The one about finding George Henry Roane’s father

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the ladies in my family tree have provided some jaw dropping discoveries. One such lady unveiled my missing 4x Scots-Irish Roane grandfather. As if that wasn’t good enough, her family’s lineage has left me scarcely able to breathe.

So, I’ve written about how I’m descended from Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane (681 – 1751), born in Argyllshire, who was granted an estate in Grenshaw, Antrim Northern Ireland. He was the ancestor of my 3 x great grandfather, George Henry Roane. The question was, who connected these two men?

Using some lateral thinking and steely determination worthy of a CSI detective, I decided to revisit Archibald Gilbert Roane’s line in search of my dear old 4x great granddad. This would be the father of George Henry Roane. I decided to refine the technique I used that uncovered the identity of my missing 4x Sheffey great-grandfather…by looking at the family lines of the women who married into the family.

This is the blessing of autosomal DNA. This type of DNA is like a cocktail. It mixes and mashes DNA from your maternal and paternal lines. It does so generation after generation after generation. Autosomal DNA down the male Roane lines wouldn’t reveal anything other than I was indeed a descendant of Archibald Gilbert Roane. I would match all of his male descendants. I needed a match on a woman who married into the family – a woman whose autosomal DNA couldn’t be in any other Roane line of descent. And trying to find this match really is like looking for a needle in a haystack; especially for a family as large as the Roanes.

Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, his wife Jennet, and their sons

Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, his wife Jeannet, and their sons

I worked up preliminary lines of the women who married Archibald Gilbert’s sons. After careful research, and comparing my DNA results to these ladies’ ancestral trees, there was only one who provided a match: Sarah Upshaw, the wife of William Roane, Sr (1701-1757). The Upshaws weren’t the best autosomal match to have – there have been a few marriages between Upshaws and Roanes. This means more than one Roane line would have Upshaw autosomal DNA. What clinched it was Sarah’s maternal Gardener line. This is where the necessary unique DNA match confirmed and narrowed the Roane line I needed to investigate.

Next up was researching all the wives who married Sarah And William’s sons.

William Roane, Sr, his wife Sarah Upshaw and their children

William Roane, Sr, his wife Sarah Upshaw and their children

Discarding Upshaw marriages further back in the female lines, one by one, no DNA matches resulted. Except for one woman whose family provided a DNA match: Elizabeth Judith Ball 91740-1767), wife of Colonel William Roane (1740-1785). Elizabeth’s maternal Mottrom line and her father’s maternal Spencer line were two of her lines where I had a DNA match.

Now I was beginning to get excited. I started to ask myself, “Could I really do it? Could I actually, finally find the final piece of the puzzle that was frustrating the heck out of me?”

Colonel William Roane, his wife Elizabeth Judith Ball and their children

Colonel William Roane, his wife Elizabeth Judith Ball and their children

I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and got stuck into researching the women who married Sarah and William’s sons. Thankfully, with only two sons, the research at this level took a fraction of the time it had taken so far.

It soon became apparent that I only had a DNA match with one of the wives: Anne Henry (1767 – 1799), wife of Judge Spencer Ball Roane (1762-1822) – and daughter of the American Revolutionary hero, Patrick Henry. My DNA matched on her paternal Henry, Winston, Roberston and Pitcairn lines. I also matched on her maternal Sheldon line.

The Pitcairn name jumped out at me immediately. Let’s just say nearly 30 years living in the UK spent in the company of a number of friends from a certain sphere – you learn something about the really old English families. I noted the Pitcairn name, put a question mark against it, and proceeded to look at Anne and Spencer’s sons. Or, more accurately, I researched the families of the women they married.

Spencer Ball Roane, his wife Anne Henry and their children

Spencer Ball Roane, his wife Anne Henry and their children

William Henry Harrison RoaneAfter weeks tracing the descendants of Spencer Roane, there was only one line that produced matches on the maternal and paternal side that were closest to me in terms of generations than all the others: the descendants of William Henry Harrison Roane (1787-1822). I finally had him, my 4x great grandfather…the father of George Henry Roane.

I had a feeling about Spencer Roane years ago, when I first started this journey. My direct Roane line is the only line to make heavy use of the name ‘Henry’ as a middle name. I’d always felt this to be a clue. George Henry Roane also named his first born Patrick Henry Roane – allowable if the mulatto George was a family member. I couldn’t imagine the Roane family ever allowing a slave, not related to the family, to name a child after so venerated a Roane family member. And there it was in the DNA, the reason why he was allowed to do so. Patrick Henry was George Henry Roane’s great-grandfather.

