Sunday, November 6, 2016

Me in the BBC and the difficulties of tracing African-American family trees behind the walls of slavery

So here's something interesting that had happened...

One on of my Facebook genealogy groups, a journalist from the BBC wrote that she was working on a news article. She said,

"In the light of Georgetown University's decision to give 'the edge' in the applications process to descendants of slaves, we are looking at how easy or difficult it is to trace slave ancestry, and what the challenges and emotions involved are.

Have you recently found out about ancestors who were slaves? Would you be interested in talking to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) about it?" 

Now, I personally know nothing about being related to the Georgetown descendants. However, I am having the hardest, darndest time figuring out my family tree past the 1850's on most sides. (I haven't had a chance to even touch writing about the family tree stuff yet on this blog. The DNA stuff is a lot!)

Plus, I figured what the hey? I could submit something and if nothing came of it then no love lost. However, if I was included, it might provide some credibility to family members and others that may be able to help me but do not understand why I am working on this journey. I'm not much of a creative writer after working in business for so long, so I replied in bullet format/ memo style:

My experiences as an African-American in the deep south researching her heritage are:

(1) It is really difficult. 

(2)The records are hard to sift through. I am one of few in my family to hold a master's degree from university, and this is much more difficult than obtaining that. My degree is even in information systems, and it's still difficult. I feel as if I need degrees in history, anthropology, genetics, etc. to understand the mounds of disconnected information.

(3) Many of my family members and friends do not understand why I am trying to do this. For that reason, I have little support. The support that I have been given though has been amazing, and I think that it is because those individuals recognize how difficult the task is because they have attempted it to some degree before.

(4) Our elder family members did not discuss the past very much, and now many of them have passed on. I figure that to them, it might have been painful or shameful or both, but I do not know for sure.

(5) DNA tests are really expensive. So far I have spent over $1000 in 2016, and I need to spend at least $1000 more to get various other family members tested to try to unravel the history and relationships. Again, because I am the only one in my family that sees this as that important, I must foot the bill for these tests myself.

(6) I have DNA from all over the world, and many locations are those that I would never expect like Haiti, Jamaica, and Barbados. I have a small amount of Native American heritage that is not uncommon, but intriguingly it is from South America. I expected lots of West African, but I did not expect to see East, Central, or North African. I also did not expect to see some South Asian or Middle East. I expected to see European countries like Britain, Spain, France, but not Sweden, Finland, or Russian. My blood truly representative of the term "melting pot."

(7) I have lots of matches in South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina, but I have no idea who the common ancestors are. I hit the wall of slavery big time both in my search for genealogy records and relationships with DNA matches.

Oh, and I want to add that I think it is appalling that slave descendants are not given these test for free after all that has been taken from us for free in this country.

Apparently getting straight to the point works pretty well...LOL. She sent me an email asking for a telephone interview on Labor Day. I was glad that I noticed the email. We chatted about 30 minutes. I wasn't sure what would happen after that, but she told me she would keep me updated on the progress of the article.

Guess what? I was chosen to be in the article! As far as I know, no other close family members have tested yet (except two that I found out about when they popped up as a match, but we had not discussed testing among each other.) I'm not giving up hope. I plan to one day find all of my ancestors that got off the boat(s) in this thang.

...until next time...

Slave Haven: Underground Railroad Museum

I went on an impromptu visit to the Slave Haven museum yesterday. Hubby and I needed to get out of the house, and we'd been saying we were going to go every since we first heard that there was such a thing. We had no idea that the underground railroad existed this far down south. It makes sense though. I can imagine the enslaved in this place wanting to leave very badly. I feel the same way today with way less harsh conditions.

The museum was an awesome place. No pictures were allowed inside. We were given a tour by very knowledgeable people so we weren't left alone to read a bunch of walls or guess what we thought stuff was or meant. It was also my very first time seeing a crawl space in person (used to hide under the floor or in the walls). It really brought home the idea that slavery had to be an awful thing to want to get away from it that bad. The space was very small...maybe 2-3 feet deep. We were told that it was probably one of the larger ones that was used. It looked as if crawling in that thing meant nose to the dirt, snake crawling.

Anyhow, there is much awesomeness to see and learn, so if you have an opportunity I encourage you to stop by. I won't talk about it too much and spoil it for you. There is a big tour that you can take that includes about 30 related sites throughout the area. We will be going back for that.

I will say this about it...people are tripping. I've been studying the plight of my Ancestors on my own for years - as far back as high school. Much of what was real life for them is NOT taught in school. With much of their blood in the ocean, rivers, trees, and soil...I will not be going back after death saying that I did not try to do anything to make a difference and support others that are making a difference. Instead I sat back and wasted my life away. I refuse.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My 23andme Experience

In June, I decided to test at 23andme because I found some discounts. This was before they offered the Ancestry only test for $99 like they do now. At this time all of their tests were $199 and included the health info. I found some discounts that allowed me to get tests for myself and my mom for $129 and $159.

I wanted the tests so that I could have an opportunity to find some 100% African matches to help in the search for our roots. I have heard of some people finding African matches on 23andme because a few years ago they were giving free tests to Indigenous Africans. I'm also just addicted to testing at this point, but my pockets are ready to take a chance on withdrawal.

23andme Results

Because my mom tested, they were able to compare our results and show what I inherited from her and my father (deduced I guess since they don't have his DNA). That's a pretty neat feature. It looks like I got good amounts of African from both sides...although I got more from my father. I received more European from my mother, and more East Asian/ Native American from my father...and so on.

DNA inherited from Father vs. Mother

My 23andme report also included health information. Basically, my mother and I are not a carriers for anything. I guess that's good news, although I feel like I paid extra for nothing. At least now I know for sure! They add new conditions that they test for often, so it's something to watch out for every now and again.

Oh, and I found my first African cousin. She's not related to my mother, so I think we may be related on my father's side. Her parents were both born in Nigeria and are Igbo, and she did not expect to have cousins in the United States. Surprise to both of us! I would have expected a Yoruban match to show up first since it seems that I'm carrying quite a bit of Yoruban DNA, but I guess not. Also, I've read that Yorubans, Igbos, and Ghanaians share quite a bit of it may be difficult to determine from DNA alone. I'm sure that as more matches come forward and reveal their own cultural identities, it will paint a clearer picture for me.

Uploading your Raw DNA Data to Gedmatch

I've been meaning to write about this one for the longest because it is VERY IMPORTANT! Gedmatch is a tool that you can upload your raw data from Ancestry, 23andme, and/or familytreedna...and a few others. The reason that this is important is because you can find family matches from all of them regardless of which one you chose to test with.

So, for example, if I tested with then on their website I can only find matches with other people that tested with them. However, if I upload my raw DNA data to gedmatch, I can now find matches that tested with 23andme and Family Tree...and I can do this for FREE.

(PLEASE NOTE: Even though Gedmatch is a free site I do recommend becoming a Tier 1 subscriber for $10 whenever you can so that you can help the site continue to run since as we all know, nothing is free. Everything costs somebody something and there are great volunteers behind the scenes that make this all possible. Each $10 gives you access to additional helpful tools for a month at a time.)

Gedmatch Login screen
To get started, you want to go to and register. There are some videos on YouTube that explain how to use gedmatch if you need help. Its pretty simple. If you have any trouble, please comment below and I will try to assist you.


...until next time...

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My DNA Tribes experience

Another place that I took my raw data to was to the DNA Tribes SNP analysis. (Hey, with so many iffy results, I wanted to clear up the muddy water some in my mind.) DNA Tribes boasts checking your DNA against 560,000 individuals from 1,200+ populations around the world, including 950+ indigenous populations. Compared to's 3000 or so people (and I think only about 400 of them are African...and you can easily see why I might want a DNA Tribes checkup.

To be clear, DNA Tribes offers a stand alone product where they will test your saliva like other DNA testing companies. That is NOT what I purchased. I repeat, that is NOT what I purchased. I purchased the SNP product that will process the raw DNA from a test that you have already taken ( in my case).

DNA Tribes SNP analysis costs $40 if you let them know where all 4 of your immediate grandparents were born. No need to be too specific I don't think. I wrote USA for all of them. Otherwise the test costs $50.

I sent my raw DNA data by email. In the email, I told them that all four of my grandparents were born in the US (as mentioned above). The results arrived in my email about an hour later. There were no matches to relatives - just results.
DNA Tribes SNP: Admixture Analysis - 8 Continental Cores
DNA Tribes SNP: Multi-Dimensional Scaling (MDS) - 8 Continental Cores
 So wow, right? According to this, I am 88% African which is significantly higher than the 77% that gave me. I am also 2.5 % American Indian, which is also higher than the less than 1% that Ancestry gave me.

DNA Tribes SNP: Admixture Analysis - 53 Regional Clusters
DNA Tribes SNP: Multi-Dimensional Scaling (MDS) - 53 Regional Clusters
Like wow, right? Ok, so I need to find a new word. But still - check out the East and Central African. There is even some Nilotic and Madagascar. Didn't see those coming.

DNA Tribes SNP: Population Admixture - Native and Jewish Populations
Since I'm not Jewish, this particular report shows my connection to native populations. That Luhya is like BAM...I'm here! I wasn't too surprised by these because they also showed up in some of my gedmatch reports. More on that later.

