Tuesday, July 16, 2013

African Americans and West Indians: The Ties That Bind


Back in May, my cousin’s wife Raquel Tomlinson expressed to me that she seems to match a lot of African Americans whose roots hailed from North Carolina. What is interesting about her claim is that she is from Jamaica. Several members of the Our Black Ancestry page on Facebook have expressed that their DNA is matching people in the West Indies, too. Most of them have North Carolina roots. 

Well, three weeks ago, a new cousin appeared in my database.  His name is Troy G, who is 27 years old and from North Miami Beach, FL. Mr. Gayles indicated on his profile that both of his parents are from Montego Bay, Jamaica!  Most interestingly, 23andMe predicts our relationship to be 4th cousins; we share 16 cM (0.21%) of DNA across 1 chromosome segment. Troy ranks 64th in my Relative Finder database, which now has 481 people total to date. It increases monthly as more people get tested. In my opinion, this is closely-related considering that his family is from Jamaica, and I have no knowledge whatsoever of anyone within the first several generations of my family being from the West Indies. With us being “predicted 4th cousins,” apparently our common ancestor(s) is somebody that’s not-so-far down in the family tree, possibly within 6 generations. Fourth cousins share the same great-great-great-grandparent(s). To make things even more fascinating about our DNA match, I personally see a slight resemblance between us, especially when I was his age, which was just a few years ago. J (Note: 7/19/2013 - Troy decided after all that he doesn't want his photo revealed; therefore, it has been removed. Take my word for it. There was a resemblance.)

Incredibly, I discovered that Troy is not the only person of Jamaican descent with whom I share DNA. Currently another person in my RF database, whose profile is currently set to anonymous, answered that all four of his/her grandparents were born in Jamaica. I share 8 cM (.10%) of DNA with this unknown person. But because of these matches, 23andMe predicts that I have ancestry from Jamaica. Troy and I aren’t so distantly related, in my opinion; therefore, it raised several questions. Who? What circumstances? When? Where? How? 


I began to think about Raquel’s observation. Even during our phone conversation, she expressed, “I have a lot of relatives from North Carolina.”  Perhaps, my connection to Troy and this unknown person is via an ancestor who was born in North Carolina? Perhaps, a parent or grandparent of that ancestor may have been brought to North Carolina from the West Indies? I have only one maternal ancestor who was born somewhere in North Carolina – my great-great-grandmother Polly Partee, who was born there around 1825. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to trace back further than her to date. Somehow, she became enslaved on Squire Boone Partee’s plantation near Como, Mississippi before 1851. I have several Mississippi ancestors who were originally from North Carolina on my father’s side. Was there a definitive link between the West Indies and North Carolina? (Update - 9/20/2013: my father's 23andMe results are in, and Troy matches my father, too. He also shares 16 cM (0.21%) with my father.)

According to a number of sources, North Carolina played a very small role in the transatlantic slave trade because of its geography. The string of islands that make up the Outer Banks created dangerous conditions for slave ships to land on most of coastal North Carolina.  Consequently, most slave ships opted to dock in ports to the north or south of the state. One exception was Wilmington, which is located on the Cape Fear River.  Wilmington became a slave port because of its accessibility. Other accessible North Carolina ports that saw some slave importation activity were Brunswick, Edenton, Beaufort, and New Bern.  Therefore, slave trading in North Carolina has largely gone unstudied. Fortunately, I found some slave trading data that provided a snapshot of slave trading activity in the state.  Interestingly, it shows a strong link between the West Indies and North Carolina. (Source: The Seaborne Slave Trade of North Carolina by Walter E. Minchinton)


According to historian Walter E. Minchinton, this record of the number of enslaved people imported into North Carolina is still incomplete. However, this snapshot reveals a small yet steady flow of trade into the state during the 18th century. Enslaved people arrived almost every year between 1720 and 1775, except the periods of war in the 1740s and 1757-1761. After the American Revolution, the trade revived and continued until 1790. Enslaved people were brought into North Carolina from both other mainland colonies and the West Indies, with the largest percentage (48%) coming from the West Indies. Much fewer came directly from West Africa.  This pattern was different for South Carolina, which played the largest role in the transatlantic slave trade. The majority of enslaved people transported into Charleston were directly from West Africa. Historian James Rawley estimated that of the 83,825 enslaved persons imported into South Carolina from 1700 to 1775, approximately 67,269 (80%) were brought directly from Africa. (Brawley, James A., The Transatlantic Slave Trade, 332-33). 

I thought of my great-great-grandmother Polly Partee when I read the following Minchinton’s notation about one of the recorded North Carolina imports. Coincidence??  The notation stated: The sloop Polly (104 tons) of Montego Bay, Jamaica brought Negroes from thence in 1787 and twice in 1788. Hmmmmm…..

28 comments:

  1. Wow Melvin, you do resemble each other! Fascinating information!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fascinating, indeed! I was happy to find this North Carolina data.

