How Much African Ancestry Does the Average African-American Have?

Map of AfricaHenry Louis Gates Jr. asked, and answered, that question in an article he wrote for The Root. It is an interesting question. There are many genealogists who have African ancestry but have yet to discover exactly which part of Africa their ancestors were from.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., for those who don’t know, is an American literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, and editor. He is the host of several PBS television miniseries, including African American Lives, Faces of America, and Wonders of the African World.

A few years ago, Henry Louis Gates Jr. decided to trace the family trees of a group of African Americans all the way back to slavery. When the paper trail that genealogists seek out disappeared, he thought it would be interesting to have the participants DNA analyzed by This idea turned into a weekly program for PBS called Finding Your Roots.

For his article on The Root, Henry Louis Gates Jr. asked the five different companies that analyze their genetic makeup of ancestry of the guests that appear on Finding Your Roots if he could publish their findings about the ancestral origins of the African-American community. What resulted is a detailed, fascinating, article at The Root.

What was discovered? The exact answer depends upon which of the five companies that tested the DNA of guests from the show found. There are some difference in the percentages presented in the data.

-According to, the average African-American is 65% sub-Saharan African, 29% European, and 2% Native American.

-According to 23andMe, the average African-American is 75% sub-Saharan African, 22% European, and only 0.6% Native American.

-According to Family Tree, the average African-American is 72.95% sub-Saharan African, 22.83% European, and 1.7% Native American.

-According to National Geographic’s Genographic Project, the average African-American is 80% sub-Saharan African, 19% European, and 1% Native American.

– According to AfricanDNA, the average African-American is 79% sub-Saharan African, 19% European, and 2% Native American.

It is possible to use DNA to discover more about a man’s paternal ancestry. In other words, a DNA analysis can reveal information about a man’s father’s father’s father’s line. This is done by looking closely at their y-DNA.

From this, it was determined that 35% of all African-American men are descendants of a white male ancestor. That ancestor was a white male who fathered a mulatto child during America’s slavery era. Other DNA analyzes reveals that about 3% and 4% of people who consider themselves to be white have some African ancestry. They have somewhere between 0.5% and 5%.

Image by Norman B. Leventhal on Flickr.

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