Having searched for so long, I can’t even begin to describe the elation of finally having a name. And, with that name, I hope to find either personal or estate, deeds or personal papers from William Henry Harrison Roane that will reveal who George Henry Roane’s enslaved mother was. Discovering her story is going to be one of my top priorities.

It so happens that the Virginia Historical Society has quite a stash of personal papers and plantation records for Spencer Roane and William Henry Harrison Roane.

I basked in the afterglow of this discovery for about half the day. The name Pitcairn popped into my head while I sat sipping on a celebratory latte. I knew that name.

So I hit Burkes Peerage. In a matter of a few hours I had gone from the Pitcairn family to the Sinclair family and there I was in 8th Century Norway and Scotland, in the form of Thebotaw (Theobotan), Duke of Sleswick and Stermace. I was firmly in Viking territory. On that journey back into time, names such as Robert Bruce, Edward I Olaus, Charles the Fat, Thorfin “Skullcleaver” Hussakliffer, Brian Biorn and Kiaval appeared along the way. And then, with further work, there I was in the 7th Century Kingdom of the Franks. I couldn’t – and still can’t – quite wrap my head around it. Never, not once, did I suspect that Patrick Henry came from a line anything like this one.

When you add my Scottish Josey/Jowsie line, the autosomal map below, from AncestryDNA, begins to finally make sense:

autosomal dna countries

The European thumbprint if my autosomal DNA. The areas with purple circles (southern Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland & Western Russia) represent trace DNAmarkers between 3% – 5% – basically, Viking territory

I sent one of my oldest British friends (I’ll call him Lord B) an email outlining my discovery. He rang within 10 minutes, barely able to speak for laughing. Turns out we’re distant cousins – both descended from Robert Bruce. He confirmed what Burke’s and an old book about Scottish peerages already had …the research leading from Robert Bruce to Patrick Henry was indeed correct. Turns out, more than a few of my dear old British chums are my distant cousins. We’ve shared some chuckles over the weekend about that. This certainly explains quite a bit about my love of certain British country pursuits and my sense of ‘home’ when I lived there. And probably explains why certain British and Irish places resonated with me while many did not: The Highlands and the Scottish Isles; Mayo, Cork and Clare in Ireland; and the West Country, Yorkshire and Northumberland in England.

As I’ve shared with my own family, the irony of all of this is not lost on me. Not one iota of it. I am a descendant of Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry…through a slave. That is one tough nut to try and wrap your noggin around. I’m a descendant of a man who, in that speech, also said:

“For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.


“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”

I am elated to finally have an answer to a fundamental familial question. Have no doubt about that. Although that answer is not without a twist.





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Filed under genealogy, ancestry, virginia, Roane family, Genetics

The online etiquette of meeting newly discovered relations from different ethnic groups

So you take a DNA test. And you discover that you have fairly close relations of a different race/culture. What on earth do you do? Ok, what I actually mean is what do you do if you’re American. Emily Post and The Lady didn’t see this one coming. They offer no pearls of wisdom.

You can always start with a friendly ‘Hello’.

There are no etiquette guides to steer one through making contact with newly found family members when they’re of a different ethic group or culture from your own. Especially for Americans. So I let that stalwart of British virtues guide my hand – good old fashioned common sense.

Meeting Sheffey and Roane relations from the white side of the family tree has been a most excellent adventure. And affirming. All those quirks and foibles I thought were inherently my family’s is, actually, fairly common among the Sheffey clan: free thinking & outspokenness (sometimes to our detriment), the fighters of good fights, an entrepreneurial drive and a bent towards being socially minded…and a seemingly mystical  reverence for the Sheffey name. All of these qualities are shared on the European descended and African descended sides of the family. Both sides of the family have embraced one another. It’s been a brilliant thing to see so many branches of the family meeting each other online and sharing laughs as well as family stories.

I haven’t met many Roanes from the European descended side of the family. Those that I have met online have freely shared what they know about their Roane ancestors. By that, I mean wills and tax lists which cite the names of the slaves that their ancestors owned. This has made my family research a thousand times easier. With each new document, I continue to  narrow down the potential candidates that could be my 4x Roane great-grandfather. The Roane family’s tastes for refinement, a certain élan, observance of proper conduct and again, a pride in the family name, also resonates strongly with me. If this is indeed part of my Roane family inheritance, it probably explains my ability to get on rather well in Britain.

I haven’t met many European descended Joseys online. The few I’ve met live in Scotland, the Josey’s homeland. Oh yes, and a Josey descendant in Australia. Meeting Josey family descendants and chatting to them online leads me to believe it is from them that I inherited a fascination for science. In their day, the Joseys held some of the highest medical and scientific offices in the British Empire, generation after generation. In the tine of the Scottish and English Stuart Kings and Queens, they were also savvy courtiers and politicians.

I think the key to establishing these successful cross-ethnic contacts successful was down to my initial approach. There’s no getting around it, when it comes to my American European-descended relations, the slavery issue is an awkward one. This is largely due to how America has chosen to address it, or rather how it has chosen not to address it (oh how I can hear Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter et al gnashing their teeth!). It’s tricky enough making contact with the descendants of people who owned peoples’ African descended ancestors. But when the owners of those enslaved ancestors were also their blood kinsmen and kinswomen, well, that just adds an extra special twist. Just let that idea rattle around inside your head.

It’s like that awkward moment on a date when both parties are thinking ‘are we going to kiss or not’.  I like to get the awkwardness out of the way early on rather than have it hang like some proverbial Sword of Damocles. The longer you leave it, the longer you ignore the elephant in the room, it just becomes this thing that it shouldn’t be. It kind of takes on a life force of its own, that thing that’s ignored. So what I say usually runs along the lines of:  ‘Look, the world was what it was in those times. That was then and this is now. I’m just saying hello and I hope to find out more about our family.” And that ‘our family’ is important. For me, it sets the context of everything. It frames the conversation. And it puts the recipient at his or her ease. They understand where I’m coming from.

One thing about online etiquette, I suggest always re-reading what you want to send someone (email, in-box messages on ancestry or whatever family tree service you use, DNA testing sites, etc) before you send it. Even read it out loud. I receive so many messages – too many, actually – that have an aggressive tone. The majority of the time this tone isn’t intended. Just remember that the person on the other end of the message doesn’t know you, hasn’t ever met you and can’t see or read your facial expression when they open that message or email. Politeness, respectfulness and friendliness go a long way. See – pure Roane right there!

One last bit of genealogy etiquette advice. So you’ve done a DNA test and you’ve emailed people you’re genetically matched to. And someone doesn’t respond to your email or message. Let it go. Their silence doesn’t mean they aren’t excited or intrigued to hear from you. There’s a reason that holds them back from responding. It’s that simple. Frustrating for you, no doubt, but we have to be respectful of other people’s privacy and reasons. Focus on the people who do respond.

In closing, what’s been truly amazing is corresponding with people I’m genetically linked to who live in a completely different part of the world. My Genebase mtDNA and Y-DNA results have linked me people literally all over the globe. I’m in touch with a Jewish cousin who lives in a small town in Hungary, an Egyptian cousin who lives just outside of El-Mahalla El-Kubra, a cousin who lives in the Dominican Republic and one more who lives in Belo Horizonte in Brazil. The last two are also descendants of enslaved Africans. Given the DNA data, it would appear that I share a common Tuareg male ancestor with the chap in Brazil and a common Berber female ancestor with the lady who lives in the Dominican Republic.

We’ll never know the names of the common ancestors we share. The common ancestors I share with each of these cousins were alive anywhere from 25 generations ago (the case with the cousins in Brazil and the Dominican Republic) to 50+ generations ago (the others I mentioned). If you take a generation as being 25 years, that’s a common ancestor who lived around 625 years ago. In the case of 30 generations of separation, that’s an ancestor who lived 1,250 years ago. I have one match on my father’s side who lives in Iran and we’re separated by around approximately 99 generations – 2,475 years ago. I’d love to hear from my Iranian cousin but respect that he hasn’t replied to my email. Given that he lives in Iran, there are probably all manner of reasons why he hasn’t.

So, when making an initial approach to a newly discovered relation…how you say something is as important as what you say.


Filed under ancestry, genealogy, Genetics

In search of: The British Roane family

Most of the time I share a completed family history story. You know, it has all the wrapping, bows ribbons and finishing touches. This isn’t one of those posts. It’s a good thing, really. It’s the perfect illustration for what we all have to go through when researching our ancestors.

Some background to this tale…

Right. So, in previous posts I’ve explained how two different Roane families arrived in the American colonies around the same time in the early 1700s. One Roane family is English and is connected to Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane from Surrey, England. Dear old Charles settled in Virginia. This is the chap I thought I was directly descended from. A DNA test has proven otherwise.

