African American Identification with Ghana Before Genetic Genealogy

African American identification with being part of the African diaspora varied throughout time, place, and circumstance. In the U.S. where society is still battling with institutional racism and personal prejudices against people racialized as Black and against people from Africa [cite], it can be difficult to identify publicly with the African ethnic homeland. Despite the difficulty, there is a growing trend of African Americans doing just that.

For African Americans, the choice to identify publicly with their ethnic homeland of Africa was not easy and sometimes politically motivated. For many African descendants, aspirations of freedom included the liberation of Africa from colonial rule and a return to the African continent. Beginning in the 1920s, Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) promoted the mission of African liberation and uniting the Black people of the world. Garveyism was well known for its “Back to Africa” ideology, which gave the African diaspora a charge of developing Africa. Garveyism also included a charge for the African diaspora to uplift members of the Black race from the effects of slavery and discrimination in every country where Black people lived. It was a working class movement and, at its peak, had 6 million members in the Black world (Guridy, 2010). It carried the ideal of being able to both return “home” to uplift the ethnic homeland of Africa while also experiencing full citizenship in their birth countries where their African ancestors developed through forced labor and severe limitations on self-determination.

However, Marcus Garvey envisioned an Africa that was in need redemption (Kendi, 2016; Walters, 1993). He promoted the narrative that people of African descent were genetically inferior, a narrative which continued until W. E. B. Dubois’s 1908 publication and E. Franklin Fraizer’s 1932 publication stating that Black people were actually socially pathological rather than genetically pathological (Dilworth-Anderson et al., 2009). This rationale was partly based on Fraizer’s observation that as Black people gained upward mobility and moved away from poorer Black neighbors, their lifestyles were more aligned with White Americans (Dilworth-Anderson et al., 2009). The Black elite class of the time encouraged the cultural assimilation of White American cultural values, particularly the function and structure of White American middle-class families and their gender norms (Dilworth-Anderson et al., 2009; Kendi, 2016).

What became the racial uplift ideology of respectability not only regarded the highly functional Black extended family structure as pathological (Wilson, 1986) and African peoples and cultures as inferior (Kendi, 2016), Black American elites also held White American middle-class values as the standard by which to judge other Black Americans. They reasoned that showing this form of moral standing would help to reduce anti-Black racism from White people (Kevin Kelly Gaines, 1996; Kendi, 2016). Those considered as different from this narrow representation of morality were shunned within their communities (Collins, 2005; Kevin Kelly Gaines, 1996). While many ascribed to Black respectability politics regardless of their education or income levels, others sought to identity with Africa due to their ancestral heritage and common racialization.

Therefore, in 1957, when Ghana became the first African nation to gain independence from colonial rule, many people of the African diaspora celebrated their victory and drew inspiration from the possibilities of a liberated Africa. Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, invited many African, West Indian, and African American dignitaries to attend the ceremonies celebrating the birth of the nation of Ghana (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008). According to Gaines (2008), these members of the African diaspora held positions almost on par with the Duchess of York in the independence ceremonies (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

From the late 50s to the late 60s, as struggles continued for decolonization in Africa, many members of the African diaspora in the U.S. continued to fight for civil rights. The U.S. South fought for desegregation while the U.S. North spoke up for African liberation and began calling themselves by the ethnic reference of “Afro-American”. During this time, many in the U.S. diaspora location also emigrated from the U.S. to Africa via Ghana (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008). “At the height of the civil rights movement, from the late 1950s to 1966, scores of African Americans, including intellectuals, technicians, teachers, artists, professionals, entrepreneurs, and trade unionists, left the United States for Ghana” (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008, p. 6).

While segments of the African diaspora, such Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers, pushed for civil rights through integration, others, such sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, regarded the pursuit of integration as a compromise for social justice. Frazier saw the U.S. federal government as co-opting integration as a Cold War, top-down tactic adopted because of international criticism from countries of color. He felt that this legalistic approach to integration would not improve the socioeconomic conditions of the African diaspora in the U.S. Frazier also opposed the condition attached to federal support for integration which effectively required that the African diaspora reject all except an U.S. national identification (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

