The quest for an Afrikaner genotype

By Razib Khan | January 21, 2012 8:49 pm

Update: If interested, please email me at contactgnxp -at- gmail -dot- com. Also, I am getting some feedback via 23andMe that people with white South African matches noticed Africa segments in many of the ancestry paintings. This has definitely increased by probability that the admixture proportion is ~5 percent. There will probably be a few genotypes coming in shortly, but I am going to see if I can get more people typed (fundraising appeal pending!).

It’s been a while since I’ve gone looking for genotypes of particular ethnic groups. The results were rather good for the Tutsi and Malagasy. So I thought I’d venture out again, despite being a bit busy. Here’s what I want: the genotype of an Afrikaner (or several). A few years ago South African geneticist J. M. Greeff did an analysis of his own pedigree, and estimated that he had ~6 percent non-European ancestry (he did validate this with some genetic markers; e.g., his father’s mtDNA is of the M haplogroup, which is almost always Indian). This is in line with other genealogists who have estimated, about 5 percent non-European heritage. How much should we trust these non-biological studies? The genomic estimates of African American ancestry being ~20 percent European were anticipated by analyses of family histories from text records, so we certainly shouldn’t dismiss them (in fact, it seems possible that these analyses will underestimate non-European ancestry because of cryptic individuals in the pedigrees).

And we have plenty of records of people of non-European ancestry contributing to the Afrikaner population in any case. Greeff found the records for his own pedigree, but the first Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony was himself of mixed-race (his mother was Eurasian). The question is is a matter of degree. Are Afrikaners like American whites, with hardly any non-European ancestry (~1 percent or less), or like Latin American whites, with significant non-European ancestry (~5 to 20 percent)? My own bet is that they’ll be in the middle. The proportion of non-European ancestry is low enough that individuals such as Sandra Laing are very rare indeed. But if the 5 percent estimate is valid, and almost of all these ancestors were women, then a larger proportion of the mtDNA is going to be non-European.

 

So how do we do this? Well, I need an autosomal genotype. I’ll take it anyway I can get it. But, if you don’t have one, but are willing to let me analyze your own genotype, and, are of 100 percent known Afrikaner descent, then we can probably figure out a way to purchase you a kit.

Why does this matter? I guess you could ask why any science matters. I’m a little confused as to why no one has done this before. There’s plenty of work on the cultural cousins of the Afrikaners, the Cape Coloureds. My working assumption is that except for the initial decades of the Cape Colony, when women were in severe shortage and the color line was not as strict, most of the non-European gene flow into the Afrikaners is going to be from the Cape Coloureds. This means that like the Cape Coloureds the Afrikaners carry within them the genetic variation of a huge swath of the world’s population. The non-European ancestry of the Afrikaners is naturally part African. Bantu and Khoisan. But there is also considerable Asian, from South and East Asia. Though this leaves out the Middle East and the New World, you have here most of extant genetic variation in human populations.

There are approximately 3 million Afrikaners in South Africa. What if these were the only human beings left on earth? At 5 percent that’s 150,000 non-Europeans, with a mix of Southeast Asians, Chinese, Indians, Khoisan, and Bantu. Because of diminishing returns you’ll actually have enough variation in just a few thousand individuals of any given ethnic group to capture most of its genetic character. In other words you could in theory reconstitute the Chinese and Khoisan from these Afrikaners.

Addendum: The paper, Complete Khoisan and Bantu genomes from southern Africa, has one “South African European.” But I suspect that this individual is author Vanessa M Hayes, and she is not an Afrikaner to my knowledge.

Image credit: Wikipedia

  • Henri

    Thanks Razib,

    Very interesting on our heritage. Would love to know more in how we are linked because the Afrikaner is a small pool of how a mixed world can look. Many Afrikaners has dark complexions with straight hair, and the characteristics a quite varying. Some say certain characteristics of for instance Afrikaner men are all the same. Maybe the noses, or jaw. Another Afrikaner in Hollywood is “Arno Vosloo”. The guy from “The Mummy”.

    Regards,

    Henri (Afrikaner)

  • Davidski

    I’ve got one – SAEU1. Comes out rather North/Central French or Belgian in most analyses.

