We get asked genealogy questions all the time at African Ancestry. And while your African Ancestry test results uncover a critical part of your identity by tracing your ancestry back over 500 years, many people of African descent hit a brick wall when trying to research their family trees in more detail.
That’s why we've created “Ask Lyndra,” where Lyndra Marshall, a professional genealogist with over 40 years experience, answers genealogy questions from African Ancestry family and friends by revealing expert tips and advice that can help you find out more about your family heritage.
Have a question? Email them to email@example.com and keep checking back to get your answers here. Happy researching!
I just received my results from AfricanAncestry.com and found out that my ancestry along my maternal line is not African at all but part of the Halogroup N1c. I am very confused as to what this means in terms of what country or ethnic group I belong to. The map that was included listed the Ashkenazi Jewish population and the people from the Levant, Arabia and Egypt with this halopgroup. How can I find out more information as to which group of people I come from? This analysis leaves me with more questions than answers.
I would appreciate more information on this group.
Many people share your frustrations. Scientists are not able to get as specific (in terms of country and ethnic group) with non-African mtDNA as they can with African mtDNA. Dr. Spencer Wells has done extensive work with haplogroups. You may want to research his work. There are also many groups online that are dedicated to specific haplogroups.
All the best with your search,
We are a caucasion couple who have an absolutely beautiful african american son who we adopted as an infant who is almost 5 years old now. Because he was a private/closed adoption we have nothing more than his mother's maiden name. The biological father is unknown. With our other adopted children we were able to know and gain more information for them for when they want to search for their roots, but unfortunately we can't do this for our youngest son. We thought that if it was possible to find out something about where his roots may lie, it would at least be something to pass on to him as he grows. How would we be able to do this with little information? We know where his biological mother's family is from in Virginia and again, what her maiden name is. Can you help with some ideas?
Thanks and God bless,
It is wonderful to hear that you are seeking information for your son. Knowing his roots can be very transformational and empowering for him. It can provide a sense of connection and a sense of place. Check out the experience that an African American teenage boy recently had. African Ancestry traced his roots to Sierra Leone. Click here to view the video.
Since he is a male, he can trace both his maternal and paternal ancestry. There is a 92% chance that his maternal ancestry will be African. Therefore, the MatriClan Test Kit would be the best choice for him. You can read more about it here. The journey to find his roots will also be enlightening and informative for the rest of your family. Learning about different cultures is a great thing for the whole family to do.
All the best with your journey,
Would there be an advantage to both my Mother and Myself getting DNA analysis? Is the result data sensitive enough to detect changes
in the maternal line over a generation?
The results will be the same whether you or your mother take a maternal ancestry test. MtDNA doesn't change significantly over many generations. Click here to learn more about how your mtDNA is inherited.
Go for it!
I am a bit confused about how to find out the DNA of my father's grandmother. I know that if I take a maternal DNA test (of which I have), that would include me, my mom, her mom and so forth. However, what test would I take to find out about my father's grandmother? I understand also that the mtDNA travels from mother to both sex children, that means that I would have my father's grandmother's DNA? My father is deceased and I am the only child. Looking forward to this answer.
Genealogy is one big puzzle! The first step to finding out the DNA of your father's grandmother is through laying out your family tree.
Your father has two grandmothers. To get his maternal grandmother's DNA, you will need one of your father's siblings or one of his sisters' children. If that path doesn't exist, you can look at his grandmother's sister's descendants. Her children or her daughters' children or her daughters' daughters' children all share your great grandmother's DNA.
To get his paternal grandmother's DNA, you will need one of her sisters' children or her sisters' daughters' children or her sisters' daughters' daughters' children.
I know you receive 1,000,000 e-mails per day; so I will keep it short. I am a 23 year old bi-racial kid in Dallas, Texas. I know my mother is white; and have a very detailed account of her ancestry. However; my Father ,who was black, is dead; and I have no record of the details on ancestry from that side. Would the service (African Ancestry) be beneficial to my search? Or being bi-racial, will it jumble up the DNA reading too much?? Which test would I take?
