Genealogist finds Ridgaway heir
The Associated Press
'It's been very emotional. My father died when I was a little girl, and I knew almost nothing about father's family when I was a child. For me, it's finding my family.'
Emma Busbey Ditman | of Silver Spring, Md., the great-grandniece of Ridgaway
CHARLESTON - Scientists using DNA have positively identified one of the crewmen of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship.
Scientists and researchers had made preliminary dentifications of crewmen who were buried at Magnolia Cemetery earlier this year.
Officials announced Friday that they have positively confirmed the identity of crewman Joseph Ridgaway using DNA from a descendant.
The hand-cranked Hunley made history Feb. 17, 1864, when it rammed a spar with a black powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic.
But the sub never returned from the mission. It was found off the S.C. coast nine years ago, raised in 2000 then brought to a conservation lab at the old Charleston Naval Base.
The next year, when the crew's remains were excavated from the silt-filled sub, scientists sent samples of the remains to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii. There, DNA samples were selected for analysis and sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory.
Forensic genealogist Linda Abrams later was able to locate a
maternal descendant of Ridgaway, who was from Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
After Ridgaway was lost on the Hunley, a friend and former shipmate, James Joyner, took his belongings back to his family in Maryland.
Joyner later married Ridgaway's sister Elizabeth, and Abrams located her grave in Drexel Hill, Pa.
Elizabeth's great-granddaughter gave permission for a sample to be taken, and it matched the DNA of the Hunley crewman.
About 40 relatives of Hunley crewmen were in Charleston last April when the crew was buried in what was called the last Confederate funeral.
At the time, Emma Busbey Ditman of Silver Spring, Md., said she learned about 12 years ago that she had a relative aboard the Hunley. She is the great-grandniece of Ridgaway.
"It's been very emotional. My father died when I was a little girl, and I knew almost nothing about father's family when I was a child," she said. "For me, it's finding my family."