The Stories Behind the DNA Discussion Movement

AncestryDNA
13 July 2018
by Ancestry Team

At West Chester University, Dr. Anita Foeman isn’t just teaching a class. She’s leading a movement, one AncestryDNA test at a time.

Meet some of her students.

Amari

At Amari’s predominantly white high school, people would try to define her and say she wasn’t in tune with her blackness. The stereotype was that to be more academically focused was to be “less black.” Taking an AncestryDNA test empowered her with knowledge of her 80% African ancestry (including 30% Ivory Coast, 27% Cameroon/Congo, and 12% Mali) – along with 20% European ancestry. As a future educator, she hopes her knowledge and example will inspire young people to embrace their unique identities. 

Blanca

Blanca has spent half of her life in the United States, where she noticed it was common for people to discuss their ethnic mixes and breakdowns. She always considered herself just Mexican, because Mexico was such a homogenous society despite people having different backgrounds. Before taking her AncestryDNA test, she thought she might find some European or Asian, but knew in her heart she’d still be “just Mexican.” When she received her results she was pleased to see the breakdown. Blanca found she was 48% Native American, which she took to be her Mexican roots, as well as 44% European, including 4% European Jewish, and 2% West Asian.

Bushra

Bushra moved to the US from Pakistan when she was very young. According to Bushra, “In Pakistan, everyone looks the same.” It never occurred to her she was from anywhere else. In the US, people always guessed she was from India or Afghanistan. After 9/11 happened, she felt judged. She decided to take an AncestryDNA test as part of the DNA Discussion Project after two of her friends took the test. Bushra was 77% South Asian, as she expected, given in her culture people are strict about marrying within their communities. But she was also 7% European (including 5% Irish).

Devonte

Devonte has light colored eyes, and people always assumed he was mixed. He knew little of his family story. His mother said he was part Hispanic. His grandfather, like him, identified as fully African American but had very light skin. Devonte had heard about the DNA Discussion Project during his first semester and was excited to take an AncestryDNA test to fill in the gaps in his family story. His test showed an ethnicity estimate of 81% African (with a bit of ethnicity from 7 different regions in Africa including 32% Benin/Togo and 16% Nigeria). He was 18% European, including 10% Ireland, 4% Europe West, and 2% Scandinavia.

Kimberly

Before Kimberly took her AncestryDNA test, she guessed at most she’d discover she was Asian and “slightly European.” Her friends always described her as having a unique look, but she didn’t know all of her origins for certain. At family gatherings she asked if there was any chance she could be part African American, but her family didn’t think so. When she received her results she confirmed her 44% Asian and 19% European predictions, but she was shocked to discover that she had almost 1/4 African ancestry (23%), amongst regions on almost every other continent. Her results made her feel more open and proud.

Michael

Michael took an AncestryDNA test as part of Dr. Anita Foeman’s class. On his mom’s side, his family said he was “100%, no doubts about it, Italian and nothing else in there.” So he expected 50% Italian. On his dad’s side, they were Irish, coming through Ellis Island and settling around Staten Island. When he was awaiting his results, he and has family had a vibrant text message exchange about his mom’s side being just Italian. Instead, Michael’s ethnicity estimate was 28% Europe West, 25% Italy/Greece, 16% Ireland, and 14% Iberian Peninsula. He even got 4% Great Britain and 2% Asia South.

Mona

Mona grew up identifying as Liberian American because of her father; but other than a face, she never knew her biological mother. She hoped to discover that missing piece of her identity and thought it might be Asian or European. She found out she had 95% African ancestry, including 36% Ivory Coast/Ghana and 26% Cameroon/Congo. But she was surprised to discover she had 5% European ancestry (3% of which was Irish). The test expanded her sense of self and made her realize we’re more alike than we think.

Yemisi

Yemisi came from a very well understood background; her mother was Jamaican and her father Nigerian, going back generations. Before taking an AncestryDNA test, she didn’t think there was anything she’d learn about herself that she didn’t already know. Her ethnicity estimate of 55% Nigerian confirmed her father’s deep roots in Nigeria. But her 13% European ethnicity (including 5% Scandinavian and 4% Irish) surprised her. And her 9% Asia East ethnicity estimate, while in line with her knowledge of her Chinese grandmother, made her feel closer to that piece of her heritage.

The students and their stories are changing the conversation about identity and race.

Join the conversation today with an AncestryDNA test