DNA says I am 2% Central African & 2% South American Native – NPE!

After much research, it seems to me that I probably descend from a mulatto solider in Dutch Brazil.

My DNA from 2 major companies both show about 1% to 2% South American native. Evan's FTDNA Ancestry African & South AmericanMy three youngest kids tests on ancestryDNA all show 1% South American and one of the kid’s ethnicity estimate at My Heritage is 1.4% Nigerian. With two different samples of my DNA (one from ancestry and one from 23&me) the analysis at FTDNA shows 1/2% -2% of West or South Central African DNA.

This DNA would have to be from the “real” father of my 8th Great Grandmother, Margarietje Polhemus, who was born in the tiny Brazilian Dutch outpost of Itamarca in 1642.  A Non Paternal Event.

Mulato Man (Brazil) from the book Albert Eckhout: een Hollandse kunstenaar in Brazilië
Mulato Man (Brazil) from the book Albert Eckhout: een Hollandse kunstenaar in Brazilië

Here is a painting (Mulatto Man of Brazil from the book Albert Eckhout: een Hollandse kunstenaar in Braziliëof) of one of the mulatto soldiers serving in the Dutch garrison of Itamarca in the 1640s. I could see how my 9th Great Grandmother might have strayed from her prim and proper minister husband. Maybe this is even my 9th Great Grandfather. Note the ripe hanging cocoa fruit in the painting, in Dutch art of the 1500s and 1600s fruit is a symbol identified with sexuality and fertility.

The Spanish and Portuguese had been in Brazil for over 100 years, and there were many mulatto soldiers, with mixed Spanish, African (slave) and Native parentage. The Africans were of South Central African descent – the Mbundu People of Portugese Angola.

FTDNA using improved DNA analysis finds that I descend from ancestors (300 years +/-) in Central Africa and also South America.
FTDNA using improved DNA analysis finds that I descend from ancestors (300 years +/-) in Central Africa and also South America.

As far as DNA goes, when it is under 1% it could be caused by “noise” but when it is repeated from two different tests and also in my kids’ tests then it is a legitimate non-noise percentage.

Of course where that DNA came from is a completely speculative theory at this point.

Born in Brazil: Margarietja Polhemus – my 8th Great Grandmother

Forte Orange
Forte Orange, Itamaracá‬. Today.

My 8th great-grandmother Margarietje Polhemus was born in 1642 inItamaracá‬, Pernambuco State, Brazil and died in 1702 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. Her father Dominie Johannes Theodores Polhemius was a Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Holland and in 1637 he was part of the Dutch migration to Brazil, taking over the Colony of Recife from the Portuguese. He was appointed Minister to the Dutch Garrison at Fort Orange on the Island of Itamaracá.

After years of turmoil and revolts by the Portuguese, the Dutch abandoned Itamaracá on December 13, 1647. At this point, six-year-old Margarietje and her family would have moved to the relative safety of Recife, on the mainland. Battles with the Portuguese at the Dutch settlement of Recife continued for six more years. The Dutch finally lost control of Recife on January 28, 1654, leaving the Portuguese with the colony of Brazil and putting an end to Nieuw Holland.

The Dutch fled on sixteen ships back to Holland, but Dominie Polhemius was on a different ship than his wife and children. The ship he was on along with twenty-three members of the Jewish community of Recife, was captured by Spanish pirates, they were rescued soon after by the French ship, “Le Charles” and after agreeing to pay for their transportation, they eventually reached the New Amsterdam. The Dutch Governor Pieter Stuyvesant requested that Dominie Polhemius stay and lead the Dutch Reformed Church of Flatbush, along with the churches in the Towns of Breukelen and Flatlands. The three churches operated as “collegiate” churches, sharing Domine Theodorus Polhemus as their first pastor. After two years, once he was established in New Amsterdam, his wife and children, who had been living in Holland, sailed back across the Atlantic and joined him in Flatbush.

Maybe there is another explanation as to why the family was separated. My DNA very clearly indicates that I descend from Brazilian Native Americans and Central African. I propose that Margarietja’s father was most likely a mulatto soldier serving in the Dutch garrison of Itamarca. 

Read more about the related histories of Brazil, the Netherlands and New Amsterdam, here.

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