The second Roane family is Scots-Irish. This Roane family is connected to Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, who lived in Argyllsire, Scotland. He was granted an estate in County Antrim due to his service to William III of England. His sons settled in Lebanon County, PA and Essex County, VA. It is from him that I am descended.

Too many trees mis-represent that Archibald Roane is the son of Robert Roane (Charles’s father) and/or Charles ‘The Immigrant’ Roane. He is the son of neither.

A Coat of Arms answers one question

Interestingly, the Scot-Irish Roane family and the English Roane family share the same coat of arms. So there is a link between them somewhere in the mist of Medieval British history. Their common ancestor remains elusive.

Roane Coat of Arms

There is a variation with eagle’s head online, however, I haven’t actually seen that variant associated with the Roane family.  In crypts and in the houses associated with the British Roanes, I have only ever seen the Coat of Arms given above.

At this point, I’m going to quash the fabled link to the ancient Norman noble house of Ruan. The clue that there isn’t a connection between these two families is in their coat of arms. The main de Rouen coat of arms is below:


The coat of arms for la Maison de Rouen (senior branch)

Typically, a ‘cousin branch’ or junior/minor branch of a noble house will share at least one element with the senior branch. There are no such common or shared elements between the two coat of arms. For instance, there is no doubt of the relationship between the senior house of de Rouen and the junior branches of the family in France through the motifs used in the families’ crests.

While the Roanes more than likely did come from Normandy (as suggested by DNA test results), this is about all I can find that they share in common with the noble house of de Rouen.

Coats of Arms can answer important questions

Having a coat of arms opens up some interesting research opportunities. The fact that a Yeoman, or ‘gentleman’, was granted a coat of arms says something about his progress in English society (I’ll get to the Yeoman thing in a bit). When a coat of arms is granted, all manner of information is recorded with that grant. This information will be held at the College of Arms in England and perhaps the Heraldry Society of Sctland

Please do not email either of these organization asking for information. You must make an appointment with them and visit in person. I can’t stress that enough. Really. It doesn’t matter that you don’t live in the UK or anywhere near their respective offices. You must, must make an appointment and visit them in person.

These organizations will have information about who the coat of arms was granted to, the date it was granted, where he was living – and perhaps why it was granted.

The Roanes of Northumberland and York – and being Yeomans

Now, as far as I can see, the oldest known British areas of residence for the Roanes are Northumberland and York. Which, given Norman English history, doesn’t come as a surprise. Land, probate and parish records show Roanes in these two counties as early as the mid-1300s. These Roanes, however, were of the Yeoman class. Yeomans were a kind of ancient prototype for the Middle Classes, without the power or prestige. Yeomans manoeuvred a kind of netherworld, they weren’t peasants owned by the local lord – but they weren’t knights or nobility either. They owned land and/or business and paid taxes which gave them a measure of respectability.

This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a minor noble in the family in the early Norman period of English history.  I just haven’t found one. What I’m finding may either be junior branches; descendants of a minor noble who became commoners. Or, Yeoman was all they ever were.

Tracking this family from Northumberland and Yorkshire, I can see where they branched out and came to reside in southern England, notably in Sussex and Surrey.

I haven’t found a trail that shows them going further north. That isn’t to say one doesn’t exist, I just haven’t found it. Scotland is, after all, really only a hop skip and a jump from both York and Northumberland. They are actually closer to Scotland than they are to London.

Roanes in Scotland

Now what is interesting are some factoids that I’ve found about the Scottish Roane family.

I came across the first snippet when I was searching the Scotland’s People website

Margaret Roane record on the Scotland’s People website

Margaret Roane record on the Scotland’s People website

So there was a definite Roane presence in Scotland as of 1583, approximately 2 generations previous to that of Archibald Gilbert Roane. Sadly, the Scotland’s Peoples website isn’t very generous with free previews, so I was unable to find out more about this Margaret Roane. Surprisingly, there are very few Roanes or Roans cited in its records. But this, at least, gave me something to go on.

The second snippet was this little gem I found on a site about Crogo and Holm of Dalquahairn in Scotland ( ):

[55] James Milligane in Nether Holm of Dalquhairn

April 14, 1698: Obligation by James and Roger McTurke in Upper Holm of Dalquhairn as principal and Robert Grierson, now in Glenshimmeroch, as cautioner, to pay to James Roane in Manquhill the sum of 300 merks and £50, with a terms annual rent, at Lammas 1698, with the ordinary annual rent and £50 of penalty. Dated at Glenshimmeroch and witnessed by James Milligane of Nether Holm of Dalquhairn and John McTurke in Little Auchrae, brother to the granters. Obligation registered Kirkcudbright August 16, 1698.

[Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Deeds 1676-1700, no. 3132]

Naturally, I was curious about the correlation between Glencairn (for Margaret) and Moniaive (the closest place name Google Maps had for James Roane) – and generated the map below:


click for larger image

 As you can see, Margaret and James are within the same region of Scotland. So this, it would seem, is another area associated with the Roane family in Scotland. It gives me a specific casement area to do further research.

Now the other area of Scotland is Argyllshire for Archibald Roane. I plotted the distance from Moniaive to Argyll, and, as you’ll see below, there is a bit of distance between the two.


click for larger image

It gives a rather large search area to investigate.

I’ve begun concentrating on the Argyllshire area. Now whether it has to do with the scarcity of Roanes in the county, or from Archibald’s family’s status, I haven’t found anything about the family through the records for this county. Posterity was definitely the preserve of the Upper Classes.  However, I am surprised that I haven’t been able to find any mention of King William III’s warrant granting Archibald 1) the title of Sir (which is typically associated with a knighthood and garter of some sort) or 2) the landed estate King William III provided Archibald. It’s not unheard of – not finding a digitized record for either…but it is unusual. There’s no question that both of these things happened, I’ve seen it referenced in a Northern Irish account.  However, what I’m after is the holy grail – the actual records.

I feel tempted to apologize for the random snippets of information, But I’m not going to. It’s on honest reflection of an active family history research project. Sometimes all we have to go on are seemingly random threads which may or may not have anything to do with each other. It’s what I love about the process – the quiet little thrill of the chase…and the victory dance (yes, I do have one) when everything finally falls into place.

If you’re going to research this family…

My thoughts on research both the English and the Scots-Irish Roanes are this:

If you’re planning to research the Scots-Irish Roanes, there are a few places to physically go to for research:

  1. Glasgow’s Central Records Office. This should have records and documents pertaining to the family in the area.
  2. Visit Edinburgh: National Records of Scotland
  3. Visit Argyll:  with luck, this will have information about Archibald Gilbert Roane.
  4. Visit Belfast: The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland
  5. Visit Antrim, NI: The records office will definitely have information about Archibald Roane, his estate and, hopefully, his daughters and their descendants as well as any extended family members.
  6. Parish records in the towns and villages where they lived will have records of baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Truly, with the staggering amount of misinformation for this family, physically going through the original records is what’s required to stitch together the history of this family.

If you’re planning on researching the English Roanes:

My thoughts are along the same line as the Scots-Irish Roanes – physically going through the original records. .

  1. London: National records Office and the College of Arms
  2. Visit York: Central Records Office
  3. Visit Ashington, Northumberland: Northumberland Archives Office
  4. The above, in turn, will provide information about the towns and villages the Roanes of Northumberland and York lived in and/or owned property in. The local parish church will have records covering baptisms, marriages and deaths.

I’ve been thinking about using one of those online fundraising services to raise funds to spend a month ding all that I’ve outlined above. Having lived in England for nearly 30 years, I more than understand the British bureaucratic system. And it’s something I would love to do. Who knows!

With this family, I have the feeling that the truth will be far better, and more interesting, than the fiction.

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Filed under ancestry, family history, genealogy, Roane family

The real power of Gedmatch – the reconstruction of slavery-disrupted families in the US

Gedmatch’s best feature just so happens to be its original premise: allowing people who have had their DNA tested through Family Tree, and 23andme to upload their results and connect with long-lost family members. All of this for free too! The benefit is allowing people to make contact with others who have had their DNA tested through with another testing service.

I’ve been blessed to make contact with long lost relations who either live in, or have a connection to, Edgefield County, South Carolina through Gedmatch. The effort that Edgefield-connected African Americans have made in stitching together a slavery-disrupted family tree is phenomenal. The bon ami, the support and the goodwill in freely exchanging family information has been incredible.

And believe me, with enormous families like the Matthews, Harlings, Petersons, Holloways, Settles, Browns, et al – you tend to need all the help you can get.

The stories that have come to light have been brilliant. Simple little things, really. But they give such an insight into the day-to-day lives of our ancestors in Edgefield. The building of a church, the building of a small school for African American children, cousin so-and-so’s baptism, the pride our ancestors felt for their community – it’s the seemingly mundane stories that provide some of the best glimpses into the world of our grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond.

