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Family Ties

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Genealogy is all the rage these days, digging deep into musty church, school, military records. Researching your family tree to find out more about who you are and where you came from.

“You're looking for details,” says genealogist Roberta Ridley. “You're researching you are investigating yourself so you investigate everything that comes into creating this story.”

Roberta Ridley has been researching her family history since she was in her early 30's, she helped found the African American Genealogical Society of Fort Wayne. Researching the family tree is often difficult for African Americans because family records tend to disappear in the slave era before 1865. So Roberta was shocked when she found this, a list of slaves owned by Alabama plantation owner Christopher Ridley. Among the list of his possessions...Roberta's great-grandfather, Daniel.

“It was very emotional,” says Roberta. “It still is.”

Confederate slave owner Christopher Ridley was killed in the Civil War at age 21.

“That poor boy had no idea of the lives that he had ruined, that he had conflicted..,” says Ridley. “He didn't have a chance to understand that what he was fighting to keep was not his to keep.”

Some of Roberta's other discoveries? Great uncle John fought for the Union in the Civil War, was the first Ridley to move to Fort Wayne. Roberta's maternal great grandmother, Amanda Harper, born into slavery. Her two daughters Mabel and Odie..Mabel on the left is Roberta's maternal grandmother.

“I understand what my ancestors went through. Not being able to make the choices that they wanted to make for themselves. I am proud of my people before me and even more so I'm proud of my culture for what they endured in order to walk down the street with their heads up today. Good, bad, rich, poor, good looking and ugly...they're all mine. They're all mine and I love them all. The more you know about yourself the more you can understand about somebody else.

Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.

Eric Olson

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