Have you uncovered dark family secrets?

A few years ago, I did some genealogical research. I discovered in the archives of a local newspaper that a man who shares my last name (which is a somewhat rare surname) was murdered in the 1950s. According to the newspaper it was a “domestic dispute.” I was a bit surprised. I asked my aunt about it, and she confirmed that this man with the same last name was indeed in our family tree, my Great Uncle, and that the “domestic dispute” was a euphemism for “being caught in bed with another man’s wife.”

Has anyone else here uncovered skeletons in their family’s closet?

I found out from a rambling older relative that my great-grandfather was a member of the Purple Gang, name checked by Elvis in Jailhouse Rock

I’m distantly related to Louis “Lepke” Buchalter of Murder, Incorporated. I believe he’s my great-aunt’s brother-in-law. It’s not a particular secret, though I hear my grandmother never told her second husband about it.

Someone on that branch of the family is keeping up that family tree; I was amused when he listed his place of death as “Ossining, NY.”

In other words, Sing Sing Prison. Cause of death: Old Sparky. :wink:

I have some skeletons, but not uncovered any. My great-grandfather was killed in the military during WWI. Unfortunately, not particularly heroically. He was shot during a poker game when he was accused of cheating. We don’t know if he actually was cheating or not. My great-grandmother remarried a Serb who was actually a nice guy to his family and a good family man, but he ran a hotel that served as a front for Ana Cumpanas’s Gary brothel. He would launder money for the mob.

I have four cousins that have been in prison for varying things. Two went for armed robbery and car-jacking. One got his sentence extended for having an affair with a female guard. One went for stealing cars and selling them to chop-shops and the other was just a run of the mill drug dealer.

My grandmother’s grandfather was a miner and an alcoholic. He used to pawn his kids clothes for booze and beat my gg-grandmother to the point of unconsciousness. She would take on laundry to buy the kids clothes back. They never had shoes, whenever she would buy them, my gg-grandfather would find them and sell them again. My great-grandmother would tell stories about how they would be stuck in the house for a week at a time because they literally had no clothing. Eventually, a Methodist minister came to town and apparently said something that straightened him up and he never drank again.

I’m a direct descendent of Anne Hutchinson via her daughter Faith. So I guess that means I have a heretic in my family, but we’re all pretty proud of her anyway. :slight_smile:

Our family “scandals” are kinda mild - a couple of out-of-wedlock babies, an uncle who “lived in sin” with a woman, a suicide, a mentally handicapped man who went to work one day and was never seen again. Heck, at one time, divorce was scandalous - still is to my mom.


I found out one of my cousins is probably my brother via my Daddy and my Mothers sister.
It was never verified before they both died. But is accepted truth in the family.
ETA That’s what I call a blended family, ugh.

So he’s your Brother-Cousin?

Dunno how true it is, but there’s a family story that we may be related to Jesse James. One of my great grandparents’ family came from the same town he did. They would never talk about it, though, because “You never know if there’s a horse thief in the family.”

Disclaimer: In what follows I shall use “[HS]” as shorthand for “half-sibling” so as not to reveal genders not germane to the story and such.

My [HS] got way too curious about genealogy a while back, to the point of paying for DNA analysis for everyone left alive in “our” family, including our mother, the two remaining brothers of my dad, and quite a few cousins. I warned [HS] that there were likely skeletons that might be better left undiscovered. Did [HS] take any advice from me? That would be a “no”.

[HS] called me a few months later and told me that 23&me (or whoever) had informed [HS] that the two of us were not siblings, and likely were no closer than second cousins, based on the fact that [HS]'s DNA disclosed precisely zero in common with my dad, while mine left darn near zero doubt of his paternity with respect to me. [HS] asked me if I knew how that could be. I thought, and replied that since [HS] has three children (with two different spouses) that it really shouldn’t be difficult to figure it out. [HS] was in the early 60s at the time.

The outcome is that [HS]'s biological father was found, in his late 80s, and [HS] was able to meet him and his entire family (including his wife, who was less than pleased with the whole production). Our mother, then in her mid-80s, eventually admitted that she and [HS]'s father had been “sufficiently intimate” during the period after my dad and mother were separated prior to their divorce to bring [HS] into the picture. [HS] has sort of gotten over the whole thing, but now has an entire new family to enjoy, so I suppose it’s not altogether a disaster. In fact a couple of them have visited with our mother and I have enjoyed meeting them.

