Posted by Mardi Jo Link in geneaology, true crime, work-in-progress, writing on May 19, 2016
My name is Mardi Jo Link. I’m a writer from northern Michigan with several books published in two very different genres. True crime and memoir.
I’m probably best known for Bootstrapper, my memoir of single motherhood, and for Wicked Takes the Witness Stand, an investigation into the death of an oilfield worker and the horrific wrongful prosecution that resulted.
I’m married to a Mayflower descendant, who for years has been trying to get me to research my genealogy. Between us we have five sons. And then one surprising day in August 2015, we awoke to an empty nest. Our boys had flown. My husband let out a hallelujah and I sobbed.
I knew I was going to need something compelling and time-consuming to occupy my mind, and so the very next day I began looking for my dead people.
According to those ubiquitous television ads for family history websites, genealogy is easy now, right? Just sit down at your computer, type your grandparents’ names into a search box and presto, instant family tree.
Except when I sat down at my computer, there was a complication.
(Of course there was, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog.)
I’m an adoptee. And while I had an idyllic childhood and remain very close to my parents and my entire extended family, I was interested in finding my birth ancestors, not the ancestors of my adoptive parents.
Like most 1960s-era adoptions, mine was of the closed variety. Meaning all my records were sealed by the probate court. In the 1990s, I’d searched for and found my birthmother. We met a couple times but were never able to form a real relationship, and she’d since died. I did know the names of her parents, but ethically could I claim they were also my maternal birth grandparents?
I imagined some nightmare scenario where I typed their names into a website and the FBI descended on my house, a la Minority Report.
Then I got hold of myself and over the past year I’ve been uncovering my history. Blood ancestors who belong to me and I to them. The experience has been without equal. Where once my past was a confusing blank, now it contains real people who lived real lives and participated in some of the most dramatic moments in American history. Many of these ancestors looked a lot like me. Some were even writers.
I plan to detail my search for them here, to ask for help when I get stuck, to offer suggestions to other family history researchers, adopted or not, and to share my research adventures as I compile and organize my growing obsession into a book. For the non-writers in the audience, this process has a name. It’s called “blogging your book,” and not everyone likes the idea.
I’ve never blogged a book before, but I’ve never looked for my birth ancestors before, either, so it seemed like a natural fit.
I do know this: part of my family history began with a murder.
For the first time, I’m bringing together the two sides of my writing self, true crime and memoir.