Some African Americans, such as Julian Mayfield, rejected Cold War censorship which resulted in them fleeing to Ghana. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah welcomed dissenting African Americans and explicitly encouraged people of African descent to emigrate from Western countries and relocate to Ghana to help build the nation. As African Americans did so, many were not rejecting the U.S. specifically. They were rejecting the harsh treatment that Blacks faced in the U.S. They also refused to have their identification with their African ethnic homeland to be censured by the U.S. federal government (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

Others, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. on his return from Ghana’s celebration of becoming an independent nation, decided to silence his identification with Africa and African liberation to pursue the American dream by pressing for legalized integration and assimilation. Towards the end of King’s life, he became more vocal about his critique of U.S. economic discrimination and foreign policy. Towards the end of Malcom X’s life, he too began to openly criticize U.S. policies toward Africa. As more and more African countries gained independence from colonial powers and former colonial rulers began shifting to neocolonial positions, the U.S. government moved to support U.S. financial strongholds in Africa while silencing those African descendent U.S. citizens who disagreed with the U.S. neocolonial practices in Africa. African Americans who were brave enough to speak out were considered unpatriotic and faced repercussions (Kevin K. Gaines, 2008).

With the assassination of major leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X (who both spoke of racial unity, economic equality, and African liberation increasing before being murdered) and leaders of self-determinate movements such as the Black Power movement murdered by the U.S. government or silenced, the federally supported top-down integration project moved forward. As long as African Americans were willing to silently and peacefully assimilate into the pursuit of an American Dream of individual family successes based on White standards, they would more likely achieve upward mobility. Whereas organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have worked tirelessly for legal wins against discrimination of Blacks, successes seemed to disproportionately benefit those already in positions of relatively individual financial privilege.   

In contemporary times, it is the African countries’ roots tourism industry, rather than major political figures, that seems to be inviting African Americans. The African Americans that create African transnational lifestyles for themselves are doing so less as a collective protest and more to pursue individual liberties.


Collins, P. H. (2005). Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. Routledge.

Dilworth-Anderson, P., Burton, L. M., & Johnson, L. B. (2009). Reframing theories for understanding race, ethnicity, and families. In Sourcebook of family theories and methods (pp. 627–649). Springer.

Gaines, Kevin K. (2008). American Africans in Ghana: Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era (1 edition). The University of North Carolina Press.

Gaines, Kevin Kelly. (1996). Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century (2nd ed.). The University of North Carolina Press.

Guridy, F. A. (2010). Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow (1 edition). The University of North Carolina Press.

Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Nation Books.

Walters, R. W. (1993). Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora: An Analysis of Modern Afrocentric Political Movements. Wayne State University Press.

Wilson, M. N. (1986). The Black extended family: An analytical consideration. Developmental Psychology, 22(2), 246.

Ghana, Kassena: Finding Safiah’s Diaspora Relatives

Kabagworiwe Safiah and her parents Kabagworiwe Adam and Kabagworiwe Saleimabu are members of the Kassena ethnic group who have tested with Ancestry and subsequently had their DNA profiles uploaded to GEDmatch. This is a narrative of the practice of finding their relatives in GEDmatch.

I did a one-to-many comparison for Safiah to find all the matches in the GEDmatch database that match Safiah at a minimum of 7 cM. There were 129 matches, plus Safiah, for a total of 130. Among these matches were Safiah’s parents, Adam and Saleimabu, and several other family members from their local village of Nania in Paga, Ghana.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s One-to-Many Comparison Results

It is very exciting to see these 129 matches for Safiah. There is a chance that all are true matches, but the reality is that some of these are not true matches. This is a reality of the testing technology and not GEDmatch.

Imagine that when the equipment reads the testers’ DNA, the 22 pairs of chromosomes were first broken into many pieces and duplicated. These were read and recorded into a text file. The equipment reads each chromosome piece and records it in the text file. Each position along the chromosome piece will have two reads, one for a biological mother and one for a biological father.

This situation is that when the pieces are recorded, it cannot tell which parent to assign the chromosome reads. The equipment only records what’s there but not how it was inherited. Sometimes the first variant is from the father and sometimes the first variant is from the mother. We just don’t know which is which without further analysis. This results in a text file with the chromosome positions read for the chromosome pairs without being aligned by a specific parent. This is an unphased DNA profile.

When the DNA profile is downloaded from Ancestry and uploaded to GEDmatch, the profile is unphased. Regular kits on GEDmatch are unphased kits. This is no fault of Ancestry or GEDmatch, but it is a reality that we must account for when finding matches.

