More on the Chris Haley/June Baff DNA Reunion

HaleyBaff1.bmpLast week I posted a story about a fascinating reunion that was to take place this past Saturday in London, England, at the Who Do You Think You Are?-Live conference. This morning, our friend Megan Smolenyak of RootsTelevision sent us a link to a video of the reunion. The video gives lots of information on how they made the connection and explains how the DNA testing made the reunion possible in a fun and easy to understand way. 

Click here  to view the video of the reunion at  

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A Surprise DNA Connection and an Upcoming Reunion!

Chris HaleyBack in November of 2007, Megan Smolenyak wrote an article for the newsletter after Chris Haley, the nephew of Alex Haley of Roots fame, and Director of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland at the Maryland State Archives took a DNA test through at the 2007 FGS Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

In his book, Queen, Chris explored the Haley line, which he shares with his famous uncle. He and Alex Haley both descend from Alec Haley about whom he wrote,

“Following the common custom among slaves, Alec had taken the name Haley from his true Massa, although his real father’s name was Baugh. William Baugh was an overseer . . .”

Science is now adding weight to this story that had been passed on through oral history. Last week, Chris was contacted by a Scottish woman who found through the DNA database that a Y-DNA test her father took for her, is a very close match to Chris’ test results. The results indicate that they likely share an ancestor who likely lived in Scotland in the 1600s or 1700s.

Y-DNA tests follow the male line and are passed from son to son, so looking on a pedigree chart they would follow the top line of the chart, just as traditional surnames do for many of us. The Scottish woman’s paternal surname is Baff, a variation of Baugh.

Chris’ new cousin, June Baff Black, became interested in family history watching the show Who Do You Think You Are? – a popular family history program in the UK that reveals the family history of celebrities. An episode that included DNA testing caught her interest and for Christmas her father took the test for her. She also recently began researching her family history.

It’s fitting that June and Chris will meet for the first time in London tomorrow at the Who Do You Think You Are?-Live 2009 conference on the last day of Black History Month, and on “Scots Saturday” at the conference, when they’ll be celebrating all things Scottish. Talk about your genealogical serendipity!

Megan has promised me more info and some pictures, so stay tuned until next week when we’ll bring you more information here on the blog. Click here to learn more about DNA testing through



From the Weekly Journal to the Weekly Discovery

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When it comes to family history, we’re constantly learning. As our research progresses to a new era, a new location, or a new type of record, we have to learn new skills and refine old ones. For eleven years Ancestry has been e-mailing free newsletters to help family historians keep up with the latest news and tools of the trade and now we’re stepping up our efforts to keep you inspired and informed.

Ancestry has been expanding its educational resources to include webinars and a much more in-depth monthly newsletter—the “Monthly Update.” You’ve probably noticed the recent changes to the “Monthly Update” which goes out around mid-month to all Ancestry users. Click here to sign up or click here to check your email preferences. 
Now it’s our turn to get a facelift. Starting next Monday, you’ll see a new newsletter–the Weekly Discovery in your inbox. This will replace the Weekly Journal but will continue to provide the same high quality information you’ve come to expect from Ancestry.

We hope you enjoy the new Weekly Discovery and the 24/7 Family History Circle blog, which will continue (although newsletter articles will be posted in the Learning Center from here on out). If you have any ideas of topics for the Weekly Discovery, we are interested in hearing them.  Send your questions and ideas to [email protected]. We’ll do our best to incorporate your questions into future articles.

Have a great week!

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Weekly Planner: Start Your Spring Cleaning Early

I’ve never been able to figure out why spring has been designated as the season to stay in and clean house. After winters like this one, I can’t wait to get out of the house and clean up the yard. So this year I’m starting my indoor cleaning now while the weather is still crummy and I’m stuck inside. I’m starting with my family history and have started a list of tasks I want to accomplish BEFORE spring. Some of the tasks on my list include catching up on filing, making sure my electronic database is current, and backing up my data. I’m also attaching records and downloading electronic images to my Ancestry Tree to make it easier to start that MyCanvas book I’ve been wanting. What’s on your list and what’s your plan for tackling it? Share your ideas with fellow family historians in the comments section of the blog.

Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000, by Juliana Smith

RushRun1871.bmpWhen I was a kid, we made an annual summer trek across the country in the family station wagon to visit family. My dad would order his AAA maps for each trip and they would come with our route neatly highlighted in marker. To pass the time I liked to follow our progress, but after the bazillionth “Where are we now Dad?” he figured it was time to come up with some way to keep me busy. He saved the maps from previous trips so I could happily track our progress on my own map. I guess that’s where my love of maps began.

At genealogical conferences, my first shopping stop is the closest booth that has historical maps. Another favorite pastime of mine is to browse huge collections of historical maps online. recently updated its Historic Land Ownership and Reference Atlases, 1507-2000. I had a little time to kill last night, so I thought I would take a look at what was available.