      Delete
    2. Yes; very much so! Melvin, has anyone ever told you that you look 'exotic' or West Indian? That was often the case with me; even from West Indian people! After beginning my DNA/ancestry journey last year, it began to make a lot of sense to me. Some African gene pools inhabited more of one certain places than others throughout the Americas. I love your blog spot!

      Delete
    3. Thanks, Aaron! Yes, about a month ago, someone told me I looked "West Indian". I thought it was an interesting observation!

      Delete
  2. Melvin, you have provided some tidbits of information that will inspire someone to rethink North Carolina's Slave trade operations. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! It definitely needs to be investigated more closely!

      Delete
  3. Melvin, you rock! EVERYTIME I read your post, I get inspired. I get the sense that I need to do more. Please post how I can do the DNA for my family and how to track it as you're doing. Thanks for keeping us motivated. Love always, Marva

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cousin Mel,
    That's incredible information! You always amaze me. Every time I read your notes, I just want to drop everything and go back to my research!
    I had thought about North Carolina for my father's side of the family because there were so many Reid's that I've met over the years. Fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, I am loving this DNA technology! Waiting on my Dad's results. Will get Mom tested soon.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was not aware many enslaved Africans were brought to North America from the West Indies. Last week I made contact with a distant paternal relative originally from Barbados. His surname is Ortiz (his family came to the United States only decades ago). I later learned many enslaved Igbo were taken to that island. From what I could gather, it's likely our common distant ancestor was an Igbo living in Nigeria. It's amazing how we are all interconnected. Our children do not learn enough about African peoples throughout the diaspora, particularly Latin America, and the countless contributions they have made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't you love it when you make these African connections! Did you know that the majority of the Africans who were transported to Virginia and Maryland hailed from the Bight of Biafra region (Nigeria, Cameroon, etc.), and the majority of those were Igbo. Also, a lot of the Africans shipped to Jamaica were from Ghana. These tidbits of information indeed helps us to ascertain more about our African ancestry.

      Delete
  7. You stupid niggers need to go back to Africa! America is a WHITE MAN's country! Get the fuck out, niggers!

    Trayvon Martin was just a criminal nigger who was trying to steal from people's houses and Zimmerman did the right thing by shooting that nigger dead.

    -Signed, a white man

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am leaving this comment to show just how mentally ill many folk truly are. They cowardly and always sign their posts anonymously. Pitiful. Pathetic.

      Delete
    2. Poor thang! I suppose 84829942-3a88-11e0-83da-000bcdcb5194 will blow a gasket as this country continues to become majority-minority ub less than two decades. My, my that was pitiful.

      Delete
    3. Don't you just love how this person isn't even brave enough to post his real name? What a feeble coward this person is. Yeah, racism is over. I'll believe that when idiots like this quit reacting like this. In other words: never.

      Delete
    4. I had this same comment on my blog...I however did remove it. I am glad you left yours up. They are very ignorant for sure.

      Delete
    5. I'm so glad you left this comment up! Open ID 84829942-3a88-11e0-83da-000bcdcb5194 seems to have nother better to do than post ignorance. As of yesterday he politely left a very nasty post on my blog as well.

      Delete
  8. Lol, some angry trailer park trash...probably blames all his failures on minorities..

    ReplyDelete
  9. Native American country first.....get a GED whitey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Further back, there is apparent evidence that Africans visited way before them (Hmmm?)

      Delete
  10. I will have to go back and look at my 23 and me Jamaican contacts. I do have a 2x great grandfather who was born in North Carolina.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Jamaica is also listed as my Country of Origin in 23andme. I have three matches with Jamaican ties with one having a connection with North Carolina. My NC match is interesting because he lists that his father immigrated from Jamaica in the late 70s. Their paternal haplogroup is Native American and he lists a surname (Waller) that matches some of my NA matches in NC from at least 4-5 generations back.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am deaf. Will you helping me search my birth family please yes or No? I do have have on 23andMe and Ancestry DNA plus family finder, Y-DNA, mtDNA plus. My kit number is M134024 and F255417. I do not know my family history at all. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you know the names of your birth parents? Was it a legal adoption? I really don't have expertise in helping folk find their birth parents. However, is there anyway you can communicate with a local adoption agency to understand the process of opening your adoption record? I imagine that you will need to know their names before trying to locate anyone.

      Delete
  13. My spirit is so excited to read this post. I have been on the cusp of this discovery for years. I am an African whose mother was born in the Carolinas and have had strangers from the islands walk up to me in town and ask about my heritage, my last name, and my connection. I have known this internally for years that with selling of relatives, it is very possible for people to be uprooted. This is the main reason why I can understand The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey stand for Africa (the country) in priority over Jamaica (the island). When we all look to the roots of our tree, we will see how much more we are alike and connected than we have been accustomed to believing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed! DNA technology is proving your last sentence! Thanks for that feedback.

      Delete

Thanks for visiting and commenting on Roots Revealed!