The family tree of 11Alive evening anchor Brenda Wood features branches of strong, determined women.
In the present, there's Ms. Wood herself, a multiple-award-winning Atlanta anchor. In her immediate past, there's the renowned musician and educator who raised her, Dr. Alma Blackmon. And staring down the future, there are two daughters -- one an innovation management consultant with an MBA from Rice, the other in law school at Harvard.
But on a journey down her family tree, aided and conducted by www.ancestry.com, Brenda discovered perhaps the first link in that strong chain.
11Alive | Who Do You Think We Are?
11Alive Personalities track their ancestries across the country.
Genealogist Anastasia Harmon showed Brenda the tree as far back as it goes -- to a great-great-grandmother named Delia Hodges.
"Our speculation is that [she was] born around 1845," Harmon told Brenda. "So they would have spent the first 20 years [of her life] enslaved."
Slavery can often seem like ancient history, a time so fundamentally different from the present. But learning personal details about a relative who lived in that era can make the past suddenly pop in three dimensions.
And, in this case, the story of Delia has a happy ending.
"She ends up free and as a midwife," Harmon said.
"With an occupation, even though she couldn't read," added Brenda. "She sounds like a strong woman, determined to make something of herself.
"Her children learned to read and write, so Delia and her husband" -- who never learned to do either due to slavery -- "had to insist that their kids learn this."
It was all a whole lot to take in for the latest link in the chain.
"I guess I never thought of it that way," Brenda said while holding back tears. "I always feared that slavery was in my family's line, as it is in most blacks in America. But I never thought of it in terms of years. It's only a few lifetimes that we've made such progress in our own family. I can't wait to tell my daughters this, because I think it will mean a lot to them too.
"We are a family of strong women. My daughters are strong ...and maybe they get it from Delia."