Is AncestryDNA a Good Test for African Americans?

As part of my job at Ancestry, I teach people more about DNA and how to interpret their AncestryDNA test results.

One question that comes up is, “Is AncestryDNA a good test for African Americans?”

The short answer is, “Yes.” If you’re African American and considering DNA testing to learn more about your background, our test is a great option.

Here’s why.

Specificity Within Africa

AncestryDNA gives you lots of specificity on where in Africa your ancestors came from.

It breaks down the areas of Africa your ancestors most likely came from into 9 different regions.

AncestryDNA’s 9 African regions.

The three most common regions I’ve noticed in the AncestryDNA test results of customers I interact with and who identify as African American are regions in Western Africa:

  • Cameroon/Congo
  • Nigeria
  • Ivory Coast/Ghana

That makes sense: “Africans carried to North America, including the Caribbean, left from mainly West Africa,” as noted in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

Transatlantic slave trade routes show that most North American slaves came from West Africa.

I have encountered individuals who have ethnicity estimates from all 9 regions of our current regions in Africa.

But most African American test takers I’ve noticed tend to have around 4 or 5 African regions in their AncestryDNA test results.

Answers to Other Lifelong Questions

In addition to learning more about their African ancestors, an AncestryDNA test helps African Americans fill in the blanks about where their European (or Native American or Asian) ancestors came from.

Lezlie’s DNA breakdown.

Lezlie, who you might recognize from our tv spots, was a customer who was continuously asked, “What are you?”

A DNA test finally revealed the answers: Her ethnic mix included Cameroon/Congo, Ghana/Ivory Coast, Great Britain, and even a bit of Asia.

I’ve seen various statistics related to what is the average percentage of European ethnicity for African Americans. From what I’ve seen, African Americans are on average roughly 20% European.

What is far less common is Native American ancestry.

Cheyenne or Arapaho woman, 1879

While many family stories that have been shared with me by African American customers include Native American heritage, in most cases I’ve seen, the Native American stories are not supported by DNA and family history.

But you never know. Tyra Banks, for example, took an AncestryDNA test and found a 6% Native American ethnicity estimate.

And even if you don’t find Native American heritage, chances are you will be surprised by what parts of the world show up in your results. Vanessa Williams took an AncestryDNA test and was surprised to discover she was 12% Finnish.

Bringing Your American Ancestors to Life

With AncestryDNA, your family story doesn’t stop with your family’s origins on other continents like Europe and Africa.

Your saliva can actually tell you where they likely first lived when they came to America – and what migration paths they may have taken once they got here. where they migrated.

You might know where your grandparents lived and their parents lived, but do you know where their ancestors lived?

Amazingly, your DNA could tell you.

Maybe they were among the Early Settlers of Georgia & Florida Early Settlers of Mississippi & Louisiana.

Or maybe they were part of the Virginia & Southern States African Americans, who began to migrate to the north in 1900.

And if you wanted to learn more about what your family was up to in the 1800s – and even before – Ancestry has billions of records you can search.

My colleague and long-time Ancestry customer Jason Atwater learned that his enslaved ancestor, Darby Duncan, was a New Orleans-trained cook on a plantation in Virginia.

Jason at his ancestor Darby’s restaurant.

Jason and his family visited the plantation, including the restaurant, Darby’s Tavern, named after his ancestor.

If you’re African American and curious to learn more about your family story, Ancestry provides you with a wealth of knowledge.

You’ll learn more about your ethnic mix, what percentage of your DNA comes from what part of the world, broken down into 150+ regions.

And you may also get insights into where in America your ancestors lived many generations ago and what forces compelled them to move around the country.

What will you discover about your African American heritage? Take an AncestryDNA test to find out.

– Anna Swayne, AncestryDNA expert




Past Articles

Walking With My Enslaved Ancestors

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For last-minute shoppers, the perfect holiday gift is something that’s thoughtful yet requires little advance planning. That can be hard to come by in the mall. What if you could find a deeply personal, last-minute present that opens up a world of possibilities? An AncestryDNA kit is just that—and a great choice for everyone on your list. Read More

My Dad Went From Being an Only Child to One of Five

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AncestryDNA: How Does It Stack Up Against the Competition?

Genetic testing is generating increasing interest among people curious to learn more about their roots, to find out who they are. One option, AncestryDNA, is the #1 selling consumer DNA test, with 5 times more ethnic regions than the next leading test. Here, top publications weigh how AncestryDNA compares to some other tests. TechCrunch The leading Read More

Now I Know My Roots

Jason Atwater wanted to learn more about where in Western Africa his slave ancestors came from. What could his DNA tell him about his African roots? What Jason’s DNA Revealed Jason* was, like many Americans, aware of the history of slavery. He knew, for example, that many of the African people brought to America as part Read More

The Untold Lives of British Convicts Sold to America

Many know that Australia was once a colony of convicts hailing from Britain. But have you heard about America’s very own convict past? One Australian scholar (and Ancestry member) set out to tell their story. Settlers at Jamestown When we think about some of America’s first settlers, the Mayflower landing in 1620 often comes to Read More


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