From finding out about great-grandfather's other family, to a mother who gave birth to twins in her college years and put them up for adoption, people share the most surprising fact that came out after a relative passed away.
[Source can be found at the end of the article]
What Opa spent majority of his time doing during WWII
My grandfather, who we called Opa, was a carpenter his entire life; built half the houses in my hometown, and loved to give them away AT COST to young couples getting a start in life. When my grandmother passed, Opa began building his own coffin, and it was beautiful. He asked my mom to put in some nice red satin upholstery, and when it was finished, he stood it up at his 90th birthday party and asked us all to pose with him in it.
We’d always known that he’d served in WWII, but like many men he never talked about it. We learned after his passing that he’d signed up when circumcision was still required, and he volunteered for the procedure so he could go fight. Once enlisted, they put his carpentry skills to use building bridges, but for the most part he spent his time making coffins, to send boys home.
This great-uncle’s secret
This was many, many years before I was born. My great uncle, a police officer who was killed during the second world war, apparently was a high ranking Nazi officer responsible for some unspeakable things. My family never wanted to acknowledge it though, so I had to do some research on my own.
What grandfather kept in that locked home office all these years
My grandfather always kept the door of his home office locked. When he died in 1987, my grandmother just left the door closed and locked and eventually misplaced the key altogether. When my grandmother moved into assisted living last year, my mom and I cleaned out her house. I live closest so it was on me to wait for the locksmith to come and open the office door. The room was like a time capsule, complete with Winston cigars still on the desk, bills, and a newspaper from 1987 stacked neatly. And the office was filled with photographs.
My grandfather was a photographer so this was no surprise. Mostly they were from his job, and some were of the family, the house, vacations, etc. But then I found a locked file cabinet drawer and got curious/suspicious. Fully expecting to find unsettling pictures of my grandma (but not wanting to be the one who accidentally sold a cabinet full of cash or something), I popped the lock on the drawer with a letter opener. It was full of pictures of ladies who were NOT my grandmother. Probably a dozen different women. Some of them were obviously taken inside my grandparents’ house. Most looked to be from the ’50s and ’60s, just judging from the hairstyles and shoes. These were not professional boudoir shots, either. I threw all the pictures away and never told anyone in my family about it.
False claims by great-grandmother
My great-grandmother tried to get custody of me, claiming my mom had abandoned me.
When my mom divorced my biological father, to get away from him (he was very manipulative and abusive), she packed up everything and moved up to Georgia.
For nearly a year, I stayed with my great-grandparents while my mom went out to find a place to live, find a job, and also she met a man who would become my adoptive father, and give me his last name.
My great-grandmother was a bit manipulative and controlling herself. She was also delusional. She believed that my mom had abandoned me, and set about trying to get custody of me. She tried to rope my grandmother into it, but she wouldn’t have any of it. She worked for an attorney, and she said, “Prove it.” Great-grandma couldn’t.
My mom told me she’d visit weekly, and once she got settled in, she came and got me.
When his other family became known
My great-grandfather had another family that wasn’t revealed until after he passed in his late 90s. He lived until I was in my mid-twenties and not once would I have ever suspected it. He was present at every family party, took me for haircuts once a month, I cut their lawn every week. It turned out my great-grandmother knew but hid it from everyone in the family. She actually knew his other kids and families. She told my dad while in hospice. The real kicker was when doing a family tree on one of those sites, it kept suggesting a public family tree I did not recognize. Turns out it was his other family.
This father’s haunting secret
In 2009 I got a Facebook message from a guy saying essentially: Hi, I think we have the same dad.
My dad died in 2004.
I knew he had been married way before he met my mom but none of us knew he had a son that he abandoned. When the baby was 6 months old he up and left to join the army, never seeing his son again.
So I have a half brother who is about 20 years older than me.
Since I was the first to find out. I was tasked with telling my mother. I called her up and she basically said : “Meh, your dad was bound to have some more skeletons in the closet that we didn’t yet know about.”
The whole thing makes me incredibly sad when I think about it. Sad for this guy that didn’t have a dad (he had been looking for him on and off since he was 17). But also sad for my dad that he carried this secret with him for so long, and died without ever having told anyone. It must have haunted him.
The ongoing affair
After my grandfather died, my mom, grandma, and I went to clean out his house. My grandma and grandpa had been divorced since the late eighties, but our families were still very interwoven, so somehow my grandma got strung into helping out. We got to a big box of letters dated around the 70s between my grandpa and his older brother. They were written in french, and only my grandma and I know how to read french, so my mom asked me to go through them and see if there was anything important, while my mom and grandma worked through a pile of pictures.
Pretty much all of the letters were about my grandpa’s… romantic exploits, while he was married to my grandma. I guess my grandma saw the disturbed look on my face, and asked what was in the letters. I tried to make up something, but she grabbed one from my hand and read it herself. The look of defeat on her face was heartbreaking. They had divorced because he had been cheating on her (with her cousin, no less…), but as far as anyone knew, it was just the one affair. Evidently, it had been going on practically since the honeymoon ended.