The most accurate way to align the kit on GEDmatch is to test the person’s parents and create phased kits. In this case, Safiah’s parents have also tested and their kits were uploaded to GEDmatch. I used GEDmatch’s Phasing tool to create two phased kits for Safiah, one is phased with her mother’s kit (M1 kit) and one is phased with her father’s kit (P1 kit). These phased kits have Safiah’s DNA variants aligned by the parents so we know that the DNA segment was inherited by one (or both) parents.

Kabagworiwe Saleimabu, Safiah’s mother

At the very least, we should expect that when two persons match, at least one parent of both persons should also match. For any set of cousins, one parent for both cousins should also match. This is a fact of inheritance. There are sure to be some exceptions but this is the situation for the vast majority of the cases. For example, for any person that matches Safiah, we expect, at a very minimum, that the person also matches Safiah’s father Adam or Safiah’s mother Saleimabu. We also expect that Safiah matches at least one parent of that match.

Kabagworiwe Adam, Safiah’s father

So let’s see how many of Safiah’s 129 matches also match her father.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s kit phased with her father

Using a one-to-many with Safiah’s P1 kit, her kit phased with her father, we see that she shares 44 matches with her father. Minus the kit itself, her, and her father, there are 41 matches.

And let’s take a look at how many of Safiah’s 129 matches also match her mother.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s kit phased with her mother

Using a one-to-many with Safiah’s M1 kit, her kit phased with her mother, we see that she shares 47 matches with her father. Minus the kit itself, her, and her mother, there are 44 matches.

Alright, so there are 41 matches with father and 44 matches with mother for 85 matches. So of the 129 matches that Safiah started with, only 85 matches at most meet the basic expectation of also matching one of her parents. This is not yet addressing those that match both mother and father or some other reason to reduce the total count of matches.

At this point, I would say that Safiah has about 85 possible matches, some of which would prove to be false trough further analysis. I consider the following to be true matches: (1) kits that match Safiah’s unphased kits at a minimum of 15 cM on a single segment, (2) unphased kits that are 3 to 14.9 cMs with the Safiah’s unphased kit must also match at least one other of Safiah’s matches at a minimum of 200 cM total on an overlapping segment (e.g., using the 3D chromosome browser and triangulation), and (3) phased kits or Lazarus kits compared to Safiah’s phased kit can be at a minimum of 3 cMs.

It turns out that only 53% or 68 of the 129 matches remained after excluding those that did not also match her phased kits. However, all of the unphased matches at 14 cMs or more remained as possible matches after comparing the match with Safiah’s phased results. From this, we assume that any kit matching at least 15 cMs more will prove to be a true match even if their parents or other close match is not available to provide additional evidence.

Kabagworiwe Safiah’s Matches that Remained

In the chart above, cMs is the number of cMs in the match and S1 is the number of matches in Safiah’s unphased one-to-many comparison results. For example, using Safiah’s unphased kit, she had 9 matches at 40 cMs or greater, 2 matches at 30 cMs – 39 cMs, and 7 matches at 20 cMs – 29 cMs. At 13 cMs, 2 of the 4 kits that matched her unphased kit did not match at least one of her parents. At 7 cMs, only 21% of the matches also matched at least one of her parents. At this rate, we cannot tell which of the matches less than 14 cMs would remain as an inherited DNA segment when the person she matches also compares their results with their parents. This is why when working with unphased kits, we maintain the rule of 15 cMs minimum for a single segment.

I then use GEDmatch’s 3D chromosome browser to compare all of Safiah’s one-to-many matches with her M1 phased kit and her P1 phased kit. In the 3D chromosome browser results below are based on a 7 cM threshold. I also removed the kits that were in the TAKiR database (which would be other people from Ghana or Burkina Faso). This leaves a matrix comparing all the matching kits to determine how much they match each other.

In the 3D chromosome browser results, I look for kits that match each other at a minimum of 200 cMs. This would be a stand-in for not having their phased kit. This threshold of 200 cMs is not entirely arbitrary. It’s an amount where I assume would be at the bounds of a person being able to name the shared ancestor without DNA testing. According to statistics published by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), second cousins would share 212.5 cMs or 3.125% of DNA on average. In practice, according to statistics published by The Shared cM Project, second cousins share 233 cMs on average (46 – 515 cMs). Second cousins share great grandparents. Although the matches would more than likely be true at 15 cMs, using the 200 cM threshold would increase the chance of being able to contact the persons for the kits matching each other and confirming their relatedness.

