Sunday, June 8, 2014

Got Roots in Madagascar?

Note: This blog post has been updated on 8/7/2018 since its initial posting on 6/8/2014.

Source: TAST Database

How sure are you that your family's alleged Native American ancestry was really Native American?

Several years ago, I read a post on the AfriGeneas African-Native American Genealogy Forum board of someone seeking information on the “Matagascan / Malagascan / Matogascan Creek Indians” because family lore claimed that her great-great-grandmother was from this “Indian” tribe. Another poster commented, “My mother's father always described his mother as being a full blooded Malagaskan Indian woman with long black hair down her back.” I even found a slave narrative of a man who also claimed this heritage. James Brittain of Mississippi relayed the following in his slave narrative about his grandmother:

"My grandma came from Virginia . . . When my grandma died she was one hundred and ten years old. She said she was a Molly Gasca negro. That was the race she belonged to. She sure did look different from any the rest of us. Her hair it was fine as silk and hung down below her waist. The folks said Old Miss was jealous of her and Old Master. I don't know how that was." (Source)

I began to associate the name “Malagascan” and “Molly Gasca” with Madagascar, an island located 250 miles off the southeastern African coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. Being one of the largest islands in the world, Madagascar is roughly the size of Texas. The sounds of the names were almost phonetically identical. 

Shortly afterwards, another poster in the AfriGeneas African-Native American Genealogy Forum soon wrote, “An elderly cousin told the story of my ggg-grandfather who was from a royal family of Madagascar Africa that was taken as a slave out of Madagascar Africa on a slave ship.” A third poster also recounted oral history of her ancestor being brought to Virginia from Madagascar. A fourth researcher, Monifaa, also communicated the following, “My mom's oldest brother has alleged to me that my ggg-grandmother was captured by slavers from the island of Madagascar and sold to cotton plantation owners in North Carolina.” Researcher Tracey Hughes discusses the discovery of her Madagascar ancestor in her blog post.

In Exchanging Our Country Mark, Michael Gomez wrote about the connection between "Madagascar Negroes" to Virginia; a small number of them were imported into Virginia during the early years of the transatlantic slave trade (p. 41). Gomez describes how those particular Africans were "yellowish" in complexion and had hair like a "Madagascar's." 

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 and Asia, specifically Borneo (source). I began to realize that, as time passed in America, Africans from Madagascar were characterized as being “Indians,” or “Black Indians.” I also wondered if some of the alleged Native American ancestry that many African Americans claim is actually Malagasy ancestry from Madagascar.

According to 23andMe, I have a small amount of Southeast Asian DNA on five chromosomes, totaling 0.5% of my ancestry composition. Since I have tested both of my parents with 23andMe (and later with AncestryDNA), 23andMe indicated that I inherited my Southeast Asian DNA from my father. His composition includes 1.4% Southeast Asian that's scattered across six chromosomes. I began to speculate if our Southeast Asian DNA came from a Madagascar ancestor. Do I also have roots from Madagascar?

Well, I finally got my answer. A new DNA match, with the surname Ramalanjaona, appeared in my father's 23andMe database of DNA relatives. He shares 10 cM of identical DNA with my father on chromosome 12, with a predicted relationship of 5th cousins. They share a common ancestor at least six generations back. I didn't inherit this particular DNA segment, but one of my sisters did. Cousin Ramalanjaona indicates on his profile that he is Malagasy. I messaged him, and he confirmed that his parents are from Madagascar! 

23andMe shows an ancestry composition chromosome painting, and Cousin Ramalanjaona shares identical DNA on one of the Southeast Asian segments on my father's chromosome 12. See figure below. This confirms that Southeast Asian ancestry is a great indicator of Malagasy ancestry and that my father likely had an ancestor from Madagascar. DNA Historian Fonte Felipe asserts, “The very fortunate circumstance about tracing any possible Madagascar ancestry is that it can be confirmed much more easily by way of the unique Southeast Asian component in Malagasy genetics and the inheritance of these markers among their descendants in the Americas.” (source) In July 2018, my father also gained another distant cousin DNA match from Madagascar in Ancestry DNA. Her last name is Ralalanirina.

