself born in Sierra Leone and also Krio? If so then I suppose it will be worthwhile to research the archives over there. Perhaps there are also some FB groups dedicated to Sierra Leonean / Krio genealogy out there. Although I wouldn’t know any of them myself. Another possibly useful source which comes to mind is this website which provides amazing information on the Liberated Africans being brought into Sierra Leone:

      Another possibility would be to do a DNA test and connect with any Sierra Leonean DNA matches you might receive. I intend to eventually blog about the DNA matches being reported on AncestryDNA for Sierra Leoneans, incl. also a Krio person. So stay tuned for that!


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