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What My Mother’s AncestryDNA Results Taught Me

by Serina Gousby

Happy Holidays everyone! I just celebrated Christmas with my family yesterday and this past weekend, and it’s just a blessing to be alive and celebrate yet another happy holiday season. With that said, I was able to give my mother a Christmas present early, which was an Ancestry DNA test. Earlier this year, I had taken one through Family Tree DNA, and my mother wanted to know what her results would be because mine was…eh, we’ll get into it. Black Friday had a good sale this year on Ancestry.com so I got the test, she sent them the sample, and then on Christmas day her results were emailed to her.

According to Ancestry.com, my mother’s dominant (most confident) results are 92% African and 3% Native American. I’m shocked at two things: her African ethnicity is broken down into at least six different countries, and that she basically has no European roots in her…but I do. My dominant results according to Family Tree DNA are 86% African and 9% European. Interesting right? Let me try to break this down for you on why these results give us both so much clarity and somewhat of an understanding of our family’s history and Black history in general.

Since my first year of college, I always wanted to take the ancestry DNA test. That year specifically, I watched Alex Haley’s Roots for the first time, and I began taking Black Studies classes for my minor. My family on both my mother’s and father’s side come from the south, but I always wanted to know exactly where my ancestors came from because most likely they either came to America on their own, or was on the ship during the slave trade. As of today, no one in my family knows a lot of history on our ancestors during the slavery period, which is why the tests are really important to me. What I like about AncestryDNA is that it also linked my mother to a migration group “North Carolina / South Carolina African Americans”, which confirms my assumption that my ancestors may have possibly landed in Charleston, South Carolina, which is where many of the first slaves landed. It also showed a timeline of the migration from 1850 to 1925, where it shows that my ancestors went up north and to Alabama, which is where my mother was born.

As for her African background, I’m amazed because she has percentages of Cameroon/ Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Benin/Togo, Ivory Coast/ Ghana, and Senegal. I guess that tells me that my grandmother and grandfather has parents and grandparents from various regions, so it makes it quite hard to categorize my mother’s roots within just one country. This DNA test unfortunately doesn’t specify much information on her Native American results since it’s a small percentage. For Family Tree DNA, it didn’t tell me what countries but regions, which were mainly West Africa and a small percentage of East Central Africa. As for European, it states British Isles and Scandinavia as the two dominants. If you don’t mind only knowing the regions, try Family Tree DNA, but I was disappointed because it did not give me enough information.

One crazy and real fact for many African Americans, is that some of us has a European last name but has no European blood in our body. If you ever watched Roots, the name change from Kunta Kinte to Toby really annoyed me. Even though my mother has her mother’s married last name instead of her father’s, either way it would’ve been European because historically our ancestors were given names, which completely stripped away their African identity. Crazy right? So for my mother, it’s a bit funny that her roots are nearly 100% African, but her identity relates to a European last name. It’s the reality for some of us, but it still does bother me because I will never know for sure what my ancestors’ names really were before slavery.

Overall, my mother’s results taught me so much about the importance of cultural identity, and it answered a few questions that my results failed to answer. I’m happy that she now knows the countries of her ethnicity, and this is a good starting point to finding out more of our family history. Hopefully, at some point, I’ll try out African Ancestry and get more into my research because it will be a long journey.

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