Maud Newton’s ancestors have vexed and fascinated her since she was a girl. Her mother’s father, who came of age in Texas during the Great Depression, was said to have married thirteen times and been shot by one of his wives. Her mother’s grandfather killed a man with a hay hook and died in an institution. An ancestor was accused of being a witch in Puritan-era Massachusetts. In her debut book, Ancestor Trouble, Newton uses genealogy—a once-niche hobby that has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry—to expose the secrets and contradictions of her own family and to argue for the transformational possibilities of reclaiming and reckoning with our ancestors.
In conversation with Geeta Kothari.