Monday, 14 May 2018

West Africa Update

I will soon be travelling to Norway for a family visit, and I will take a vacation from blogging until the beginning of June. My last blog post described how two of my genealogical theories were proven wrong in one day. I would prefer to end my current blogging spree on a more optimistic note, so tonight I am posting an update on my search for my elusive West African ancestor 😊

I have now found 11 people on GEDmatch who share my great-uncle's West African segment on chromosome 4 with him. All of them seem to be of mainly European descent, which makes the West African segment stand out all the more prominently. I am still in the process of verifying that all of these 11 individuals actually match each other, but so far I have verified the common ancestral link between my great-uncle, the match named KN, and the Haitian-descended matches CM and CS. The shared segment, which is slightly longer than 20 cM in total and includes European, West African and (in the case of my great-uncle and the Haitians) East Asian DNA, is undoubtedly real.

By now, two of my great-uncle's West African segment matches have responded to my email. KN, as mentioned in my last post, turns out to be a paper-trail cousin of ours, a descendant of the sister of my great-great-grandfather Daniel Davidsen (1819-1866). She has tested with 23andMe, which picks up the shared West African segment and gives more details as to the timeframe in which our West African ancestor probably lived.

The screenshot below shows what the West African segment looks like in KN's 23andMe Ancestry Composition. She has no other West African segments. For privacy reasons, I have edited out everything that is not directly related to our common ancestry. If my great-uncle were to test at 23andMe, it is likely that his segment (in the same spot) would be at least the same length, and that he would have at least the same total amount of West African DNA. His West African result would probably look practically identical to the screenshot below, or slightly more significant. He is, after all, a generation closer to the MRCA couple than KN is.
As we can see, 23andMe estimates our West African ancestor to have likely been born between 1690 and 1780, between 6 and 9 generations ago counting backwards from KN (in other words, between 2 and 5 generations behind my 3ggf Daniel and his sister). He or she could also have lived somewhat further back in time. However, according to 23andMe, Ancestry Composition is only supposed to go back about 500 years, which means that our West African ancestor was almost certainly born after the year 1500 and lived within the timeframe (and probably within the context) of transcontinental travel, colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

To sum it up, our West African ancestry is distant, but indisputably real and relatively recent. It also seems well established that our family's West African DNA comes from my 3rd great-grandfather Daniel Davidsen, a sailor and businessman from Vanse on the Lista peninsula, on the extreme southwestern tip of Norway. This is a district renowned for its seafaring history and its close historical connections with England and the Netherlands. Daniel's father and both his grandfathers were seafaring men, and further back in his family tree there are documented Danish and Dutch connections. My best guess is that our West African (or mixed) ancestor came from either the Caribbean (quite possibly Haiti) or directly from a West African colony such as the Danish Gold Coast. A Dutch or English colonial origin is also plausible.

More to come.

1 comment:

  1. Ancestry estimates my Senegal at 26% of my 56% African.
    23 & Me estomates my African at 46% I think
    But says I have relative that lived in Cape Verde 200 years ago
    This must be my Senegal ancestry because I get a lot of DNA shares matches
    Of cape Verdian people on ANCESTRY.

    According to 23 & Me I also had re!arrives that lived in Portugal 200 years ago regarding my IBERIAN PENINSULA results.