My father's ancestry composition chromosome painting from 23andMe. Cousin Ramalanjaona matches him on chromosome 12 in the gold region (Southeast Asian) indicated.

Approximately 400,000 enslaved Africans were transported to America during the transatlantic slave trade, and only about 4,800 of them were from Madagascar. That is just 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. Because my father had a number of enslaved Mississippi ancestors who were born in North Carolina and Virginia, I am theorizing  that his enslaved Madagascar ancestor was likely disembarked in Virginia. The Madagascar human imports into Virginia included the following:

     May 18 1719; Vessel - Prince Eugene; 340 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     May 17, 1720; Vessel - Mercury; 466 Africans; Port of Entry – Rappahannock River
     May 21, 1721; Vessel - Gascoigne; 133 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     June 21, 1721; Vessel - Prince Eugene; 103 Africans: Port of Entry – York River
     June 26, 1721; Vessel - Snow Rebecca; 59 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     June 27, 1727; Vessel - Henrietta; 130 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
       (Source: Virginia Slave-Trade Statistics 1698-1775 by Minchinton, King, and Waite)

For more research on Malagasy ancestry, check out Teresa Vega's The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Manhattan and Fonte Felipe's Tracing African Roots: Southeast Africa.



In Season 3 of the TV series Finding Your Roots, actor Keenen Ivory Wayans learned that his African ancestor in his direct paternal line, who was brought to America, i.e. his "Kunta Kinte," very likely came from Madagascar.

Children of the Malagasy People
(Source; public domain)

I found this nice slideshow of images from Madagascar.

47 comments:

  1. great post as always, Melvin! i'm also chasing a possible connection to Madagascar, through information that my paternal grandmother shared with me before she passed.
    http://traceystree.blogspot.com/2013/07/never-underestimate-power-of-compliment.html
    who knows...maybe you and i could have a connection? the ancestral line i'm following was located in Pontotoc County, Mississippi from the early 1840s (possibly late 1830s) until 1851, and was in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama and South Carolina before then.

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    1. Thanks for including a link to your post. I added it within this blog post.

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    2. Dear Mr. Collier,

      I just today discovered your blog post and want to be a part of your bloging community, especially as it relates to Madagascar! I lived and served there for 18 years, am thoroughly fluent in the Malagasy language and probably have one of the largest private libraries on Madagascar of anyone in America! I would be glad to assist any one trying to learn more about Madagascar and how persons might have come here to the U.S. from Madagascar. They did not all come as slaves. Madagascar was a major stopping off point for water, fruit, meats and stuff for ships coming from India and the East and preparing to go around the Cape of Good Hope. It was also a major pirate hang out [they actually had their own "free" port!] and intermarried with Malagasy women and took Malagasy on their ships as either servants or seamen! I somehow got signed up to your blog [I think] with the address below, but that is actually my son [born in Madagascar!] from some time when he used my computer. To write directly to me, please use this address: chezvigen@yahoo.com. Thank you! Rev. Dr. James B. Vigen

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    3. I am African American and was wondering where that Asian dna come from. Thanks for the info.

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  2. Fabulous post, Melvin! I received my 23andme results with a surprise mt haplogroup of B4a1a1. I've ordered the FMS at FTDNA and am waiting to see if there are further refinements and possible matches. I've traced my maternal line back to my enslaved 4x great grandmother Florence Carraby in New Orleans, but haven't been able to go further to either her birth or arrival in New Orleans as yet.

    Tracey, your post and blog are fabulous as well. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. Fabulous post, Melvin! I received my 23andme results with a surprise mt haplogroup of B4a1a1. I've ordered the FMS at FTDNA and am waiting to see if there are further refinements and possible matches. I've traced my maternal line back to my enslaved 4x great grandmother Florence Carraby in New Orleans, but haven't been able to go further to either her birth or arrival in New Orleans as yet.

