John Ridout gets me hooked

Back to my x3 great grandfather, John RIDOUT, the chap that got me hooked on this whole family history thing. In the early days of my ‘studies’, knowing my great grandfather’s name and birth year (1863), I was able to whizz back through the UK census records quickly and so it was in 1851 that I came ‘face to face’ with this chap John RIDOUT – he was a Dorset man! I’d always assumed that my mother’s side of the family was pure Somerset, but no. On a whim, I googled ‘Ridout’ and ‘Sherborne’ and came up with so many ‘hits’ from America and Canada – heavens – these people were pioneers, bankers and politicians! The Shiburnian Ridout dynasty is very well documented and there’s even a whole collection of papers at the Society of Genealogists. But my x3 grandfather was just a cabinet-maker; his father’s marriage in the parish register revealed that neither he nor John’s mother could even sign their name. Surely my little twig couldn’t be connected to this mighty tree? No, probably not. I put my foolish fantasy aside and spent the next few years just getting on with what I knew of my more recent ancestors in Bath.

A couple of years ago, a fellow family historian called Bill RIDOUT invited me to join him, and his American friend Orlando, for a day touring round Dorset villages. I had heard of Orlando RIDOUT IV – in September 2004 he had made a public apology to Alex Haley, author of ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’. Haley had claimed descendency from a young warrior called Kunta Kinte, who’d been captured in 1767 from Julfureh (a village in the Gambia) and, along with many others, sold into slavery. The cargo of slaves had travelled on the Lord Ligonier via England to Annapolis, Maryland. So why had Orlando apologised to Haley? Because the slave owner and auctioneer who had sold Kunta Kinte was John RIDOUT, Orlando’s direct ancestor.

Orlando RIDOUT IV was a very pleasant, elderly gentleman – the three of us happily toured Dorset for the day, shared lunch and genealogical chatter. Before we parted company, Orlando gave me a yDNA kit and asked me if I could find a male family member to send off a sample of saliva. He wanted to see how inter-related the Dorset Ridouts were. I did as he asked and, a few weeks later, the results came back. Much to the surprise of all parties, my cousin’s DNA matched to only one other man – Orlando himself! In fact, of all the many DNA kits that Orlando had handed out on his travels my family was the only match he had. So now, I know that I can count myself as one of that huge Sherborne Ridout dynasty after all – now, if only I could find out where our tree fits into theirs!

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12 Responses to John Ridout gets me hooked

  1. mahoganybox says:

    What a great tale of discovery! Your writing is wonderful and I’m enjoying following your Ridout ancestors through time.

  2. Prevaricat says:

    Thank you so much for your positive feedback AND for the help and support which you have since provided! I think, at least for the moment, I will stick with static pages which I can produce from FH4 as and when (like the one under the Ancestors tab). Time enough to get ambitious – I am happy to putting any of this ‘out there’ right now.
    Cheers, Karen

  3. Kelly Loughney says:

    My name is Kelly Loughney (nee Ridout) and I was born in California (USA) in 1980. I, too, am related to John Ridout. My father is named Randall Ridout and his father is (also) named John Ridout. They were born in Mississippi.

    • Prevaricat says:

      Hi Kelly… welcome! You say that you are also related to John Ridout but there are a lot of those; which John do you mean? What is the line from Randall Ridout back – do you know? Happy to share family facts and figures with you 🙂

      • Kelly Loughney says:

        Thank you for the welcome! I’m talking about the John Ridout who was a slave trader. My father also said we had a knight in our family in the Medieval Ages.

  4. Prevaricat says:

    Hi Kelly… I know who you mean now, the son of George Ridout of Sherborne… you will find a lot of ancestors on this website then 🙂 I am also of this family and have been studying them back as far as 1554, which is as far as anyone else has done with certainty. I am afraid I have never heard of any medieval Ridout ancestors; written records don’t go back that far, and actually, in the majority of cases, much further back than the 16th century… sorry 🙂

  5. Michael Kelly Bustard says:

    I was roommates with Orlando Ridout’s nephew, and knew “Lannie” and the rest of the Ridouts well. They are all class acts and wonderful people.

    • Prevaricat says:

      Hi Michael… I met Lanny only the once, when he visited the UK in 2004; we are very distant cousins according to my research. How nice that you came to know the family well and liked them; thank you for dropping by and saying ‘hello’ 🙂 Regards, Karen

  6. Lyn Johnson says:

    Thanks for sharing. When I think about this history, I’m reminded of the atrocities of slavery & the enslavers. The Ridouts ancestors bought, sold & brutalized humans. Harsh facts & that doesn’t mean their offspring are responsible for their actions. It does pain me to know many of these family’s held up as kind, ethical family’s, the backbone of society directly benefited from exploiting humans, the enslaved, who contributed to their wealth & mass of land currently.

  7. Prevaricat says:

    I was very shocked when I first found out about John and his ‘cargo of slaves’, but am also reminded that his descendant, Orlando Ridout IV, publicly apologised to Alex Hailey, descendant of Kunta Kinte, subject of his family’s true story dramatised in ‘Roots’.

  8. Melanie Corner says:

    Thank you for your article on the Ridouts of Sherborne and Bath. I just happened upon this thread while looking up my Annapolis Ridout ancestors. I’m looking for a list of the names of all the people they enslaved as part of my quest to help our Maryland families find their ancestors. I live in Maryland and visited Orlando many times because he was my cousin.(I am descended from Horatio Sharpe Ridout and his wife Ann Nancy Weems via their daughter Anna Rebecca Ridout.) Orlando took me through the Ridout graveyard at Whitehall, and introduced me to his friends Bill and Eunice Ridout, in England, who we also met over the years on trips to Dorset. My daughter is adopted & biracial, and she humored my love of genealogy by getting an DNA test last year. I’ve been busily connecting her on paper to her ancestors, and just this week hit the Ridouts and Weems. Everything comes full circle. I have a lot more to do.

  9. Prevaricat says:


    I’m glad that you enjoyed the blog post. Your task sounds formidable! Apart from the real subject of Alex Haley’s story of Roots, of whom you are probably aware, I don’t know any names of the enslaved Gambians… how can you find out such details? Connecting your daughter with our ancestors is amazing… full circle indeed!

    Lanny, Bill and I met up several years ago and visited villages around the Sherborne area. They were collecting saliva samples for their small yDNA project (I started a much bigger Rid(e)out study with FamilyTreeDNA which still exists). They were such great friends and wanted so much to be related… I miss them both…

    Kind Regards, Karen

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