Friday, 1 June 2018

West Africa Update 2

I am constantly pondering the case of our West African ancestry, which has been proven to come from my 3rd great-grandfather Daniel Davidsen (1819-1866). Under what circumstances did the West African admixture enter into our family line and the family lines of our genetic matches? Considering all the available evidence, I can think of two possible scenarios:

SCENARIO 1: MULTIPLE MIGRATIONS FROM A SCANDINAVIAN COLONY. Our West African ancestor was brought into contact with whites sometime in the 1700s or late 1600s, either in Africa or in the Caribbean. He or she had at least one child with a white person. At least one of this child's mixed descendants settled in the Caribbean, becoming an ancestor of Robert Pierre Stark (the common ancestor of Inge-Roy's Haitian matches), while at least one other descendant travelled to Europe and had descendants in Norway and Denmark. This scenario seems to be the most obvious one.

However, we must take into account the fact that Inge-Roy and his known cousin KN (see my earlier blog post for more about KN) are genetically much more closely related to the Haitians than to their other matches on the African segment, who are almost all Scandinavians or Scandinavian-descendants. For scenario 1 to work, Inge-Roy, KN and the Haitians must be relatively closely descended from an Afro-Caribbean common ancestor (perhaps born in the 1700s). One of this person's West African or mixed-race ancestors would have had other descendant lines that settled in Scandinavia, becoming ancestors of the other Scandinavian matches on the African segment. Since it requires multiple descendants of the same MRCA (most recent common ancestor) travelling to Scandinavia, scenario 1 is plausible only if the MRCA of everyone who shares the segment lived in one of the Scandinavian colonies in West Africa or the Caribbean (the Danish Gold Coast, the Danish West Indies, or the Swedish West Indies).

Since people of mixed parentage were probably less likely to be taken to the Caribbean as slaves, I believe it is more likely that this MRCA was a fully West African person who was taken directly to the Caribbean, and that the mixing with Europeans happened there (and not in Africa).

SCENARIO 2: AFRO-CARIBBEAN DNA TO SCANDINAVIA AND BACK AGAIN. Our West African ancestor came to Europe early on (e.g. in the 1600s), either from the Caribbean or directly from Africa. He or she had at least one child with a white person, and descendants of this child later settled in Denmark and Norway. One of these descendants - who might have passed for white and might well have been unaware of his own African ancestry - sailed to the Caribbean (not necessarily Haiti; descendants may have moved there later on) and fathered a child there, a child who became an ancestor of Robert Stark. This scenario fits with all the known facts.

There is in fact evidence for direct contact between Haiti and Daniel Davidsen's home district in the 1800s: Daniel's wife's first husband is recorded as having died in Port au Prince in 1845.


The significance of the Haitian genetic connection cannot be overlooked. The number of Africans in Scandinavia in the 1600s and 1700s was very low, while the number of Africans in the Caribbean in the 1600s and 1700s was very high. For this reason alone, African admixture (like that shared by Inge-Roy, KN and the Haitian matches) is much more likely to have moved FROM the Caribbean TO Norway, rather than the other way round. This is a strong argument in favour of scenario 1.

The main problem with scenario 1 is that it requires an Afro-Caribbean non-paternity event (NPE) among Daniel Davidsen's close ancestors, since his ancestral tree is well documented several generations back with no known Afro-Caribbeans in it. Scenario 2 does not require an NPE on Daniel's side, since there are several gaps in Daniel's ancestral tree in the 1600s where an African ancestor could fit. Although scenario 2 makes an NPE on Robert Stark's side likely, this is not a logical requirement for the scenario to work, since Robert's ancestry is largely unknown prior to the mid-1800s. The (possible) Scandinavian paternity of an ancestor of Robert's could very well have been known at the time.

According to GEDmatch, KN and Inge-Roy's MRCA with the Haitians is about one generation further back than KN and Inge-Roy's MRCA with each other. If scenario 1 is true, this means that one of Daniel Davidsen's parents, either his father David Johannes Sørensen Neseim or his mother Maria Tønnesdatter Sveiga, probably had an Afro-Caribbean father (NPE). If scenario 2 is true, then either David's father (Søren Davidsson Neseim) or Maria's father (Tønnes Salvesson Sveiga) must be the sailor who travelled to the Caribbean and had a child there.