So, for me, this is the true benefit of Gedmatch. By connecting my DNA to others who haven’t tested with Ancestry, I’m making some great family discoveries.

The cool thing is this active community of researchers, who are all related to one another – are succeeding. Bit by bit, record by record, snippet by snippet, the pieces of what I’m fondly calling our ‘super family’ are slowly falling into place.  This has been no mean feat. ‘Slavery-disrupted’. By that I mean the systematic and ceaseless breaking apart of families, generation after generation, for over 250 years. Not all, I admit, but the majority of American slaves suffered this fate. In African American genealogy you will hit this brick wall sooner or later. You hit a point in black genealogy when you only have first names to go on, with only glimmers, hints and almost whispers to go on it trying to fathom the identities of an ancestor’s parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.

So I am grateful that, at least for my Edgefield ancestors, there are many minds at work.

I can’t help but wonder what my Matthews grandmother and Harling great-grandmother would make of our discoveries.

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Gedmatch’s EthioHelix Africa-only DNA admixture test

This is the last post in the series covering free admixture analysis tools and how sub-Saharan admixtures are calculated and reported. You can read the full series of posts here:

The last Gedmatch DNA admixture analysis test I’ve run is the EthioHelix K10 Africa Only test. It is a very interesting test indeed.

The developer of this test has front-loaded an important caveat on the test page: Results are currently only meaningful for persons who are 100% African. Ironically, considering I’m not 100% African, EthioHelix best represents the geographical spread of my African DNA of all the Gedmatch tests I’ve explored.

EthioHelix K10 Africa Only Admixture Proportions


Nilo-Saharan 2.78%
East-Africa2 17.27%
Mbuti-Pygmy 1.40%
East_Africa1 3.17%
Khoi-San 1.52%
West_Africa 41.58%
Hadza 0.73%
Biaka-Pygmy 1.28%
North-Africa 28.50%
Omotic 1.77%


So no, the proportional weightings aren’t quite correct. However, taken as a representational concept, this test shows that many regions of Africa have contributed to my genetic makeup.

One additional EthioHelix test I highly recommend exploring is the Admixture Proportions by Chromosome test.

chromosome-paintingI find the indicative results fascinating:

ethiohelix-chromosomeThe thing that fascinates me about this test (which can be run for any of the admixture tests available on Gedmatch) is the peaks for each region in my chromosomal spread.  I hold my hand up to say I haven’t grasped the significance of the peaks on specific chromosomes. I’m not a geneticist. I just find it amazing that the admixtures I’ve inherited influence some chromosomes and not others. I have some reading to do on this!

If you’re African-American, it’s definitely worth using this analysis option with the HarappaWorld test. Here’s my results:


One of my questions, using the Harappa test above as an example, is why some peoples/regions contribute to almost all of my chromosomes (i.e. Northeast European, Mediterranean and Central Asian/Caucasian) while others are only connected to a handful of chromosomes (i.e. Southeast Asian and Siberian). Does this mean I have fewer ancestors that were Southeast Asian and Siberian? Does time influence a relationship between admixtures and chromosomes? There are so many questions!

So what are my overall takeaways?

It’s definitely a test worth exploring the Gedmatch tests to see which regions of Africa have contributed to your own admixtures. I think that’s the best way to approach such tests. I wouldn’t concentrate too much on the percentages.

Overall, I’d say there is a distinct need in the marketplace for the development of an admixture analysis tool for African and African-descended peoples. Such a test needs to be developed by a team who have a deep and thorough knowledge of African DNA – especially how African admixtures have developed over the eons and how to give a proper weighting to certain aspects of African admixtures. in other words, develop an African-focused admixture analysis tool that is as sophisticated and as refined as comparable tests for European and Eurasian peoples.

In the next post, I’ll be writing about the true genius of Gedmatch: locating long lost relations who have used different DNA testing services.



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Gedmatch’s HarappaWorld admixture test answers my West African results question

I have been covering the challenges of African descended DNA analysis in this series of posts. The children of African descent, particularly those in the Americas and the Caribbean do not have a straightforward genetic inheritance. Through the centuries we have inherited a smorgasbord of genetics from wildly different populations. Putting our non-African inheritance to one side, slaves came from many parts of the African continent. And this is at the heart of my conundrum with the generously donated and free admixture tests available on Gedmatch.

I have been scratching my head over why my Gedmatch admixture test results were so completely skewed to West Africa. The results bore no resemblance to my West African heritage shown on a more comprehensive DNA test taken a year ago via Genebase.