Safiah’s M1 3D Chromosome Browser Results

In Safiah’s M1 3D results, there are 14 matches (7 pairs) that are of interest because they share 200 cMs or more total. An additional 6 matches (3 pairs) are also worth investigating because they share 15 cMs – 199.9 cMs total, though I need to check how much they share on a single segment.

Using the statistics published by ISOGG and The Shared cM Project, I hypothesize the following:

  • 3 pairs at about 3,500 cMs are parent-child
  • 1 pair at about 2,300 cMs are siblings, grandparent-grandchild, or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew
  • 3 pairs at about 1,600 – 1,700 cMs are grandparent-grandchild or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew
Safiah’s P1 3D Chromosome Browser Results

In Safiah’s P1 3D results, there are 18 matches (9 pairs) that are of interest because they share 200 cMs or more total. An additional 2 matches (1 pairs) are also worth investigating because they share 15 cMs – 199.9 cMs total, though I need to check how much they share on a single segment.

Using the statistics published by ISOGG and The Shared cM Project, I hypothesize the following:

  • 7 pairs at about 3,500 cMs are parent-child
  • 1 pair at about 2,600 cMs are siblings
  • 1 pairs at about 1,700 cMs are grandparent-grandchild or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew

So now I have 32 matches (14 + 18) that I am very confident are true matches. There is also an additional 8 matches (6 + 2) that I could check to see if they also share 15 cMs on a single segment.

Looking back at the 3D chromosome results for Safiah’s M1 and P1 kits, I now look at the first column. This columns tells me how much DNA each kit of interest shares with the key phased kits.

In the M1 results, matches in the first pair share 2,326.7 cMs with each other and, from column 1, 17.5 and 17.8 cMs with the M1 phased kit. I’m very confident that these two kits are true matches with Safiah and her mother, and I would contact them saying so.

In the M1 results, matches in the second pair share 1,626.3 cMs with each other and, from column 1, both share 8.1 cMs with the M1 phased kit. Based on the amount of shared DNA between each other, this pair is likely grandparent-grandchild (or uncle/aunt-niece/nephew). Because I’m using the M1 phased kit, I’m very confident that the shared segment is true between Safiah and her mother. However, using unphased kits for the possible grandparent-grandchild pair means that there is a chance that this 8.1 cM segment is not a truly inherited segment between the matches in the grandparent-grandchild pair. After all, only 69% of Safiah’s matches at 8 – 8.9 cMs also matched at least one of her parents (see Kabagworiwe Safiah’s Matches that Remained picture above). So there is a possibly that when aligned (i.e., phased), this segment would end up not being a true segment for the discovered grandparent-grandchild pair. At the same time, the kits in the grandparent-grandchild pair were read by the equipment separately and as such, this segment is more than likely not based on an error. I am fairly confident that this is a true match and would proceed with this pair as a true match. However, I would also encourage the grandparent-grandchild pair to create a phased or Lazarus kit (as I would encourage all potential matches to do) and use that to compare with Safiah’s phased kit for stronger evidence of relatedness.

This may seem like a lot of unnecessary steps, but Safiah’s P1 3D results illustrate why these steps are necessary. Recall that these matches were selected from Safiah’s P1 one-to-many comparison results. The first pairs share of interest are a block of 4 matches sharing at least 3,500 cMs with each other. However, looking at column 1, none of these matches actually share at least 7 cMs with Safiah and her father. In a one-to-one comparison between Safiah’s P1 kit and each of these 4 kits, none share a minimum of 3 cMs with Safiah and her father. This is a prime case of matches that appear to be true matches from a one-to-many comparison but ends up not really matching the key person on a one-to-one comparison even at a lower threshold. These would not be counted as true matches.

Using the 15 cM (or 14 cM from Kabagworiwe Safiah’s Matches that Remained picture above), of the 32 confident matches, only 4 are very confident matches, and an additional 4 are already shown to not really be matches after all. Testing additional people and/or phasing kits would provide additional evidence of relatedness and make for more certain matches, even with the actual shared ancestor remaining unknown.

