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Discovering your African roots through DNA testing is tracing roots back hundreds of years

Posted at 6:07 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 18:14:34-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Black adults in the United States are more likely than any other group to see race as central to their identity. For many of those Americans, descended from enslaved Africans, the roots of their identity through ancestry remains a mystery.

“When enslaved people were captured from the continent and brought to the Americas, they lost their names, they lost their languages, they lost the freedom to honor their ancestors,” said Gina Paige, President and Co-founder of AfricanAncestry.com.

Today those ancestors’ descendants are on a quest to reclaim what was taken all those years ago.

“I can only go so far back in my family as far as my great grandparents on one side and grandparents on the other side, and that was not enough for me,” said Evan Chaney, researching his family history.

Unlike his grandparents, Evan could use DNA to pick up, where the paper trail had ended- a test through Africanancestry.com that could trace his roots back hundreds of years to a specific country and ethnic group.

“I learned that on my mother's side I'm the Tikar, Hausa Fulani out of Cameroon,” said Chaney.

WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “What was your reaction when you saw that?"

“You feel a sense of home, and sense of belonging,” said Chaney.

Black Americans across the country jumping on the ancestry wagon -the uptick reflected in the numbers - African ancestry noted a 35 percent boost in test takers between 2019 and 2021.

“What’s your sense as to why we’re seeing more people interested in connecting with their roots and learning more about their origin? asked David.

“That’s like the missing link in our heritage and it directly impacts our identity, said Kefentse Chike, Wayne State University Assistant Professor of African American studies.

Professor Kefentse Chike says the desire has always been there but does believe upward trends are tied to current events.

“Of course, the killings of African American men and I think this kind of came to a height or a pinnacle with the death of George Floyd,” said Chike.

A boost in popularity is thought to be a response to the perceived systemic oppression of Black Americans today that began when their ancestors were first brought into the country.

“We weren't supposed to know where we were from, we were supposed to leave and never come back so this is an act of resistance,” said Paige.

Today, knowledge is evolving into action. The pursuit to uncover lost lineage pushes diasporas to return.

We just came back. We remembered where we were from.

That includes Chaney, who for the first time this year, traveled to West Africa- to Ghana, an experience so transformative, he now has plans in motion to move there permanently.

“The atmosphere was beautiful, culture was beautiful- people are beautiful. Heard my ancestors It’s time for you to come home, you need to come home,” said Chaney.