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Where did Jamaican ancestors came from?

Answered by Aneisha Dobson, Associate Writer || April 14, 2018

"A person without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. - Marcus Mosiah Garvey

Jamaica is described as a “melting pot” due to the diversity of ethnicity in our country’s population. Yes, there is certainly no mistake in our country’s national motto, “Out of Many One People”.

jamaican_ancestor history

Throughout the course of history, people from all over the globe have settled in our island. These individuals ended up in Jamaica for a variety of reasons.

For some it was for adventure, some in search of wealth and opportunity and even some as punishment. The majority however, came to the island by force due to the slave trade.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, the remnant of their passage can be seen in the country’s rich culture.

But who are these people?

Our ancestors constitute persons from the Tainos (the earliest and original settlers), The Europeans (primarily English and Spanish), The East Indians, The Africans and the Chinese.

The Tainos

The Tainos were one of the Amerindian people. They were originally from Central East Asia. They left their homelands in search of food and travelled across the Bearing Strait and settled in North America.

However, some groups, including the Tainos, continued the journey and migrated to South America. The Tainos then journeyed through the Caribbean waters and began inhabiting the islands of the Caribbean, Jamaica being one of them.

The hardship faced later, due to the enslavement by the Europeans, resulted in the extinction of the Tainos. However, their legacy is visible in canoe making, hammock making, basket making, cravings and the fishing industry.

The Europeans

The Europeans who had a significant impact on Jamaica were those who came mainly from Spain and England.

It was a popular European myth that the world was flat. Hence, if one sails beyond the horizon they would fall of the earth!

It is said that Christopher Columbus decided to challenge this myth and left Europe for adventure and in search of gold. This adventure led him to the Caribbean and it later sparked other Europeans to follow suite.

Although the Europeans did not find the gold that they sought after, wealth was found in the fertile soil and tropical climate of the Caribbean.

The legacy of the Europeans can be seen in sports such as cricket; foods such as cakes, teas and pies; and in the names of several locations in the country such as Santa Cruz, Manchester, Seville, Hartford, Buckingham and several others.

The Africans

As a result of the development of a confectionery industry in Europe, the Europeans were in need of a sweetener and sugar was the cheapest alternative.

Due to the death of the tainos, the Europeans needed a labour force. The Africans were chosen as a suitable option because:

  1. They were used to the tropical climate
  2. They were physically strong
  3. They had immunity to tropical disease
  4. They could be easily replaced.

As such, the Africans were taken from West Africa and forced to work in the sugar plantations in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. The Africans, which represents the significant group in Jamaica, brought a strong heritage of music, dance and food.

East Indians

After slavery was abolished, a new labour force was needed. The East Indians migrated from India to Jamaica and other Caribbean islands as indentured labourers under the indenture ship system. The indenture ship system was a contractual arrangement to labour on the sugar plantations.

The East Indians brought various plants and trees such as jackfruit, tamarind and mango. In addition, Indian dishes such as curry goat have become very popular in Jamaica.


Like the Indians, the Chinese came to Jamaica as indentured labourers. The development of commerce could be attributed to the Chinese who developed business that grew from small grocery stores to large enterprises.

See that? They all came together to great the unique richness and uniqueness of culture that we enjoy today.

Be sure to read more on early history of Jamaica and the colonial history of Jamaica.

Comments for Where did Jamaican ancestors came from?

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Sep 14, 2019
Where did Jamaicans come from
by: Anonymous

As far as I know Jamaicans comprise lower percentage European, Indian, Chinese.... I think If you look at the actual DNA structure It IS clear that something of around 66% genetically Jamaicans originate from sub Sahara west Africa and In Paricular "The Gold Coast" presently known as Ghana As they were the first colonised country In the African diaspora to gain Independence from the British Empire In 1957.

Jamaican People In terms of their African Heritage DNA wise originate from The Ashanti "Asante" Tribe Of Ghana. Indeed some of the other west Indian Islands slaves were also Asanti Iie Barbados, Curaçao "Dutch" but bcoz they originated from the asante.. Whom In history had their own Empire The Akan adrinka symbols will explain a lot.. Asante Warriors were amongst 4 of the most known fighting Tribes In the whole of Africa.. The Zulu being another.

Due to this when the Portuguese, Dutch and English slavers unshaceled them There was a ferocious fight and They headed for the hills In Jamaica Known as Maroons.. They are there now In the 21st century and still maintain some of their ancestral traditions ie the dialect Is Inclusive of Twi... Asante language, they maintain ancestral names..

And have kept many traditions, they are largely left alone bcoz of the fact that they WILL NOT yield to historical British, Portuguese, Dutch, French rule. Some of the Asante who were taken to other West Indian Islands were brought to Jamaica as they were too rebilous, Hence the meaning Out of one People Come Many..

The Portuguese were the first to arrive In The Gold Coast "Ghana" And built Elmina Castle a fortress... which was taken over by the British " Cape Coast. It IS from here that Slaves were Taken To North America... Southam Erica ie Brazil, England... Liverpool and Bristol and some to to France or French Colonial areas..

It IS Interesting to note that the Largest Black population IS Nigeria, followed by Brazil.. Not North America... The British were Defeated by the Asante on their first attempt to colonise the Asante but used the smaller Tribe Ga to combine and defeat the Asante Warriors but were Defeated by the Asante..

For more history, Google the 4 wars between the British and the Asante or as Its pronounced by the British Ashanti and the Golden Stool.

Apr 17, 2018
Where did Jamaican ancestors came from?
by: Sonia

This is very informative. Some of the information I know and some I don't.

It would be interesting to know whether a book has been written on this topic. I surely would but it.

Click here to add your own comments

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