Since you are a male, you can trace your paternal ancestry using your own DNA. The African Ancestry PatriClan Test will tell you where his ancestry was prior to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. If the result is African, it will determine the present day country and ethnic group.
Click here to learn more about how your Y chromosome can help you find your paternal roots.
All the best,
I've secured the assistance of African Ancestry and was informed that my mother's genealogy traces back to Liberia and Sierra Leone. While this information is exciting, I know that my grandparents actually lived in Barbados, Haiti and Jamaica before migrating to Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal; but I have very little information about them, other than their names. Can you suggest sources int hese countries that I can contact in order to begin to trace my family tree? I've already contacted the Embassy of Barbados in Washington, D.C., and was told that they do not have a website. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
Here's a list of resources for tracing African-Caribbean ancestry and two articles regarding ancestry.com is launching a significant online collection of Caribbean slave records detailing nearly 200 years of St. Croix-Virgin Islands. Hope this information is helpful.
Researching Your Jamaican Family (Arawak Publications, 2007) by Jennifer O'Sullivan-Sirjue and Patsy Robinson is a new book on Jamaican genealogy. The book is available from Amazon.com.
A Caribbean Family History Group has been established with support from Lambeth Archives and the Black Cultural Archives
Who Do You Think You Are? On 10 September 2008, author, cook and actor Ainsley Harriott traced his Caribbean ancestors go to the BBC page for Ainsley's story and research. Previous celebrities appearing on Who Do Your Think You Are? are Moira Stuart who traces her Antiguan and Dominican roots, and Colin Jackson who looks at his Jamaican and Panamanian stories. These are available on DVD.
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: www.slavevoyages.org is a database of slaving voyages from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean - you can search by region of departure or arrival, by period, by ship's name, by country, and by captain. There is also a database of some 67,000 Africans and African-Caribbean people who were 'released' from illegal slavers in Sierra Leone and Cuba.
Barbados manumissions (grants of freedom): 377 forms showing manumissions granted in Barbados between December 1831 and July 1834 (just before emancipation on 1 August 1834) have been uploaded onto www.plantations.bb/manumissions/. These forms are held by the Barbados Department of Archives. The information is listed by parish and then owner and contains the following information: document reference, date of manumission, slave owner, name of slave, and parish. Click on the slave name for further information about the slave owner and slave, such as color and family relationships.
I was overjoyed to get the results of African Ancestry geneology test but found the results confusing. It said that my ancestors were Bamileke, Mende, and Mandinka. I've seen others with a single people or country. How do I explain these results and what origin can I claim?
- Confused on 2 Continents
Dear Confused on 2 Continents,
I hope that I can relieve the confusion! When African Ancestry analyzes your DNA, they look for matching DNA sequences on the continent. In your case, they found matches in three countries, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and Senegal. This means that there are people living in each of these countries today that have the same mtDNA sequence as you do. Since they found the matches in three places, they reported all three to you.
You have the liberty to claim any or all of the three origins. If you research the different ethnic groups, you may find customs and traditions that are aligned to your family experience that may cause you to lean more towards one than another. Also, I expect that research will show you a historical relationship between the Mende and the Mandinka. After all, the distance between present-day Senegal and present-day Sierra Leone is less than 500 miles.
I hope that this helps.
When I received my results from African Ancestry, my dad was a 100% match to the Balanta people in Guinea-Bissau. However I noticed that there was no indication if he had any descendants from Europe or Asia, etc. Is it possible that my dad's ancestors had no relations with Europeans?
If this is the case, my dad will jump for joy!
- Karen Ford, Chicago
We traced only one branch of your father’s family tree. We found identical matches for that branch with people living in Guinea-Bissau. He does not have any ancestors from Europe or Asia on that one branch of the family tree.
If your dad were to analyze other branches of the family tree, he may find European or Asian ancestors. But they were not part of the analysis we did.
He can enjoy his roots!