Seeing grandma in a different light now
When my grandfather died in 2001, I found out he wasn’t my biological grandfather.
Turns out my grandmother had 2 children before meeting him (my uncle, whom I’ve never met, and my dad). They could only afford to take care of 1 child so they put the older boy up for adoption.
Really made me see my sweet little grandma in a different light.
Where are the twins now?
That my mom had given birth to twin boys while in college, long before meeting my dad. The father was a professor in her department. She went away for 9 months without telling her family, saying she was taking a class for her major. She was not keeping in touch, however, and her family grew increasingly suspicious. Eventually, her sister came up unannounced. She knocked, and my mom answered, obviously pregnant. The sister went back and let the family know what she had seen. My mom had the babies, put them up for adoption, and returned home to an icy, silent reception. The reason for her absence was never spoken of. I didn’t find out until many years after her death.
The most stubborn grandfather
My grandfather knew he had cancer six months before he passed away. Even when his health declined rapidly the last two weeks, he never said anything about it. I kind of knew that was going on. He’s too stubborn to let his family take care of him or be bedridden.
It’s all about the marines
My great grandmother was most likely a lesbian and a kleptomaniac.
The most shocking to me was my grandfather who was all about the Marines. Everything was about the Marine Corps. I always thought that he was a long term Marine and had fought in WWII. Turns out he was in for less than a year and did maintenance on docked ships. My (gay) partner that was kicked out for being gay served a lot longer. My family makes fun of the fact that he (my partner) was ever in the Marines, but still act like my grandfather singlehandedly won the war. He was buried with full military honors.
Stayed married after all those years
My dad did one of those genealogy DNA things and found out that my grandfather was not actually his father. It appears that both my grandparents had multiple affairs and my father was the product of one. They stayed married to each other for more than 50 years though.
This great uncles life during World War II
Shortly after my great uncle died, who had no wife or children, my mother found some of his military records dating back from WWII. Turns out he was captured by the Japanese and sent to a POW camp and worked on the Burma-Thai railway.
Great grandfather’s room kept the same
My great aunt inherited my great grandfather’s house after he died. She never married and would never let anyone come in so we figured that she was some kind of hoarder. After she died, we went in and everything looked the way it did the way it did on the day my great grandfather died 20 years prior. His coat was still on the rack, and his books were still beside his favorite chair. The only room she touched was her childhood bedroom.
Married for over 50 years!
After my maternal grandfather died, we found out that he and my grandmother had been married over fifty years. According to my mom, they never celebrated an anniversary or talked about it much. Turns out it was a shotgun wedding necessitated by the fact that my eighteen year old grandmother was pregnant by my then college student grandfather. This was a big and conservative family too.
The complex handshakes
My grandad was a freemason who travelled the world in the Navy in the 50’s. He had a stroke when I was young (around 10) and lost his ability to speak. My dad has told me that he tried to encourage him to join as he could put a good recommendation in for him, however, after attending a meeting he backed out. He always came close to telling me about it but seemed to stop himself before going too far, which just makes me more curious. Also, any time I go to visit my grandad these days, he always gives me a number of complex handshakes followed by a wry smile, its like he knows I want to know his secrets but is content with the fact he can’t say a word.
Heart attack caused by gambling
My dad passed away a year ago from a heart attack, upon trying to set all his paperwork straight. I found out he had been spending around $600-$1000 a month in slot machines at the hotel in the next town over (he was taking out money at the hotel ATM). Not sure how much of that he got back, if any. It had been going on for at least 2 years according to my uncle.
I never knew he had a gambling problem, didn’t see him often enough to notice. He also was retired and didn’t cash out that much from his retirement.
Living with a false identity
That my grandfather lied about everything.
My mom was getting a family tree together. She kept hitting blanks when adding him to the tree. They weren’t close due to him being a jerk. So she asked her brother for help, making sure she had all the info right.
Eventually came to light that he didn’t technically exist until he enlisted in the army at 17. He lied about his date of birth and his name. My great grandmother is listed as having one child in a census we found – but no name and everything relating to him is false.
He lived his entire life with a false name and false birthday. I want to know what happened in his teenage years that prompted that choice.
Great-aunt keeping the biggest loss of her life to herself
My great-aunt passed a few years ago from cancer in her mid-80s. When she was young, she’d had an affair with my great-uncle and years after his wife’s passing, when they were in their 50s, they got married. It was one of those sordid family stories that they’d all made peace with ages ago.
So after her death the family all got together to clean out her semi-hoarder level house. In their digging they found a birth certificate for a baby she’d given birth to in the 50s when they were having the affair. She had hidden her pregnancy and given up the baby, but she had kept a copy of the birth record and a baby bracelet for the rest of her life. She definitely made the terrible choice to have an affair, but it still breaks my heart that she kept that loss to herself for the rest of her life.
