Thursday, May 5, 2016

About Those Ancestry Results . . .

So, my results from the DNA ethnicity test I took 6 weeks ago found their way into my inbox this morning. If you recall, I detailed the decision to have this done in my previous blog entry titled, "Who Do I Think I Am." In that post, I speculated about what my own ethnicity might be. Go check it out if you want some context.

Or, I suppose I can just rehash those guesses below:

European: 52%
African: 38%
Native American: 8%

I based this on the fact that my father is from the Dominican Republic, and that Dominican people are usually blessed with a healthy dose of both African and European influences in their genetic makeup. I say "blessed" because, in my frank opinion, mixing is the best! Yeah, I said it. I want the whole world to just stop with the ignorance and MINGLE already, yo!

Also guiding my guesswork is the relatively new knowledge that my maternal grandmother comes from a mixed African American/Caucasian background herself. And although she would end up marrying an Anglo-Scots-Irish man from North Carolina and having my mother and aunt with him, I figured that my grandma's African-American roots combined with my father's Afro-Caribbean roots would reveal to me somewhere between 1/3rd and 1/2 of my total ethnic makeup as hailing from West Africa.

My lovely maternal grandma, Frances.

And while I assumed that more than half of my makeup would be European, I thought it would be barely above half. I know my father's side wasn't completely African-descendant, and that because of Spain's influence in the Caribbean, that I would naturally get a lot of Spanish or Iberian markers in my test results. But I figured that the African side of my ancestry would still be rather sizable.

Turns out I guessed rather poorly on both accounts!

These are my actual results, as revealed to me this morning. For those who want a list, my ethnic breakdown aligns (more or less) as follows:

European: 64%
African: 28%
Native American: 6%

I'm quite floored, to be honest. If anything, I thought I was being too generous on the European side in my initial estimate, and too conservative on the African side. I had no idea the actual results would go in the opposite direction. Originally, in fact, my estimates came in at a much narrower 48%/44% split between European and African sources.

So yeah, this has been quite the revelation, to say the least. But before I discuss how all this makes me feel, let's first take a closer look at the actual breakdown for clarity's sake.

I'm going to start with the African side of things:

Although the African side of my heritage is not as large as I had anticipated, it's still fairly significant. It contributes toward nearly 1/3rd of my total ethnic makeup! Not bad, not bad at all. It places me roughly at the same makeup as my mom and aunt -- although they received theirs from their mom's mixed heritage, while I received mine from both my maternal grandma and paternal lineages combined. I suspect they borrowed a little from each other, and did not lump aggregate as I had assumed both lines might. Oh well, I'm clearly no geneticist!

1 yr old me held by my father's youngest brother.

What I love about this little breakdown of my African distribution is that the majority of it comes from Nigeria! I already assumed that most of it would be West African -- so Mali, Senegal, and Benin/Togo, etc. all fit right in line with that. And yes, I assumed Nigeria would be in there, too, as it usually does show up prominently in the lineages of most Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American people. But I'm pleased that it figures so centrally in my own African heritage. I've always felt a strong affinity for Africa growing up, and Nigeria in particular.

So, yes, I'm very stoked by these findings!

Next up, let's tackle Europe:

As I mentioned earlier, I always knew that more of my ethnic makeup would be European. I just never knew it would be *this* much! Of particular surprise is the fact that most of it does not come from the Iberian peninsula (Spain/Portugal) or from the rest of southern Europe (Italy/Greece), but in fact from the British Isles. Wow! Because my maternal grandfather was from Scots-Irish stock, I knew I would of course find *some* markers from that part of the world. But I had no idea it would make up the majority of my European DNA. It would suggest that some of that also comes from my maternal grandma's line, as well as perhaps a little from my father's side too.

Yes, it's all quite dizzying! The fact that I also have Scandinavian countries thrown into the mix doesn't surprise me so much as I assume this is really just more from England and Scotland, historical migration patterns to those lands being what they are and all. But altogether--if you combine the numbers from Great Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia--more than half of my European ethnicity (38% out of 64%) is from the North!

Like the Nigerian results, this pleases me a great deal as well, since I've always strongly identified with that part of Europe more than any other (yes, even more than France!). It validates my previous assumptions that I have more Scots-Irish ancestry than any other group in my total heritage.

But perhaps less, though no more profound, of a shock is that I actually have a slightly higher percentage of shared DNA markers with people living in Italy and Greece than I do people living in Spain or Portugal. Of course I shouldn't read too much into that. As alluded above, I do know a little bit about ancient human migration patterns, and realize that you should really combine the two groupings since people have been traversing that broad swath of southern Europe since prehistoric times. And if you do that, then it means that 1/3rd of my total European ethnicity hails from southern Europe. Which is totally in line with my Dominican ancestry!

