How and a DNA test helped a Black Ottawa woman discover her roots in Africa

ABOVE: Rachel Décoste (PHOTO: Moshe Zusman)

Canada is recognized as one of the most diverse countries in the world. National DNA Day is celebrated annually on April 25 and, the global leader in family history, is encouraging Canadians of all backgrounds to explore their roots and make new discoveries through the power of DNA.

Black history enthusiast Rachel Décoste used AncestryDNA, a simple consumer DNA test, to discover her ethnicity and find new details about her family history. The results of the test inspired her to go on an odyssey to Africa, which she recounts in her new audiobook, “Year of Return: A Black Woman’s African Homecoming.” Guided by the DNA test, Rachel visited five countries in as many months, each place holding the key to a different part of her lineage.

ABOVE: Rachel standing in front of Washington Monument.

Ancestry DNA is a simple at-home saliva test that provides you with an online ethnicity estimate that helps you to understand through your DNA where your ancestors may have originated from across the world, as well as identifying living relatives in the AncestryDNA network of 18 million people worldwide. Rachel is one of the 18 million people Ancestry DNA has assisted in connecting her with her family roots.

Rachel says, “With the advent of affordable DNA tests, African-Canadians can now pinpoint their origins and make it a pilgrimage to reconcile with a painful past. By tracing my DNA, I was able to fulfill a journey of self-discovery connecting my identity with my roots.”

Like most descendants of enslaved Africans, Rachel could not pinpoint her origins until technology evolved. Although she is from Ottawa and her parents are from Haiti, Rachel always had a desire of knowing more about her ancestry. “I wanted to illuminate this dark unknown,” says Rachel.

ABOVE: Rachel attended the 2016 Canada Day celebration at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Rachel added, “Black Canadians often get questions like, ‘Where are you really from?’. After 40 years, you get the message that this isn’t your real home, even if it’s your birthplace. Where can I go so that my skin colour, my curves, my kinky hair, my taste for spices, rhythmic music, and colourful clothes aren't an outlier? After this DNA test and subsequent journey to Africa, I no longer have to wonder where I'm from. I know where I can go to see myself reflected in all walks of life. I know where home is. It's no longer a question mark.”

To learn more about how can help you discover your genealogy, click here