The African Kinship Reunion

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Dismantling White Supremacy through Finding African Relatives

Drawing from my interactions with Africans and people of African descent who are interacting with each other as family members, a friend’s Facebook post brought something to mind. To explain it, I need to highlight a certain aspect of the idea of white supremacy first.

White supremacy is the idea that people racialized as white and who have no African ancestry are superior to other peoples due to inherent traits in European biology. It also carries the idea that people racialized as black due to their African ancestry are inherently inferior and less than human. White and black are at opposite ends of this erroneous human ranking with other groups thought to be in between. A black person who loves black people but who thinks something is wrong with black people is subject to white supremacy. Dismantling the idea of white supremacy has a psychological component that also needs to be addressed in Africans and people of African descent who suffer from the belief in the idea of white supremacy. In other words, internalized racism. A person thinking they are lesser than others regardless of their own accomplishments or how well they treat others often suffer mentally and physically.

So I find it quite interesting that people of African descent who are engaging in genetic genealogy and reuniting with their relatives from Africa are also POSSIBLY dismantling the ideas of white supremacy for themselves and their family members. It is usual for African Americans exploring results from an ancestry DNA test from companies like Ancestry.com to also explore African history. When African Americans identify and interact with their relatives from Africa, African Americans often focus their learning on the specific African histories connected to their own family history. I have seen where some take on an Afrocentric view akin to an Eurocentric view such that everything about Africa is wonderful and superior. They like to emphasize that Africa is a place of Kings and Queens. But then some, after learning more details about the historical context of specific African peoples and locations because of their newly found family connections, begin to see Africa as neither lesser or greater than people in other geographies. They being to see Africa as a set of places with people who treat individuals both well and poorly. I mean, Africans are people. And people are people. A normalization of Africa. But, if this normalization of Africa in the minds of African American relatives is a true phenomenon, then that means that African Americans are either beginning to view or fortifying their view that Africa and, by extension, blackness, is not inherently bad. It is mental liberation at the root. Not only do they see themselves and the people they are a part of as not inherently bad, but they also have their budding relationships with their newly found African relatives to continue to reinforce this understanding with experiences of acceptance and inclusion.

Imagine the impact as this level of acceptance and inclusion ripples throughout segments of the African American population through those who desire to engage in genetic genealogy.

What are your thoughts about this?

Refocusing Blog to Discuss the Impact of African Family Reunions

Up until this time, this blog focused on initial family reunions between people of African descent in the diaspora and Africans immigrants. Many people, including academics, never thought this would be possible because of the amount of time that has passed between the time of separation into the Transatlantic Slave Trade and now. But people of African descent are increasingly finding their African relatives through a relatively accessible commercial product, enabling them to fill in major gaps in their family and community narrative. Rather than focusing on the initial finding of the relatives, which several individuals and organizations are facilitating, I am redirecting this blog to focus on the short- and long-term impact of these reunions.

As confirmed by autosomal DNA tests, families that were separated by the Transatlantic Slave Trade are being reunited at the 4th to 8th cousin level. Some companies, such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe, use autosomal DNA testing to compare the DNA profile of one customer with the DNA profile of another customer to determine relatedness based on the percentage of DNA the two customers have in common. When African immigrant customers take an autosomal DNA test and have their DNA profile compared to the company’s vast database of customers, the African immigrant customer receive a list of people with whom they share a certain amount of DNA. The majority of the people in the results list are African Americans. With basic knowledge of DNA science, people of African descent are then able to identity African immigrant relatives. In this way, African families that were separated by the Transatlantic Slave Trade are actually being reunited.

What comes as a surprise to many, including academics, is that these reunions are possible. Common thinking was that African Americans and other people of African descent would never be able to find their African families from before slavery. Unfortunately, the usefulness of the autosomal DNA test is being confused with results that offer African ethnicity estimates. With good reason, many question the accuracy of ethnicity estimates and the motives of companies that offer these types of services. However, the methods to determine relatedness is different from the methods used to estimate ethnicity. Without going into too much detail, estimating relatedness is determined by calculating how much DNA two customer saliva samples have in common. Those meeting a certain threshold of common DNA are listed in the results as a DNA relative. Using this information, along with other genealogy tools, people of African descent are identifying African immigrant relatives from among the customers listed as their DNA relatives.