[HS]'s biological father died a few years ago. RIP.

Well, there’s the one great-great uncle who moved to upstate New York to shack up with his spirit medium boyfriend. That’s not a family scandal, though – we’re proud of the weirdos. We tell all the kids. :smiley:

More concerning were the journals we discovered after my grandfather’s death, detailing decades of physical and emotional abuse against my grandmother. When my mother told me about those, my first question was, “Did he write these recently?” He died of complications of dementia, and people can ‘remember’ bizarre things when their brain goes. Nope, these were contemporaneous with the dastardly deeds. We grandkids never had any idea, although given the severity, I suspect their siblings and children were just willfully blind.


Aunt had an affair with her husband’s brother. Got pregnant, had the kid (my uncle) and nobody ever said a damn word even though he was the spit’n image of his father.

Everything our father told us about himself is a lie. We have been unable to track down any of his history. He stated he was raised in an orphanage, no siblings, graduated from a high school we have been unable to find and which probably doesn’t exist, met and married our mother and had us.

Genetic tests on my brother came back that we are 25% Russian and 25% Inuit. That’s our paternal DNA, but we still haven’t been able to find our father’s family.

Both of my parents’ eldest sisters had babies out of wedlock. I don’t think things have really changed that much in the last 90 or so years.

A skeleton in my husband’s closet is kind of ongoing.

Let me start at the beginning. Thirty years ago, his sister left her husband and three kids for another man, and had a daughter with her new boyfriend. Then this sister died of brain cancer. Right after her death, my husband estranged himself from his large, hot mess of an extended family and has been a much happier man ever since.

Two years ago, he received a letter from the woman who was born to his sister and the new boyfriend. She claimed him as uncle and mentioned a need for money in the first paragraph, and went on to describe a lot of messy family drama between her and her half-family (my husband’s mom and legitimate nephews and niece).

He didn’t answer the letter because she was fishing for money, and in addition, acknowledging her would just drag him back into the miserable family he has been happily estranged from for thirty years.

Two days ago someone came knocking at our front door at 9 p.m.: two people, a man and a woman about thirty years old. We don’t open the door to strangers, especially at night. They kept knocking and ringing for a long time and finally the woman called out “Uncle [Mr. brown]!” Yikes - dodgy niece has come in person to look for a handout. We lay low and they finally gave up and went away. Hopefully they stay away.

My great-grandmother’s father and his brother laid in wait and murdered their sister’s husband. I don’t know why. This was in Tennessee. ggg-grandpa packed up the family and moved to Arkansas, then Indian Territory. His brother stayed behind and never went to court over it. This was on my father’s side.

On my mother’s side, I found out that my grandmother’s grandfather had children by two different women, who were sisters. He had the two families at the same time. I asked my grandmother about it and she hadn’t known anything about it, but she asked her brother and he confirmed it.

Define “uncovered”, “family” and “secret”?

I didn’t learn until I was in my mid twenties that my uncle was actually my half uncle, but it wasn’t really a secret. My mom just went “You didn’t know that? I thought we’d told you kids at some point.”

And I’ve found the sentencing records for my 4xgreat grandfather who went to jail at 16 and 20-something for taking what wasn’t his and selling it so he’d be less poor. A bit far back to be “family” and who knows how secret it was at the time.

Seems so. It would be been a real stinky scandal if any of the parties were alive at the time of the reckoning. But as it turns out everyone suspected all along.

The only ones I can think of is that some distant ancestors on one side were KKK members in the 19th century, and some other more recent ancestors (great grandfather) was a member in the 20th century resurgence.

I suspect that my great[sup]7[/sup]-grandfather was in some way connected to the Jacob Leisler Rebellion in the 1690s, and that this eventually led to his leaving NYC towards the end of the century. He didn’t go far, settling in Monmouth County NJ, but after that just about every generation moved a littler further west until they got to L.A., where I was born.

Whether this a skeleton depends upon what side of the border you’re from but through Ancestry.com, I was able confirm that a branch of my family tree consisted of loyalist New Englanders who fled to New Brunswick after the Revolutionary War.

Also, one of my distant great-grandfathers was Edward Wightman who was the last person in England burned at the stake for heresy. This would’ve been considered a dark family secret years ago but not so much now. Judging from the Wikipedia link, it seemed he was burned at the stake not so much for his heretical religious beliefs but for getting in the face of King James about them.