ELSIcon2022 • Flash • May 27, 2022
African Americans generally lack awareness of their ancestral family history due to the forced displacement of their ancestors during the Transatlantic Slave Trade and U.S. slave era. However, some African Americans have begun identifying African genetic relatives in their results from consumer genetic genealogy services. Whereas existing research documents both the impact of such tests on ethnic-racial identity development and the key roles that family and ethnic identity plays in positive psychological well-being, the impact of genetic genealogy and finding African genetic matches on African Americans is underexplored. This study used grounded theory methods to explore family identity development and ethnic identity development among seven self-identified African Americans who engaged in social interactions with their African genetic relatives found using consumer genetic genealogy services. Participants explained having a sense of lack in their African ancestral history and using genetic genealogy to fill in gaps in their narratives. As they engaged with the test results and interacted with African genetic relatives found using the test, they experienced an evolving African ethnic identity and sorting of interpretations about genetic relatedness and kinship. They also managed psychological outcomes such as acceptance and belonging, pride and self-esteem, and phenotypical self-love. This pilot data reveals a new social context for family and ethnic identity development for African American adults and illustrates the meaningful process by which genetic genealogy services connect the African diaspora with African relatives.