2018-08-23 / Life in Leelanau

Family ‘sleuth’ connects daughter with father

By Jen Murphy
of the Enterprise staff


THESE COUSINS met for the first time Tuesday. Glen Arbor resident Linda Ihme, on left, smiles with her newly-discovered cousin from California, Becky Collie. THESE COUSINS met for the first time Tuesday. Glen Arbor resident Linda Ihme, on left, smiles with her newly-discovered cousin from California, Becky Collie. If Sherlock Holmes resided in Leelanau County, his name could be Linda Ihme.

Unlike the fictional character, however, Ihme’s passion isn’t about puzzling crimes — it’s about piecing together family relationships.

“You can never have enough people to love you,” the Glen Arbor resident said. “What’s so special about families is you know they’re going to love you.”

So when she and her cousins discovered a relation that was connected to them on ancestry.com, Ihme’s curiosity was piqued.

“There was a woman on there — none of us had recognized her name,” she said. “Then one cousin looked her up on Facebook… I knew right away when I saw a photo of her son that she was a part of the family.”


THANKS TO Glen Arbor resident Linda Ihme’s sleuthing skills, her first cousin will soon be reuniting with a side of the family she has never meet before. Pictured is Ihme’s uncle and her cousin’s father, Bill Bennett. THANKS TO Glen Arbor resident Linda Ihme’s sleuthing skills, her first cousin will soon be reuniting with a side of the family she has never meet before. Pictured is Ihme’s uncle and her cousin’s father, Bill Bennett. In late May, Ihme and her cousin Becky Collie spoke on the phone for the first time. They talked for three hours.

Ihme explained she learned Collie was a cousin who had been searching her whole life for a father she never knew.

“Becky only knew he lived in South Bend, his name was Mr. Bennett and he had been in the service,” Ihme said.

After learning about Collie’s story, Ihme was determined to help. She and one of her 63 cousins took up the task of finding out who Collie’s father really was.

“I was hoping it was my dad,” she said. “I could use another sister. I love my sister, but you can’t ever have enough.”

But the ancestry.com website had enough information to confirm Collie was not Ihme’s sister. “It said ‘close relative’ and it listed us as cousins so we knew we weren’t sisters.”

Ihme then looked to her father’s two brothers.

Of the two uncles, Ihme said, one was never in the service and the other was “definitely out.” But knowing that Collie was not her sister, she knew for sure it wasn’t her father. So they considered the two options once again, and pieced together a family history that led to one uncle who, while not in military service, had done some contract work for the military as a civilian.

Then the mystery was solved: Bill Bennett was Collie’s father.

“Uncle Bill got married to his wife just three months after she (Collie) was conceived,” Ihme said. “And the child from their marriage was born five or six months later.”

Knowing what she does about her uncle, Ihme was sure Bill Bennett never knew he had a daughter named Becky.

But the rest of the family will.

Bennett’s four children, two boys and two girls — Ihme’s cousins — will meet their half-sister for the first time tomorrow.

Collie traveled from her home in California and arrived Tuesday in Glen Arbor to spend three weeks with Ihme.

During her time here, Collie and Ihme plan to drive downstate to join a total of 18 cousins and siblings who will welcome their new family member.

Ihme is sure it will be a happy reunion.

What else has Ihme discovered with her online super-sleuthing skills?

“One relative was beheaded,” she said. “And my ninth great-great grandmother was Princess Di’s eighth great-great grandmother.”

Overall she’s encountered few surprises, but there have been connections with cousins and other family members.

She’s still looking for more.

“Now I’m thinking about doing 23 and Me,” Ihme said.

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