It is exciting for all of us to find relatives. It’s exciting for people of African descent to find their relatives from Africa and it’s exciting for Safiah’s family to find the descendants of those who were taken away during slavery. However, in this excitement, it is important to maintain certain rules based on the technologies we are using to claim relatedness. People of African descent are increasing finding relatives from Africa so there’s no need to shortcut the verification process.

If you are related to Safiah, please send us your information so that we can send you Safiah’s contact information. Consider sending her family a gift to announce your newfound relatedness.

Growing Sense of Completeness in African Americans Through Genealogy and History

Picture from AncestryDNA

There is such a wealth to the history of African Americans in the United States. We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg. Many works have been published about our experience with many more needed. “Return to Glory” a great book having to do with interest in the reopening of what’s been hidden about the African American and Africans in general. You have the book “Roots” which was also a mini-series, showing the journey of one African American who was said to have discovered a clear link to Africa before the age of DNA genealogical research. Though incomplete, African Americans as a people have drawn inspiration from these and other works.


All of us who have African American ancestry in the United States have enjoyed the stories our parents and grandparents passed down. But we ran into the inevitable block and proverb “Let dead dogs lie”. So while some of us were told what some in our families believed, we have not typically enjoyed rich genealogical histories as other groups in the United States. Thank God this is changing! The truth is coming out. Truths that some, refuse to acknowledge and some that we’ve been waiting for! Some see traces of European descent in their line and they have no idea how it got there. Others see African regions they’ve never even heard of. Welcome to the richness of our peoples! Our heritage is strong. And African Americans in the United States are one of the greatest inspirations of a surviving people that has ever lived.

Present Day 2019 A.D.

Today there are pretty deep-seated conflicts/prejudices between African-Americans and people of immediate African descent who were born on the continent. On the one hand, there are resentments based on ignorance- “Africans live in huts and are undeveloped”. A similar ignorance is “African-American’s are not really African and are lazy-undeveloped spoiled mooches”. And so you have the derogatory insults “African Booty Scratcher” and “Akata” as easy examples. On the other hand, resentments are based on historical events among them are: “Africans selling Africans” and “mistreatment of African immigrants by African-Americans of more distant African Ancestry living in the United States. 

Another issue in the reunions of African Americans with African peoples on the continent has to do with the obvious puzzle piece: it was so long ago! Why does it even matter? As LaKisha David, Ph.D. Candidate from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at UIUC, wrote on the topic:

“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.”

It is amazing because it was not expected and yet solves so many puzzles. For example, some challenge the Africanness of African Americans (including African Americans themselves). With the new advances in dna genealogical research, we are seeing great confirmations of previously taught history. But more directly it is the vindication of the existence and memory of so many Africans who were brought to nothing during the middle passage and events that surround it. “It is, in a sense getting a message from our ancestors ‘We were here'”. Because a people does not know where it’s going unless it knows where it came from.

Modern films like “The Black Panther”, the remake of the “Roots” and television shows like “Finding Your roots” has contributed to the growing acceptance of an African past. What is more, we are gazing into an African future. African American and the continental African will rediscover each other respectfully. It will continue to happen. You are invited to be part of this. Get yourself tested. Start a family tree. Ask relatives all they know about your ancestors and their experiences. See what traditions you have. Do you, for example have a history regarding the well known “Gumbo” cuisine? If you do, you have a long survived African bit of culture staring you right in the face and on your tongue. What’s more, we have combined our experiences and have reshaped our African heritage to fit the situations we had to adapt to.

We are the culmination of experiences that should not be forgotten or ignored. Many, many African and even European ethnic groups and peoples formed what is now called “African Americans” in the United States. And of course, the “Native American” connection is there. With tools like gedmatch and AncestryDNA and other sites, we can start reconnecting these lost pieces of us in our history. But it won’t be easy, it takes genuine interest and work. Some stories will make you cry, some will make you furious and yet others will make you stand up taller. Because as the proverb goes “we stand on the shoulders of giants”. Blessed are those whos history has been hidden from them, revelation is sweet. True history is golden.

TAKiR uses the H3Africa Array with 2.26 million markers!