    He’s not very admixed, with low percentages of Sub-Saharan and East Asian (less than 2% and 1.5% respectively). So he actually comes out less admixed than some of my native Europeans, like from East Finland or North Russia. In fact, a couple of my Spaniards show more African than he does in various runs.

    By the way, there was a large sample of White South Africans used in that paper on the San Bushman genome. They clustered with the CEU Americans.

  • South African

    Your info seems like guesswork. There has been serious work done on Afrikaner origins. It’s not nearly as mixed as mixed as you imply.

  • http://censorbugbear-reports.blogspot.com/2009/12/lawyer-of-sa-asylum-seeker-expects-many.html Adriana Stuijt

    If you look for genotypes, you should also look for ethnic-specific familial medical conditions which are found primarily in that specific population group and passed on by one ancestor. A great many Afrikaner families suffer from familial porphyria – an often fatal problem caused by exposure to sunlight.This was passed on to them by one common female ancestor, an orphan girl who was sent as an indentured servant to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the early-settlement years of this private company’s settlement which later became Cape Town. Some Afrikaner families suffer so badly from this affliction that one family which was never able to step outdoors in their homeland, actually were granted asylum for humanitarian reasons inPrince Rupert in British Columbia, which reportedly has the lowest number of sunshine days in Canada.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    He’s not very admixed, with low percentages of Sub-Saharan and East Asian (less than 2% and 1.5% respectively). So he actually comes out less admixed than some of my native Europeans, like from East Finland or North Russia. In fact, a couple of my Spaniards show more African than he does in various runs.

    but that is very admixed for a person of dutch + german + french origin, right? the position seems about right, since the huguenots were somewhat biased toward southern france (la rochelle and all) in their distribution by the time of the revocation of the edict of nantes. in my own runs groups like the basques and CEU are exceedingly european.

    By the way, there was a large sample of White South Africans used in that paper on the San Bushman genome.

    can you clarify that for me? i looked in the supplements of that paper, and it seemed to be one individual. that’s what the PCA looks like too. i’m pretty sure that that person was was dr. hayes.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    ok, if this is the paper you’re talking about:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7283/full/nature08795.html

    i checked again. it’s one person.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    and btw, if the s. african european *is* vanessa hayes, obviously she could have her husband’s surname, or her paternal lineage could be english. so it seems that i overreached assuming she wasn’t afrikaner. on the other hand, i’ve met her, and she doesn’t have an afrikaner accent in english.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Your info seems like guesswork. There has been serious work done on Afrikaner origins. It’s not nearly as mixed as mixed as you imply.

    shut the fuck up or volunteer to be genotyped.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    you should also look for ethnic-specific familial medical conditions which are found primarily in that specific population group and passed on by one ancestor.

    there would be too many complications with looking at traits/diseases. a lot of people don’t want strangers poking around for that sort of thing, and i respect that.

  • Davidski

    Oh yeah, it’s only one sample. For some reason I thought it was more.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #10, no worries. re: your own s. african sample, some chromosomal analyses might clarify a little. though i suspect that the iberian admixture we see is also new….

  • Antonio

    I pretty much doubt any latin american with 10-20 % admixture would classify him/herself as “white” in USA. There is a box in US for “hispanics whites” or something but that is not quite the same. On the contrary, I am familiar with genetically europeans from Latin American that don’t self-classify because they don’t look like the steriotyped northwest europeans. These people actually miss the point that many natives from these regions don’t follow the steriotype either. This comment might look like irrelevant but indeed if we want to compare “whites” from different regions – and their historical and demographic trajectories – this very definition might be an issue.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #12, the census has a hispanic category. that is different from the race category. that means that a hispanic checks hispanic, specifies ethnicity, and, then checks or specifics a race. i agree that white latin americans don’t identify as such as in the USA. but that doesn’t mean that argentines, for example, don’t consider themselves white in argentina, and view themselves as a settler nation (as opposed to a mexican ‘cosmic’ nation).

  • Antonio

    A comparison, say, among US, South Africa and Brazil should also be done with some care. For example, there are many opportunities for mixing in the later two countries but not in US, where vast geographies are almost exclusively populated by people of european background. Would be interesting to compare more comparable places, like the US south or cosmopolitan areas like LA, where mixing opportunities are plenty.

