What family secret has genealogy revealed to you?

+16 votes
I've been active with genealogy since 1973 and believed that all my family's secrets had been shared or discovered.  

This past Sunday morning I received an e-mail from FamilySearch.org saying "We found a record that may include your grandmother..." Within seconds I was staring at my mother's 1938 marriage license to her first husband (which named her parents).  My mother's age was listed as 21 (but she was actually 17).  It was not until later in the afternoon that I found her 1940 divorce record.

She wrote a book length memoire before she died which seemed quite honest and revealing, but evidently she meant to take this information to her grave.  I wish she could have shared some of the circumstances with me and her other children.
in The Tree House by Peter Roberts G2G6 Pilot (621k points)
edited by Peter Roberts
Wow! Thanks for sharing that, Peter.
You must be so surprised, Peter. Maybe she wanted her second husband to believe she had never been married? Who knows? Thanks for sharing.

9 Answers

+6 votes
So THAT is why you were asking about the age of consent for getting married!!  I was wondering why you were asking...

As you can see - and just as I said in my post on that thread - Being of full age meant they had to be 21 years old to get married without parental consent.

This law was not removed in the USA until at least 1971 for most states. However this did not prevent some teenagers from telling lies about their age.

by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
The only family secret my family had, was the secret that my maternal biological grandmother took to her grave. She had one child born out of wedlock and given up for adoption. As far as we can tell, she never told her husband or her (legal) children.

My mother was the child given up for adoption.

THIS news was a secret prior to 1980 when my maternal (adoptive) grandmother died. That is when my mother learned that SHE was adopted. She was quite upset about this.

So was I. Because I had just lost half of my identity. I was a teenager at the time.

I then began nagging my mother to apply for her original birth certificate - and that took some 15 years for her to finally get it. It took another 20 years to get her to do a DNA test, but that has now finally been done.

My mother is now happy with all that has been discovered and she does not need or want to know anything else. She has met some of her new relatives and seems to be OK with them, but really they dont have much in common.
+5 votes
My parents are cousins and they did not know.  

My wife's grandfather had a child before marriage to her grandmother.

And a lot of other minor things that are just plain interesting
by Gurney Thompson G2G6 Pilot (327k points)
+4 votes
I think I can reply to this enquiry openly now. There's always been a sense of secrecy & broken-ness where family history was concerned.

One one side of the family we have our fair share of remarrying (sometimes twice) and direct cousins marrying; but on the other I was surprised to discover we had a niece & her uncle marry. That really blew me away.

Thank goodness that didn't happen again.
by Ken Hudson G2G6 Mach 1 (14.2k points)
+4 votes

I was lead to believe that my great grandfather Robert's family was German. My mother used to describe her aunties as saying "Oh, grandpa's people are German", with a wave of the hand, as if there was something unlikeable about that. Which lead me to understand they favored their mother's family – all Irish and totally Catholic. 

Nothing ever prompted me to question this family truth. But thanks to research, I have totally debunked the aunties. Robert's mother, May Saltsgiver, had a German surname, but her mother's side is totally Scots and English. Robert's father descended from people who came from Ireland but were not Catholic. (An Irish Catholic friend of mine tells me such people would be popularly referred to as "Anglo-Irish") He is also descended from a long line of Americans of Scots origin, a long line of Americans of English descent, going back to the middle ages, and he had a Swiss great great grandfather.

by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 8 (83.2k points)
+6 votes
My great-grandmother was, I have been told, the very picture of late Victorian New England rectitude. She ruled her family (including her husband) with an iron hand, forbidding drinking, dating without a chaperone, loose talk, etc. My mother was terrified of her grandmother.

Some years ago I was looking for something else when I stumbled across a record that showed that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother had had a son four months after their marriage—and in Washington, D. C., hundreds of miles from their home in Massachusetts, and where they had no other known connections or events of their lives. The son was not named, but they were unquestionably his parents, since the birth record gave their full names and places of birth.

A newspaper account of their wedding says that the happy couple left immediately for an extended honeymoon. Now we know why—the bride was five months pregnant.

Whether my grandmother, born 11 months later, ever knew that she had an older brother I do not know. She left extensive family history notes that don’t mention him. I have no doubt that she could have known and kept her mother’s secret; in at least one other instance in those notes, a marriage date has been recorded one year earlier than it actually occurred, I think to mask a “too-soon” birth. I’m certain my mother never knew she had this uncle, for she would not have kept such a juicy secret.

I knew nothing about my newly discovered great uncle. I assumed that he had either died very young or been adopted out.

Then a couple of years ago, an Ancestry DNA match led to the revelations that this child had grown up, married, had two sons, and lived in Boston working as a pressman until be died in his 70s.

