Whoa... shocking family secret revealed!

Okay, I’ve done a bit of genealogy to flesh out my family tree. My maternal grandfather’s story was a bit interesting.

First of all, his grandfather (let’s call him “John”, my great-great-grandfather) got married. He and his wife had children, including a daughter (“Sarah”). Then John’s wife died when Sarah was about 18 or 19. Later that same year, Sarah gave birth to my grandfather. Sarah was unmarried, and the identity of the father was kept a secret (it’s not even on the birth certificate). John remarried and he and his second wife raised my grandfather as their own child, and had additional children. Sarah married a few years later and had many children with her husband.

My grandfather never knew Sarah was his real mother until he was in his 60’s, decades after she and his grandparents (whom he had thought were his parents) were dead. He was emotionally wounded for the rest of his life over the fact that his mother had “rejected” him and left him to her father and stepmother. My grandfather finally died a few years ago at the age of 91. My family tree has a big empty space on his father’s side, since that man’s identity was unknown.

Until yesterday. My mother called me, because she had been talking to one of her cousins who was descended from one of my grandfather’s half-siblings (Sarah’s other children). This cousin said that he had had a fight with his mother about this (she wanted to keep the secret), but felt like my mother should know who my grandfather’s real father was.

John. His grandfather. :eek:

My grandfather’s biological father was his mother’s father. That’s why he was raised by John – Sarah’s husband wanted nothing to do with him. I’m so thankful my grandfather died without knowing the truth, as far as we know. I’m left wondering if the Ancestry.com software will let me designate the same person as my my great-great grandfather AND my great-grandfather in the same branch of the family tree.

There’s a Disney song about this, you know.

Mrs. Geek is very much into genealogy. It’s amazing what sorts of things start falling out of the family tree once you start shaking the limbs. She’s found plenty of family secrets like birth dates and marriage dates that aren’t quite as far apart as they should be, relatives that have been erased from the accepted family tree, and one ancestor who got married, his wife died, so he got a new wife and promptly put his daughters from the first marriage into an insane asylum so that he could start fresh. She hasn’t found anything quite as shocking as your find, though.

ETA: Funny, they never seem to show stuff like this on those ancestry.com commercials. :stuck_out_tongue:

I thought this was going to be an episode of Futurama for a minute.

That’s pretty wild, though. I don’t know if I’d want to know or not, if I were that child.

I did see one that alluded to potentially embarrassing issues, where a black man admitted it was tough for him to start looking into his history. But instead of a slave owner in the family tree, he found a freed slave ancestor who went on to own his own business. Well, at least that’s what the commercial mentioned.

Back to the OP: I feel like I should be quoting “Chinatown!” :eek:

Just wait till DNA testing becomes commonplace. Ancestry.com is going to get kicked in the nuts by Geneology.com and it will high .comedy for all.


That raises an interesting point, Mtgman. At this point, the only source we have for the incest story is family legend/rumor. Is there anyway a DNA analysis of my mother, or me, would be able to tell if my grandfather was the product of incest?

I kind of figured that was going to be the punchline, that John knocked Sarah up. I think it happens more than we’d like to realize. My mom found out several years ago that one of her best friends in high school had an abortion in the 11th or 12th grade due to exactly this situation. Her father got her pregnant, then forced her to have an abortion. He was a pastor in Mom’s church and Mom respected him so much - he even officiated at Mom and Dad’s wedding.

Really awful story all around.

I’d think some kind of paternity test involving the Y-chromosome would theoretically be involved, since Grandpa should not have a Y-chromosome that matches with his maternal grandfather’s (John) - but would instead have his father’s. If this was a normal situation, the Y-chromosomes would differ. In reality, I’m not sure whether the test could be carried out in a practical fashion.

And remember, just about every person’s paternity is questionable in this respect - only a relative few have actual DNA typing to confirm it. So I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss this report because of lack of physical proof, as you don’t have any of that proof for probably anyone else in your tree, either!

Edit: Sorry about the confusion, I think I corrected the relationships in the first paragraph appropriately.

Any black american lighter than Wesley Snipes almost certainly has slave owners in the family tree.

Yeah, unless the white ancestors only entered the family tree more recently than that. I’m just saying that’s an Ancestry.com commercial that alluded to a more serious issue than having a horse thief or something, without actually** saying** that.

We have a few examples of cousins marrying cousins in the early 1800s in my tree. I guess women were in short supply then.

I’m wondering myself how anyone knew the truth.

I work for a lab that does paternity testing, but only on the living! I don’t know how you can determine this for sure.

My family actually has it’s own private church (they weren’t very rich, but there was some argument with a local vicar or something, forgot the story)- I’ve only visited once, at a big family gathering, and as my branch of the family is not religious at all my parents let me and my brother wander around the churchyard for a few hours. Well over half of the graves of people who had married into the family had the same maiden name listed (or a double-barrelled version with the two names). It went on for generations, seemingly just two families marrying each other over and over again. My mother told us they were ‘gentleman farmers’, basically too posh to marry common workers, but not actually rich enough to ever leave the area. There were two families of the same ‘status’ in walking distance, and it stayed that was for centuries…

My and my brother both had a quick check on how many toes we had on our way home.

There’s supposed to be 12, and they’re supposed to be webbed, right?

Last year I found out my grandfather had done prison time for murder.

If your grandfather has male-line descendants (a son or son’s son) then you can get a DNA sample from them and compare their y-chromosome to the male-line descendants of your great-great-grandfather. If John and your grandfather’s male-line descendants have the same y-chromosome, then the story is most probably true.

Hmm, that’s a good thought Mississippienne. I have an uncle and his son and grandson who are a straight male line from my grandfather. A straight line from my great-great grandfather might be harder to track down since they would be more distantly related, but I do know a guy online from that part of the family. Of course then we’d need to find someone who cares enough to actually pay for the tests. Maybe I should write to Montel Williams!

I wonder if John’s new wife knew that your grandfather was the product of her husband having sex with his own daughter. I would say, probably not – what woman would want to be married to a man like that, and raise the product of the incest?

Another interesting tidbit is that John’s first wife died in May of 1915, and my grandfather was born in December of that same year. Which means she would have died around the time the pregnancy was discovered…

Woah, so that means he was screwing his daughter while his wife was still alive. I thought that maybe it happened after she died, maybe he was being irrational because of his wife’s death. The incest had probably been going on a while.

Well, it’s possible the wife was very sick for a long while or something (she was 45). I think I’ll try to get a hold of the death certificate and see what’s listed as the cause.

Or, say, “falling” down the stairs… :eek: