What skeletons are in your family closet?

So, what skeletons are in your family closet that you’re willing to talk about? Anyone here related to a murderer, Nazi, slaveholder, Stalinist, or any other type of criminal or generally “bad guy”? What did they do, what’s your relation, and how does your family react to or absorb the fact of their misdeeds?

I spent a night in jail at a border town in Nicaragua in 1986. I had just crossed the border, got a room, and was looking for someplace to eat when a couple of solders stopped me on the street to check me out. Seeing my US passport, they told that Americans were not welcome in Nicaragua and marched me off. The next day they put me on a bus back to Costa Rica. I never found out what the problem was but I assume it was related to Ollie North and his merry band of freedom fighters.

I’m told that my great-great-great grandfather( early 1830’s ) was jailed for public intoxication in Scotland. He spend two days and paid a fine. The family is quite proud of this. :slight_smile:

My husband’s family tree apparently includes the victims of Martha Rendell, child-poisoner, and the only woman to be hanged in Western Australia.

My aunt-in-law went digging into the family history at one point. Apart from what’s on the Wikipedia page, the rest of the story that she dug up ran that the mother (who had left the house before Martha’s entry into it) took to the bottle and was shunned by the family later in life because she was gasp a drunkard! Puritanism ran strong in those days.

I had an aunt get pregnant out of wedlock - quite the scandal in the 40s!! :eek: And I was told the man she married was not the father of her daughter. My mom didn’t share this little secret with me till I was an adult.

Beyond that, I don’t know of anything, altho for me, family history begins when my grandparents landed in the US in the early 20th century. Who know what they left behind in Poland. Then again, they were farmers and miners back there, so I’d be surprised to find any juicy stories.

I shot a man in Reno. Why is not important.

My grandfather took my grandmother and hurriedly left Sicily in the night after some unpleasantness. My father would never go into detail.

The only non-Jew in recent generations in my father’s family was an Irish Catholic who was excommunicated for nun-napping. He was already on thin ice for marrying a Jew, who, herself got disowned by her family.

I don’t know much about the family who disowned her, but they all lived in the South, and owned a lot of land, so there’s a good chance they were slave owners. My family has assured me we are not related to Judah Benjamin, at least.

After the nun-napping incident, my great-great-grandfather (there might be another great in there-- I’m not sure) decided to convert to Judaism, which really just wasn’t done then, and he had a hard time talking the rabbi into it.

The nun-napping happened after a friend’s daughter joined a convent, then wanted to leave, but they wouldn’t let her. The convent was on an island. She slipped a letter to someone during a Sunday mass, and he took it to the girl’s father, who was my g-g-g-father’s good friend. They stole a rowboat, went out to the island, broke into the convent, and got his daughter out. So there were some secular crimes involved, although my understanding is that they returned the boat before it was missed, and the Protestant owner didn’t press charges.

After the dust cleared, my g-g-g-parents moved to New York City.

There are more, but I don’t want to implicate any living people.

That’s why my closet smells funny … I think I will move without leaving a forwarding address.

A cousin (I’ve never met him) in prison for murder and an uncle who was in the mob.
My great great grandfather had at least 27 children by 3 different women. My great great grandmother was the only wife.
A great great uncle who shot his mistress, not killing her. He told her he’d better not see her in church because her kind of woman didn’t belong there. She went to church and he shot her. Why it was okay for his type of man to be there I don’t know.
Lots of illegitimate children on that side of the family, along with shotgun weddings and even a Hatfield/McCoy type feud for a few years.

My great-great-great-great-grandfather was a companion of Daniel Boone. This is verified in a newspaper profile of his grandson, my grandmother’s grandfather (are you with me?).

Anyway, when I was a kid, I had a book on Daniel Boone that included an episode featuring “a man named Johnson” (my grandmother’s maiden name) bursting into a fort presided over by Boone and excitedly waving a bunch of Indian scalps. I’ve since found this account in a couple of other books on Boone.

My grandmother’s brother, who died a couple of years before I was born, was by all accounts a colorful character with a winning personality that made him beloved by many. But he was apparently a bit of a rogue, too. I’ve heard tales of him hanging out at a bar in town that was notorious for its local mob connections. Allegedly, he ran numbers for a time, and who knows what else.

Both sides of my family are rather tame, so the only thing I can think of is my g-grandfather alienating his brother, who then left and was never heard from again. Same g-grandfather was distraught, and spent the rest of his life in a fruitless search seeking reconciliation.

My wife’s g-grandfather had trouble keeping his pants on, and wound up shot and six feet under for it.

My paternal grandmother’s brother supposedly murdered five people. She wouldn’t talk about him at all and it never occurred to me (until now) to use the internet to try to dig into it. I probably still won’t though… doesn’t seem to be any real value in turning over those stones.

This reminds me…I’ve read that it’s the height of family shame in Australia to be descended from convict settlers, even many generations later. Is/was that true?

I’m very distantly related to Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, gangster and founder of Murder, Incorporated. My grandmother never told her second husband of the connection; her sister married into Buchalter’s family.

One of my ancestors (allegedly) was hanged as a witch in New England … and survived.


I shit a man in Reno, just to watch the flies.

I’ve got a genuine Long-Lost Cousin-- Does that count? One of my uncles had a youthful indiscretion, after which his ladyfriend decided that she didn’t want anything more to do with him. Their daughter looked him up on her own after she turned 18.

A drunken relative put a drive through in a Baskin Robin’s where there wasn’t one a few second earlier. That wasn’t talked about much.

Oh, and we have/had some mafia ties, but those aren’t really skeletons in the closet. None of that was ever really hidden away. It’s pretty well known.
ETA, I should mention that’s I’m not implying that it was just our family, Milwaukee had pretty active mafia scene not that long ago.

I have a relative that in the early 20th century participated in KKK activities. Except the story I heard was something about them running an unwed couple out of town.

One of my ancestors left his wife and two daughters to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on their trek to Utah and practiced polygamy there. He eventually became a Bishop, in Provo I think. I have like ten thousand fifth cousins in Utah, lol.