With that being said, I think the real hesitation with embracing the fact of reuniting African families is the idea that the moment of separation happened too long ago to be reconciled. But it is happening and the general public will soon catch on to this amazing phenomenon. So what does it mean if people of African descent still share enough DNA with a person born in Africa to be detected? How must our thinking about family and identity development change to accommodate the impact of new types of relatives? What does this mean for future engagement?

That brings me back to the point of this blog entry. Instead of focusing on these amazing reunion stories, I would like to engage you in conversations about the meanings of these reunions. The next several blog posts will be thought pieces that I hope you care to engage in. I do this as an African American woman in the journey of finding African family members and filling in major gaps in my family history. I also do this as a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) in the department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). All this really means is that I spend a lot of time thinking about the impact of these reunions and I would really like to talk with you about it. What would you like to discuss more?

Visiting Ghana 2016: Slave Camps

For 10 weeks in May to July 2016, my mother (Wylene Hameed) and I traveled to 5 of the 10 regions of Ghana. I explored the question of reuniting with descendants of family members who were taken away during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Conversations took place in Accra (Greater Accra Region), Elmina (Central Region), Ejisu (Ashanti Region), Kumasi (Ashanti Region), Tamale (Northern Region), Navrongo (Upper East Region), and Paga (Upper East Region).

On February 1, 2017, see the new Projects tab for an introduction to four elderly women from Paga, Ghana who took AncestryDNA tests to identify descendants of family members who were separated from their homes a few generations ago.

The following are a set of pictures from former slave encampments and other locations during our travels. (See the picture and the description under each picture.)

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

Paga, Ghana is a border town in the Upper East region of Ghana. Within the neighborhood of Nania, Paga is the site of the Pikworo Slave Camp. The community narrative of Nania is that slave raiders came and took the strong, leaving the remaining family to plummet into poverty.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

When slave raiders took people from Nania and the surrounding communities, raiders would hold their captives in chains at this camp until they were ready to march selected captives southward to the Salaga slave market.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

The grooves in the boulders were “bowls” where slaves ate their food.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

The grooves are “bowls” where slaves ate their food.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

This was the water source for the camp. The existence of this natural water source may have been the reason this site was selected as a camp by slave raiders.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

The water level depends on the rains.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

This was the Punishment Rock used to punish African captives. Chains would bind the captive forcing them to sit in the blazing sun all day. Some would die from enduring the treatment.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

The large groove going around the bottom of the Punishment Rock is from wear of the chains.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

“Cemetery for Dead Slaves”

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

In the Cemetery for Dead Slaves, each rock formation of a large rock surrounded by several smaller rocks marks the location of a mass grave. There are three mass graves depicted in this picture.

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Former Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

“Watch Tower of the Slave Raiders”

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

The slave raiders would climb on this rock formation and look far beyond the camp for those who attempted to come free the captives.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

Musicians were called to pacify captives. Here, drummers from the Nania neighborhood demonstrate a song being played on the drum (rock) as was done when captives were held there.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

“Meeting Place of the Slaves.” Here, slave raiders would get a last look at captives before selecting those who would be marched to the Salaga slave market to be sold. On being sold at Salaga, they would be marched as far as to the Elmina and Cape Coast castles. I was reminded of the U.S. Trail of Tears. Many Africans suffered and died on the way from Pikworo to Elmina/Cape Coast.

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Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

“Meeting Place of the Slaves”

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Slave raiders would bind two people together using links such as this on captives who were marched from the Pikworo slave camp to the Salaga slave market. (In the photo is LaKisha David and Regina Nyaaba.)

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Leaving the Pikworo Slave Camp. I felt a sort of symbolic gladness when I was walking away, leaving the slave camp in my freedom. (In the photo is LaKisha David, Wylene Hameed, Regina Nyaaba, with Regina’s friend in the back.)

