This blog was basically born out of my personal quest to explore my own African roots. I took the 23andme DNA test already in 2010. Initially I was merely told that I had an x amount of African ancestry, without further specification. Of course I already knew I had African DNA as I am of Cape Verdean descent with Cape Verde being a West African island group (see also “What Tribe Am I?” ). I was also told that my maternal lineage originated in Mozambique out of all places! An African country which is probably furthest removed from Cape Verde geographically speaking, located right at the other end of the continent, thousands of miles away from Cape Verde. With little known documented ancestral connections between the two countries besides both having been part of the Portuguese colonial empire. Safe to say i was confused and clueless about this one single concrete hint provided about my African heritage!
While overall my 23andme test experience has been enriching in many ways and i gained more insights after subsequent updates of my results. It did leave me wanting to know more about exactly which regions and which ethnic groups would be connected with my African heritage, beyond Cape Verde obviously. That sort of got the ball rolling as i tried to find more information myself from reading up on both Cape Verdean and African Diasporic history as well as following online discussions on genetics and DNA testing. I’ll never claim to be a trained expert in either field but i will attempt to use my blog to share whatever knowledge i have gathered in the last 8 years after having taken my first DNA test. I still love reading about anything that’s related to personal DNA testing. There’s so many areas of interest that come together: history, genealogy, anthropology, population genetics and even the psychology of how people react to their results as it confronts them with how they self-identify I suppose. I can honestly say it never bores me.
I’m convinced that new insights are often generated by just putting two and two together. In other words I think a multidisciplinary approach, combining history, ethnography, linguistics etc. with genetics, often works better than just limiting yourself to a onesided view. I’m also a firm believer of democratizing knowledge. Despite much academic progress being made in African & Afro-Diasporic studies many people taking DNA tests seem to be not aware. So that’s why aside from posting on whatever captures my imagination, i also intend for this blog to be some sort of repository of useful links, resources, charts, maps etc. (navigate the menubar). Anything to make it easier to understand the ethnic origins of Afro-Diasporans from all over the Americas and even located within Africa 😉 I would advise anyone to familiarize themselves at the very least with the vast diversity of Africa (see ethno-linguistic maps) and also whatever’s been documented historically about the African ethnic groups being present in your own country (e.g. see ethnic/regional charts for the USA or the Anglo-Caribbean among others).
Tracing the African roots of the Afro-Diaspora is also about reaffirming the lost identities of ancestors who were caught up in the most dehumanizing circumstances of slavery. I personally strongly believe that in order to truly honour your many dozens or even hundreds of African born forefathers and foremothers (see “Fictional Family Tree incl. African Born Ancestors“) taking a critical stance regarding the claims of DNA testing is a must. Naively taking your results at face value and just going for quick and easy answers could very well lead to gravely misidentifying the main lineages of your African ancestry, which would be tragic indeed inspite of all good intentions.
Don’t get me wrong: you can still get very valuable clues about your ancestry from DNA testing! But much depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to spend to do some own research, getting to know the basics of DNA testing, finding out about population genetics, learning about African history (again taking a critical stance and not just going by whatever seems either mainstream or fanciful but only what’s backed up by solid evidence). All these things will help improve your understanding and interpretation of your DNA test results which do provide helpful clues as long as you’ve done your homework.
Finding out about your ancestry can often be very daunting indeed. It takes a lot of perseverance, patience and luck. But I’ve found that when you finally get to learn something meaningful and verifiable it’s also very gratifying. Finding out you’re not alone in this quest is a true comfort and engaging in online discussions about this topic has always been very enriching for me and a great learning process. I invite all readers of this blog therefore to feel free to post any comments, questions, remarks or helpful criticism!
Just as a last statement i would like to emphasize it’s not my intention to push anyone’s own research into one direction only as it’s always wise to keep all options open. Even when the most plausible scenario usually is closest to the truth. Also i would hate to give any impression of a Mr.Know It All as i know how annoying that can be 😀 I’m aiming to keep opinions separate from facts and i will mention my sources as much as possible. I will also always make a conscious attempt to be as unbiased as I can be. However given human nature some bias might still be there even unintentionally. That’s why all the main research findings featured in my blog posts can also be found in “Ethnic/Regional Origins” in the menubar. That way readers can access the information without having to bother with my subjective opinions or attempts at (over) lenghty analysis 😉
For a blog series which summarizes my take on Tracing African Roots:
- ROOTS.NL (S1E1): What can be learnt from AncestryDNA when trying to trace African ancestry?
- ROOTS.NL (S1E2): Is it possible to pinpoint a plausible ethnic origin for one’s African bloodline?
- ROOTS.NL (S1E3): True Colours: Dutch Race Relations