The curious thing is that he had the same last name as my great-grandfather, his birth father. Who raised him? I’ve searched for him in census records and do not find any until he was married and nearly 30. My great-grandfather had only one brother and one sister, and this child is not shown in either of their households in the census. He apparently lived as a young man in the Washington area; he married in Bethesda, Maryland, but the abstract of his marriage record that I’ve found reveals no further details. I’ve been in contact with his great-great-grandson, with whom I had the DNA match, but he knows no details.

Did this new great uncle ever know who his birth parents, whose name he carried, were, or ever have any contact with them? I do not know.
by Stuart Bloom G2G6 Mach 9 (95.0k points)
+8 votes
My wifes family (Petersen) came frome Kappeln, Schleswig, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (the very North of Germany) and my family (Lewerenz) from Schwaan, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany (North-East Germany).

My wifes mother maternal grandfather was Friedrich Hans Carl Kruse in Oering, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany; his mother Catharina Margaretha Dorothea Path.

My fathers maternal grandmother was Maria Sophia Emma Finnern, her paternal grandmother was Catharina Margaretha Path in Oering, Schleswig-Holstein, Deutschland.

Both Path's father was Johann Peter Martin Path in Neustadt in Holstein, Schleswig-Holstein, Deutschland. Neustadt is a little town at the Baltic Sea on the East-coast of Schleswig-Holstein.

I proofed that relationship at least 5 times, but it is correct. My wife and I have a common ancestor.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (2.6m points)
+4 votes

My mother told me and my siblings my grandparents https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Abernathy-912 were both killed in a car accident in 1931. But records shows my grandfather died of a stroke in 1930. And there is a newspaper article about the car accident with just her. The weird thing is my aunt told her kids the same thing. Why would you tell a lie like that? Very odd. 

by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Pilot (133k points)
+2 votes
I don't know if this applies, as I found out recently my sister knew this, but to me it was a total surprise.  My maternal grandmother's younger sister, Lucy, was murdered by their older sister's husband. Apparently, while Lucy was estranged from her young husband and going through a divorce, she went to live with her older sister, Addie, and Addie's husband. Robert Smythe. Robert fell in love, or more accurately became obsessed, with Lucy.  She rebuffed his advances.  He stalked her at work and elsewhere, and finally shot and killed her one night when she was walking home with her father.  He tried to kill her father also, but the gun jammed.  Robert was found hours later dead by his own hand.  I found the newspaper clippings on newspapers.com, complete with a drawing of all  four of them plus Addie and Robert's young son in a car with Lucy driving.  I think the drawing was probably made from a photo of the family.
by Carolyn Martin G2G6 Pilot (240k points)
+2 votes
My father told my mother, my brother and me that his sister died from cancer when she was 32 years old. One day I looked up her death certificate and discovered that she intentionally shot herself in the abdomen, and took 3 days to die. She had some chronic health problems but no cancer.

Another family member compiled the genealogy of one branch and circulated it to those who were interested. There was no death date for her own father and her stepmother, which I found a bit strange. My curiosity was piqued further when I learned that they died on the same day. It turned out he killed his wife and then himself.

My uncle had a daughter before he married someone who wasn't the girl's mother. His parents. siblings and wife knew about the girl but it was hidden from everyone else. The girl's mother ran away with the child and my uncle couldn't find her. For many years she told her daughter that her father was dead. 30 years after my uncle died, the daughter contacted me, looking for her family. I was very worried about telling my aunt as she was an elderly woman and I didn't want to be responsible for giving her a heart attack, so I spoke with one of her daughters, who thought her mother would handle the news ok. When my aunt was told about the secret child she said "Oh yes, your father told me about her. When he was dying he expressed his sadness at never knowing what happened to her and I've often wondered where she is and if she is ok." My father died from a brain tumour and when he was in palliative care he told me some family stories, many of which I'd heard before. His short term memory was gone and some of his long term memory was a bit dodgy too. He told me some details about Agnes, his brother Tom's wife, and how his parents didn't approve of her. This was all news to me and I assumed he was off with the fairies (especially after he insisted that our dog was on his bed last night and kept him awake, when the dog was at home and my father was in hospital), and Tom's wife was not Agnes. I'd never heard of an Agnes. Several years after he died, his unknown niece turned up and her mother was Agnes. She told me some similar stories and finally I realised that my father was confusing two of his siblings and their partners.
by Living Ford G2G6 Pilot (148k points)
I learned years ago when I started research that I had great-great grandparents who were also my great-great-great grandparents. An older daughter's great -granddaughter married a younger daughter's grandson. They were first cousins once removed. My family began singing that old song "I'm My Own Granpa" about that time!

A more recent surprise was to learn that through my gentle, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly mother I am a descendant of the notorious out-law Jesse Ray Yokum. There's nothing amusing about a gang who were murderers, thieves and slave kidnappers, but the reported story that the Yokum brothers amused themselves by hiding behind trees and shooting at each other does make one wonder just how crazy a family can be. (We are related through one of the sisters who evidently was never arrested, hanged, or shot.)

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