Your ancestors’ legacy is within reach

About Us

What does SPANdna stand for?

Starting Point Akoma Ntoaso: Genealogy | Therapeutics | Tours

The closest country to 0°, 0° longitude and latitude is the African country of Ghana: our chosen geographic Starting Point on the African continent.

Our desire is to collaborate with and support communities of African descent.  We offer the opportunity to build family trees, explore lineages, and plan travel to the African continent to connect with ancestral roots. Psychological & spiritual preparation sessions will also be available with BIPOC mental health professionals.

Akoma Ntoaso

Akoma Ntoaso is an Akan Adinkra symbol. It translates as “linked hearts.” Metaphorically, Akoma Ntoaso embodies understanding and agreement, as well as harmony within communities. The physical symbol depicts four hearts linked together, emphasizing mutual sympathy and immortality of the soul.

An Indigenous Foreigner

Meet Adwoa

Born to Ghanaian parents who immigrated to Canada in the 1980s and to the USA in the late 90s, Adwoa was born in the Toronto Metro Area. Growing up in Canada and the southern United States, she grew up singing in the Toronto Children’s Chorus and the Ghanaian children’s choir, Toronto Nosromma. She was raised speaking Fanti at home,  and learned English, French and Japanese in school.  Being part of an interfaith household with a Baha’i mother and Christian father, she was raised to believe in a Creator who loved all of creation. With an extended family, scattered across the globe with intercultural unions, she could not help but see all of humanity as one connected human family.

Adwoa spent her adolescence and early adult years in North Carolina.  This is where she earned her Bachelor’s in French and International Studies from UNC Chapel Hill.  Her Master’s in Education from the University of Alabama opened the doors to teach high school French in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Fairfax County in Virginia. Adwoa has always loved the opportunity to meet new people and to make connections with them. You will find that she generally finds it easy to put her thoughts into words and loves to hear others’ stories. These may be the qualities that led her to become a Master Social Worker while living in Indiana. She has faith in the links among all things and believes there are few coincidences and that almost every event has meaning.

Her experience in grassroots community building through the programs of the Ruhi Training Institute have instilled in her a desire to contribute to the betterment of the world and to walk with others in a path of service.  A path where we all become protagonists for change in constant efforts to learn and contribute to our development as individuals, communities and influence the growth of the institutions around us.

Photo credit: Phyllis Iller and hair: Roselee Mathu and Dreamy Hair Daze

SPANdna MISSION

To support people of African descent in their efforts to find, document, understand and connect with their ancestral heritage.  

Helping others to discover and better understand the historical and familial circumstances of their living family, especially, in the context of the West African diaspora.

How and when did this all begin?

Adwoa’s Genealogy Story

At the age of 17, Adwoa started her genealogical journey, when she began investigating newly found family information in her paternal line. As the daughter of two Ghanaian immigrants to Canada, her parents and she had no specific knowledge of any Europeans in their lineage—simply vague probabilities on the paternal side, based on a surname of European origin, which was not unusual in her paternal hometown of Elmina, Ghana, West Africa. During the course of this initial research, she was mentored by Dr. Ineke van Kessel, a Dutch historian and journalist,  She also collaborated with and learned from Dutch genealogists, historians and others based in the Netherlands.

This experience contributed to her Ghanaian, paternal family learning much more about their newfound Dutch ancestors. She took her first international, solo flight and traveled to the Netherlands where she first experienced history coming alive for her as she delved into archival records in The Hague, the smaller archives in Brielle, and interviewed descendants of the Black Dutchmen, who shared a common history with her paternal family. She  was interviewed by a local newspaper and published her first magazine article (translated into Dutch from English) about her newfound family history–much of which was troubling, disturbing, and illuminating.  Much of Adwoa’s research is included in the book Java Hill–An African Journey: A Nation’s Evolution Through Ten Generations of a Family Linking Four Continents by T. P. Manus Ulzen.

As a university student in 2004, she expanded her research to interview families in Elmina, Ghana with a history much like her own paternal heritage. Many of these family histories are now documented and preserved in the Elmina-Java Museum in Ghana. For nearly one decade, she has expanded her knowledge of genealogy, informed by DNA testing with her family of origin, her husband’s Armenian and Slovak family, and a network of friends and acquaintances across the globe. In this time, she discovered connections to descendants of slavery in the Americas and her 10th cousins of Dutch origin in Australia.

Both her maternal and paternal families have connections to the Transatlantic Slave Trade discovered through genealogical research—as the kidnapped victims (maternal) and the European perpetrators (paternal).  She has dedicated significant resources into connecting the dots with newfound  DNA relatives across the Americas. Through these endeavors, she has discovered more about the Africans and their descendants after having spent so many years researching the histories of the Europeans.

She then began her formal training in genealogical research methods, tools, processes, and ethics to benefit those beyond her family of origin. Her vision includes researching and documenting the histories of descendants of slavery in the Americas and archiving their family stories in the Elmina-Java Museum, on the African continent, where parts of their known, soon-to-be-known or unknown histories originated.  

Adwoa is a member of the National Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists and the International Society of Genetic Genealogists.  She specializes in DNA research.