New discoveries around culture, identity, and family history reveal African Americans are their own “melting pot,” with an average of three or more African regions as part of their family history.

New Science Leads to New Discoveries

Thanks to cutting-edge genetic science, African Americans are making new discoveries about their ethnic origins.

Genetic scientists at AncestryDNA can now identify 26 ethnicities from around the globe, including 9 from regions in Africa. This is a recent improvement. Only a few months ago, all of West Africa was lumped into one ethnic region.

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west africa one region


Recent discoveries have allowed scientists to now identify 6 ethnicities in western Africa: Benin/Togo, Cameroon/Congo, Ivory/Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. This means test-takers can now get a finer-grained view of their Western African roots.

west african six regions


On average, African American test-takers wind up with between three and four African regions as part of their genetic ethnicity estimate.

How They Do It

AncestryDNA has a unique collection of DNA samples from individuals all across Africa. Scientists look at this data for clusters of individuals based on genetic similarity. The points in the graph below (on the left) are colored by the part of West Africa in which the samples were collected (see the map to the right to coordinate colors with locations).

african color groups


Interestingly, people group by color, which means their genetic data tends to group by geographic region. This is one way scientists can use an individual’s DNA to say something about where in the world their ancestors came from.

“AncestryDNA is connecting customers of African descent to the people and cultures that are part of their heritage,” says Dr. Ken Chahine, Senior Vice President and General Manager of AncestryDNA. “And that can be a really exciting discovery for those whose family history journeys have been cut short.”

Journeys that may have been almost impossible just a few months ago.


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