There’s one more thing to keep in mind, according to Moore: “The list of your top population matches doesn’t necessarily mean that you have ancestry from each of those regions, but rather that your genetic signature, as defined by these 15 markers, resembles that of people living in those regions more closely than [that of people] in other places in the world. Although your genetic signature is found with the most frequency in the Kapu Reddy people of India, it is also seen in the Tswana people of South Africa, as well as the people of East Timor.”
Exploring Additional DNA Testing
Since you are interested in finding out more about your grandmother’s father, who may have been from India, consider having a male descendant of your great-grandfather (perhaps a great-uncle or the son of your great-uncle) complete a y-DNA test. If you are unable to enlist the help of a direct male descendant of your great-grandfather, you may want to also consider taking a y-DNA test yourself to learn more about your paternal ancestry.
You could also supplement this by having female relative, such as a sister or your mother, take an mtDNA test to learn more about your maternal ancestry. If any of these results also show origins in India, South Africa or the Malay Archipelago (East Timor), this will support your original test results and the words of your grandmother (remember that these tests typically show deep ancestral origins, so those connections could be from your distant past). However, the y-DNA and mtDNA tests may also show completely different ancestral origins from the autosomal test.
Studying Historical Migration Patterns and Genealogy Records
As stated in a previous post titled “I’m Creole. Why Do I Have South Asian DNA?” it is possible that any Indian or South African ancestry that you may have was the result of a migration of people long ago during the height of the East Indian traders in ancient times, or the result of a more recent events, such as European colonialism.
Although traditional genealogical research methods may not always yield information about African Americans before the end of slavery, you may be able to determine whether or not your great-grandfather was from Mumbai, India (formerly called Bombay). We recommend starting by tracing your family back in the U.S. Federal Census. Most African Americans were enumerated in the 1870 Federal Census and in each subsequent census year. Start by finding records of your grandmother and then work backward to see if you can find her parents. In addition to talking with her, it might also be helpful to talk with other family members who have heard this story and see if they have any leads that may guide your research.
It might also be useful to determine when your family arrived in Louisiana. If they arrived after the Civil War, it is possible that they were enslaved in other states before that time. The site FamilySearch.org has a comprehensive list of African American Genealogy Resources for Louisiana. Finding out more about your family in Louisiana might provide you with some insight of when exactly they migrated to North America.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Send your questions about tracing your own roots to TracingYourRoots@theroot.com.