  • Antonio

    Hi Razib, that’s for your reply. I’m familiar with how the last US census change the hispanic category but the truth is that many think of hispanic as a *racial* category. I’ve seen highly educated “hispanics” in major US universities using the term as a racial category – to my surprise. Thus this category is blurred somehow, I would think. My point is that international comparisons would be more meaningful if we can have sort of common ground. My take is that one the reasons that lots of the literature on race in Brazil written by US people sounds weird for brazilian born people is exactly because americans are taking about “whites” in both country but without making explicit what does it refer to.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I’m familiar with how the last US census change the hispanic category but the truth is that many think of hispanic as a *racial* category. I’ve seen highly educated “hispanics” in major US universities using the term as a racial category – to my surprise.

    i’m aware of this. and hispanic has been racialized. nevertheless, 50 percent of american hispanics check “white” as their race. so they maintain both aspects in their minds. that is, as hispanics they identify as blanco. as americans they identify as hispanics.

    For example, there are many opportunities for mixing in the later two countries but not in US, where vast geographies are almost exclusively populated by people of european background

    this is an interesting point. even if afrikaners are more mixed, the fact that they are surrounded by non-whites may mean that their admixture levels indicate a much stronger tendency toward endogamy than american whites!

  • Antonio

    Just a question: wouldn’t you think that Argentina is indeed a settler nation? I would think so in the sense that most people who nowadays live in the the central areas such as Buenos Aires are in fact descent from european settlers. Of course, there are indiginous people in some regions, such as the north. But these place are not central to the country’s core identity. There might be even some mixing in the central areas, but isn’t it also true in US? Or at least isn’t it also true in the places in US where the mixing was actually possible? Actually, I think is US there is a higher place for non-european identities, such as the black and hispanics communities. Moreover, Buenos Aires looks more like europe to me than most US cities, though will ne like Madrid or Rome, not London.

  • Antonio

    “this is an interesting point. even if afrikaners are more mixed, the fact that they are surrounded by non-whites may mean that their admixture levels indicate a much stronger tendency toward endogamy than american whites!” that’s is indeed very interesting! I would guess the same phenomena is true for the colonials brazilians, maybe even more strongly, at least till very recently. So my point is that if we haven’t such a common ground, some kind of baseline for comparison, we would miss of this important points.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #17, genetically the argentines are MUCH MORE non-european than white americans:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2009/12/how-argentina-became-white/

    there have been several papers on this issue now, so i am moderately skeptical that this is just a sampling problem.

    i agree argentina is culturally a settler nation.

  • Antonio

    That fact that 50 % hispanics classify themselves as white is something that always puzzled me. I’ve meet many of them but the vast majority don’t “pass” as white in most countries. And they are aware of that. Thus I don’t know what they have in mind with the white hispanic category.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #20, i think the social science indicates that these people are being forced into choosing what they perceive to be coarse categories. 40 percent pick ‘other.’

  • Antonio

    Also, there is a problem with very idea of defining a nation as a whole as this or that. For example, Brazil as a nation is something very confusing. The majority of the population don’t think themselves as settlers, for sure, but the elite does – and they are not wrong. This might be changing recently but we might have several concurring identities.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #22, there isn’t a problem in a lot of cases. the indigenous component in the USA is marginal. we’re the descendants of settlers, slaves, and immigrants. and our culture is a compound of those three elements. brazil is as boundary condition of ethnic complexity in many cases….

  • Antonio

    21. OK but still white hispanic doesn’t sound like “oh I am european but I lived a bit in Latin American”. They might think of themselves are some kind of mix with some european component attached to it, but probably not white in the US hypodescendent sense. The probably don’t think or look such as the old colonial elites from, say, Brazil or middle class european Argentineans.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    They might think of themselves are some kind of mix with some european component attached to it, but probably not white in the US hypodescendent sense.

    depends. the biggest components are mexican mestizos. so they have real problems in the american system. OTOH, a lot of cuban immigrants are strongly spanish white identified. i’ve done genotype analysis on two people of white cuban ancestry, and found non-trivial african ancestry. similarly, afro-cubans shift to a back identity pretty quickly.

