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How many Babers have you met in your life? I can’t think of a single one. Very odd considering that Babers were among the earliest settlers of this country. Their progeny thrived and migrated with so many others from Kentucky and Virginia to the fertile farm lands of the Midwest. As it turns out, the farms surrounding Des Moines, Iowa where I grew up abounded with Babers.

And so it came as a surprise that my 2nd great-grandmother was a Baber. Susan Elizabeth Baber was my dad’s mother’s mother’s mother.


Susan was born in Indiana in 1840. She married David Morgan Ballard in Indiana in October of 1857, and by 1860 they had already relocated to Marion County, Iowa. They weren’t the only ones. The decade ending in 1860 was a time of explosive growth in Iowa’s population averaging an increase of 48,000 immigrants per year[1].

The paper trail for Susan goes back as far as my 5th great–grandparents, Thomas W Baber and Elizabeth Lawson from Old Rappahannock County in Virginia. But where did they come from?

Many researchers believed that the progenitor of all the colonial Babers was Robert Baber[2], familiarly known as “Robert the Immigrant.” Robert was 28 years old in 1679 when he arrived in Virginia from Somerset, England. Robert’s line has been traced to the Babers of Chew Magna[3], a village in Somerset, England, where Sir Edward Baber, Robert’s great grandfather, is entombed in St. Andrew’s Churchyard[4].

Many of the trees on Ancestry.com connect their colonial Babers to Robert the Immigrant. Until very recently, mine did as well. Recent DNA testing, however, has proven it is not true.

One type of DNA test identifies the direct male ancestral line by analyzing just the Y chromosome[5]. Only males have the Y chromosome. It’s what makes them males. The convenient thing about the Y chromosome is that it doesn’t often mutate so it’s reliable for many generations.

Thanks to the male Baber descendants who were tested, we now know the DNA markers that identify descendants of Robert the immigrant and know that they tie those descendants to the Chew Magna Babers. We also know that other Babers who were tested, including the Babers in my line, do not match Robert. Their origin is still unknown.

I wasn’t all that shocked that Robert was not the Baber I was looking for. I’ve created a couple other lineages based on other trees on Ancestry.com that did not hold up to scrutiny, either. At least I had not carried this line back to the Middle Ages like I have others. Oh, the agony of delete.

But it serves as a good reminder to check the Y DNA tests for ancestors other than your direct paternal line. If it’s your lucky day, you’ll get an answer that will either extend your line or keep you from wasting time on it.

The bigger surprise came when a strange clue added to a nagging doubt about Susan’s parents, my 3rd great grandparents, Thomas John Baber and Elizabeth Rogers. Now it looks as if their paper trails lead in different directions than the ones that I, and the majority of Ancestry trees, had given them. Now I’ve sorted it out, and I will write about that next.


[2] Descendants of John Baber, England

[3] Edward Baber’s London Home. 1611

[4] Sir Edward Baber

[5] Richard Hill’s Guide to DNA Testing (p 15)