A neat find was a map of Rush Run, Ohio from 1871. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) My grandfather was born there in 1906 and even though the map was from thirty years prior, it was still really interesting. I had never realized the town was actually on the banks of the Ohio River. Mapquest makes it appear a bit further from the river. It also noted coal veins in the area, which is very relevant to my family history because my great-grandparents’ families were miners and they ran the mining store. 

The Cleveland and & Pittsburgh Railroad line is shown with a stop in Rush Run. Since my great-grandparents moved back and forth to and from Cleveland and the southeastern Ohio area around Rush Run, I imagine that could have been a convenient way to get back and forth. For many trains were the easiest way to travel, so pay close attention to the railroads in the areas in which your ancestor lived.

The maps are really detailed and if you find one for a place in which your ancestor lived, you may find his name on the map as the property owner. This particular map showed the location of the coal mine shaft and the coke ovens too.  Continue reading

Is Your Research Energy Efficient?

In my house, I’m the thermostat police. I’m constantly turning it down and when the family complains I promptly hand them a sweatshirt. We’ve put plastic over the windows to keep out extra drafts and a rolled up towel sits at the foot of front and back doors to give added support to the weather stripping. And it’s paying off. Despite really cold temps this month, my utilities bill was still lower than last year. Yeah!

I try to keep my family history research “energy efficient” too. A few simple steps can really make a difference and help you get the most out of every precious minute you have to spend with your family history.

Start a To-Do List
Too often I find that I have just fifteen minutes or a half hour between errands and picking up my daughter and I’d like to be able to sneak in a little family history in between. I have a word processing document that I saved to my desktop and whenever I think of a task I need to do, I add it to my document. I keep it free form and I can add notes–where I left off last time I worked on that task, what I’ve tried and failed with, where to look next, etc.

Some of the items are from when I got interrupted midstream. They may say something like “transcribe Joe Dennis’s birth certificate into Family Tree Maker,” or “create a timeline for George Dennis.”

Shorter tasks like the transcription are highlighted, so when I only have a few minutes, I can go right to those items and knock them off. As items are completed, I mark them complete and move them to the bottom of the document. It’s a simple system, but it works for me.

Keep Up with Filing
Although I have the best of intentions, I still struggle with keeping up with filing. I have given in to a certain extent and have a “to be filed” box that I have to empty occasionally. When I get time to tackle the pile, I sort first into a small standing file frame with folders for each surname. Then when that’s done, I pull out a folder at a time and file it into the binder for that family.

Are You Letting Technology Help You?
The tools we use are constantly evolving and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Add reading Help files or user manuals for the tools you use so that you’re taking advantage of all the features. For Ancestry tools, check the Learning Center to see if there is a webinar that can help. Take online tours wherever they are available. 

Plan Your Research Trips
If you have a research trip coming up, start a separate to-do list for that trip. If you’ll be visiting several repositories, you might want to create a separate list for each one. Use online catalogs to look up film and call numbers ahead of time for the materials you plan to use. Explore the library website for descriptions of the collections and check for any restrictions. Call ahead too to make sure that there are no major unexpected closures. You can enlist the help of fellow genealogists on message boards or mailing lists too. Ask for advice from genealogists on lists or boards for the geographic area you will be visiting. They may share some helpful tips with you that will help you get more from your trip.

Keep a Book in the Car
Since I often find myself waiting in the car for my daughter to get out of some activity, I keep a bag of books and a notepad and pen in my car so that when I’m sitting there waiting, I can catch up on my reading. I jot down notes on things that may be relevant to my research or that I’d like to learn more about. The bag is handy because I can take it in when I have an appointment and know I may have a wait. Now I actually look forward to my “waiting time.” 😉

Tips from the Pros: Two Options for Viewing Search Results

Did you know that there are two ways to view global search results?  When you search all the databases at, you can choose to either have them “Sort by Relevance.” This gives you results from all the databases mixed together, with the results that most closely match the search criteria you’ve entered at the top. This is a great way to uncover surprises in databases you might not have thought to check.

The other option is to have the results “Summarized by Category.” This will group all of the census databases together, all the vital records databases, etc.  You can then click through each database to see the results separately. It makes it a little more time consuming, but if you’re focused on searching a particular database, viewing all the hits may be helpful in refining your search. Plus, to the perpetually disorganized like me, it brings a little organization to the process that is somehow comforting. 😉

You can switch between the various views by making your selection in the drop-down box in the upper right hand corner of the box of search results. When you perform another search it will default to the view you selected last.

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Your Quick Tips, 23 February 2009

Saving Ankle Power
The “Ankle Power” quick tip, where a visit to the cemetery to see for ones self paid off, reminded me of a tactic my husband and I used when searching through older cemeteries.  We assigned ourselves rows and used binoculars enabling us to scan fairly large sections quite easily.  It helped save the ankles and time.  This obviously works only with standing stones but nevertheless was a help.
Louise Hawley Continue reading