Knowing your ancestral history is an integral part of learning more about yourself. Finding out where exactly in the world you come from has become easier with DNA testing companies like AncestryDNA. But how accurate is this type of testing? And how exactly does it work? In this blog post, we find out if DNA testing can really help you find your African roots.
Coming To America
Many people with African ancestry were brought to American colonies as slaves. Unfortunately, their identification was lost in the process. Those who made it across the Atlantic were labeled as 'black' on arrival. They were also forced to give up their culture and heritage. Today, the descendants of these African slaves live outside of Africa and are seeking their ancestral home.
Back To Africa Movement
Every generation has a back to Africa movement, which began in the 19th century. The concept refers to Americans of African ancestry returning to Africa. Even though the movement in the 19th century failed, the importance of slaves knowing where they come from remained. For the current generation, this movement continues in the form of DNA testing.
How Does DNA Testing Work?
For around $99 (depending on the company and type of testing), you can find out where your ancestors come from. The process is similar across all DNA testing companies and involves the following:
- Register online
- Receive your test kit and instructions
- Give a sample of your DNA — this usually involves spitting into a test kit.
- Mail it back to the DNA testing company.
- Wait for 3-8 weeks for your results.
Does It Work?
Even though the process is extremely complicated, it does work. Simply put, once your DNA is received by the company, your spit sample is digitized. It is then broken down into long strings of C's, G's, T's and A's. Those letters are the four nucleobases of DNA. The DNA companies' algorithms then pull meaning out of the strings of letters. It can then determine where parts of your DNA comes from.
Even though DNA testing has become popular, it also comes with some controversy. In 2020, a particular DNA testing company routinely shared biographical information with law enforcement. For black people, this is particularly concerning as our DNA can be collected, stored, planted, and used against us in criminal proceedings. Handing over your DNA and signing the terms and conditions on testing companies' websites allows them to pass your DNA onto law enforcement.
Knowing, recording, and preserving your family history as a descendant of African slaves is not as easy. With many slaves having children with slave masters, families being separated and having to leave their identity as African people in Africa, knowing who you are as a black person can be tough. But through DNA testing, it has become possible to find out where in Africa you are from. And knowing your ancestral history is essential as it helps us develop a strong sense of who we really are.