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Crocodile Pond in Paga, Ghana

One day, before work, I decided to pet a crocodile! Paga, Ghana is known for its legendary ponds of sacred crocodiles. Before entering the area, a guide explains the history and its meaning to the town. Then you buy a live bird (chicken or guinea fowl) held in a cage. The guide catches the bird and leads you into the pond grounds. The guide then makes the bird chirp which catches the attention of crocodiles in the water. The guide also makes noises and pets the approaching crocodile to calm it down. The crocodile decided whether or not to eat the bird but then relaxed, allowing the guide to position both the crocodile and me for pictures.

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Shea Nut Fruit

This is the fruit of a shea nut. The fruit is edible. Tthe nut is used to make shea butter!

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Shea Nut Fruit

The fruit of the shea nut naturally comes in two flavors, sweet and not sweet. You cannot tell which is which from looking at it. Only a bite into the fruit can help to identify the flavor. I’m (LaKisha David) in the middle of the picture; the one I selected was sweet! Mom (Wylene Hameed) in the left of the picture selected one that was not so sweet. Regina Nyaaba is sharing in our experience of tasting shea fruit for the first time.

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

The Saakpuli slave market is located in a village of the Dagomba people. Before touring the market grounds, the current chief of the village sat with us, explained to us their history, and answered any questions we had. They told us that the former chiefs of this village were slave raiders. They explained to us that when a young boy looked like he would grow up to be strong, he was selected to be trained to be a slave raider. Somewhat bewildered at this forthcoming of the village history, I asked if he understood who I was as an African American, that I was a descendent of one of the ones likely taken by this village and sent off into slavery in the U.S. He said he understood and continued to answer any questions I had.

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

The chief’s representative would sit here and store money he received for African captives.

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

The hole is the money storage area.

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

The markings on the tree are from the passage of chains that held captives (determined by researchers from the University of Ghana).

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

Artifacts discovered from the site

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

Old chains used to hold people.

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

A cowry shell (money in this area during the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade).

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

The current chief of Saakpuli, village of former slave raiders, after he told us about the village’s history and we toured the grounds. (In this picture is LaKisha David, the current Saakpuli chief, Wylene Hameed, and Yaw Annafi.)

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The Slave Market in Saakpuli, Savelugu/Nanton, Northern Region, Ghana

Current chief of Saakpuli (traditional attire)

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Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

There is a program called the Kalpohin Cultural Exchange in Tamale Ghana where women share local culture with visitors. The women still live in according to many traditional ways due to their low-income status. They made an arrangement with Walisu Alhassan (the man in the picture above) such that each housing area (compound) would share a different aspect of the local culture in exchange for a fee that would be shared with the members of the neighborhood and the keep a local elementary school operating. Walisu can be contacted at 233 050 744 0426 or alwalisu@yahoo.co.uk.

Here, an elderly woman was teaching us how to spin yarn from cotton in her home. I found it ironic that I was there to “reconnect to my African roots” but was there learning how to spin cotton, something that had always reminded me of slavery in the U.S. After the initial mental adjustment to get over my aversion to ever touching raw cotton, and after I stopped wondering about the ways in which cotton planting got to this part of Ghana, I settled in to enjoy the company of this elderly lady sharing her time, craft, and kindness with us young folks. In the picture above, we were pulling out the cotton seeds.

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Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

In her very skillful way, she used a calabash bowl and a top to spin the loose cotton into yarn.

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Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

Then she let me try. After a few times, I finally got the hang of it! After spinning for a short time, she took the yarn we made and tied them around our wrists, making bracelets for my mom and I. That was such a special piece of yarn to us!!

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Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

In a neighboring housing area, they shared how to make shea butter. The shea nuts are getting ready!

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Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

In another housing area, they showed us how to make pottery.

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Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

The shaping of the small pot is finished. Other steps include decorating the outside of the pot with color.

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Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

Every 40 – 42 days, the Ashanti kingdom chiefs gathered at the Manhyia Palace of the Ashanti king to honor ancestors and to hold court. This is Kwaku, the grandson of a queen mother who governed a few neighborhoods in Kumasi at the time. At the Akwasidae Festival, traditional clothes are typically worn.