Søren was a "los" (pilot), working locally in his home parish of Vanse, while Tønnes was a "matros" (able seaman, part of the crew of a merchant ship), which makes it more likely that it was Tønnes who would have been to the Caribbean. Incidentally, Tønnes being an able seaman also makes it more likely that his family is where the NPE could have happened, since Tønnes' wife would have been by herself for long periods of time while her husband was at sea. Tønnes was born in 1755 and owned a farm in Nes parish near Flekkefjord, an area famous for its seafaring traditions. There would have been ships passing by their home all the time, with crew members from all corners of the world.

It seems likely, then, that the sailor Tønnes was "involved" in an NPE, either as the "victim" of infidelity (in Norway) or the "perpetrator" of infidelity (in the Caribbean). This is not completely certain, however, since Søren Davidsson may have been an sailor before becoming a pilot, in which case it is equally likely to be Søren who was "involved" in the NPE.

Both Søren and Tønnes were Norwegians, which means that they were both Danish subjects. If any of them travelled to the Caribbean, it would be likely have been to the Danish West Indies. In fact, it is likely that a merchant sailor in the 1700s would have visited that profitable colony. It is also likely that an Afro-Caribbean person visiting Norway at that time would have come from the Danish West Indies. In other words, our West African connection probably goes via the Danish West Indies. This is supported by the fact that (at least) two of the distant matches who share Inge-Roy's West African segment have known Danish ancestors, but no known Norwegian or Swedish ancestors. The Danes started importing African slaves to their West Indian colonies around the year 1670, which makes this year a likely terminus post quem for our ancestor's voyage from Africa to the Caribbean.

Current state of knowledge:

- My 3rd great-grandfather, sailor and merchant Daniel Davidsen (1819-1866), has a relatively recent West African ancestor, probably born in the 1700s or late 1600s. This we know for certain. The nature of our West African admixture suggests that this West African ancestor might have been born in the Senegambia region. A total of 1601 slaves are known to have been transported to the Danish West Indies from Senegambia.

- This West African ancestor was transported to the Caribbean as a slave (probably to the Danish West Indies, and if so, no earlier than c. 1670). In the Caribbean, our West African ancestor had a child (or children) with a white person. Inge-Roy, KN and the Haitians all share European and West African DNA, which tells us that they all descend from one of these mixed-race children. Somehow, at some point (in the 1700s, presumably), this child and/or their descendants made it to Europe and Scandinavia. All this is so likely and well-founded as to be practically certain.

- Inge-Roy and KN are more closely related to Robert Stark than to the other Scandinavian matches who share the West African segment. This means that Inge-Roy, KN and Robert Stark share a relatively recent mixed-race ancestor, probably born in the mid-1700s. The question is: Was this person an Afro-Caribbean sailor who brought the West African DNA to Norway, or was it a Norwegian sailor (possibly unaware of his own African ancestry) who brought the West African DNA "back" to the Caribbean?

- The West Africa connection, and the connection with Robert Stark's family, seems most likely to be on Daniel Davidsen's maternal side, since his maternal grandfather Tønnes Salvesson (1755-1809) was a merchant sailor. In the late 1700s, Tønnes was probably involved in an NPE, either as "victim" or "perpetrator" of infidelity. This is the most uncertain point at this stage, and also one of the most important ones to figure out. Whatever the details of the case, we know that the connection between our family line in Norway and Robert Stark's family line in Haiti must have been the result of a union between a Scandinavian person and a Caribbean person in the 1700s.

Short summary:

Our West African ancestor was born in the 1700s or late 1600s - perhaps in Senegambia - and transported to the Caribbean as a slave. At some point after 1670, they probably ended up in the Danish West Indies. Some mixed-race descendants, including our own family line, settled in Scandinavia in the 1700s. We do not yet know exactly when or under what circumstances our Afro-Caribbean family line first came to Scandinavia.

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