In one of his final interviews at CNN, Piers Morgan sat down with Vanessa Williams to discuss…spitting.
Actually, Vanessa was excited to talk about the results of her recent DNA test. These included a breakdown of her ethnic background that reveals some English ancestry: genetically speaking, Williams appears to be about 17 percent British Isles.
“You’re one of us,” Morgan exclaimed.
Being an African American presents its own challenges when it comes to family history.
“It’s kind of a mystery to try to figure out where you’re from, even in Africa,” Williams pointed out. But DNA testing is providing an exciting new way for African Americas to begin the hunt.
Autosomal DNA tests like AncestryDNA determine a person’s likely ethnicity breakdown by comparing a test subject’s DNA sample to a reference panel. AncestryDNA built its reference panel from a large collection of DNA samples from people whose genealogy suggests they are native to one region. They used this panel to create genetic profiles for 26 different ethnic regions.
What’s even more exciting for African Americans is that recent discoveries have allowed AncestryDNA scientists to identify 6 ethnic regions 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. On average, African American test-takers wind up with between three and four African regions in their genetic ethnicity estimate.
Comparing Vanessa Williams’ sample to these profiles revealed an ethnicity breakdown that indicated both West African and European roots. Her African ancestry includes ties to Ghana (23%), Cameroon/Congo (15%), Benin/Togo (13%), and Senegal (5%). Meanwhile, along with British roots, Williams boasts Finland/Northwestern Russia (12%), Southern European (11%), and Portuguese (4%) ancestry.
DNA testing is only one avenue Williams has traveled to reconstruct her past. You can listen to the rest of the interview, including stories about Williams’ free and slave ancestors, here.