african ancestry

African Ancestry Review

Unfortunately, the vast majority of genealogy and DNA testing databases are primarily Eurocentric, containing large amounts of information on Western European ancestries. This means lots of people in Europe and North America can easily delve into some genealogy research, filling in the blanks and building a family tree. 

what is genealogy

Genealogy is enhanced by genetics, which can give a new dimension of information about a person’s heritage. People from non-European backgrounds, and particularly African or indigenous origins, are often grossly underrepresented in such databases. This problem is not limited to genealogy research and is a universal problem in human genetics. 

What is African Ancestry?

African Ancestry LLC is a direct-to-consumer DNA testing company founded in 2003. African Ancestry is the leading advocate for tracing the lineages of people of African descent. People of African descent do not have the same access to genetic resources as people from European backgrounds due to the lack of information in DNA databases. To combat this, African Ancestry has compiled a comprehensive database of African DNA samples. In a powerful TEDTalk, the co-founder of African Ancestry said:

“What if your forefathers and foremothers didn’t come through Ellis Island or Plymouth Rock? What if they weren’t recorded as human beings until the late 19th century? What if it was illegal for them to get married or to read or write? Where do you begin without those pieces?”

As a result of the slave trade, many African Americans do not know their family’s original surname, what village they came from, their ethnic group, or their native language. DNA testing becomes a crucial resource for these individuals when they seek insights into their heritage. The information contained in DNA cannot be erased; it can be used to fill in the gaps that history created. To uncover the secrets contained in DNA, you must first have a reference database with which to compare samples.

This is where African Ancestry comes in. The company specializes in tracing African lineages. To establish their database, they collected 30,000 African samples from 40 countries and 400 ethnic groups. A large and varied database is crucial for distinguishing between ethnic groups. Africa is the second-largest continent in the world. It is highly diverse, with 54 countries an estimated 2,000 languages, and 3,000 ethnic groups, with distinct cultures. The more African DNA samples you have and the more diverse they are, the better chance you have of being able to trace ancestry to more specific regions. 

If you use one of the other companies, you might get “African” or “West African” but no new information about specific ethnic groups or geographical locations. With their comprehensive database of African samples. African Ancestry can uncover your ethnic group of origin. Their database includes over 30,000 maternal and paternal lineages from more than 30 countries and several hundred ethnic groups. For reference, the largest competitor has less than 2,000. 

This test is not suitable for people not of African descent, who have a choice of many other tests on the market.

What does African Ancestry offer?

African Ancestry offers two DNA tests: the MatriClan™ Test and the PatriClan™ test. They also extend their reach by promoting Family Reunions, a cultural trip aimed at reconnecting you with your ancestors.

The MatriClan™ Test reveals your African country of origin and ethnic group on your mother’s side. It does this by analyzing the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that both males and females inherit maternally. The test is capable of revealing your mother’s maternal roots from 500 – 2,000 years ago. It does not distinguish close relatives; mtDNA will be the same between siblings and relatives on your maternal line. If you are a female, you will pass your mtDNA down to your children. 

The PatriClan™ Test uncovers your African country of origin and ethnic group on your father’s side. The test traces paternal ancestry by analyzing the Y chromosome, which men inherit from their fathers. Only males carry a Y chromosome, so this test is only suitable for males. However, if they want to trace their ancestry on their paternal side, women can get a male relative (such as their father, grandfather, brother, or uncle on their father’s side) to take the test for them. The PatriClan™ test reveals your father’s paternal roots from 500 – 2,000 years ago, and the results will be the same for all male relatives.

African Ancestry tells you where in Africa that branch (maternal or paternal) of your family tree goes back to, not how much African ancestry you have. So your results will not have a percentage that indicates how much African DNA you possess (unlike in some other tests which use ethnicity estimates).

African Ancestry Family Reunions are ‘specially curated all-inclusive birthright journeys.’ African Ancestry has teamed up with the tourism industry and designed trips that allow you to travel to your country of origin, and immerse yourself into the culture. These tests are exclusive to people who have taken the MatriClan™ or PatriClan™ tests

How does the testing process work?

African Ancestry will send you a testing kit, which involved swabbing the inside of your cheek to collect DNA from the skin cells. You then send the test back to them. Within 8-10 weeks of them receiving your completed kit, you will receive your results online.

What technology do they use?

African Ancestry does not publicly declare their DNA testing technology.

Value for money

Both the MatriClan™ and PatriClan™ Test kits are $299 USD. If you purchase both products in one order, you can save $25 per kit. They also offer a Family Celebration Kit, which costs $699 and contains both kits, additional personalized certificates, and t-shirts. To help spread costs, African Ancestry offers payment plans starting at $25 per month. 

Verdict

African Ancestry is absolutely the tool to use if you likely have roots in Africa and want to uncover your ethnic origins. African Ancestry is the only company on the market that can trace your ancestry back to a specific African country and ethnic group as far back as 500 years ago. African Ancestry has much more power than the competition to determine specific African ethnic backgrounds. Another interesting thing about African Ancestry is that they do not biobank your samples, which most DNA testing companies do. They destroy your DNA after use, and do not sell data to third parties.

However, African Ancestry doesn’t use autosomal DNA in their tests, so if you were interested in your non-maternal or paternal-specific DNA, you might select another option. The tests are also more expensive than other options on the market, but for tracing African lineages, they are unrivaled.

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