3 Nov 2015 – Genealogy and DNA

Have you ever thought of getting your DNA tested?  Well, I thought about it and actually did it!  My Mother always talked about the women in our family having a Native American heritage, so I really expected to see results that included Native American – maybe 10% or more!



The structure of part of a DNA double helix. May be subject to copyright.

I took advantage of the tests offered by Ancestry which provides an estimate of the historical origins of my DNA.  Following are my results:

 Africa 73%

  • Benin/Togo 21%
  • Mali 17%
  • Cameroon/Congo 14%
  • Nigeria 6%
  • Ivory Coast/Ghana 5%
  • Trace Regions 10%

Europe 26%

  • Europe West 10%
  • Ireland 8%
  • Trace Regions 8%

West Asia 1%

  • Trace Regions 1%

My Mom also had her DNA done.  Following is a high level comparison between us:


Alice (Mother)

Debra (Daughter)











My thoughts on the results:
  • The African percentages were very different between my Mother and I.  Her highest region was Nigeria (34%) and mine was Benin/Togo (21%).  I assume this is due to what my Father brings to the table.
  • I expected the African and European heritage, but I was surprised by the mixture of subregions!
  • I was surprised to see no Native American!  Based on the history told to me about my heritage, I should have Native American contributions from both parents!
  • I plan to explore the results in more depth, and I am also working with my other daughter to get her DNA tested.  More to follow on this.

My results are typical for African-Americans [except the Native American part.  See history below.  :-)].  Spencer Wells, Director of National Geographic’s Genographic Project, discovered the African-Americans they’ve tested range from 53 percent to 95 percent sub-Saharan African, 3 percent to 46 percent European and zero percent to 3 percent Native American.  So there is a lot of genetic variation within our ethnic group, as is obvious to anyone even casually glancing at black people just walking down the street.

If you are considering having your DNA tested, I recommend you do your research beforehand because there are various types of DNA tests (see 2015: Most Bang For The DNA Buck).  See history below.
Because I am a member of Ancestry.com, they compared my results to other results in their database, resulting in one second cousin, one third cousin, one fourth cousin, and three shared ancestor hints!  In total, there are 155  fourth cousins or closer!
If you have thoughts on DNA testing and genealogy, please share.  I’m very interested in your perspective.  Happy hunting!

History:  There are four types of DNA testing (source: DNAeplained – Genetic Genealogy ):

  • Y-line DNA – tests the Y chromosome which is passed from father to son
  • Mitochondrial DNA – is passed from mothers to both genders of her children, but only passed on by females
  • Autosomal DNA – tests the rest of the DNA provided by both parents on the 23 chromosomes and can be used to identify cousins in your family tree (the test I received from ancestry.com)
  • X Chromosome – women inherit an X from both of their parents.


History of Native American Heritage in African Americans (Source:  Henry Louis Gates Jr., posted 11 Feb 2013 12:32 am, Exactly How Black is Black America , direct quotes from the article):

  • The findings show that the common claim that many African Americans make about their high percentage of Native American ancestry is a myth.  Joanna Mountain broke down to Henry Louis Gates Jr. our low amounts of Native American ancestry in this way: “Eighty percent of African Americans have less than 1 percent Native American ancestry. Over 2.5 percent have between 2 percent and 3 percent. And of all African Americans who have at least 1 percent Native American ancestry, the average is 2 percent Native American.”  So much for all of those putative Cherokee roots on just about every black person’s family tree, fabricated to explain why your great-grandmother had “high cheekbones and straight black hair”!  Why there is such little evidence of genetic mingling between African Americans and Native Americans deserves a column of its own.
  • And what about the percentages of “black” or sub-Saharan ancestry in the white American community? That will be the subject of another column.  But suffice it to say here that, according to Mountain, “The bottom line is that 3 percent to 4 percent of people likely to consider themselves as all ‘white’ have some African ancestry — between 0.5 percent and 5 percent.”  Thinking about the enormous implications of these percentages of admixture for African Americans calls to mind that famous line from Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” about what he called “the interrelatedness of all communities” in this country.  When he wrote that “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” I wonder if he could possibly have realized how fundamentally this was true of black and white Americans on a biological level. Black and white citizens are bound together in this country at the most fundamental level possible — the level of the genome. And it turns out that Dr. King’s stirring conclusion — that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” — has been literally true genetically of these two groups of the American people for a very long time.


Between The Dashes

5 thoughts on “3 Nov 2015 – Genealogy and DNA

  1. I’d always heard that my white family had a Black or African American ancestor, so I was surprised to find that I had no DNA from Africa, but I do have a tiny amount of Asian DNA, as you do. Not sure what that means! So fascinating to see the places and numbers on these results.


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