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Michigan State University Grant to House a Massive Slave Trade Database

 

Published: Jan. 9, 2018

MSU USES $1.5M MELLON FOUNDATION GRANT TO BUILD MASSIVE SLAVE TRADE DATABASE

Contact(s): Andy Henion, Dean Rehberger, Walter Hawthorne, Ethan Watrall, Rebecca Jensen

Michigan State University, supported by nearly $1.5 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will create a unique online data hub that will change the way scholars and the public understand African slavery.

By linking data collections from multiple universities, the website will allow people to search millions of pieces of slave data to identify enslaved individuals and their descendants from a central source. Users can also run analyses of enslaved populations and create maps, charts and graphics.

The project, called “Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade,” is funded by a $1.47 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.

“’Enslaved’ brings new digital tools and analytical approaches to the study of African slavery and the Atlantic slave trade,” said project co-investigator Walter Hawthorne, professor and chair of MSU’s Department of History. “By linking data compiled by some of the world’s foremost historians, it will allow scholars and the public to learn about individuals’ lives and to draw new, broad conclusions about processes that had an indelible impact on the world.”

Dean Rehberger, director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU, will lead the project along with Hawthorne and Ethan Watrall, associate director of Matrix and assistant professor of anthropology.

This project, which will take 18 months, is the first phase of a multi-phase plan. In phase one, MSU and partners will develop a proof-of-concept to show data can be linked across eight well-established online databases, including the collection at MSU’s Matrix.

In addition to Matrix – one of the premier digital humanities centers – MSU has the top-ranked African history graduate program in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“’Enslaved’ reaffirms Michigan State University’s longstanding commitment to Africa-centered research,” Watrall said, “and to creating tools and digital experiences that engage researchers, students and the public in critical questions about our collective past, culture and heritage.”

The partner projects in phase one are “African Origins and Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database” led by David Eltis, professor emeritus, Emory University, and Paul Lachance; “The Slave Societies Digital Archive” led by Jane Landers, Vanderbilt University; “Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography” and “Dictionary of African Biography and African American National Biography” led by Henry Louis Gates Jr., Steven Niven and Abby Wolf, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University; “Freedom Narratives” led by Paul Lovejoy, York University; “Legacies of British Slave-Ownership” led by Keith McClelland, University College, London; and “The Liberated Africans Project” led by Henry Lovejoy, University of Colorado Boulder; and “Slave Biographies” led by Daryle Williams, University of Maryland.

The funding follows a $19,450 Mellon grant for project planning.

“We and our partners value the support of the Mellon Foundation,” Rehberger said. “In bringing together data from a number of highly successful projects, we have the opportunity from many small threads of data to weave together lives of enslaved individuals once thought lost to history.”

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The Ancient Origins of New Zealanders

Biological anthropologist Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith is researching the genetic make-up of Kiwis.

Biological anthropologist Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith is researching the genetic make-up of Kiwis.

Aotearoa was the final destination of a very long journey that began in Africa over 65,000 years ago.  Whether you’re a red-headed country music singer in Gore or a Filipino dairy worker in Dannevirke, your ancestral homeland is Africa.

When a small band of modern humans filtered out of Africa into Europe and Asia, they encountered other human types who had arrived there hundreds of thousands of years before.  Our new breed of taller, seemingly more savvy and better equipped men and women co-existed with Neanderthals for at least 10,000 years before they died out, whether through force or happenstance.

Our common ancestor was Homo erectus.  We were not yet so different from Neanderthals that we couldn’t interbreed.  The encounters were rare and rarely productive but nevertheless, everyone today who is NOT of pure African descent carries a small percentage of Neanderthal DNA, about 2 percent – slightly more in Asian populations who seem to have had additional, later encounters. Those Neanderthal jokes about our colleagues and former boyfriends have rebounded on us.

Skeleton of the Neanderthal boy recovered from the El Sidron cave, Spain.

PALEOANTHROPOLOGY GROUP MNCN-CSIC

Skeleton of the Neanderthal boy recovered from the El Sidron cave, Spain.

This genetic legacy has given us some good and bad traits, such as stronger hair and skin, a predisposition to type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, and increased risk of nicotine addiction. Apparently, Neanderthals shared our on/off faculty for appreciating the defining note of pinot noir and violets, a compound called beta ionine.  A single nucleotide difference (a basic component of DNA) distinguishes the active and inactive version of the gene.

READ MORE:
Tracing where the first Kiwis came from
Gene analysis project goes way, way back

The first scientist to think of using differences in our DNA to trace our origins and relatedness grew up on a farm in Pukekohe.

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith hands out DNA test kits to 50 people in Nelson after introducing the audience to the Allan ...

Martin de Ruyter

Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith hands out DNA test kits to 50 people in Nelson after introducing the audience to the Allan Wilson Centre project The Longest Journey from Africa to Aotearoa.