DNA Tribes SNP: Iterative Population Admixture- Native and Jewish Populations
DNA Tribes SNP: Multi-Dimensional Scaling (MDS) - Native and Jewish Populations

These charts correspond to the chart before. Luhya, Yoruban, and Dogon feature strongly with no divergence. That's far from the iffiness of
DNA Tribes SNP: World Genetic Grid
 This was a pretty picture. I think it's interesting that the Native American portion of my DNA shows up in South America. Things that make you go hmmm...

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - Diasporic Populations p.1
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - Diasporic Populations p.2
This part tripped me out. It basically says that if they pretended that I was indigenous to an area without being mixed with anything else (which I know is most likely not true because I am an African in America with known European DNA)...but if they pretended that I was 100% of something...then this is a ranking of how close my DNA ranks to being like that of a particular people. So I expected to see African-American, right? (Since it is one of the options.) Check out what my number one ranking is. Also check out ranks for numbers three, four, and five.

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - African Populations p. 1
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - African Populations p.2
My number two ranking was unexpected too. I am aware that I am at least a third Nigerian. However I did not expect to rank higher as Yoruba Nigerian than African-American. Am I really even African-American? Yeah, it finally shows up ranked as number FIVE (say what?!) Also check out ranks 6 - 14. How awesome is that? Isn't that quite a level of detail compared to just writing "West Africa"?

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - European Populations p. 1
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - European Populations p.2
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - European Populations p.3

Basically, the rest of my rankings alternate between these two categories (Diaspora and African) until I get to number 74. Then the European rankings begin.

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - Native American Populations
My closest Native American ranking shows up in Ecuador. Huh? Well alrighty then.

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - Middle Eastern Populations p. 1
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - Middle Eastern Populations p.2
Next comes the Middle Eastern stuff.

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - North Asian Populations p.1
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - North Asian Populations p.2
And then the North Asian stuff.

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - Caucasus Mountains Population
And then the Caucasus Mountains stuff...which by the way has nothing to do with Europeans. So why in the world are they called Caucasians? I read an interesting article about the whole ordeal. I will try to find it and add it one day. Long story short, study for yourself. We have all been told or misled to believe a great many untruths about the world.

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - South Asian Populations p.1
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - South Asian Populations p.2
And then the South Asian stuff...
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - East Asian Populations p.1
DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - East Asian Populations p.2
And then the East Asian stuff...

DNA Tribes SNP: Total Ancestral Fit - Oceanian and South Malay Archipelago Populations
And finally, the Oceanian (and Polynesian?) stuff. It's interesting to see how low it ranks for me because it appears in my results as less than 1%. I never believed it to be anything more than statistical noise, and I believe I am correct. This validates my hypothesis anyway.

ETA: I came back to say that someone in my facebook group hipped me to the fact that many from Madagascar have the Oceanian/ Polynesian DNA, so that's probably why it keeps showing up in my results (on and 23andme - which I haven't written about yet.) I learn something new everyday!

Until next time...

My DNA Land Experience

Another place that I uploaded my raw DNA data to (for free) was This site is small, but it was interesting to see how they categorize my ethnicities based on the samples that they compare my DNA to in their database.

DNA.Land Results

DNA.Land Map

DNA.Land Ethnicity Details
I found it interesting to see the Mende singled out. It relates to what my African Ancestry report stated about my mother's line originating from them.

Until next time...

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Advice on where and how to begin your DNA / Geneaology journey

My plain and simple advice is to begin your DNA testing journey with For most people (especially African-Americans) this is the best place to start. It's less expensive than other tests, and it comes with the ability to add a family tree and to peruse the family trees of your matches to help find a common ancestor that you might not have known about. Also, it is a bit more specific on your ethnicity(s) than some of the other tests (i.e. Nigeria, Benin/Togo, Ivory Coast/Ghana, etc. vs. West Africa or Subsaharan Africa -- who says that anyway?) If you decide you care no more about the whole ordeal than that, then you are only out of $80 - $100 bucks depending on if you had a discount code or not.

If you have a very specific reason for wanting a test, this DNA test options page by DNA Tested African Descendants may be helpful to you.

Wherever you decide to test, please upload your raw DNA to gedmatch so we can find out if we are related! Here's a helpful video if you need it.

Also, if you are of African descent and having trouble researching your family tree or understanding DNA (yes, I know this ish ain't easy), join the very helpful Facebook group: DNA Tested African Descendants. I have learned soooo much very quickly that has helped me in my journey. There are other helpful groups dealing with DNA testing and Genealogy research too, so be sure to search out those. I belong to too many to list them all today.

Until next time...