And speaking of my Dominican ancestors, I guess I have them to thank for this:

Yes, I had originally predicted that my percentage of Native American ethnic markers would amount to 8% of the total. In actuality I was thinking between 4% - 8%, and in which case the actual result is right smack dab in the middle of that estimation. And I know that practically all of that comes from my father's side, as to the best of my knowledge my mother's side has only trace amounts ... if that! Still, very cool.

If you look at that image above, however, you will notice something else that may be of interest. To be honest, I'm actually pleasantly surprised by this:

Yes, South Asia only amounts to less than 1% of my total ethnic makeup, but still awesome nonetheless. Hey, might as well add that to the mix as well! Why the hell not? In all seriousness, I'm very pleased to see this. It's such a minuscule amount, yes, but I have a huge love for the subcontinent and its diverse, beautiful cultures and history. I'm honored to be included into that mix, if even just a tiny bit.

And to round it all out, apparently 1% of my heritage hails from Western Asia as well -- what Ancestry describes as being the Caucasus.

Hmmm, well that was unexpected. But as with South Asia above -- I'll take it, too! I get the feeling that this may have a lot to do with the Mongols sweeping through Western Asia and into Europe all the way from East Asia. I think quite a few Europeans have this result, to varying degrees, in their background as well. Or, there could be another explanation. In either case, 1% is not a great deal and I won't spend too much time contemplating that portion of my total heritage.

Then again, I have absolutely no East Asian hits. None whatsoever. Despite what everyone keeps telling me based only on the shape of my eyes, I in fact do not have any secret Chinese interlopers hiding out in my family tree. Trust me, I wish I did! But, I kinda figured I wouldn't.

So anyway. There you go! Pretty neat, if I do say so myself. I feel as if I learned a lot about myself. Or, at the very least, about the rather mixed genetic bag I've inherited from so many parts of the world. I think this is the best aspect about the process. Which is, to wit: that we're all part of a much larger global community here. Some of us (like yours truly) more so than we might initially realize.

What does this all mean to me, then?

Well, it gives me more of a precise clue as to which influences gathered around to form me. The physical me, I mean. But also, it gives me the opportunity to learn more about the cultures which make up my background. And this has emotional implications in that respect. For I grew up with my mother's side, not my father's. I have absolutely no ties to his (and my) Dominican heritage. I didn't grow up learning the language, the food, the recreations, the music, the expressiveness of that culture. This is not to say that I grew up without a culture. I had a very defined one in fact. One you would more likely call "Anglo"-American, for lack of a better term. And I love that this was my culture growing up, because it was my mother's culture growing up. It is the culture I am most comfortable in, because it is the only culture I've ever known. Or, that is, until I went to college and sought out knowledge of other cultures on my own.

Yes, I'm well aware that I don't look northern European. People never let me forget how Hispanic I look! They expect me to whip out some Spanglish, or dance the merengue, or eat some plátanos. And, okay okay ... maybe I do some of the latter, in fact. Hey -- they're freakin delicious, man!!

But yeah, I'm well aware of what I look like and I'm not ashamed of my Dominican heritage. It's my father's fault that he didn't stick around to raise me and my brothers, but I won't take my issues with him out on an entire culture. That being said, I myself have not done much to seek out that aspect of my lineage, and that is something I should remedy. For that, I have no excuse.

EDIT:  I have now filmed and (finally) processed the video I made wherein I reveal my results live and in Technicolor! LOL! But anyway, yeah . . . check out my Youtube video below if you don't want to read all this. Of course, you probably did just read all this to get here so, uh. Sowry?

So, this is what these results have done for me. And I'm loving it! It has made me aware; an awareness that's manifested as wakefulness fueled by curiosity. A curiosity that now drives me to learn more about the ethnic groups I represent. West African, Dominican, North European. These are my dominant heritage groups. They, and many more, project me -- and I reflect them.

And that my friends, is a beautiful and humbling realization to come upon.

I am connected.


  1. Very informative and interesting. Was the taping rehearsed or are you a natural?
    Curious, how much is the test?

  2. LOL, no. It was definitely not rehearsed. But I thank you for the compliment that I come across as natural. I was very nervous recording this, and did not feel natural at all!

    Anyway, you can get the kit for around $99 off the website. At times they hold discounts, however, and I've seen it go as low as $60. Also, you can get the kit off Amazon as well and they will reflect any discounts if there happen to be any at the time. There were none when I sent away for it, so I just went to the company's main website and ordered the kit at full price.


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