    Tracey, your post and blog are fabulous as well. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Hi Melvin

    I am an African Caribbean (Jamaican origin) UK resident. I am aware of the presence of Africans from the Eastern shores of Africa in the Americas including Malagasies in Jamaica. I have read of their presence in African uprisings during
    slavery in Jamaica where they have reported to have played a prominent part. I am currently reading the Slaves who abolished slavery -Richard Hart and have read the story of the Jamaican People-Sherlock and Bennett both mention the presence of Malagasy Africans on the island.

    Bless

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  5. My grandfather told us the tale of his ancestor, a fiddle player, was put on a slave ship to play for the slaves to exercise and what kept on the boat and taken to American. Several years ago we ran into another family with the Countee surname,
    they also had heard the fiddle player story and we discovered had cousins in common, Odell and Marcus Countee. We conducted Paternal DNA testing with ancestry but did not find a common paternal ancestor. Our Amer. ancestor was born in Virginia in 1816, where Madagascar slaves were taken. Will the 23andme
    test show me more???

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  6. This is wonderful! I have to get back to my research soon. It will mean a lot to my Mom Ella L Roberts (deceased 9/2004) born Columbus MS. Our family name is Jefferson in Artesia Ms. Still looking for connections to the source of our beginning in this USA. Thxs again!

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  7. Hi Melvin. I screamed out loud when i read about Malagaskcan Indian. My grandmother always stated her grandmother was a "Mollyglascian" jet black lady with straight jet black hair. I've always dismissed her and we would laugh because the DNA test showed Cameroon Tikar as direct maternal line. No Indian here, although 23andme shows 3% Native. I've stumbled on Malagasy as a possibility but I dismissed it but now that I think of it, it is possible that my grandmother's grandmother's father line was Malagasy. My grandmother never waivered being Malagascian and I have 1.8% SouthEast Asian ancestry. All of this time, I thought she was crazy and I had made it up. To see other oral traditions of this name shows me that we may actually be Malagasy at this point, I am almost certain of it because of the Asian ancestry and oral tradition stating that we are indeed Madagascan. I just thought, as my grandmother did that it was an black indian tribe. No wonder, Native people did not know of this tribe that I inquired of over the years. I had given up on the possibility that we had a tribal name. It feels good to connect the dots. Although, I am not a directness maternal or paternal descendent to show the DNA proof, this blog has reassured me of the connection. Thank you so much. if you would like to discuss further I can reached at docstudentlmc@gmail.com Thank you!

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  8. Misaotra! (Thank you!)
    I am a Malagasy filmmaker living in Madagascar and working for a production company based in North Carolina. I am really interested in those stories of Malagasy migrations to the US during slavery for a potential movie project in the future.

    The uniqueness of the Malagasy identity (a perfect mix of SouthEast Asia and East Africa) is so little acknowledged, even by ourselves, the Malagasy people. I assume that the Malagasy slaves had more struggle to integrate themselves into the AfroAmerican communities back then as they felt physically different (smaller, lighter skin, straighter hair for some). So, thank you for sharing the results of your researches and please tell more stories about the oral testimonials from your grandmother, uncles...). I would be happy to share the little I know from my side

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    1. I have the Malagasy connection too. I have done the autosomal dna tests with a few companies and always come up with both a good percentage of East African and Southeast Asian on every single test, even though most sources claim all Afro/African Americans descend from West Africa. My maternal lines are from Virginia, North/South Carolina and Jamaica, which all relate to the Madagascar slaves. Funny thing is one of my great aunts was named Molly Glaze(their surname and also my birth surname) as a sign of respect to their "Mollyglascian Indian" blood!

