Everyone has 23 pairs of chromosomes. One chromosome in each pair was inherited from the mother and the other chromosome was inherited from the father. Below is a snapshot of my mother’s paternal chromosome 2 in DNAPainter.com, a web-based tool for chromosome mapping – the process of labeling/assigning your chromosome segments to specific ancestors.
This is possible when you have the actual chromosome segment data for a DNA match. All the DNA companies, except Ancestry.com, provide users with this valuable data that can be imported into DNAPainter.com. Or if an AncestryDNA match downloads their raw data file from Ancestry.com and uploads it into GEDmatch, MyHeritage, or FTDNA to get the chromosome matching data to import into DNA Painter.
Two of my mother’s paternal first cousins, other close paternal cousins, as well as numerous known Edwards cousins, also took the 23andMe test, MyHeritage, or had taken the AncestryDNA test and uploaded to GEDmatch. I imported their matching chromosome segment data with my mother into DNAPainter, painted it red, and labeled it as “Prince Edwards,” who was my mother’s father’s maternal grandfather, i.e., my mother’s paternal great-grandfather, from Panola County, Mississippi.
Why did I assign this chromosome 2 section to Grandpa Prince Edwards? Several known cousins, who are matching my mother here in the red section, are descendants of Prince’s full brother, Peter Edwards. So, I know for certain that this section of my mother’s paternal chromosome 2 came from Prince via one of Prince and Peter Edwards’s parents.
Fascinatingly, two African DNA cousins from the Ewe people of the Volta region of southeast Ghana also match my mother in this red section of her paternal chromosome 2. Ewe Cousin A had taken the 23andMe DNA test some years ago, and Ewe Cousin B recently took the AncestryDNA test, and his raw data file was uploaded into GEDmatch. So, I had informative chromosome segment data for both. To add, I know that these African cousins are my mother’s paternal cousins because they also match two of my mother’s paternal first cousins in this area. In fact, the two longest bars on the diagram above are my mother’s paternal first cousins.
Ewe Cousin A shares 8 cM with my mother, aunt, me, and their first cousins on chromosome 2. Ewe Cousin B shares 10 cM with them. Therefore, this red section of my mother’s paternal chromosome 2 came from an African ancestor of Prince and Peter Edwards, and it is linking to the Ewe people of Ghana. This was indeed a great discovery!
Is this also telling me that our common African ancestor, from which this chromosome section 2 was inherited, was an Ewe from present-day Ghana? My answer would be PROBABLY. Here’s why.
The area where the Ewe people has lived for hundreds of years not only encompasses what is known now as southeast Ghana (Volta region), but they also live in the southern half of Togo, in the southwestern corner of Benin, and a small population are found in the southwestern region of Nigeria. Historians theorize that they have been in this area since the 15th century, long before the transatlantic slave trade, possibly originating from a region that is now southern Nigeria. So, one can plausibly assert that our common African ancestor was from a region that is now southeast Ghana, southern Togo, or southwest Benin. An important thing to remember is that these African countries and their boundaries were formed long after the transatlantic slave trade.
Last year, AncestryDNA released a Chromosome Painter feature that maps one’s ethnicities onto their individual chromosomes. They “color-painted” chromosomes with the regions they are associated with in one’s ethnicity estimate. Test takers can also choose Maternal or Paternal to see which chromosomes were passed down by whom.
Following DNA Painter developer Jonny Perl’s instructions, I then imported my mother’s AncestryDNA chromosome painter data into DNA Painter to see which ethnicity estimates were assigned to her maternal and paternal chromosome segments. Since Ewe Cousins A and B are sharing DNA on her paternal chromosome 2, I can see which regional ethnicity that Ancestry DNA has currently assigned to that chromosome 2 section.
AncestryDNA assigned “Benin & Togo” to that entire chromosome section. AncestryDNA designated this and other segments as “Benin & Togo” because it matched people with a long family history of being in that region or being from one group from that region. AncestryDNA’s reference panel currently contains 487 samples from Benin & Togo. Read more about their reference panels here.
Although Ewe Cousin B and his family hailed from the Volta region of southeast Ghana, his AncestryDNA ethnicity includes a whopping 86% Benin & Togo. See below. AncestryDNA deemed my mother as being 8% Benin & Togo, and some of that ethnicity is on her paternal chromosome 2 where she matches Ewe Cousins A and B.
Interestingly, African DNA researcher Fonte Felipe has found that many Ewes have high Benin & Togo ethnicity scores based on their history and migration patterns. However, he has explained that Benin & Togo ethnicity does not automatically mean that it is from the Ewe people, as other groups also reside in the area. Read more of his research here.
Geneticists estimate that autosomal DNA tests, such as AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FTDNA, or MyHeritage, will generally go back six to eight generations. Assuming 25 years per generation, one can generally expect 150-200 years of DNA information or more. Since Ewe Cousins A and B are true autosomal DNA matches, this likely isn’t an ancient connection; Prince and Peter Edwards’s African ancestor that connects us to these Ewe cousins may have very well been from the Ewe people.
In conclusion, having this chromosome data allowed me to pinpoint that these Ewe DNA cousins are related via my mother’s great-grandfather, Prince Edwards. I even have more evidence that proves that the connection is from Prince and Peter Edwards’s mother, Lucy (born c. 1797), who was sold away from Pittsylvania County, Virginia. But that’s for a future post. Nonetheless, chromosome data matters!
One thought on “Chromosome Data Matters: Exploring Ewe Connections from Ghana”
Pingback: Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree