Take a look:
This is a map of AncestryDNA's "Ethnic Estimate" for my uncle. Essentially, they compared his DNA to that of several thousand other people native to various regions of the world, to find out with whom he had the most in common. His results show (surprise, surprise) that the vast majority of his DNA ties him to people from West and Central Africa. Here's a more specific breakdown:
AncestryDNA gets a little more specific in the overviews that they provide of each region, in terms of the particular ethnic/cultural groups you might be related to. For my uncle, this meant a possible connection to the Bamileke and Bamum peoples in Cameroon/Congo, the Akan and Ashanti in Ivory Coast/Ghana, the Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo in Nigeria, and the Wolof, Fula, Serer and Mandinka in Senegal. However, the site is very clear that "while a prediction of genetic ethnicity from this region suggests a connection to the groups occupying this location, it is not conclusive evidence of membership to any particular tribe or ethnic group."
Overall, the general breakdown of regions makes a lot of sense when you think about the history of the slave trade between Africa and the Americas. Most enslaved Africans came from the region between Senegal and Angola, and so you can expect to find ancestry from those regions in many, if not most, African Americans who are descended from enslaved people. (Click here for a map that shows the general flow of enslaved peoples from Africa to the Americas between 1500 and 1900.)
Similarly, it's not surprising that my uncle has trace amounts of European ancestry: another legacy of slavery and the unequal balance of power that persisted afterwards is that many children were born to black mothers and white fathers. Sometimes these relationships were consensual. Quite often, they were not, or were only marginally so.
If you're interested in reading more about the Atlantic Slave Trade, some resources I've used in my other life as an educator in African American institutions include:
- The Understanding Slavery Initiative: http://www.understandingslavery.com/
- The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: http://www.slavevoyages.org/
- The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition: http://glc.yale.edu/outreach/teacher-programs/glc-online-teaching-resources/featured-topics
- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/slavery-and-anti-slavery/resources/facts-about-slave-trade-and-slavery
- The International Slavery Museum: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/slavery/
Well, yes and no. One of the key reasons for taking the test was to see if we could find out who the father of my grandfather, Louis Shepherd, was. This would be my uncle's paternal grandfather. AncestryDNA's closest matches for my uncle are guesstimated as being anywhere from 4th - 6th cousins, meaning their closest shared relative would be anywhere from a 3x Great Grandparent (a great-great-great-grandparent) to a 5x Great Grandparent. And they could be related through either branch of my uncle's tree.
My next step is to connect his DNA results to my tree so that Ancestry can do its own matching and hopefully provide some hints. Once my southern sojourn is over - the countdown has begun - I'll dig in and get to work!