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  9. My story is so much like the others that are shared here! My mother and grandmother talked a lot about my deceased grandfather and the fact that he was Malagasy Indian. When looking at the pictures he certainly fit the description... Thin frame, dark complexion and bone straight hair. I have not done and genetic test to date but are planning to soon! I would love to be able to "connect the dots"! Thank you Melvin. And thanks to everyone that is posting!

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  10. Interesting! Our family had our DNA traced back to Madagascar through African Ancestry DNA test.

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    1. Queenie, I don't think the Dutch had anything to do with it. Scientists say that my people's Indonesian ancestors were seafarers and traders who may or may not have been shipwrecked. They mixed with Africans and other people along the way but Indonesian features remain predominant among inhabitants of the highlands.

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  13. What a great post Melvin! I have a Malagasy connection as well. My maternal holography is M32c. My brother was tested, first, through African Ancestry where we found that our maternal line is traced back to the Limba people of Sierra Leone and the Fula/Fulani people of Guinea Bissau. The result of his Y-DNA was a little more difficult. The company stated that they were not saying that our father didn't have ANY African DNA but the little he did have couldn't be analyzed other than to say he has living relatives "throughout Europe today." I tested through 23and me and received the maternal haplogroup of M32c. So I had my brother retest with them to get a better breakdown of a paternal supergroup. We received the analysis that it is R1b1b2a1a. At least, this narrows down the European countries. As you can imagine, this threw us for a loop since all of our father's and grandfather's documents, including military, social security, etc stated their race as Black/Negro. Do you have any ideas as to where we should look next?
    Anita Hewett-Williams

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  14. What a great post Melvin! I have a Malagasy connection as well. My maternal holography is M32c. My brother was tested, first, through African Ancestry where we found that our maternal line is traced back to the Limba people of Sierra Leone and the Fula/Fulani people of Guinea Bissau. The result of his Y-DNA was a little more difficult. The company stated that they were not saying that our father didn't have ANY African DNA but the little he did have couldn't be analyzed other than to say he has living relatives "throughout Europe today." I tested through 23and me and received the maternal haplogroup of M32c. So I had my brother retest with them to get a better breakdown of a paternal supergroup. We received the analysis that it is R1b1b2a1a. At least, this narrows down the European countries. As you can imagine, this threw us for a loop since all of our father's and grandfather's documents, including military, social security, etc stated their race as Black/Negro. Do you have any ideas as to where we should look next?
    Anita Hewett-Williams

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  16. Well I always had some asian segments according to 23andMe and Dr. Doug McDonald chromosome painting. Just recently, I have a match on AncestryDNA from Madagascar.

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  17. Does anyone have any information the connection between SouthEastern Bantu Tribe and Central Asia??? I think I may have Malagasy lineage but all the info I'm reading is people have African and SOUTHEAST Asia connection link to Malagasy. I have not been able to find any info regarding if that applies to SouthEastern Bantu and CENTRAL Asia. Per my Ancestry.com DNA test I am 17% Southeastern Bantu and 4% Central Asia ...if anyone has any info or resources please email me @ kimswingler3@gmail.com

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  18. My brother's Y-DNA is O1a2 or O-M110. Could this be from Madagascar? Several generations of our father's side of the family were born on the island of St Helena which played a part in the slave trade. The East India Company brought people to the island from many areas. We both have autosomal DNA from south Asia, south-east Asia, various parts of Africa, middle East etc

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  19. I have siganitures of Magalasy ancestry.I have the East African, Southeast Asian, and the Oceanian DNA. At first I didn't know what I was looking at. Ancestry.com list it as Pacific Islander Polynesian, and Melanesian.23andme.com has it with East Asian & Native American, but do break it down to South East Asia, and Oceania is Oceanian.When I found out that these are the Magalasy signatures I got very excited. When I saw a picture of my great grandmother and my older cousins who are in their late 70's told me they thought she was part Chinese I knew what side of the family the Magalasy ancestry was coming from.