My father was born in Missississippi in 1912 and has been deceased since 1998. Months ago my nephew was at a function with his coworkers and spotted a man who looked like my father. He took a picture of him which has been circulating around the family. I know the saying is that we all have a twin in the world well I will tell you this man could be my father's twin. This man is from India and speaks very little English. My oldest sister has had people think she is from India. I had an older brother who is also deceased but people always told him and my parents that he looked Indian. His hair was black as coal and a good grade. Could we have had ancestors from India. When I saw the photo I am telling you that was my father's twin. My sister also said one of my brothers shoud do the DNA test to see where our ancestors came from. Do you agree this is what we should do? I would appreciate your feedback. Thanks.
What an interesting story! If one of your brothers takes the PatriClan Test from African Ancestry, you will get the ancestry of one branch of your father's family tree (his father's father's father's line, and so on). If that lineage is Indian, African Ancestry will tell you that.
However, if it is not Indian, that doesn't mean that your father didn't have any Indian ancestry. One of your father's siblings would have to take an admixture test to determine all of the ancestries that make up your father's family tree, at a continental level. That is, it will tell you the percentage African, European, Asian, and/or Native American. It will not confirm the country of India.
You can research admixture testing on the internet to see if it is currently available. The company that used to offer it, DNA Print, is no longer in business.
I want to know more about my family’s history but I’ve heard that African American genealogy is very hard to trace. Why is it harder for us?
- Seeking My Roots
Dear Seeking My Roots:
African American genealogy is hard to trace because of slavery. The majority of Americans of African ancestry are descendants of the 400,000 plus black Africans that were forcibly brought to the Americas or New World to serve as slaves during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
These slaves had no legal rights and were often not found in many of the traditional record sources available for that period. Don't let this challenge defer you from researching your ancestral roots.
While it can be a lot of work, it is also very rewarding. Start slowly and enlist some of your younger family members to join you on the journey!
Can you please recommend any websites to help me with my genealogy research?
- P. Wise, MD
Dear P. Wise, MD,
Genealogy information about African American ancestors is often difficult to locate but not impossible. Here are some of the websites that I frequent to help me with my research:
- National Archives
- Cyndi's List
- UK & Ireland Genealogy
- Family Search
- USIGS Military Collection
- Ellis Island
- The USF (University of South Florida) Africana Heritage Project - This project was begun in order to assist African Americans who are researching their family histories. The mission is to rediscover those valuable records that document the names and lives of slaves, freed persons, and their descendants.
- Old Photographs of African Americans/OPOAA - Images for Unknown African American Photographs to be identified by other Researchers and Family Historians. Post your Old Unknown Photo.
- African American Cemeteries Online - Find links to online information about African American Cemeteries by state and county.
- The African - Native Genealogy Homepage - Celebrating the Estelusti ~ The Freedmen Oklahoma's Black Indians of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations
- African Americans in Missouri - Resources for African Americans in Missouri -- includes a slave database for slaveowners and slaves from 5 Missouri Counties and the states of Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Also included is a database of Frontier Families of Missouri from the Upper Territory from 1790 to 1840.
- AfriGeneas - A wealth of information including a beginner's guide for researching African American genealogy. The site includes mailing lists, slave data, surname information and much more.
- Black Family Genealogy & History Society - The Black Family Genealogy & History Society meets every 3rd Saturday of the month at the Keys Community Center, 2454 E. Broadway Rd. Phoenix offers instruction and presentations on Black history, family research and computer techniques.
- Christine's Genealogy Website - African American historical and genealogical information, census schedules, links to resources, and much, much more.
- The Freedmen's Bureau Online - Search the available online records of the Freedmen Bureau.
I just received my African Ancestry results and I’m from Nigeria! Now I want to learn more about my family. How do I start the research?
- Happy To Be Fulani
Dear Happy To Be Fulani:
Just as you would any other research project, start with what you know and carefully take your research back in time one step at a time. The first step is to Gather Oral History. Recall and record things about yourself, your parents and other older living relatives, such as birth dates, birth locations, places where the family lived, siblings, children, marriage dates, deaths, occupations, education, if they were they slaves or Free Persons of Color, and family traditions and experiences. Don’t forget to record what you already know or learn as you’re going along.