Who is the father of his sister?!
Not exactly family, but my stepdad found out after his mom died that he had an older sister he never knew about and found this out at age 50. His mom never said anything. His late sister contacted the family. His mother gave birth to her at 18, then gave her up for adoption but still kept in contact with her. The sister knew she had other siblings like my stepdad but kept it a secret the whole time. I can’t imagine having kept a secret like that for so long. I can’t imagine his mother died and never told him. No info on who the father of his sister is.
Proud to call him my grandfather, no matter what
My siblings and I knew that my grandfather had bipolar disorder, but he worked hard to keep it in check. I don’t remember ever noticing it affecting his life.
After he died, it came out that when my mother was a preteen, my grandfather (who did not know at that time that he had bipolar) had a severe manic episode and threatened to bomb a large company if they didn’t leave money for him. He even set off a couple in places that would do a little property damage but not actually hurt any people. He eventually got past the manic phase, realized what he was doing, and turned himself in. He spent some time in a psych ward as a result, but he was never convicted because it was clear he was not sane throughout all of this.
Oddly, knowing this does not make me view him as lesser in any way. It helps explain some of the odd things in his/my mom’s life (they suddenly moved way far away after this, but I was told growing up that he just wanted a career change and that’s where it took them), and it helps explain some of my mother’s issues. But more than anything, it’s made me respect him even more. He spent the rest of his life trying to help people in atonement for what he did. He was an amazing person and I’m still proud to call him my grandfather.
Everything came to light after his accident
I always knew that my brother led a pretty questionable life. However, after he had a motorcycle accident that left him brain damaged and paralysed I found out just what kind of stuff he did. I was visiting him and the nursing home he was living in when a couple of local police officers came in as well. Apparently, my brother stole a load of grain from a CO-OP in one town and sold it in another. He was also a person on interest in several other thefts. The officers saw his condition and left. My mom, his legal guardian received a letter a few weeks later that any investigations regarding my brother were being closed.
This mind-blowing discovery about dad’s father
My parents took an ancestry DNA test. Great fun, right? The big thing we were curious about was my dad’s, because dad’s grandfather was unknown, but we were told he was Italian. This would make my dad, at best, a quarter Italian. Well my dad’s results come back and he is WAY more Italian than should be possible.
Now my grandmother and grandfather have already passed, so we can’t ask them anything, but my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Marlene, is still around. My mother calls her, inquires if she knows how these DNA results are possible, etc. Aunt Marlene gets real quiet. She says she’ll call back.
When she does, she says she is breaking a promise she planned to keep to the grave. My grandfather is not my dad’s biological father. He met my grandmother when she was already pregnant with my father. Her boyfriend had been a boxer named Ricardo Mastro or something, and we don’t know if she never told him or he turned her out, but either way she met my grandfather and fell in love.
The exceptionally eye opening part for us was when we realized; my father is named Richard. His biological father was named Ricardo.
The truth about great-aunt and her partner
I found out that my great aunt and her partner were partners and not just two old maids splitting living costs for the better part of 30 years.
Definitely not a bad thing, made me feel more stupid than anything else because I hadn’t noticed it in 20 years. In my defense, my father didn’t find out until he was 43. My aunt grew up as a first generation American by Italian immigrants. Lots of strong values from the old country that kept the whole situation hush-hush.
Great-uncle’s loaded firearm
After my great uncle died, my grandparents, parents and I all went to sort through his house (him and his wife had been borderline hoarders, with a ton of ‘I Heart Germany’ merchandise and a bizarre collection of shot glasses) and found an unregistered, loaded gun missing two bullets in the shed. We live in Australia (gun laws are way tighter than in the USA), and there was no record of him owning a firearm.
Keeping it a secret for his sake
I was 12 years old when my dad died in 2000 from cancer. A year later we were moving and I found a card written to my dad with the salutation “Dear Dad.” Obviously I was pretty confused as my brother was 4 at the time and I hadn’t written it. I secretly asked a cousin to do some digging for me and he found my sister. I contacted her without telling my mom and she wrote me a letter back telling me about her life, my niece and nephews, etc.
Over the next few years, more things came out. I found out my half brother (mom’s son) grew up with her, and they were good friends. Apparently I had been in Walmart with him once and met her.
Then I found out my dad and sister’s mom also had another son and placed him for adoption. I got to see a picture of him as they had reconnected and he is almost an exact replica of my dad.
I was pretty angry at everyone for awhile over this. Angry for not being told, angry at my dad for not being there for my sister, angry that my dad’s side of the family had neglected her too. My heart hurt that she had to read her father’s obituary and not be acknowledged in it for “my sake.” I was constantly told this was all kept secret for me. That brought a lot of guilt. My mom always shrugged and said it was my dad’s choice, not hers.
As for how we are today, we don’t talk. We are friends on Facebook but that’s about it.