  • Antonio

    #22, “there isn’t a problem in a lot of cases. the indigenous component in the USA is marginal. we’re the descendants of settlers, slaves, and immigrants. and our culture is a compound of those three elements.” OK, I maybe missing something but I’ve seen Americans in California, who were born in US, speaks US english, pay taxes here, sometimes has no other formal attachements with other nations, say things like “in my country (not US) is blah blah blah”; That sound very weird to me because US is their country though the seemed not to recognize so. For them US belong to some abstract “whites”. Today these people are mostly some “mixed-race”. But I would guess that could have happened to, say, Italian, Irish or German immigrants in the past. Indeed, the very phenomena of hyphened americans doesn’t sounds like as something from a very incluse society, Instead, it appears that you have to stand by for a few generations until someone (those of “white” race ?) will accept you.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    That sound very weird to me because US is their country though the seemed not to recognize so.

    the current manifestation is due to multiculturalism and minority identity politics. i assume you see this mostly around college campuses.

  • Antonio

    Actually, I was think about others, such as my MMA instructor, which is over 30′s and may not have college degree. But this is also common around UCLA.

  • Judith

    Ok, I may volunteer. I’ve got documented Afrikaner ancestry going back to the 1700′s on both the paternal and maternal side, so I should be a good candidate. Let me know if you’re interested?

  • Phil

    I’d like to volunteer if you need someone. I’m from a long line of one of the most well known Afrikaner families (although I am technically 1/4 or possibly 1/8 English) like Judith, going back to the 1600′s.

  • Adriaan

    I’d volunteer as well. I have (to date) done only partial genealogical research on my origins, but so far I think my background is typical of Afrikaners, having found immigrant ancestors amongst the earliest Cape settlers as well as from seven/eight generations ago.

    Unfortunately 23andme doesn’t take orders from South Africa…? I’d have already had my genotype if this was not the case, as it’s something I’m very interested in myself.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #31, yeah, to my knowledge it doesn’t :=(

  • AC

    Hi Razib,

    I would like to volunteer. I have ancestry in South Africa spanning back to 1698. I have also been genotyped by 23andme. Send me an email if you are interested.

  • http://www.MichelledeVilliersArt.com Michelle

    I would volunteer. I have ancestry going back (non-verified by me) to 1232.

  • Judith

    So is there a way the three of us can still volunteer?

  • pconroy

    I’m Irish, but have a few relatives in South Africa with the lastname “Apolles”, I think they are Cape Colored, but could be Afrikaner. The connection is most likely through my Huguenot ancestry.

  • Vanessa M. Hayes

    I am Vanessa M. hayes from the Khoisan and Bantu Genome paper. To clarify some of the debate. Yes I am the South African European (SAE) genotyped and I fall with the CEU Europeans, although do show on average longer ROH and number of ROH which may reflect my admixed Afrikaans ancestry. One caution, don’t let appearance (yes I have red hair) or a surname dictate assumptions, this has been an error of population genetics for years. I was not born as Hayes, although my maiden name is also British, I am 50% Afrikaans-Dutch from my mother’s side, first fleet (family bible records) eventually led a marriage with a more recent Dutch immigrant. Further clarification, we did not genotype any additional SA Europeans, we only included HapMap data to plot the Khoisan groups in the Khoisan Bantu Genome paper.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    So is there a way the three of us can still volunteer?

    sent you an email at the email you gave above.

  • J Taylor

    I saw sometime ago an ancestral analysis of afrikaners based on ancestral records from memory it was about
    18% French
    36% German
    32% Dutch
    6% non european
    (It doesnt add to 100 i know but the mix is about right)
    What struck me at the time was the greater german mix than dutch.
    presumably the split of non white is similar to the cape colureds who are an equal mixture of white, south asian(indian and malay) and African(Bushmen-Hottentot)
    There was once a newspaper article descring how some afrikaners were descendant of a west african princess that was brought to the cape. One ancestor was Paul Kruger

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    your memory is correct. you can find the scholar on wikipedia citations. no one has done a genomic follow up to my knowledge.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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