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Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

In the sitting area of the palace grounds, waiting for the Ashanti king.

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Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

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Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

An elderly man decided to dance to the drumming.

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Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

A younger man decided to join in.

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Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

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Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

Future chiefs (just being children on this day!)

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Friends enjoying the day (Kumasi, Ghana)

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Elmina, Ghana

On the way to the Elmina Slave Castle

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Elmina Slave Castle

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Elmina Slave Castle

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Elmina Slave Castle

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Elmina Slave Castle

“Female Slave Dungeon”

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Preparing to take an AncestryDNA test (Accra, Ghana)

Here we are in Accra, Ghana with friends Fatim and Gabriel Oppong. Gabriel, an Ashanti, decided to take an autosomal DNA test from AncestryDNA to help locate his relatives in the diaspora.

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Ready to send the AncestryDNA test kit off for processing!

He was one of the first few Ghanaians to take an AncestryDNA test through TAKiR, as indicated by signing the number 4. On GEDmatch (A200704) as of January 17, 2017, he had 45 matches at 10 cMs or above, including 6 at 15 cMs or above. Now he starts the process of reaching out to his relatives in the diaspora and rebuilding family connections.

 

A Ghanaian Family Welcomes African American Relatives Home

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Nana Faba Idun’s family

Great grandmother Nana Faba Idun (age 81) has lived in Elmina, a Ghanaian town of one of the infamous slave dungeons, all her life. Nana’s brother, Joseph “Kawantwi” Arthur, remembers the childhood stories of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Kawantwi spoke of having a great-grandfather who was taken away to work for the Europeans in another land. They thought they would return in their lifetime.

Nana and her brother believed as many Ghanaians believed, that those who left the coast of Ghana in bondage to Europeans would return to help enrich the lives of those left behind. Nana welcomes the surviving descendants of her enslaved family members, wherever they may be, to come back home and to help them build. However, it was not until after Kawantwi and other members of the family visited the slave castle in May 2016 that they came to realize some of the horrors that was the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In May 2016, I collected DNA samples from Faustina (age 55) of the Ghanaian Fante ethnic group and conducted a conversational interview with her about identity, kinship, and slavery. A few days later, I went to her family home in Elmina and conducted a group interview with her mother, uncle, and other family members. I then collected a DNA sample from Faustina’s mother, Nana. I recorded a special message from Nana addressed to the descendants of the enslaved to come back home. I mailed the AncestryDNA kits and eagerly waited for their processed results to be listed alongside the results from Faustina’s daughter, Rhoda Quaigrain, who submitted a DNA sample several months before this visit. I was eagerly waiting for the results because identifying and reconnecting with the African ancestral family is the dream of many African Americans.

Speaking with Nana’s family and reading works such as Routes of Remembrance: Refashioning the Slave Trade in Ghana by Bayo Holsey, I learned that there is a common misconception in Ghana that the enslaved and descendants of the enslaved increased in riches in the Caribbean and the United States and selfishly chose not to return to Ghana to help their brothers and sisters who remained in their ancestral homeland.

Whereas some African Americans today can return to Africa to help develop their ancestral homelands, many in Africa do not know the history of U.S. slavery and Jim Crow. Nor do they know about the Civil Rights movements or other forms of resistance it took to get to this point. They are not aware of how the legacies of those times are expressed in the poor education and neighborhood conditions for many African Americans in the U.S. today. This lack of knowledge is understandable given that Ghana was formerly colonized by the British. The imposed British education was void of the horrors of slavery and the fullness of Ghana’s own history. Welcoming messages from the elderly in Ghana today are filled with notions of descendants returning to Africa to help develop it but are without notions of the social and psychological healing needed by people of African descent who do find their African families. Moreover, most people of African descent do not recognize how African life was shaped by pressing conflicts with colonization, making Africans preoccupied with their own independence struggles.

After I conducted the interview and collected Nana’s DNA sample, Faustina, her uncle, several other household members and I visited the Elmina slave dungeons. We learned of the horrors that was existence in those dungeons, particularly for the women. I visited the Cape Coast slave dungeons years ago, but still could not help but weep as the Elmina guide spoke. After the tour, I asked the family “Do you get it?” referring to why autosomal ancestry DNA testing and efforts to identify relatives in Africa was so important to many. They nodded their heads “yes” in unison. It was only now that they have come to understand some of the horrors associated with the slave trade and, maybe, some of the healing aspects of finding “home” for people of African descent. Maybe Kawantwi’s memory of his great-grandfather being taken away in slavery would take on new meanings for him and shape his interactions with returning relatives.

Since Rhoda, her mother Faustina, and her grandmother Nana took the AncestryDNA test, Rhoda has been able to connect with several of her relatives in the diaspora. Ailene Randolph-House and Melvin Collier are African Americans who are related to this Ghanaian family branch as confirmed through AncestryDNA results and tools on GEDmatch. Rhoda and Ailene have communicated several times by phone. Melvin recently took a trip to Ghana to visit with Nana and Faustina as family. Nana’s side of the family warmly received Melvin which included attending a Welcome Home celebration hosted by the Obeng family with over 100 people in attendance. Through ancestry DNA testing, Africans and their diasporic relatives worldwide can begin the process of forging family. Who knows what will happen next?

Note: Rhoda was first introduced through TAKiR in a blog post in January 2015: Ghanaian Connects with Caribbean Distant Cousin.

An African American-Guinea Family Reconnection

-by Willie Wynn

willie-wynnMohamed’s maternal uncle Aly, Willie Wynn (African American), Mohamed Fofanah (Guniea)

My desire for quite some time was to find out information about my enslaved ancestors that were once enslaved in southern U.S. Being born and raised in Mississippi, U.S., I was familiar with visiting many of the restored plantations that held blacks as slaves in the deep South. This was the closest that my mind stretched in physically connecting with an indirect part of my history as a person of African descent.

Then in March 2015, my wife and I decided to visit South Africa. In the South Africa capital city of Cape Town, there were many West African immigrants who lived throughout this region. Many told me that my looks and facial features resembled people in their West African countries. These remarks pushed me to a greater action when I got back home to the US. I decided to invest in an ancestry.com test kit to get my full ancestral story.

My results came back 91% African DNA and connected me to many relatives who were my cousins in America. One match, however, stood out in a grand way as 100% African descent. This cousin match was Mohamed Fofanah, a person from the city of Conakry in the West African country of Guinea, but who was currently living in Dakar Senegal. He and I decided to upload our DNA on gedmatch.com and the results provided us with a more detailed estimate of how close we were related, a 5.5 generation distance.

Mohamed and I messaged one another through the ancestry.com system and exchanged Skype numbers shortly after my results came in. The rest of the story now stands as history. He and I now talk at minimum once a week. He has been very instrumental in sharing with me information about my African history. Both Mohamed’s mother & his deceased father have a long oral family history rooted through the Mandinka tribe. Mohamed not only serves as a DNA gateway to my family’s true home within the West Africa region, but he’s also a true friend. Our fellowship is more meaningful than “the cousin connection.”  I can truly say that he is an individual that I would befriend in the natural (if met in a regular setting) without knowledge of our DNA kinship. He and I are only three years apart in age, are very similar in personality & share many similar moral beliefs. My maternal Grandmother would always tell my mother that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Genetic research and my interaction with Mohamed both solidify that we are connected to that common family tree. Fruits of one shared distant grandparent continued to multiply in Africa while the other was transported by force to the soils of America. Both trees, however, continued to multiply and now stand as physically reunited through divine intervention in 2016 for the first time in over 200 years.

My wife and I will be returning to Africa to visit Mohamed in Spring 2017 in Dakar Senegal.