The late, great New Zealand scientist, Allan Wilson, who should be a household name here, spent his adult life in America, based at the University of California, Berkeley.  He died in 1991 from leukaemia, aged 56. Wilson deduced that chimpanzees and the first human species diverged from a common ancestor only 5-7 million years ago, not  about 30m as previously thought – a bit too close for comfort for some.

It caused a bitter controversy at the time, and not just among evolution deniers. Scientists are human too, and not always objectively ‘sapiens’. Reputations become nailed to old masts.

Wilson led a group of evolutionary biologists who realised that we could reconstruct human history by studying markers in our mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is inherited lock, stock and barrel from mother, and not mixed up with father’s DNA when sperm meets egg.  Every so often, a spelling mistake, known as a mutation, is made when the DNA is being copied. Once a mutation occurs, it is then passed on to all future generations.

These mtDNA mutations rarely have any effect on the person.  Wilson and his team realised that if they looked at mtDNA from people around the world, they could compare the DNA and draw a family tree, identifying when and where these mutations occurred. The different mtDNA lineages could be used to trace the movement of populations across the globe.

They calculated that all humans alive today trace their origin back to one woman – so-called Mitochondrial Eve – who lived in Africa a mere 150,000 years ago.  This doesn’t mean that she was the only woman on Earth at the time, but that all other lines have since become dead ends, literally.

The different branches of the mitochondrial family tree are labelled by letters, with each branch defined by a particular mutation or combination of mutations.

The oldest lineages are the L branches, which are found only in African populations. About 65,000 years ago, a small group of humans carrying the L3 lineage left Africa, probably through what is now Egypt. This group soon split and the mutations occurred that define the two main non-African lineages, the M and N branches. Women carrying the N lineages gave rise to all European lineages, with the most common branches found in Western Europeans today being H, U, J, T, K, V, and X. These seven Western European maternal ancestors inspired the book The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes.  He named these clan mothers Helena, Ursula, Jasmine, Tara, Katrine, Velda and Xenia.

While Helena, Ursula, Jasmine and the girls went north, some of our ancestors headed east and moved very quickly through southern Asia, towards the Pacific. They could walk through what is now Island Southeast Asia when ice ages locked up massive volumes of water and sea levels fell.  Recent research suggests that they arrived in Australia and New Guinea, which were joined in a super-continent called Sahul, as early as 60-65,000 years ago.  Aboriginal Australians and Papuans have been geographically and genetically isolated for a very long time.

It was a one-way journey for them. These people carried mtDNA lineages belonging to the M branch, as well as some N lineages.

On those early forays into Asia, it seems we also interbred with another group of long-separate Homo erectus descendants called Denisovans, after the cave in Siberia where the relics of these people were miraculously discovered – part of the finger-bone of a small girl and a few teeth – amidst tonnes of rock and dirt.  These treasured remains were so well preserved that scientists were able to sequence the entire genome (the complete set of an organism’s DNA).  Those first modern humans who travelled through Asia clearly ran into Denisovans on the way. Their descendants today, including Aboriginal Australians and many Pacific people, carry up to 5 per cent Denisovan DNA.  Interestingly, this inheritance confers an ability to thrive at high altitudes and is present in the Sherpa people.

Allan Wilson’s work has inspired a generation of evolutionary biologists, including a group of outstanding researchers at the University Otago.  Leader of the allanwilson@otago research group is Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith, a biological anthropologist who also uses DNA as her archaeological pick-axe. She is fine-tuning what we know about the populations of the Pacific, and Aotearoa in particular.  She recently randomly sampled the DNA of over 2000 New Zealanders to analyse our ancient maternal and paternal lines.

Lisa is currently writing up the results and the stories of some of her New Zealand subjects in a book she plans to publish in 2019, when we will be commemorating the first Maori and European landings here.  But she can tell you the punch line now. We are as diverse a population as you’ll find anywhere. Kiwis carry all of the major mitochondrial DNA diversity seen in the world – lineages A to Z.

The history of human evolution and migration is one of the fastest moving areas of science. New findings, such as fossils of the diminutive Homo floresiensis (the hobbit people), are coming thick and fast and adding intriguing sub-plots to the main storyline.

We have an insatiable desire to know about our past.  Genealogy is big business. But while DNA is hard evidence of our origins, relatedness, and some of the routes taken by our ancestors, it is only part of the story and actually reveals very little about who we are. New Zealanders are not defined by their DNA or bound in spirit by genetic similarity.

What we do share in common are the long journeys we and our forebears risked to come here, whether by waka, sailing ship or 777, to escape depression and social immobility in Britain, Pol Pot’s genocide, wars in Europe and the Middle East, or in search of adventure and a better life.

Our ancestors, all six thousand generations since Mitochondrial Eve, were survivors and we are their testament.

Next week:  Who were the first New Zealanders?  How many were there, and where did they come from?