TAKiR uses the Infinium H3Africa Array (Illumina) with 2.26 million markers! The array design was submitted by the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) consortium design team. Our samples are analyzed by the Functional Genomics Unit of Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center.

One of TAKiR’s core projects involves encouraging northern Ghanaians to take an autosomal DNA test to help people of African descent discover their relatedness among the Ghanaian peoples. Previously, we have relied on the services of AncestryDNA. In continuing our efforts to construct the genealogy of the Kassena people, we are excited to announce that we are now moving into higher density testing by using an array with 2.26 millions markers that is designed for the study of African populations.

TAKiR IBD Workflow:

The H3Africa Array is manufactured by Illumina. DNA extraction services are being provided by the Freund Lab. Genotyping services are being provided by the Functional Genomics Unit. Both of these labs are part of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

We are using Plantimals/2vcf to format our genotype files. To phase and identify matching segments among the Kassena people, we are using the scientifically studied BEAGLE 4.0 for family-based phasing and identity-by-descent detection (or BEAGLE 5.0 for computational phasing and Refined IBD for identity-by-descent detection).

Having the genotype files that were provided by AncestryDNA uploaded to GEDmatch helped people of African descent to identify their relatedness among the Kassena people. We will soon provide the option for relatives who previously learned of their relatedness through GEDmatch to also upload their DNA profiles to TAKiR. Whereas relatives need to also test with the H3Africa array to take advantage of those markers provided in addition to the AncestryDNA markers, they will be able to identify relatedness based on those markers shared across both AncestryDNA and H3Africa arrays. We will also provide the option for relatives to test with the H3Africa array.

Your Support:

Consider supporting the work of TAKiR by donating for batch 2. Even $5 would be helpful.

Please email us at with questions.

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 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 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.)


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.


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.


Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

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


Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

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


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.


Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

The water level depends on the rains.


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.


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.


Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

“Cemetery for Dead Slaves”


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.


Former Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

“Watch Tower of the Slave Raiders”


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.


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.


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.


Pikworo Slave Camp in Paga, Upper East, Ghana

“Meeting Place of the Slaves”


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.)


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.)


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.


Shea Nut Fruit

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


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.


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.


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


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.


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

The hole is the money storage area.


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).


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

Artifacts discovered from the site


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

Old chains used to hold people.


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).


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.)


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

Current chief of Saakpuli (traditional attire)


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

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.


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.


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!!


Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

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


Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

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


Kalpohin Cultural Exchange (Tamale, Ghana)

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


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.


Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

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


Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)


Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

An elderly man decided to dance to the drumming.


Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

A younger man decided to join in.


Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)


Akwasidae Festival (Kumasi, Ghana)

Future chiefs (just being children on this day!)


Friends enjoying the day (Kumasi, Ghana)


Elmina, Ghana

On the way to the Elmina Slave Castle


Elmina Slave Castle


Elmina Slave Castle


Elmina Slave Castle


Elmina Slave Castle

“Female Slave Dungeon”


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.


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

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

Mohamed’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 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 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 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

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

“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.”

Several distant cousins discovered through AncestryDNA responded to his post.

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


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

A Ghanaian-American Family Reunion

You couldn’t tell it from looking at the faces in this picture, but this moment captures the family embrace of descendants of common Ashanti ancestors separated through the Transatlantic Slave Trade. One is an African American descendant of those who endured American Slavery. The other three are Ghanaian descendants of Ashantis who remained in Ghana during the Transatlantic Slave Era. With the assistance of AncestryDNA testing, they were able to embrace in their first family reunion.

Ernest Mensa-Bonsu Yaw Adjekum
Ashanti Ethnic Group
Tested with AncestryDNA to find African descendant relatives

Ernest was eager to conduct DNA testing to identify family among the diaspora. He was excited as he took a moment to explore the ethnicity estimates and DNA matches provided by AncestryDNA. He shared his results with his mother in the U.S. and father in Ghana.

Ernest’s father is of the Ashanti ethnic group and mother is of the Ewe ethnic group. Ernest says that his father was “somewhat surprised” that the ethnicity results showed so much of Ernest’s mother’s ancestry. It wasn’t the Ewe that his father was referring to. Ernest’s maternal grandfather’s mother is European, reflected in the 3% European markers in his DNA. Although the autosomal DNA test results show national ethnicities for both parents evenly, this European percentage was interpreted as Ernest sharing more of his mother’s biological heritage. For Ernest, he is Ashanti with a European great grandmother.

