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Seychellois seek to fill in blank branches on family tree via DNA testing

Victoria, Seychelles | June 7, 2018, Thursday @ 15:15 in National » GENERAL | By: Salifa Karapetyan Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 2851
Seychellois seek to fill in blank branches on family tree via DNA testing

Nancy Marie from English River, one of Seychelles' oldest centenarian taking a souvenir photo with grand children and great grand children. (Louis Toussaint, Seychelles News Agency)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - When you come from a melting pot like Seychelles, how can you trace your heritage? One group is using modern science to help Seychellois fill in their family tree. 

The newly created Facebook group is called “Seychelles – The DNA Project”. The group, administered by UK-resident Danny Vel, brings together people who have a traceable Seychellois connection.

Seychelles, a 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, is home to descendants from Europe, Africa and Asia. The island nation was uninhabited until 1770, when 15 French colonists, seven slaves, five Indians and one black woman settled on St. Anne Island.

“Seychelles is such a young country in terms of habitation and settlement that the potential for such an affordable DNA sample is quite big. If anyone is interested at the moment they just join our Facebook group,” said Danny Vel.

He told SNA through Facebook that one has to be prepared if they want to participate in the project as “DNA won’t lie.” He explained that “there are questions about our roots that might only be answered through DNA as records cannot be used.”

Nancy Marie, one of Seychelles' oldest centenarian celebrated her 109th birthday earlier this year surrounded by her family (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY

When talking about records, Danny Vel, was referring to his personal experience. With his family having a historical link to slaves in Seychelles, as documentations before slavery are scarce, he found it hard to learn about his ancestors in this manner.

Inspired by a similar project in the Azores Islands – an autonomous region of Portugal and an archipelago of nine volcanic islands -- “Seychelles - The DNA Project” looks to connect people of the Seychelles past and present.

“We have people joined who are from UK, USA and Australia. My Seychellois connection left in the 1870's and died in London,” said Danny Vel.

Interested people have to self-sponsor themselves a DNA test offered by genealogical websites such as Ancestry and MyHeritage. Depending on the service provider, the test might cost around $100. Genealogy is the study of family and the tracing of their lineages and history.

His UK-based cousin, Steven Vel, decided to do the test with and as he wanted to compare the results.

“They seem to be broadly the same when it came to what I was expecting to find in terms of the regions. I was surprised to find that my paternal haplogroup is R-L21 - from what I understand this is of western European origin, and yet my paternal line is from Madagascar,” said Steven Vel.

Being a keen amateur genealogist, Steven Vel, is hoping to find more relations. He explained that “with this project being exclusively Seychelles related, it will be much easier to make connections.”

From the results he received in March, he has been able to explore his closest matches to fourth cousins.

“I was pleased to see my DNA results confirm known connections that were made using traditional sources, birth, marriage and death records and family trees among others,” said Steven Vel.

He added that he was able to connect with a first cousin who he “had no idea existed because she was put up for adoption at birth.”

“From my experience, you cannot always rely on what is said on official records. I have been to the Seychelles Archives several times to collect birth, marriage and death certificates, and was told that Seychelles had a very relaxed attitude towards record keeping in the early days of the colony. If you’re serious about genealogy, then it really is a no-brainer, as they say,” said Danny Vel.

Looking to have her DNA test carried out, Sarah Drevet, who lives in Australia said that she is “doing this DNA test stems from the fact that I believe I am part of a generation of young adults who have lost their sense of identity being so exposed to the newly globalised world in which we live.”

“I have a deep sense of longing to connect with my beloved country, understand my heritage, investigate the story behind the blood that runs through my veins,” said Drevet.

She said that I would be lovely to have a story to tell to her future children and would like to one day return to Seychelles.

Seychelles – The DNA Project” currently has 132 members.  

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Tags: Seychelles – The DNA Project, MyHeritage, Azores Islands

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