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  20. I have siganitures of Magalasy ancestry.I have the East African, Southeast Asian, and the Oceanian DNA. At first I didn't know what I was looking at. Ancestry.com list it as Pacific Islander Polynesian, and Melanesian.23andme.com has it with East Asian & Native American, but do break it down to South East Asia, and Oceania is Oceanian.When I found out that these are the Magalasy signatures I got very excited. When I saw a picture of my great grandmother and my older cousins who are in their late 70's told me they thought she was part Chinese I knew what side of the family the Magalasy ancestry was coming from.

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  21. Hi. My mother told me our ancestors were from Madagascar. I finally dig some digging and based on pictures I see where I get my almond shaped eyes from. How do I take a test? Where do I start?

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  22. you can take several DNA Test. Ancestry.com or 23andMe.com After you get your results you can upload for free to DNA.LAND and GEDMatch.com then DNA Tribes (cost $50). I have almond shaped eyes too, didn't know that was a trait of Malagasy people. Good Luck on your search, and check out my DNA video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5oehcgKQZ0&feature=gp-n-y&google_comment_id=z13ljh5itmrqcvawn04chtfbmkzicnb550k

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  23. Hi.I was looking for some info on mitochondrial haplogroup M32c when I noticed this blog. I'm French but I live in the Indian Ocean on a small island called Reunion. Have you ever heard of it ? It's not very far from Madagascar and as a result many people here have had Malagasy ancestry for a very long time now (since the mid 1600s). My Dad's mt DNA results just came back from FTDNA and indicated his mitochondrial lineage belonged to Mt haplogroup M32c.Proud to check he is a descendant of that Antamoro people in the south of that big island and to notice I still have about 15% West African and East African DNA ancestry (more than 7% South East Asian too among many others). I noticed my Dad had exact mitochondrial matches with people living in the US and one in Saudi Arabia. So, if some of you living in the USA are still wondering if they can have Malagasy ancestors, let me tell you that the fact that my Dad has perfect matches with a few of you over there can be another proof. His Y haplogroup matches have been found in the Azores, Brazil, Spain and Portugal.So, from the start we have been mixed and blended with people from different regions of the world, Reunion island is today known for its big ethnic diversity and admixture, and as a result people of all origins and religions live in peace and tolerance here. Nice work Melvin ! Keep on the good work and search :)

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    1. Thanks all for sharing your DNA stories! My father also told me of an ancestor from Madagascar who was sold into slavery in Virginia. However, I did not come to this post because of that story. My first cousin conducted a DNA test and found that our maternal ancestors were from the Haplogroup B. That DNA is found among several populations some include; Madagascar, Taiwan, among the Maori of New Zealand and is one of the 5 DNA groups of the indigenous people of the Americas. I have narrowed my maternal ancestor, who was a Collier from Mississippi, to 3 possible tribes that lived near the Mississippi River; Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee. All 3 groups have more than 50% of the people with Haplogroup B. The DNA you speak of may be from Southeast Asia or Madagascar or it may be from one of the Indigenous groups from Mississippi or Arkansas. It seems that some Indigenous people may have been able to mix with African Americans and avoid leaving the land during the trail of tears. Or maybe they lost the knowledge of their grandmothers...I don't know which yet.

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  24. This is quite interesting! I'm here because I'm 12.5% Malagasy (my great grandmother) and found a match who is African American on AncestryDNA for 4th-6th cousin. I was very curious as to where the shared DNA would have came from (The rest of my ancestry is Somali, and from what I know Somalia wasn't really involved in the transatlantic slave trade, my match had also told me that she had no known Somali ancestry but had the East Asia and Southeastern Bantu on her test) which led me here. I had no idea that Malagasy people were brought all the way to the Americas! Very informative, thank you :)

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  25. This so awesome. I stumbled upong this as my family has ties to MADAGASCAR. Thanks

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  26. I was born in Madagascar from my mom who is malagasy and my dad is creole from mauritius island
    i think that there are many chances that afro americans origins came from madagascar

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  27. I have read that many afro american did not know about there malagasy origin

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  28. If having a combo of Bantu/Native American/East Asian/ Polynesian fits the Madagascar narrative that would answer some pieces of the puzzle...but questions still abound. I'm focused on European Jewish infusion too.

