Food, Community & Government

Deciphering Your DNA Story

Michael W. Twitty

Lesson time 12:15 min

Addressing the African American community, Michael gives an unfiltered view of the pros and cons of DNA testing. He explores the intersection of history and genealogy to guide and point out the shortcomings of researching African American family history.

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Topics include: Understanding Your DNA Test • The 1870 Census


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I'm going to speak to folks of African descent right now. I'm talking to you. First of all, there are very few services that can so-called tell you your tribe, OK? Tribe is loaded word. Ethnic group is a little bit better, but not always precise, but who your people are. These are peoples. These are ethnic groups these are families of people who share clan affinity and ethnic attachment, like language, customs, rituals, all of which make them a cohesive group. Some services people are addicted to the pie chart. They like the pie chart that's very colorful that tells them I'm this much percentage of this. What you have to remember as an African descendant is that it takes multiple tests to really kind of figure out who you are. Some services have actually declined in their usability, unfortunately, as of us talking with each other. Some services-- and I won't name names-- used to connect people with a smaller centimorgan, a smaller genetic connection, with each other who were relatives. So for example, one service was connecting us with our blood relatives from Africa. But sometimes, you know, those are very old and small pieces of genetic material. But what's cool is if you have it, and your cousin has it, and another cousin has it, you're pretty much assured that that person you've connected with has-- is a relative. And you know, I will tell you this much. Those of you who are continental Africans and Caribbean-- Afro-Caribbeans and Afro-Latin descendants, please, please if you're comfortable, get your DNA done. You know why? Because if the connection is strong, you will be able to connect a descendant in the Americas with their Caribbean or African roots. I've seen it. It's a beautiful thing. I had a mentor, and I was talking-- I was talking with my mentor. And her husband, who was also a mentor of mine, I didn't realize had passed away. And she mentioned that he got his DNA done, and she asked him, you're Sara and Willa from Senegal. You know where you come from. Why are you doing this? And he said I want to make sure that people on this side of the ocean know where they come from. And she said OK. Come to find out that one of my distant cousins, who I met through this genetic genealogy search has ancestry from Mount Vernon, the plantation that George Washington owned. He knows the exact ancestor, what his name was, when he was born. And that particular part of Virginia had an enormous amount of people who came from Senegambia. And one of those connecting ancestors was the genes of my mentor with my distant cousin. And he asked me one day, do you know Gorgui, this Gorgui fellow from Senegal? You know of this people? Like I would know them. Do you know that? And I said I only know one, and that's it. And when I talked to his widow, it was him. People who had never met each other. One person I knew in my 20s and the person I met in my late 30s and 40s. And now all the piec...

About the Instructor

Through years of unearthing his African American heritage, bestselling author of The Cooking Gene Michael W. Twitty discovered undeniable ties between his ancestors’ past and his own palate. Now he’s teaching how you can get a taste of your family history through food. Explore the migrations that informed the ingredients in your kitchen—then re-create the dishes that helped shape who you are.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Michael W. Twitty

James Beard Award–winning author of The Cooking Gene teaches how to trace your culinary roots through the food your ancestors ate.

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