Hey African Ancestry fam!
We're back with something really special today: a guest post from a family member, Di Shawn Gandy who wanted to share with us this powerful piece about his dad, genealogy and the gift of knowing who you are. This share was about his special gift to his dad on Father's Day this year. Read on!
I knew there were a few companies out there that offered DNA testing and so I began my quest to find this perfect gift by having my parents and I tested with two DNA companies offering autosomal DNA test revealing our admixture. The results were interesting, but still left me a little unsatisfied. I found that I am seventy-six percent African and twenty-four percent European. I was already aware that branches of my family traced back to Europe, so this information simply confirmed what I already knew. I’d found some of my European ancestors, (white males), but I was on a mission to determine my African ancestry and so was disheartened that I was unable to find anything about them prior to 1870. There were no birth records, names, dates, nothing. I had hit the proverbial brick-wall. But I couldn’t help feeling that they deserved better than to languish as ghosts on my family tree.
Noted culinary, cultural historian, and author Michael W. Twitty writes of the descendants of enslaved Africans, “Thirty percent of our fathers were white men. They were slave-ship crew members, overseers, slave traders, or slaveholders. They were history's largest aggregate of absentee fathers.” Toni Carrier, the nationally recognized genealogist of African American history and culture, says, “DNA is the great equalizer in turning around the unwritten history of the African experience in America. A lot of brick walls have come crashing down with the advent of DNA testing…”
My Dad’s admixture showed he is thirteen percent European and eighty-seven percent African. Thirty-three percent of his African heritage was found in the regions of Cameroon, Congo and Western Bantu People. But the information was still too broad and none of our DNA results from the companies we used were able to give us the answers we were looking for. I needed to find a company that offered both, maternal and paternal DNA testing specific to African lineages.
Inspired by the work of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., I was excited to learn through the documentary, “African American Lives” about AfricanAncestry.com. They were responsible for tracing the African ancestry of notable figures like Oprah Winfrey, Samuel Jackson, Chadwick Boseman and many others back to, not just a region in Africa, but the actual people they descended from. This was amazing news! Not only does AfricanAncestry.com offer both the maternal and paternal DNA tests, but they also have the largest database of African lineages, (over thirty thousand), in the entire world. Through reading the information on the AfricanAncestry.com website, I learned that using the MatriClan, or maternal test kit yielded a higher percentage of receiving a successful African lineage as the Black woman was often the victim of sexual abuse during slavery. This meant the PartiClan, or paternal test could more easily result in uncovering European ancestry.
Through my own research I had found a 4th Great Grandmother in my father’s matrilineage named Mary Purifoy. She was born around 1830 and married Starling Reynolds, my 4th Great Grandfather, but beyond their names I had nothing else. I hoped AfricanAncestry.com could give me more. Fearful of uncovering, yet another branch of European ancestry, I was hesitant, but finally I purchased two MartriClan Test Kits from Africanancestry.com for my parents.
Just a few swabs of my father’s cheek and we were done. I secured the test kit in the package sent to me by AfricanAncestry.com and sent it to their lab. Within a few weeks the results were in! Surrounded by family I presented my Dad with this very special Father’s Day gift. It was a gift, not only for him, but for everyone in my family who were the descendants of Mama Mary Purifoy.
The DNA result from AfricanAncestry.com certified that my Dad shares maternal genetic ancestry with Limba People living in Sierra Leone. We were all overcome with emotion, but the look on my Dad’s face was priceless. I’ll never forget what he said to me when I gave him the gift he would never forget. He said, “Son, I knew we came from Africa, but I never thought we would know exactly where in Africa we come from, but also the tribe to which we belong. Thank you.”
Yes, thank you, AfricanAncestry.com for one of the best gifts I could ever have given my Dad for Father’s Day. Now our entire family is planning to take a trip back HOME to Sierra Leone with AfricanAncestry.com’s Family Reunion. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!"
You know we love to see it! Di Shawn, know that we are so proud of your work, your desire to dig deeper and the thoughtfulness behind such a powerful gift for your parents! Wonderful gift, indeed! 😊✊🏿
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