After browsing through his listings of DNA relatives, the vast majority of whom were African American, Ernest set out to contact some of the relatives using the website’s messaging feature.

“Dear Fam,

Hi! My name is Ernest Mensa-Bonsu Yaw Adjekum (Amegashie). First of all, I must say I’m super excited to have found out that I have bloodlines here in the United States…” – Ernest

From August to October 2015, Ernest sent out introduction messages to 41 different relatives through an AncestryDNA online feature that allows testers to send messages to DNA relatives. In his introduction messages, Ernest expressed his excitement in finding biological relatives in the United States. He shared a short history about his parents’ heritage in Ghana, his current residency in the U.S., and contact information for relatives to reach him. One day after sending his first message, he received his first reply.

Some relatives flooded Ernest with overwhelming details of genealogy results and search details in pursuit of determining direct lineage in response to his introduction. Some asked Ernest to tell them the direct lineage. One wanted to focus on charting each generation through U.S. kinship and slave records before venturing to chart their African lineage. Others wanted to work with Ernest to determine their direct lineage. To these, Ernest offered to share pre-slavery history about their shared Ghanaian ancestry, the companionship of kinship…and an invitation to visit Ghana.

For others, there was more of an excitement of getting to know one another and to learn more even though their direct lineage was yet to be determined. One African American relative compared the AncestryDNA results of his own parents and determined that Ernest was related to him on his father’s side. They are now in contact with each other through phone and Facebook.

In addition to these message exchanges, Ernest has spoken to three relatives found through AncestryDNA, two of whom he met in person.

Meeting one of his African American relatives in person for the first time
After 25 years of African American personal genealogy research, Sherry Williams received a message from Ernest.

Ernest and Sherry’s first reunion didn’t get around to much history sharing. And they didn’t have to warm up to each other, either. Sherry said meeting Ernest and his mother was “like we haven’t seen each other for a while…right away we started laughing and talking and hugging.” Ernest said that “meeting Sherry was awesome. It felt as though we’ve known each other a lifetime, like an aunt I hadn’t seen in a long time.”

Before the reunion, Sherry made arrangements to Skype with Ernest during a class she attends at Northeastern Illinois University. The first time she would see her distant cousin was shared with her classmates. “They insisted he was my son or nephew.  I had to leave the room because they were amazed by the likeness,” she said. 

When asked what were her future hopes, plans, expectations regarding her new found kinship with Ernest, Sherry said, “The future will be far different than the past.  Our kinship/families have been separated for more than 300 years, at least 200 of those years our ancestors were enslaved in this Nation.  I never imagined that someone would take the test, match in ancestry, and live this close by.  It is truly a gift from God.” – Sherry

Ernest plans to continue to learn more about genetic genealogy and connect with his relatives who were separated from Ghana during the slave era in the Americas and the colonization of Africa. He is now waiting on additional DNA kits for his father, mother, and maternal aunt. This will help his Diaspora African relatives determine more about the direct lineages between them. Ernest knows that the results of those tests, plus any descendants of his maternal grandfather’s father’s siblings, will be particularly important to help affirm Ghanaian versus European heritage for his distant relatives who wonder if it’s possible that they are related through his maternal grandfather’s mother who is European. Group history has been a symbolic stand-in for those who were unable to recover lost family history.

For Sherry, this is not a necessary measure except to learn more about herself. She is already convinced that she is related to Ernest through his mother’s Ewe side. When her 82-year-old mother saw a picture of Ernest’s Ewe grandmother, her mother began to cry. “She immediately thought this could have been her grandmother,” Sherry said. Although they were reunited through AncestryDNA, their connection is more than biology. It’s about a sense of belonging. “Ernest and his family welcomed me like family.  We jumped into each others’ arms with hugs and kisses.  I am loved. And I love them,” explained Sherry.

