“Finding Your Roots” uses local research

From left, Marsha Benya, Deborah Bingham, Hilary Derby, Janet Cockrell and Laura Hazel look over late 1700 records.

HEATHSVILLE—Four local ladies really like to dig into Northern Neck and Northumberland County history.

When the TV series “Finding Your Roots” needed assistance to support family research for an upcoming celebrity guest with ties to the area, they contacted the Northumberland County Historical Society for help. Right away some of the area’s best researchers — Marsha Benya, Janet Cockrell, Dr. Hilary Derby and Laura Hazel — were on it, reported Susan Hudson.

Hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the hour-long TV show is broadcast on PBS at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and always presents interesting and unknown family history for two current celebrities on each weekly program, said Hudson.

It is a customary practice for the producers to reach out to local historical societies when they need “boots on the ground help,” reported Hazel.

Cockrell and Benya said the program’s director was interested in researching the Coles family as well as African American slave and Free African American families in the county, especially between the years of 1780 and 1790.

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