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Discoveries: Remembering 'Roots' Author Alex Haley

Alex Haley (1921-1992) was a famous African American author who had more impact on genealogy than any other person in the past 50 years. He was born 11 August 1921. Haley would have been 92 years old this month.

After the release of his book Roots: The Saga of an American Family (New York City, New York: Doubleday) 37 years ago—on 17 August 1976—and the launch of the eight-part television mini-series on ABC-TV in January 1977, the genealogy world was forever changed.

He was 55 years old when Roots was published.

One of the things that I didn't know about Alex Haley was that the Coast Guard named a ship for him.


Credit: USCGC Alex Haley - http://www.uscg.mil/pacarea/cgcAlexHaley/

Another thing I did not know was that Alex Haley had Scottish roots.

Recently Alex Haley's nephew Christopher Haley participated in a DNA study and was surprised to learn about his Scottish roots. Hosted by Megan Smolenyak, this episode of Roots Television shows the family reunion of the Haley and Baff families:


After Roots was published, the number of genealogical societies in the U.S. skyrocketed from 400 societies to over 4,000. Public libraries and state archives across the country were flooded with family history researchers using their book and microfilm collections.

One man can make a big difference.