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  29. My chromosome painting indicated Asian ancestry on a few chromosomes. I didn't know what to make of it until I received a DNA match with someone from Madagascar that matches me on the Asian segment. Additionally, we both are matching a Kenyan also who has Malagasy ancestry.

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  30. I like this post because i'm making a research too about where some black people came from but amid of a public awareness of intellectual minds using the term :" AFRICAN-AMERICAN".I'm very disappointed, Why BLACK (people) means African-American
    Why ? Black means for you Africa ?
    I know that you are not African but we are the word we come from all over the word we were in all America before every race.
    I'm pretty sure of it.
    Make the research from all over the human be until all the universe.

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    1. You can use whatever term you desire, and I can do the same. It's your prerogative. If my usage is an issue for you, I suggest that you work that out. I don't have an issue with either term. It is certainly not a disrespect to my ancestors. Thanks.

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    2. So if you can name an African-American : Black. the African leaving in the north Africa is black ? The European who migrated in America why you don't call them European- American because in the beginning they arrived (the majority) in America like the black : as a Slave. I understand some of you, are, proud to be called or African-American = Black but for me is a pure definition of racism when you want to give that kind of identity, is The result of the animal instinct when people categorize themselves as a group well defined according how they look like.In the planet earth we are one people with differences ASPECTS but the same DNA. the usage is not a issue for me i just want to work that in our MENTALITIES.
      YOU ARE WELCOME AND KEEP YOUR GOOD WORK FOR YOUR COMMUNITY.
      " WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU ARE JUST REMEMBER WHERE YOU CAME FROM ".

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  31. This is really good and very informative, i can only say Thank you Melvin.

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  32. Any Asian in my DNA comes up as East Asian, Syrian/Lebanese and Armenian Sephardic Jew...plus Polynesian in Guam and the Philippians. Most TransAtlantic mixes might find this group in South Carolina and other southern states. Bantu is also present but most of my matches are Sephardic and Ashkenazi due to Spanish/ Portuguese Jews'mixing...later Russian and Polish were introduced to my lineage.

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  33. So..another post that rings true to me. I have oral history from my fathers side from Madagascar. Thank you for so much information it really helps.

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  34. On the east coast of Madagascar, when a child is born, the grandmother brings the umbilical cord to the, fathers, village river as an introduction to his ancestors. So they know that they have a new family member. When ones life goes terribly wrong or your in a dire situation, or you want something, we kill beef ( zebu ) to feed our ancestors and to ask for their blessings...I vouch for this tradition. it works. lets be clear, this is not a "voodoo" ritual...Some tribes dig up their ancestors, change their clothes...its called the "famadiana". So not being known by ones ancestors, not knowing ones ancestors, not setting foot on ones ancestors land (your land). Is pretty much considered, the ultimate curse in Madagascar. The ancestors cult is so strong that not even pastors dare to challenge it, let alone demonized it. NOT 1. So 1 Day , someone is going to fight so, anybody in the USA, with DNA from Madagascar, can get a Malagasy passport if they want. It might not mean much, on paper, but your ancestors will be happy. We don't abandon our own. Fitiavana, Tanindrazana, Fandrosoana!!!

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  35. Do you know any genealogists who specialize in Madagascarian heritage? I have fascinating question, in my opinion anyway.

    Thanks,

    Thokozani

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  36. This is epoch.I have been on this quest since 10 years old. Now 61, so many anecdotal pearls of my interfacing with my Father and his siblings as to where in Madagascar we could be from. I named 3 of my 4 sons after Malagasy kings. This forum is an amazing vehicle to further my journey. Roi Sangster

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