Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Ancestry and What it Means to Me

Hello everyone! I'm here today with some interesting news, reflection, and self analysis. So about a month ago I did something I've wanted to do for many years, and that was to have my DNA tested for my ethnicity breakdown! I used, and jumped at the opportunity to get tested when they had their Christmas sale (it was about $30 off the price of the test.)

Let's first speak about my cultural history. I identify as Afro-Carribean American. My mother was born in Antigua & Barbuda and my father was born in Jamaica. I am a first generation American born citizen. My parents immigrated here as young children (aged 4 and 7 respectively) and met each other in college here in New York City, my hometown. I've lived in the city my whole life. Most of my mother's side of the family from Antigua & Barbuda also immigrated here in the 1960's and 1970's, and many of my cousins are also first generation and second generation Americans.

That being said, without a doubt my family on both sides are descendants of slavery. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade brought slaves not only to the Americas, but the Caribbean Islands as well. This is the first piece in the puzzle of what I'd known my genetic makeup to be. I have been remotely aware of for the longest time. What I didn't know, was where the obvious European genetic attributes had come from.

An old-ish photo of me in my most "natural state", fro and all it's glory!
There is a lot of talk in my family about what parts of Europe we take bloodline from. Growing up I've heard everything from Portuguese, to Italian, to British. Many people swear up, down and around on the Portugal thing, so for most of my life that's what I would go around saying when people asked if I "must be mixed", even though at the end of the day I just say I'm a Black person, or Person of Color.

So what did my breakdown end up being? Let's have a look below...

Okay, so the 77% African thing didn't really come as a surprise, since that was basically a given, I mean pretty much everyone currently native to the Caribbean Islands has some type of bloodline that traces back to the Sub Saharan West African coast (and yes that does include Hispaniola and Puerto Rico!) I was pretty sure that I was going to get a pretty high percentage of Nigerian or Ghanian ethnic traces. It's very exciting to have some sort of knowledge of where my African blood originates. I studied both cultures in college, and now I'm even more eager to make an even deeper connection and do more research on where I come from.

My only sadness is that they cannot pinpoint exactly which cultural groups I bear lineage from, and there are SO MANY, Hausa, Fulani, Ashanti, Yoruba, Igbo, and more. But I'm sure I'm not from one cultural group in earnest because all the people of the region mixed together during the slave trade, so there really is no way to know. I basically have trace amounts of many! Which is still something to merit. Yes, slavery happened, but I won't let that define who I am or erase my culture.

So that brings us to the little European surprise I wasn't expecting.


When I saw this result I was very confused. I never heard anything about any Norwegian or Swedish ancestry of any kind in my family (probably because it was remotely illegitimate to begin with, for reasons I don't think I need to mention here, we all know what types of atrocities went down during the slave trade.)

So I'm quarter Viking? Okay...?

But after a small bit of research, it made a little more sense. Scandinavian nomads went EVERYWHERE. They migrated to and colonized parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa too, primarily the Western coast because they traveled there by boat from the Northern Atlantic Ocean. They pillaged, they traded, and mingled in all of these places, thus why the bloodline traces add up. I doubt me having this blood in me is due to any fortunate circumstance, which is a little saddening, but it is what it is I guess. There is really no way to know for sure, so what can I say?

Happy Leif Erikson Day?

It's interesting however, since I've been remotely interested in Scandinavian music for awhile, mostly in the Rock and Metal variety. Not that it's traditional or cultural in any way, but in a modern sense I would say it is a huge part of Scandinavian pop culture at the very least.

I also love snow and cooler temperatures? I mean I do...

Yea, not saying I AM Scandinavian now because of a quarter drop of ethnic ancestry, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't take the time to explore this unknown part of what makes up my biological makeup.

And there is Irish as well, which in a way derives from Scandinavia to begin with. There is lots of similarity in the cultures, and a lot of migration involved.

Nigerian Celtic Viking? Hmm ok.

And some Viking dipped a toe into Iraq for two minutes, thus the less than one percent Middle Eastern ethnicity? I'm not counting that though since it seems rather inconclusive.

At the end of the day I still identify as Black, and being that is the majority of my ethnic background, and how I present to others outwardly, I will continue to embrace this fact.

There is much more research to be done. I'm so curious about the genetic makeup of my other family members now as well so I can get a clear trace and perhaps uncover more similarities and differences. I hope I can convince others in my family to try it too!

Can't wait to learn more about all the cultures that make up my ethnicity, I will be sharing my experiences here going forward!

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