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Confirming African Matches: Abuelo's Peul(Fula) Relatives

As African-descendants in the new world its probably the most asked question. Where from? Whom from?

The first thing to know is there is no such thing as static identity, Ethnic groups in all corners of the African continent have been moving, mixing, adapting at and endless rate. We in the new world often romanticize that we come from "a place" where "our people" live, but it will always be many peoples and many places and not just in the now but in the before as well.

Case #1 My maternal grandfather:

Paternal: Half his fathers family is from Tamboril Santiago and the other half Camaguey, Cuba.
Maternal: San Francisco de Macoris all the way to late 1700s on every single line

Most numerous ethnicity of his African relatives: 4 Fulani Relatives

Location of relatives: Most with connections to or from Fouta Djallon, Guinea, but some with parentage in Senegal, Gambia and Niger.

Match Strength: This is determined by CM (Length) and SNP (Density) the longer and more dense the higher the probability of the match being traceable in the last 500 years. Generally >= 7 CM along with 700 SNP is desired.

Chromosome Location: the chromosome's are numbered according to their length, of course starting with 1 and ending with a number in the hundred's of thousands, to make things easier most of us abbreviate, so 48,605,270 to 53,621,857 becomes [48.6 to 53.6]

1. Determining if the match is maternal or paternal



* Maternal Side

 Maternal Grandfather vs Fulani Relative #3         |    Maternal Grandfather vs Cuban Relative

If you notice above they are in the same chromosome range, 48 - 70 for Grandpa vs Cuban, and 48 - 53 for grandpa versus Fulani, However  when comparing the Cuban relative to the Fulani relative, there is no match and this is a repeatable case with all my Fulani vs Cuban relatives.

Cuban Relative vs Fulani Relative

Because my maternal grandfather's paternal family is the one that is cuban-mixed I can assume these Fulani matches are all via his mother's family with old roots in Naranjo Dulce, San Francisco de Macoris

2. A closer look at the Fulani relatives and their locations


As you can see the range of these relatives is from 7 to 15 cm. Which according 23andme's chart comparing the most distant to the closest match, my maternal grandfather shares with them between a 3rd to 4th great-grandfather.

Triangulation (3's a crowd):

The above graphic from 23andMe tells us that my Maternal grandfather, Fulani relative #2 and Fulani relative #3 are all related to each other on the same segment, indicating all 3 of us have a common ancestor.

Geographical Distribution of Relatives:

3 out of 4 relatives have roots or some roots in Fouta Djallon, Guinea, and 1 out of 4 has roots in Fouta Toro, both historical Fulani settlements.

Relative #1: Two Grandparents in Fouta Toro in Senegal, 2 from Gambia
Relative #2: Four Grandparents from Niger,  2 of his great-grandparents are from Fouta Djallon, Guinea
Relative #3: Four grandparents from Fouta Djallon, Guinea
Relative #4: Two Grandparents from Fouta Djallon, Guinea 2 from Senegal

Most Common Geographical Denominator: Fouta Djallon, Guinea

Relative #2 and #3 as seen in the Chromosome painting overlap and actually triangulate (match each other + my grandfather). Generally speaking not only can you confirm ethnic origins via triangulation but hint strongly at geographical location of a common ancestor as more and more people match on the same segment.

Even without the triangulation 3 out of 4 having partial or full roots in Fouta Djallon is pointing very strongly that we likely all share a common ancestor in Fouta Djallon Guinea, the connection to Fouta Toro in Senegal is much in line with the Fulani settlements and how the people moved around between the 17th, 18th and 19th century. Niger and North-Nigeria are included in this, specially towards the 19th century.

3. Conclusions

  • With a total of four Fulani matches two of which overlap segments, its very likely My grandfather had an ancestor who might have belonged to the Fulani/Peul peoples.
  • The consistency of the strength of the matches, from 7 cm to 15 cm solidify the likely-hood of this ancestor in common being Fulani
  • Given that the timeline for the relationship is between the mid to late 1700s, it goes in line with a time when the Fulani identity existed and was spreading fast, both voluntarily and via wars.
  • The mid to late 1700s was also a time that the colony of Santo Domingo and Saint Domingue saw a pickup of upper West-African captives, through new importation contracts a well as contraband. See Quote 1 and Quote 2


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