Information and research provided by Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith FRSNZ, University of Otago

 

What I Learn About My Ancient Ancestry (Geno 2 Project)

Here is what I learned about my ancient ancestry:

I AM

Neanderthal Man

0.7%

NEANDERTHAL

Modern Man

As humans were first migrating out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals were still living in Eurasia. It seems our ancestors hit it off, leaving a small trace of these ancient relatives in my DNA.

I AM

  • 79% Western Africa

  • 5% Northwestern Europe

  • 4% Eastern Africa

  • 4% West Mediterranean

  • 3% Northeastern Europe

  • 3% Eastern Europe

MY MAP

MY MATERNAL LINEAGE BEGAN ABOUT 150,000 YEARS AGO.

My maternal ancestors spread from east-central Africa to northwestern Africa at a time when the climate and landscape were more hospitable. They settled from the central-West African coast to North Africa. In the north, my cousins are now part of populations such as the Berber peoples. The Berbers are traditionally livestock herders. Toward west-central Africa, I have cousins among traditional farming groups.

My maternal branch is L2a1a2

Maternal Map

MY PATERNAL LINEAGE BEGAN AT LEAST 180,000 YEARS AGO.

My paternal ancestors spread from Central Africa to West Africa. My cousins include the Bantu-speaking people. The Bantu had an advanced farming culture, and were the first people in sub-Saharan Africa to work iron. Later expansions to the east and south introduced agriculture across Africa and spread the Bantu languages throughout the continent.

My paternal branch is E-U186

Paternal Map

That’s my story. What’s your story?

Tracing Your African Roots

The Sokko: exploring ethnic possibilities. Roots the Dutch version *** Op zoek naar Afrikaanse roots via DNA & genealogisch en historisch onderzoek.

via ROOTS.NL (S1E2) – Searching for Gold — Tracing African Roots

Who are your ancestors, Can you identify your relatives?

We are all over this world in many countries, with differences, shades of color, opinions, thoughts. Make no mistake we are one, our ancestors came out of Africa. It’s in your DNA. I have found relatives in Brazil, India, Iran, Syria, Australia, Mexico, Boro Bora, Korea, China, and Japan. Never stop your journey finding your past. Gedmatch is a good place to start.

DNA collection, testing, and results are different for people of color and the algorithms used are not geared towards our DNA but can be very useful.  It is Eurocentric, however, Helix, National Geo2, and 23andMe are moving towards a more inclusive model. Also, there are new projects in many countries to match DNA for people around the world.

 

 

 

Finding More DNA Cousins for Free

Finding More DNA Cousins for FREE

July 13, 2017

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AdaEze Naja Chinyere Njoku

 

Hello Family!

We sure hope you all are doing well.  We know that many of you that have taken the autosomal DNA test at FTDNA.com 23andme.com , Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com are waiting patiently for that breakthrough of finding an Africa DNA match.  

Some of us are not being so patient.  Logging into the accounts 7 to 10 times daily, yelling at folks because we can’t find that match.  Talking to ourselves AND responding..  Creeping up on your computer from the side, like agent 007….  Acting as if it is hiding that match from you.  It’s OK.  We’ve been there too.  Please read a book or go fishing or something Shuga.  More people are testing.  We have to be patient.  It took some of us over 7 YEARS to get an Africa DNA match.  Oh but when we did!!!! 

 

Now, we are not going to lie to you.  We all know that there is NO GUARANTEE that you will find an Africa DNA match.  Here are some ways to widen the net though.  These helpful options are steps that I have taken myself.  They have proven to be very helpful especially since many people have DNA tested at one company and have elected NOT to test at another.  

There is a place where your DNA raw data can go and meet up with other people’s DNA raw data that tested at different DNA testing companies.   You all can chillax for FREE!!  OK.. Let me clarify…. Its like a meet up for ya raw data.

The goal is to upload your DNA raw data to the websites that you have not tested or to the sites like Gedmatch.com to help you compare shared segments on Chromosomes between you and others that have also uploaded.

Read more: DNAtestedafricans.org

Do You Know Who You Are? Do You Know Your Ancestors?

 

DNA

Those of us who had ancestors living in slavery in South Carolina Low Country, North Carolina and Georgia were likely from Senegal and Sierra-Leone. Do you know who you are, did you have ancestors on a plantation in these areas particularly?  A slave who could manage escape did not go north but to Florida  Seminole territory.

What pulled me in this direction was the multitude of matches from Brazil, Mexico, Iran, Syria and the Caribbean. I started to see names such as Sadi, Jahid, Fahid, Dajzar, and Raza.

Wrong or right, the surnames we are using are not our own. They bind us to the earth as a human being. Looking beyond that our ancestor used a different name. So when I see the strange names I want to dig for more. DNA has given us the opportunity to see the world internationally not narrowly focused.

The picture below is of Abraham, a Black Seminole Leader in the Second Seminole War.

 

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