Debbie (Republic of Congo) Took AncestryDNA Test to Inform Kin about Ethnicity

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Germainy Debbie Mokeleba of the Republic of Congo decided to take an AncestryDNA test in April to help identify possible kin in the diaspora. Debbie is a graduating undergraduate I met when I gave a presentation in her class in March, 2016. She was a student in the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign’s EPSY 203 “African/African-Americans: A Global Dialogue” with instructors Dinah Mite and Mbhekiseni Madela. As of April 28, 2016, AncestryDNA begun processing Debbie’s kit. I asked Debbie to write a few thoughts about what testing meant to her. These were her words:

Over the past few years I have seen commercials about celebrities looking to trace their identities; more specifically, I have seen African-American celebrities looking to trace their identities back to specific countries in the continent of Africa.

When talking about ethnicity, I have so much pride telling people where I come from; and without a doubt, I was excited to be a part of Ancestry DNA in order to help those who are looking to trace their identity. Having a strong sense of my ethnic identity has certainly shaped the way I view hot topic issues, especially through the lens of race. Moreover, because of that, I have a strong sense of confidence with who I am, and I never allow for others’ perception of my people to affect me simply because only I know the reality of my culture. I hope through this process that those who are looking to find their ethnic heritage will always have this pride and confidence of where they come from.

I am from the Republic of the Congo, located right next to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Though I am 25% from DRC as well, I have always identified as Congolese from the Republic since I spent the first 11 years of life living there. I have been in the U.S. for almost eleven years. I would be very surprised to find relatives in the African Diaspora in the U.S. this early on in the research; however, it would be interesting to see how that would impact me if I were to discover family living here.

We hope to get Debbie’s AncestryDNA results by June 2. I wonder how many of her kin, if she has kin in the diaspora, will we find next month! Follow this post to hear more as she shares experiences about exploring identity and reconnecting with her kin in the diaspora!

Nigerian Man Connects with African American and Caribbean Cousins Through AncestryDNA

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African American Tracy Scott meeting with her Nigerian cousin, Ade Omole

“My maternal grandmother told me…that way back in time, we had family members who went to the stream to fetch water and never returned. This stuck in my psyche for all those years.” – Ade

 

As a young boy of 6 or 7, Ade and his older brother normally visited with their grandmother Alice after school until their parents returned from work. On one particular day, they decided to play instead of going straight to their grandmother’s home. Their grandmother searched their community in Ijeshaland, Nigeria, but could not find them. When Ade and his brother finally ended their play and went to their grandmother’s home, she “sternly scolded” them, Ade said. His grandmother firmly warned them about their missing ancestors.

 

“I am 54 years old now, but I remember it like yesterday. I remember wondering that okay, if they did not return, where are they,” said Ade.

 

Ade later realized that this is the story of his ancestors who were captured in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. He wondered where their descendants might be. They were family, after all.

After some time, he was reminded of the missing stories in his family history when he began to ponder on why family members on his mother’s side had foreign surnames such as Da Rocha, Haastrup, and Doherty.

 

“I remember asking my mother why they had such names. Much later, though, I found out that Ilesha [the capital city of my home region in Nigeria] was significantly impacted by the slave trade especially in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I remember her saying that they were Saro and that we had Saro families. I didn’t know much about what that meant until much later. Saro is Yoruba for Sierra Leone. They must have been returning family members who were captives released by the British via Sierra Leone,” said Ade

 

When a friend in Madrid, Spain told him about the direct-to-consumer DNA testing company 23andMe a few years ago, he decided to test.

 

“I became really conscious about the diaspora around 1977. There was an African festival for peoples of African origin called FESTAC. It was held in Lagos Nigeria. I had always had my grandmother’s story in my psyche, but I didn’t make a conscious connection that the relatives might have been taken to the Americas. But I have the expression on her face etched in my brain. I only thought it might be true that the stories could be linked to the diaspora, and that was really the reason for testing.” – Ade

 

“I tested [with 23andMe] mainly because I wanted to confirm the story that my maternal grandmother told me when I was little kid…So I have been on a mission really, for my grandmother Alice. She passed away in 1983, but she sowed the seed for me to search” – Ade

 

Ade has since tested with 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Through the website features that allowed members to send messages to DNA matched relatives, Ade has made contact with several African American and Caribbean distant cousins. Finding these relatives has been a source of great relief for Ade. “It was a huge relief!!!,” said Ade, “and I cried and wished that Grandma Alice was still alive!”

As Ade reconnects with family members, he gives them a warm welcome and introduction on Facebook. Facebook has been a helpful tool in keeping him connected to reunited family members.

 

Ade Omole. Facebook. October 18, 2014:

“To my aunties, uncles, sisters, brothers, cousins, nephews, nieces, and more: Please watch this, as it shows what our taken ancestors (the ancestors of our newly re-connected cousins from the other side of the Atlantic – by the way there is no doubt as we are DNA/ genes connected) typically went through…Now more importantly, please make a special effort and go out of your way if you need to, to welcome our newly re-connected cousins back home and into the family. They were taken from us, but they were never far from our hearts. Most of our newly re-connected cousins are now my Facebook friends. So keep an eye out for posts and threads on my page. You will have plenty of chances to say heartfelt welcomes. Ijesha ni a re!”

This post was accompanied by a link to article “CNN’s Don Lemon Discovers His Roots in Emotional Journey with His Mother.” http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cnns-don-lemon-discovers-his-roots-in-emotional-journey-with-his-mother/

 

Several distant cousins discovered through AncestryDNA responded to his post.

 

An African American cousin, Jennifer Chambers Purefoy, responded, “Hello my new found

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Jennifer Purefoy

cousin and family! I was so happy to hear from you and hope I can learn more about my family overseas. I am still trying to find out which side we are related. My mother or father’s side. I look forward to meeting you all either in person or on Facebook.”

A Caribbean cousin, José Muñoz, also responded, “Thanks cousin Ade for the post. You were the first to contact me after finding out we were cousins through DNA. It felt good to connect to a part of my African roots. I could only trace my family back to Trinidad and Puerto Rico, but through DNA I now know I have ancestors from six regions in Africa.”

Jennifer only recently engaged in her family’s African American genealogy search before being contacted by Ade saying that they were related. “Needless to say, I was very excited,” said Jennifer. After some search, she discovered that she was related to Ade through her maternal great great grandmother, Lydia Doyd Asberry. Ade and Jennifer maintain communication through phone and Facebook.

 

“Finding one’s roots is great but also knowing where you come from is exciting. I can now tell my friends that I come from Africa where [the specific country] I am from, and they can tell me what their country is like.” – Jennifer

 

José Muñoz

Jose Munoz

Ade’s cousin, José, grew up with a black family in a predominately black neighborhood in New York City. Although José knew about his Trinidadian and Puerto Rican ancestry, he did not consider how the Transatlantic Slave Trade influenced his family’s historical experiences. He used AncestryDNA to go beyond his Caribbean ancestry and discovered that approximately half of his ancestry was from Africa. “I never realized how much slavery and colonization impacted my ancestry,” said José. Shortly after receiving his results, he received an email from Ade. “I received a message from Ade welcoming his cousin and sharing that we have an African King and Prince in our bloodline,” said José.

 

“Ade said that even though we may never trace our common ancestors, we will always be cousins. Ade welcomed me to his family.” – José

 

When I asked Ade how has this experience changed him, Ade responded, “My life before and after are not even close! I have a huge sense of relief and almost completeness. I am a big fan of DNA testing! If you notice, most of my cousins are people who are not looking for much really but the sense of belonging and completeness. To be a part of this is priceless really and the sense of family that I have with my cousins is as strong as I have for my brother.”

I asked, “You’re saying that this has given you a sense of completeness, too?”

Ade replied, “Yes indeed! I always wondered why did they not return.”

 

“This has been a fulfilling, soul-refreshing and rewarding experience for me. For Africans, I will encourage them to get tested. If you have a family member, and they want something that you can give and share at almost no cost, the authentic African spirit says that one should give it.” – Ade

 


Ade’s Genetic Genealogy Information

Ade’s GEDmatch kit # M669758, A761220, and FB14213

Ade’s daughter’s GEDmatch kit # M729237; A915475 and FB37267

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