I Got My AncestryDNA Results Back, and I’m About 40 Percent African. I’m Going to Wakanda!

Illustration for article titled I Got My AncestryDNA Results Back, and I’m About 40 Percent African. I’m Going to Wakanda!
Photo: Simona Noce (Panama Jackson personal archive)

I got my results back from AncestryDNA. About damn time, too. I was like a crackhead, checking my email every single day HOPING I’d get an email letting me know that my results were ready and available, and every day there’d be nothing. At some point, I almost called them like they were holding up my tax refund and I’d waited the requisite 21 days before calling to inquire about my money. As if.


I’ve always been interested in DNA testing, especially as it relates to ancestry and genealogy. Identity matters, and there’s a lot you can learn about yourself when you know where you came from.

Obviously, for some of us in the population, how far back you can go (and how much you can actually discern) involves difficult terrain to traverse. White folks really fucked everything up back in the day (and aren’t really doing that much better now). Which is why I’ve been amused—with sympathy, of course—at the various stories I’ve read about people uncovering secrets in their families from doing DNA testing.

Of course, DNA testing is not an exact science and should not be treated as such. If you do enough tests, DNA testing can end up being more confusing than anything. And, also, if you only do one, you can find out that your entire family history is a fraud. The more you know. Ding. The possibilities are truly endless.

When I decided to do this AncestryDNA kit, I went to Facebook to ask folks what percentage African they thought I’d be. Those responses varied widely. Some folks thought I’d be as little as 15 percent African; others thought I might (optimistically) check out around 60 percent. I knew that wasn’t a possibility. My own #DNAGoals? I was hoping for more than 25 percent on the “I’ll take it” end of the spectrum to 40 percent on the “WE’RE GOING TO WAKANDA and never coming back!” end.

Pre-DNA testing, here’s what I knew of my background from talking to family: On my mother’s side, she was born and raised in France, the product of a Polish father and French mother. My great-grandmother was, I believe, originally from Germany but raised in France, maybe (when I met her, she lived in Canada). I don’t know anything at all about my maternal great-grandfather. In fact, UNTIL I just typed that sentence, I’d never once thought about his existence; nor have I ever heard his name (or existence) mentioned.

On my father’s side, well, he’s a black man from Alabama, and you know how that goes. My grandfather was also a black man from Alabama, and you also know how that goes. My grandmother, though, is alleged to have been Native American, or at least to have had a substantial amount of Native American blood. You take one look at her—RIP—and you’d probably assume she was a Native American through and through. Either way, on my dad’s side, obviously, we’re descendants of slaves.


So, how did my own results shake out? Turns out that I’m pretty mixed and ain’t no scandals, bih.

The largest percentage of my DNA registered being Eastern European at 27 percent, which makes sense. My grandfather is from Poland, which is included in the Eastern Europe bucket. Next up was Cameroon/Congo at 14 percent, followed by Great Britain at 12 percent (which, oddly, on maps includes some of France, the part my family would be from), and then Nigeria at 11 percent.


If you’re doing the math at home, that’s 64 percent of my DNA. Those are the major four for me, which for some people, is much higher. I still have 36 percent to account for. And where does that DNA come from?


Mali, Ivory Coast/Ghana and Europe South (which includes Italy, Greece and Albania, etc.) all check in at 5 percent apiece. Europe West and Scandinavia come in at 4 percent, Ireland/Wales at 3, along with Africa Southeastern Bantu, which is pretty much like thousands of miles of Africa, including Zimbabwe and South Africa, etc. There are several smaller percentages that also figure in there.

When I add up all of my African DNA, I end up right about at 39 percent, which I’m rounding up to 40 percent for the culture. Considering that my mother is straight outta Europe, that’s not bad. When you also consider that my father is a black man from Alabama clearly descended from slaves, you know there was some race mixin’ going on. Also, it turns out that my folks got around, clearly. They’re my family, so I won’t say anything too negative. There’s no point in bringing up old stuff at this point.


So that’s my story—I’m exactly who I thought I was. Mostly European and African. No scandals around here, or at least no surprises, save for the lack of Native American DNA. Though, when you dig into the tests and how DNA is calculated, your pool is dependent on who else has taken the tests, so it’s entirely possible that specific subgroups are vastly underrepresented because nobody in those groups is actively paying for and submitting DNA samples. It ain’t like these joints are free. As more people do it, the better the estimates will get.

For now, I’m still going to Wakanda when tickets go on sale. Right after I get those Jay and Beyoncé tickets that up and disappeared.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.


boomchampion, uppity negress

Panama, i have questions: Did you use the pseudonym DwayneWhite? How did you choose Ancestry over say, 23 and me?

I have been wanting to do one but don’t fancy being in someone’s DNA database. I can do it as Duana White I guess.....then again matrilineal tells you less and my parents made no boys. Meh.