Caption: Me sitting on the steps of a Slave Cabin in New Orleans, LA
I am so grateful for the people in my family – like my Aunt Gert, who keep track of our genealogy. In that sense, I have been more fortunate than most African Americans, because we have been able to trace my lineage to my great great great granfather, Syrus Williams, who was born a slave in South Carolina but died a free man in Atkins, Arkansas with 128 acres of land. I wrote briefly about him here.
About a month ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted to do the DNA testing to determine our ethnic makeup. My husband recently reunited with my father-in-law Brian Tillman who he found homeless. That story is documented in a film that will be in AMC theaters October 9th. Click here to watch the trailer.
The older I get, the more curious I get about the people who came before me. I want to know as much as I can about those individuals. What motivated them? How did they survive such difficult life circumstances? What parts of them are not a part of me?
So we received our Ancestry.com DNA kit, provided a saliva sample (no blood, pricking or anything too intrusive) and sent it via mail to be tested. After 6 weeks, an e-mail popped up in my box “Your DNA results are ready.”
Thankfully we were both home, and we were able to read our results together. We decided to read his genetic makeup first. As we’d guessed, a large part of both of genetic makeup was African.
Cameroon/Congo – 34% (This represented 10% of my husband’s DNA)
Ivory Coast/Ghana – 34%
Benin/Togo – 18% (This represented 31% of my husband’s DNA)
Senegal – 4%
Nigeria – 2% (This represented 21% of my husband’s DNA)
Mali – 1%
Africa South-Central Hunter – Gatherers – 1%
America – Less Than 1% (could include North & South America)
Asia – Less Than 1% (Asia East which includes (Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Palau)
Europe – 4%
Europe West – 1% (
Primarily located in: Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein
Also found in: England, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic)
Ireland – Less than 1%
Great Britain – Less than 1% (
Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales
Also found in: Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy)
Europe East – Less than 1% (Primarily located in: Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia
Also found in: Germany, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Estonia, Bulgaria)
It feels empowering to know where I’m from. All those years of guessing from Liberia to Jamaica, are over. I can look at a map and know beyond America, where I’m from.
It’s also a brutal reminder of the deep painful history of slavery, of which I am a part. So many people want to move past slavery, but the legacy of that peculiar institution is literally RUNNING through our veins, our hearts and our spirits. Knowing who you are is connected to your esteem. It gives you a context and a legacy to plug in to, and it is like a compass for where you should be going.
Caption: Signage regarding “Women’s Work” at Oak Alley Plantation
I am a PROUD African (in America)! I was teased about my strong features (nose & lips) growing up, and it feels good to know that Africa engraved clear symbols on me that will likely continue for generations to come.
My goal now is to immerse myself in the cultures. I’d like to visit each of the countries that are a part of my genetic makeup, learn about the history and eventually pass it down to my children (and their children).
For me, this genetic test is only the beginning… My goal is to reclaim the dignity, power, influence and legacy that was robbed of my ancestors when they exited the door of no return on the Ivory Coast… I’m on a mission!