African Roots (DNA)

229 British African Caribbeans took part in a unique study to trace their genetic roots and family history. They all gave DNA samples to try to find out where in Africa their families originated from. When the results were analysed together, some striking conclusions were drawn about British African Caribbean heritage.

One quarter of British African Caribbean men have a direct European male ancestor
The study reveals that, on average, one in four British African Caribbean men have a Y chromosome that traces back to Europe rather than Africa. As the Y chromosome is passed from father to son, this shows that one quarter of the volunteers’ male ancestors were European. So, whether it was through rape, consent or even affection, many white slave owners impregnated their African slaves.

“[This] really reflects the sexual politics of the situation of slavery. This was a power relationship between these two populations and in that power relationship it was European men who were having sex with African women.”

Dr Mark Jobling from the University of Leicester who analysed the Y chromosome data

Female ancestors were African

By contrast only about 2% of British African Caribbeans have mitochondrial DNA that traces to Europe. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child, so these results show that, on the whole, the volunteers’ female ancestors were African.

Majority of ancestors were African

One quarter of men and 2% of women who took part have European ancestors. So the survey shows that the vast majority of British African Caribbean’s are descended from the millions of Africans who were shipped across the Atlantic to work as slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations.

Ancestry and skin colour

Dr Mark Shriver from Penn State University examined the link between ancestry and skin pigmentation. He didn’t look at mitochondrial or Y chromosome DNA for this, instead he studied DNA which is mixed up every generation by a process known as recombination.

He concludes that although African ancestry can be a rough guide to how light or dark a person is, appearances can be deceptive. After in-depth research into his own origins, he discovered that although he looks like a white North-American, he is, in fact, 25% African.

Female ancestors were African

By contrast only about 2% of British African Caribbeans have mitochondrial DNA that traces to Europe. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child, so these results show that, on the whole, the volunteers’ female ancestors were African.

Majority of ancestors were African

One quarter of men and 2% of women who took part have European ancestors. So the survey shows that the vast majority of British African Caribbean’s are descended from the millions of Africans who were shipped across the Atlantic to work as slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations.

Ancestry and skin colour

Dr Mark Shriver from Penn State University examined the link between ancestry and skin pigmentation. He didn’t look at mitochondrial or Y chromosome DNA for this, instead he studied DNA which is mixed up every generation by a process known as recombination.

He concludes that although African ancestry can be a rough guide to how light or dark a person is, appearances can be deceptive. After in-depth research into his own origins, he discovered that although he looks like a white North-American, he is, in fact, 25% African.

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