It’s about a biological kinship, but it’s also about a sense of belonging, reclaiming ethnicity, reclaiming identity, resilience and resistance, reactive enculturation, and the act of creating family and community. It’s so many things. “I am sure that the future is brighter for the children in our families.  They will now learn about the strong will it took to survive being stolen from Africa, travel across the Atlantic Ocean (the middle passage), land on the shores of America, survive slavery, and endure the racism, fear, theft of property and life, pick cotton and more in Mississippi. Through all these trials and tribulations I am sure that Ernest and I came from the very best cloth. We are the strongest of the strong. I have been searching for my kin from Africa for more than 25 years.  I value the family  I have matched here in the U.S. but I wanted to connect with the Motherland.” – Sherry.    

Ernest said that “my experience with the DNA testing has been awesome…I strongly hope everyone that shares my bloodline will be willing to visit the motherland someday.” Perhaps that will be the next saga in Sherry and Ernest’s family building.

Follow this blog to stay posted on Ernest’s journey of reconnecting to his Diaspora African distant relatives.

Ernest’s Genetic Genealogy Information

GEDmatch kit # A673674

AncestryDNA user name: Ernest Adjekum
Number of people Ernest shares at least 12 cMs with on AncestryDNA: 11 (as of January 10, 2016)

Of those 11:
1 share 188 cMs
4 share  17.5 – 23.4 cMs
6 share  12.1 – 17.1 cMs

Ghanaian Connects with Caribbean Distant Cousin

Rhoda, a Ghanaian woman of the Fante ethnic group, recently conducted an autosomal DNA test through AncestryDNA. After receiving her results, she discovered that among those who previously tested with AncestryDNA, she is related to at least 20 people of African descent with a 100% to 95% chance of finding their common ancestors within 5 to 6 generations.

Some of her more distant relatives is a woman of Caribbean descent living in the U.S. as well as the Caribbean woman’s maternal grandmother living in the Caribbean. They exchanged initial messages through AncestryDNA’s website features, but eventually used their personal email accounts to continue conversations. They also engaged in a four-way Skype video conversation that included the Caribbean grandmother, mother, adult child (original contact person), and Rhoda. Rhoda has plans to travel from Canada, where she is enrolled in a PhD program, to the U.S. to meet with her Caribbean cousin. They also have plans to meet in Ghana so that the Caribbean cousin can meet her family in Ghana.

Recently, one of Rhoda’s African American distant cousins reached out to Rhoda through facebook. Rhoda plans to engage more with this new cousin next week once she returns to her university from a school break spent in Ghana. These encounters and many more like them have monumental implications for community building and psychological well-being for people of African descent. Through these new kinship connections, people of African descent can really begin to see each other as family and community.

As for now, Rhoda is trying to convince her father in Ghana to also do a DNA test. Because he is one generation closer to common ancestors shared with newly discovered kin, Rhoda will be able to identify more relatives of African descent in the diaspora. She will also be able to let her newly discovered kin know if they are related to her on her father’s side, another DNA confirmed person in the now-less-foggy direct lineage between Africa and the diaspora.

Rhoda’s Genetic Genealogy Information

GEDmatch kit # A095966

AncestryDNA user name: Rhoda Quaigrain
Number of people Rhoda shares at least 12 cMs with on AncestryDNA: 20 (as of January 6, 2016)

Of those 20:
2 share 28.4 – 33 cMs
3 share 18 – 25.4 cMs
15 share 12.2 – 16.6 cMs

A Conversation with Daudet

Daudet and I invite you to listen on parts of a conversation we had about ancestry DNA testing and finding distant African-African American relatives. This is about 14 minutes of a 45 minute conversation.


Daudet’s family is of the Luba ethnic group, a Bantu group in the the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Daudet and his parents tested with AncestryDNA to determine if they were related to anyone among the African diaspora who were separated from his family through the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The relatives they could find would include African Americans, African Caribbeans, African Brazilians, and anyone of African descent who may have also tested with AncestryDNA. Because Daudet’s parents also tested, they were able to identify several distant cousins as being related on either the mother’s side of their family or the father’s side of their family. This additional measure was necessary because of the distance by generations between Daudet, his African Diapora cousins, and their common Congolese Luba ancestor parents. Continue to follow Daudet’s journey as he meets his African Diaspora kin.

Daudet’s Genetic Genealogy Information

GEDmatch kit #
Daudet A641281
Daudet’s mother A637046
Daudet’s father A281139

AncestryDNA user name: Daudet Ilunga
Daudet’s mother: A. T. (administered by Daudet Ilunga)
Daudet’s father: S. I. (administered by Daudet Ilunga)