I had my suspicions, namely that the people who have given their time to developing these free analytical tools could only create their analytical tools with publicly available admixture data sets. In other words, they had to work with what they could get. The fault, if there was one, lay in the data sets with which they were working. But I needed proof.

The smoking gun came in the form of the Harappa World test on Gedmatch. I am grateful that the developer of Harappa has been so transparent on the blog he created about this test.

I ran the Harappa test and you’ll see the results below:


S-Indian 0.54%
Baloch 3.43%
Caucasian 6.91%
NE-Euro 15.13%
SE-Asian -
Siberian 0.12%
NE-Asian -
Papuan 0.59%
American 0.94%
Beringian 0.07%
Mediterranean 12.04%
SW-Asian 1.82%
San 0.68%
E-African 2.62%
Pygmy 2.86%
W-African 52.25%

Again, West Africa is wildly out of proportion to what I know to be true. So I went to the Harappa blog ( to investigate. And I found background information on the test that would prove to be a goldmine.

The test uses populations from around the world. Which is great for those of us with complex non-African genetic inheritances. I could get an overall sense once again of just how mixed my admixtures really are. Again, looking at the table above, the non-African results are pretty much in line with what I know about my admixture makeup already. There are some omissions to be sure, but those populations weren’t included in the data sets for this test – it’s always a good idea to really read the background information for these tests to understand what world populations have and haven’t been included and what each test has been designed to measure.

Group results that form this test are shown in the bar chart below (click on the images  below to see a larger image).

harappaworld-admixture-1harappaworld-admixture-2harappaworld-admixture-3harappaworld-admixture-4harappaworld-admixture-5harappaworld-admixture-6harappaworld-admixture-7If I’m understanding this bar chart correctly, populations from the Caribbean and the US are influencing the results for West Africa – and not by a little bit either. The inclusion of either of these populations would drastically skew results for West Africa. Together, the weight they place on this result is dramatic. The Caribbean and the US should be their own categories, and not included within West African results. African descended peoples in either region are the children of Africa, not the progenitors.

Not all slaves who arrived in the Americas and the Caribbean came from West Africa, which is another point to consider. Yes, a sizable percentage of African slaves did come from this region. However, one shouldn’t assume that just because you’re African descended and live in these two regions that the larger part of your African DNA inheritance comes from West Africa. I’m a living example of this with the majority of my African DNA arising from Northwest Africa (Tuareg & Berber) with regions such as North, Central and East Africa contributing far more than my inheritance from either South and West Africa.

Again, kudos to Harappa’s creator for his candor and transparency. In his own words:

“…the admixture components do not necessarily represent real ancestral populations. Also, the names I have chosen for the components should be thought of as mnemonics to ease discussion. I chose them based on which populations in my data these components peaked in. They do not tell anything directly about ancestral populations. The best way to look at these admixture results is by comparing individuals and populations.”

This, in the end, answered my question. I would advocate that such an important qualifier should accompany the test itself.

Casting an eye down the bar chart provided above, making note of the various tribes who comprise results for West Africa, there are many who influence this result. Some I have to question. I will take the Kongo, as an example. The larger part of the Kongo admixture (86%) is attributed to West Africa. In actuality, historically, this is a Northeast African tribe. Which is odd as Northeast Africa is only shown as contributing to 5% f this tribe’s admixture. In my Gedmatch DNA test, the Kongo tribe is attributed to Northeast Africa and accounts for roughly 22% of my admixture from Northeast Africa (Egypt is the largest contributor from this region of Africa at 53% via Genebase).

Again, this isn’t a criticism of the person behind the Harappa DNA analysis test. It’s more to do with the originator of the data set that was produced.

I have a strong feeling that this is the reason behind the skewed West African results for the tests I’ve done to-date on Gedmatch.

I have one more Gedmatch test to run and post about. However, what I will say at this point is that a more refined understanding of African admixtures is sorely needed for these kinds of admixture analysis tests. Personally, I would love for someone who understands the intricacies of Africa, its peoples and African admixtures to develop a Pan-African admixture test that is every bit as comprehensive and detailed as the European and Eurasian focused tests found on Gedmatch. That would be an amazing thing indeed.

I’m fortunate. I found a DNA testing service provider that answered this question for me already. My wish is for others to have a refined and accurately reflective picture of their own African genetic inheritance.

I have one last Gedmatch test to report on. It’s the EthioHelix K10 Africa Only Admixture test. In many ways, I saved the best Gedmatch admixture test for African descended peoples to last.




