View Full Version : So.... why would I have East African ancestry?

02-27-2014, 04:52 AM
When I first got the results from 23andme, I was a bit surprised to discover that the standard estimate indicated that there was a Sub-Saharan African segment on chromosome 3, and because of my curiosity, I decided to send along the results to Doug McDonald for analysis. He verified the African segment, saying that I was 0.2% African rather than 0.1% as 23andme indicated. I figured that it probably wasn't statistical noise if Dr. McDonald felt it was legit, and I concluded it was mostly likely from my Southern U.S. colonial ancestry, with minor African ancestry being common due to the slave trade.

I'll post Dr. McDonald's results here:


I looked back at my 23andme results after this latest update, where it broke down non-European ancestry further (high five for them doing that--just wish they'd have done it earlier), and it indicated that it was not West African ancestry, but East African ancestry. I was very surprised, as there is little to no East African ancestry in Black Americans in the United States descended from the Atlantic slave trade. Here it is, now under the speculative estimate rather than the standard like it was before:


I kind of wondered if it was a fluke, or if perhaps I won the chance lottery and was descended from a slave in Mozambique, or something. But, as I ran my results through gedmatch, virtually all the tests that include a Sub-Saharan African component indicated that it was there in that same spot on chromosome 3, and if it differentiated East African from West African DNA, it would show up as East African. I won't post all of the paintings from chromosome 3, because you get the picture. However, it convinced me that I most likely indeed have legit East African ancestry from about 200-300 years ago.

So, I'm just wondering from all you history buffs out there... how would I have East African ancestry?? I'll tell you a bit about my known ancestry: my mother's family is Southern colonial, with almost all of her ancestry going back to the British Isles, primarily England. Her side of the family has been in the U.S. for a long time though, with some ancestors who lived in Jamestown. My father's side of the family compose of more recent immigrants to the Americas, comprising of Belorussian, Polish, Frisian, Irish, English, and Anglo-Canadian components. In other words, his side of the family isn't too conducive to having any recent African ancestry at all.... but, I think it may come from his side of the family because under the speculative view, the African segment is on the same side as an Eastern European segment, and I completely doubt my mother has any Eastern European components (but I suppose you never know). The only thing I can think of that may have introduced East African ancestry to my dad's side of the family may have been through the Arab slave trade... or maybe it was just some kind of individual happenstance that brought an East African to Europe a few centuries ago. At any rate, the picture seems dark.

So, tell me... were there any interesting or little-known historical events that could make this plausible? I'm just spitballing some jokey options here, but were any Kenyans sent to Quebec as slaves, for example? Did any Russians explore Ethiopia and bring back wives? Or is it just a strange twist of my past that can't be explained?

02-27-2014, 10:35 AM
In the excerpt below, note that the word most implies not all. In other words, some Ethiopian pilgrims to Rome were laypeople who would not have been bound to a vow of celibacy.

Wikipedia article on the Pontifical Ethiopian College in Rome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Colleges#Collegio_Etiopico)
The historical origin of the Pontifical Ethiopian College in the Vatican goes back to the arrival in Rome of Ethiopian pilgrims in the 15th century. To those pilgrims, most of whom were monks Pope Sixtus IV in 1481 granted the Church of St. Stephen Proto-Martyr with the outlying building just behind the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. Hence it was given the name of St. Stephen of Abyssinians, a denomination it bears to this day. Under Pope Leo X both the Church and the house were turned to a monastery for Ethiopian monks with its proper constitution. On his turn Pope Paul III, who as a Cardinal had formerly been its protector, rendered definitive the concession of the institute to the Ethiopians by signing a brief of acknowledgment in 1548. In the mean time the monastery of St. Stephen became an important center of Ethiopian studies and culture. For the first time printing in Ge’ez (Ethiopic) characters took place there with the publication of the Psalms in 1513 and later the New Testament in 1548/9, Many Ethio-Eritrean scholars attained their knowledge and necessary information from the members of that community, some of them were very learned men. They owned several pergameneous Codices, which are now in the Vatican Library. Inside St. Stephen’s, one may observe a number of marble plaques recording some facts on the life and deeds of those beloved sons of Ethiopia, which includes also the present Eritrea.