More definitive conclusions can be drawn when multiple people from one family take an autosomal DNA test, such as 23andMe, and chromosome segments can be analyzed, compared, and triangulated. Currently, in 23andMe, that is possible only if test takers are taking time to accept requests to share genomes from their DNA matches. This is very important. Collaborative cooperation can lead to great findings. Shortly, 23andMe will be making major changes to their system, allowing easier genome-sharing between DNA matches. I am hoping for drastic improvements, so we will see. Read about 23andMe pending changes from DNA expert Shannon Christmas’ blog HERE.
When I received my maternal uncle John Reed's 23andMe results on April 4, 2015, I immediately looked at his ancestry composition. To my surprise, over 80% of his X chromosome was of Native American descent. I have since figured out that my uncle received nearly all of his X-DNA from his maternal grandmother, Mary Danner Davis (1867-1932). I also noticed that his ancestry composition included 0.5% South Asian DNA. At first, I contributed that to him having Native American ancestry since certain forms of Asian DNA have been linked to Native Americans. My theory turned out to be inaccurate. I have since discovered that he inherited his South Asian DNA from his father, my maternal grandfather, Simpson Reed (1881-1955).
My Uncle’s 23andMe Ancestry Composition
Fast forward to two months later. In June, I finally identified the father of Granddaddy Simpson Reed’s mother Sarah Partee Reed; she was born into slavery around 1852 on Squire Boone Partee's plantation in Panola County (Como), Mississippi. DNA matches, oral history, and genealogy research finally pinpointed Prince Edwards (born c. 1830) as Grandma Sarah's father. Read more about that discovery HERE. Grandpa Prince had been enslaved by William Edwards Sr., who was Squire Partee's father-in-law and neighbor. Along with that discovery was the DNA confirmation of a brother of Prince named Peter Edwards (born c. 1835). Uncle Peter and his 12 children settled in Oklahoma by 1910. This DNA discovery enticed more of Uncle Peter's descendants to take the 23andMe test. Collectively, our DNA results are revealing some interesting things about our family history.
Presently, four descendants of Uncle Peter Edwards have taken the 23andMe test. Three have taken the AncestryDNA test. Three other descendants of Uncle Peter recently ordered 23andMe kits! My mother and I, her brother and sister, their paternal first cousin, and three second cousins make up the eight descendants of Grandpa Prince Edwards who have tested with 23andMe thus far. Comparing our DNA in 23andMe with the four currently tested descendants of Uncle Peter has revealed that my uncle inherited that South Asian DNA from his great-grandfather, Prince Edwards!
Being direct evidence, three matching chromosome segments between Uncle Peter’s great-grandson Brian Edwards and three of Grandpa Prince’s descendants were on sections where South Asian DNA exists. In other words, Cousin Brian matches my uncle John Reed on chromosome 2, from point 209 to 216 Mbp (6.3 cM). Both have South Asian DNA in this section of their chromosome 2. Cousin Brian matches my mother’s paternal first cousin Armintha on chromosome 7, from point 3 to 20 Mbp (30.7 cM). They both have South Asian DNA in this section of their chromosome 7. Also, Cousin Brian matches my mother and her sister on chromosome 10, from point 122 to 127 Mbp (11.5 cM). All three of them possess South Asian DNA in this section of their chromosome 10. This clearly indicates that they all inherited their South Asian DNA from a common ancestor – one of the parents of Prince and Peter. Additionally, all descendants, except two, had South Asian DNA, from 0.1 to 1.8%. I also noticed something else of great significance. All of us, except my uncle, also had Southeast Asian DNA, ranging from 0.1 to 1.1%. Interestingly, GEDmatch’s Dodecad V3 Admixture Proportions tool shows higher Asian percentages for each of us.
Uncle Peter Edwards’ great-grandson Brian shares a matching chromosome segment in his yellow region (South Asian) of Chromosome 2 with my uncle, who is a great-grandson of Grandpa Prince Edwards.
To be sure of the commonality of having South Asian DNA, I looked at the ancestry compositions of many of my other 23andMe DNA matches of African descent. A small percentage of people possess South Asian DNA. Therefore, having this DNA reflected something. What was it? Did we have an ancestor from India or Pakistan? Or was this South Asian DNA an indicator of something else? On my father’s side, I had already become aware that ancestors from Madagascar, an island located 250 miles off the southeastern African coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean, may transfer Southeast Asian DNA to their descendants. What about South Asian DNA?
T.L. Dixon, a DNA scholar in the Malagasy Roots Project Facebook group, confirmed that South Asian DNA may be an indicator of a Madagascar ancestor. He further stated, “The range seems to be from 0% to 25%, based on my family's Malagasy ancestors….You should also note the Southeast Asian clusters very closely to South Asian (India subcontinent), so the algorithm may show percentages in both categories.” Another DNA scholar, Teresa Vega, who has also extensively researched her Madagascar ancestry, also explained that she has both Southeast Asian and South Asian admixtures in her ancestry composition. Her extensive research can be read HERE.
The ancestry composition of a Malagasy shows 22.2% South Asian DNA
and 20.5% Southeast Asian DNA
and 20.5% Southeast Asian DNA
(Courtesy of TL Dixon)
Of the approximately 450,000 enslaved Africans who were transported to America over the course of the transatlantic slave trade, only about 4,800 of them were from Madagascar. That is way less than 1%. They were transported via 17 documented slave voyages into New York and Virginia from Madagascar. Of that total, from 1719 to 1725, around 1,400 enslaved Africans from Madagascar were disembarked into Virginia through the Rappahannock and York River ports. Additionally, more were transported to the Caribbean, especially Jamaica and Barbados. In Exchanging Our Country Mark, Michael Gomez describes how those particular Africans transported into Virginia were "yellowish" in complexion and had hair like a "Madagascar's" (p. 41). Madagascar’s inhabitants are called the Malagasy people, and they speak a language by that name. Sources note that many of the Malagasy people possessed light skin and facial features very akin to people in Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Many others possessed darker skin and curly hair. Geneticists have determined that all of the Malagasy people descend from ancestors from Africa, as well as from Asia, specifically Borneo (Source). As time passed in America, Malagasy Africans were often and mistakenly labeled as “Indians,” or “Black Indians” or even “Native Americans.” Some may have even become labeled as “Blackfoot Indians.”
Interestingly, my great-grandmother Sarah was rumored as having Native American ancestry. Even one of her sons possessed “cold black,” curly hair that many considered to be a Native American trait. Turns out, that was most probably a Malagasy trait, not the Cherokee Nation. As demonstrated here, Grandma Sarah’s Madagascar roots came from her father, Grandpa Prince Edwards. Oral history revealed that his father was likely an African named Luke Edwards (born c. 1790), who was transported to Virginia from Africa, and eventually taken to Panola County, Mississippi. Oral history collected by my cousin Jeffrey O. Green Ogbar also relayed that Luke’s African name was written down in family records as “Ogba(r) Ogumba.” The name itself suggests Ghana or Nigeria origins, and past DNA testing earmarked Ghana as his origins. Further Y-DNA testing (67 markers) may confirm his origins soon. Therefore, this Madagascar ancestry likely came from Grandpa Prince & Uncle Peter Edwards’ mother. Her name, identity, and actual birthplace in Georgia are currently being confirmed. Stay tuned.
Malagasy Women in Madagascar