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Gedmatch’s Dodecad DNA analysis and African DNA results

Continuing the series of posts covering the various genetic admixture analytic tools hosted by Gedmatch, this post covers the Dodecad tool.

The team behind Dodecad carried out an extensive K=3 Admixture analysis of around 130 different populations and about 2,000 individuals from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Using the allele frequency results of this analysis, the Dodecad team were able to create an analytical model that represents West Eurasians, Asians, and Sub-Saharan Africans.

Based on a relatively small genetic sampling, it’s worth understanding that some results will probably be skewed. I’d advise to interpret the proportional results as representative rather than as actual. While not a pan-African continental admixture analytic tool, I was pretty optimistic about the results it would provide.

Before you cast an eye over the results, it’s worth understanding two of the main classification terminology for the Dodecad tests:

  • Palaeo-Africans: Sub-Saharan African tribes including the San, Mbuti and Biaka Pygmy tribes; and
  • Neo-Africans: Sub-Saharan tribes including the Yoruba, Mandenka and Bantu-speaking tribes

Dodecad V3 Admixture Proportions


East_European 3.40%
West_European 16.44%
Mediterranean 9.91%
Neo_African 32.43%
West_Asian 5.46%
South_Asian 1.04%
Northeast_Asian 0.21%
Southeast_Asian 0.95%
East_African 7.10%
Southwest_Asian 0.24%
Northwest_African 3.01%
Palaeo_African 19.81%


Africa9 Admixture Proportions

According to the explanatory notes, the number of SNPs for this analysis is small: there is probably noise in the minor components, but the major components of one’s ancestry should be well-defined. As such, this DNA analytical tool should be used by Africans and African-West Eurasian admixed individuals. It is not meant for people with additional admixture (e.g., South/East Asian or Native American).


Europe 22.78%
NW_Africa 9.23%
SW_Asia 11.21%
E_Africa 3.32%
S_Africa 9.90%
Mbuti 2.17%
W_Africa 36.61%
Biaka 3.03%
San 1.74%

Given my own exceedingly mixed genetic inheritance, I was pretty happy with the basic snapshot of African DNA distribution given above – at least within the African populations that this test covers.

World9 Admixture Proportions

This test was designed to measure Amerindian admixtures.

An important caveat for Americans who suspect that they may have an Amerindian ancestor: trace amounts of Amerindian in this analysis might be attributable to ‘noise’. This component is also found in Siberia, and may represent either backflow from the Americas or the common ancestry of Siberian and Amerindian populations. I suspect that this is the case with my results through what I’ve already known about my genetic links to various Siberian cultures..


Amerindian 1.10%
East_Asian 0.32%
African 56.93%
Atlantic_Baltic 24.20%
Australasian 0.50%
Siberian 0.15%
Caucasus_Gedrosia 6.50%
Southern 9.89%
South_Asian 0.41%


Dodecad K7b Admixture Proportions

This test was designed to focus on the analysis of African contributed admixtures.


South_Asian 0.69%
West_Asian 7.24%
Siberian 0.60%
African 57.92%
Southern 8.49%
Atlantic_Baltic 24.53%
East_Asian 0.52%


Dodecad K12b Admixture Proportions

This test was designed to focus on the analysis of Eurasian contributed admixtures.


Gedrosia* 3.04%
Siberian 0.75%
Northwest_African 0.73%
Southeast_Asian 0.34%
Atlantic_Med 13.33%
North_European 13.57%
South_Asian 0.82%
East_African 6.14%
Southwest_Asian 1.01%
East_Asian -
Caucasus 7.62%
Sub_Saharan 52.65%

* OK, so I had to look this one up. Gedrosia is the hellenized name of an area that corresponds to today’s Balochistan. It mainly includes southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran and a very small section of southwestern Afghanistan


Alongside the Eurogene K-36 Admixture Percentages test, I’m pretty impressed by the suite of Dodecad tests. It’s the closest pan-African DNA analytical tool that I’ve experimented with to-date on Gedmatch.

The more I read about these free admixture analysis tools, the more I begin to realize that the data used to compile them comes from publicly available sources. In other words, there is limited access to data to compile large data sets which would provide truly refined results. The developers deserve props and kudos for spending an inordinate amount of time in developing free analytical tools.

It’s worth bearing the above in mind. If you’re of mixed African descent, my advice is to approach these free analytic tools as basic, illustrative overviews; unless you plan to have a full DNA test done.

Overall, I continue to be amazed at the additional genetic insights are available via an DNA test I uploaded to Gedmatch.

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