At the same time, you can Gather Family Records and review family related sources found within the home base that can give clues to your family tree. No one can tell you exactly which document or artifact you will find that will provide a research breakthrough for any given question or ancestor. However, successful research usually combines a variety of sources and techniques appropriate to each ancestor’s situation. Remember each ancestor was unique, so each research effort will be unique to a specific ancestor or family cluster. Once you get started, you’ll realize to let your ancestor guide you.
These sources can include family bibles, newspaper clippings of slave sales, runaway notices, advertisements, marriage and death announcements, birth, baptisms, death and cemetery records, obituaries, funeral programs, personal notices, land records, and marriage certificates, divorce records, records of wills, adoptions, guardianships, probates, estates, real estate, taxes, voter registrations, schools, churches, institutions, places of employment, military service, citizenship papers, passports, passenger records, ship manifest or border crossing records, civil and criminal courts, city directories, medical and pension records, social security cards and original applications, driver's licenses, diaries and journals, letters, sorority and fraternity records, reminiscences, photographs, scrapbooks, announcements and invitations, furniture, biographies, family stories and histories, country, county and state histories, slave and wartime narratives, family celebrations and vacation documents, and other family memorabilia.
Organize your data and enter it into an organized family tree system by using pedigree charts and other genealogical forms. I prefer recording information on hardcopy forms and a set of file folders before investing in an electronic system.
Keep in touch and let me know how this phase of your research goes!
I’ve done some preliminary family research and now I’m ready to use Census Records. What exactly are Census Records and do you have any tips for how to get started?
- Kathy Johnson, LA
After gathering and reviewing home sources and interviewing family members, federal census records are a good place to begin your research. You will find a wealth of information that will be beneficial to your research and will lead you to other helpful sources.
It is wise to begin with the most recent census available and work backwards. Researching the census collection on online will save you time, money and frustration.
Census records are population surveys which are conducted every ten years in the United States by household. These surveys provide important vital, medical and geographical details about your ancestors that you might not find elsewhere. Be careful because the type of information may vary depending on census year. Beginning in 1850, the federal census was collected in ten year intervals and are available for public use. A federal law protects the privacy of any person in a census for a period of 72 years; as a result, the latest federal census open to the public is the 1930 census. In association, most of the 1890 census records were destroyed in a fire in 1921 at the Department of Commerce. A small percentage remains for a few states. In this case it would be a wise choice to check the State census where your ancestor resided.
Thousands of original population schedules from 1790 through 1930 censuses have been microfilmed and made available in archives, libraries, or individuals. Unless your ancestor was free you will not find their information in the census until 1870 which is five years after slavery abolishment. Additionally, people of that era commonly lived in close proximity to their relatives and many ex-slaves remained living in the same general area as their former slave owners. It is helpful to pay very close attention to persons listed on the same pages as your ancestors, especially if you are uncertain of the surname of former slave owners.
Always go to the original census record for full details. Many libraries and family history centers have them available on microfilm.
Here is a partial list of all the interesting information you might gather depending on the Census year: They include names, month, year, and place of birth - location (county or township territory or country), number of dwelling where they were living during the census year, age at their last birthday, sex of the head of household and each individual of the family, relationship to household, martial status – single, married, widowed, or divorced, number of years married and in present marriage, if married within the year, month of birth if born within the year, number of female individuals, number of children born to female and still living, parents place of birth - country, state or territory of birth, street or road and house number (where appropriate), the color or race such as white, black, mulatto, Indian, or Chinese, number of free whites and females, number of all free persons, number of male and female slaves, number of all other individuals, number of free black males and females, number of death and dumb, blind, idiotic, insane maimed, crippled, bedridden, or permanently a pauper or convict, number of unnaturalized or alien, year of naturalization, if sick or temporarily disabled and unable to function normally and nature of illness, and much more.
ABOUT LYNDRA: Lyndra Marshall has been engrossed in genealogy for over 40 years. Her genealogy career began as a girl searching for answers to her family's history. Today, she is a professional genealogist that helps uncover the simplest and the most elusive details of family trees throughout the country. To find out more, contact www.geneallofus.com.