“What are you?” is a question I’m often asked and when I respond “black” it never seems to satisfy those who are so curious. I always get nudged to further explain my ethnicity (which is annoying by the way) but the fact of the matter is, I’ve never fully known. I’ve known that I have African and European traces on my father’s side and African and Native American on my mother’s. Yet it bothered me that I didn’t know details of where my African lineage traced back to. It’s not uncommon for media, or society in general, to refer to Africa as a homogeneous land without differentiating the countries and cultures within the massive continent (there are 54 recognized countries, 2,000 languages spoken and over 1.1 billion citizens within Africa).
It almost felt as though understanding and claiming my specific African roots would help debunk the myth that the entirety of Africa and African culture are identical. I also strongly identify as African American and an important part of our history is slavery. As one can imagine, slavery stripped us of our tribes, culture, traditions, and ultimately the ability to track our African ancestry and details of our ethnicity. Getting my DNA results felt like I was taking back something that was brutally stolen from me and my family.
Therefore on my birthday this year I requested an AncestryDNA test to discover a small piece of my ancestors. Once I received the kit I simply had to provide a saliva sample and ship it back to the lab (which was complimentary by the way). Within 2 or 3 weeks I received an email stating that my results were in.
Before I revealed the results to my curious family, my parents gave their guesses:
Mom: 70% African, 15% European, 15% Native American
Dad: 65% African, 30% European, 5% Native American
The final results were as follows:
62% African, 36% European, 2% Asian
You can see in the left tab that the majority of my DNA traces to Ivory Coast/Ghana (26%), Cameroon/Congo (17%) and Ireland (14%). Sorry mom, no traces of any Native American in my blood; not even one percent! I must say, that was unsurprising to me (I feel like everyone claims that they’re Native American) but of course surprising to my mother. What I was not expecting was any traces of Asian ancestry, especially since my DNA was mapped to India and the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan/Uzbekistan region. Although just 2% is apparent, it does make me curious about where that came from! Of course it was very valuable learning about my specific African ancestry: I was traced back to 9 African regions.
What’s also worthwhile about Ancestry.com is that based on your DNA, they’ll match you to other people who have taken the test who are believed to be related to you. The first person who popped up for me was my first cousin so I trust the accuracy.
At this point almost everyone in my family has now requested an Ancestry kit for Christmas since they’ve been so intrigued with the results. This excites me because if my parents take the test I’ll have a better understanding of my maternal and paternal history and which side my results derive from.
Overall I’m very happy that I decided to get the test and learn more about my family and myself. There’s definitely a relief in taking back something that is so personal to me.