Recently, we asked the BuzzFeed Community to share their wildest family secrets. Here are some of most messed-up.
Note: Some of the submissions contain mentions of sexual assault, suicide, and murder.
1. "My grandpa has been a Baptist preacher for 70 years, but he wasn’t always so innocent. Growing up in the holler of Kentucky there wasn’t much to do. When he was around 13 years old, he was drunk with a friend and went out in the woods with a shotgun. He wound up shooting and killing his brother. I found out after doing some work on the family tree. Turns out, not many in the family actually know about grandpa before he turned to religion."
2. "My first cousin and my second cousin started dating, had a kid, and got married in a state where it was legal (Montana maybe?) They did genetic testing to make sure the kid wasn't going to have physical abnormalities."
3. "My great-grandpa had a second family! He was apparently married to someone else when he knocked up my great-grandma. His wife wouldn’t give him a divorce, so he just separated from her and stayed with my great-grandma. He had seven kids with her (and two more kids with the original wife during the same time)."
"Eventually the first wife died in her eighties, so my great grandparents were able to officially get married. That’s how my grandma found out; she saw the marriage certificate dated just a few years before they died."
4. "Long story short…my uncle and my cousin (both from the same side of the family, so uncle and niece) were messing around and she ended up pregnant. To this day the story is that her 'high school boyfriend' got her pregnant then left to New Mexico. Now they both have their own separate families and her son doesn’t know his real dad is at every family function."
5. "My grandparents and great-grandparents grew up in the South. I had always heard rumors of my great-grandpa being a KKK supporter. Several years ago, my dad was watching a program on The History Channel about the KKK and saw my great grandfather marching in some kind of parade with KKK members/supporters."
6. "[I] found out through genealogical research and DNA testing that my mom's sister, 'Jane' [name changed], was actually her mother. Jane was 18 and had had an affair with a married 40-year-old man in 1940. She gave the child to her own parents to raise and went to her grave letting my mom believe she was just her eldest sister."
"My mom is 82 now, in frail health, and all the people involved besides her are long dead, so there's no point in telling her. What makes it so awful is that, when my mom was about five, Jane married the man who got her pregnant after he left his wife. Then he battered Jane severely for decades before she finally left him. Mom witnessed a lot of the fights, and she still hates who she thinks is her brother-in-law [but is actually her father] to this day. ... It's a mess, and I'm so angry at Jane and my great-grandparents who I grew up calling my grandparents for keeping this horrible secret. I don't know why I had to stumble onto it. It's just awful, especially because Jane took her own life when I was a child, and Mom has wondered ever since why."
7. "My aunt is married to a pedophile. Her husband dated my step-cousin while I was in high school. She was 14. ... My aunt and her husband lost their house because of lawyer fees and to keep him off the registry (I don’t know how that was even possible). He was also inappropriate with me as a teenager like touching my butt and waist and offering me alcohol. My dumb young self didn’t know any better and thought that’s how things were in families. I was wrong. Now I don’t go around family if he [is] there because I have a daughter to protect."
"Another aunt — her husband has a whole other family in El Salvador that no one will tell my young cousin [about] because it will break her heart and destroy her relationship with her dad and the family."
8. "Back in the 1890s, one of my ancestors murdered her rapist, and was to be executed by electric chair (she was acquitted in a subsequent trial). This was hushed up for decades, and no one in the family knew — until we matched with other long-forgotten family members thanks to Ancestry and the DNA swab I submitted. If you want the full story, read The Lady of Sing Sing by Idanna Pucci."
9. "I found out through ancestry.com that my great-grandfather was a convicted felon who served time in prison for manslaughter. (He died before I was born.) My mom always described her grandfather as a sweet and thoughtful man, and refused to believe it even when she saw the court papers."
"My great grandfather had a very distinctive last name so it is unlikely the court papers are referring to someone else. I don’t think anyone in my mom’s family, including her dad (the only child of the arrested man) knows."
10. "Me and my siblings were fathered by our uncle because [our dad is] infertile ([he] doesn’t know this — only mom and his brother figured it out after years of trying with no luck). I only found out because I got sick and [my] blood type didn’t add up. Mom and uncle/dad are taking this to the grave. I’d say maybe 30% of the family knows or suspects."
11. "My dad is also technically my uncle. My parents are step-siblings and got together in their late teens before breaking up. Growing up I thought it was a coincidence that both my grandmothers had the same last name; now I know it's because they married the same man. It's never ever spoken about."
12. "In 2007 my uncle took my sister and I out for drinks. I don't remember how or why we got there, but he told the two of us that his high school girlfriend had a baby and that, after a DNA test, he was proven to be the father. We left the bar and he showed us this girl's senior photo and told us that she was in the process of taking his last name. This was the one and only time he ever mentioned this girl."
"My sister and I don't even remember her name or face. His other three children have no idea that they have an older sister. And, as far as I know, my sister and I are the only two people in the family that know of this girl exists."
13. "My aunt (we’ll call her 'Sarah') has been institutionalized since young adulthood. ...No one has stated an actual diagnosis. ... She’s part of a group home program for adults with cognitive adaptive needs. The best description that I was given is that she has a mental age of about seven years old. I found out from a cousin that she wasn’t born with this. Around the age of seven, her brother whom she was closest to had passed away from childhood leukemia. Instead of helping her cope and understand loss at that age, my grandmother basically cruelly and constantly beat her and pumped her full of drugs to the point that she had gotten permanent brain damage. Now she is separated from everyone and they act ashamed of her."
"No one is ever willing to speak the truth. ... For awhile, my grandmother took her in as an adult and became her 'caretaker.' My dad (an in-law) anonymously reported my grandmother for abuse because she was essentially treating Sarah like a live-in servant while collecting money from the government. This was long before I was born and I wish that everyone would speak up in Sarah’s defense especially since my grandmother has long passed. She’s an amazing aunt and she’s got a heart of gold."
14. "My dad kept a second family for over 19 years. It destroyed my family. Funny enough, he’s never been loyal to any of his wives. He cheated on my mom and he cheated on my step-monster. I have a younger brother who won’t speak to him, but I know exists. My half-brother reached out and I told him to keep his peace and lay low. He agreed, and he’s happy. My dad had mentioned that he believes I have a half-brother, and he has suspicion that I know something. I learned this five years ago; he has another 14 to go until I tell him. Karma is a bitch."
15. "There was this relative on my dad's side who was always called Brother Walter. (He wasn’t like a religious brother and I don’t know why he was called that.) Anyway, my mum let slip once that he was a product of a brother/sister incest that was hushed up."
16. "That we probably have a half-sibling or two in Germany from when my dad was in the US Air Force and was stationed there for almost a year before my mom came to join him. He was not a faithful husband at the time and was separated from my mom a few times."
"I’ve done DNA testing for my family tree and so far haven’t had any European matches show up. ... We may never find out if it’s true."
17. "My drug-and-alcohol-addicted cousin strangled his equally-troubled fiancé with an apron in their kitchen after an argument. He tried to play it off like she strangled herself in an act of suicide, but was arrested and charged, then released on bond to be under constant supervision in my aunt and uncle's house."
"They went on a planned trip to California anyway, left him alone in the house with a fully stocked liquor cabinet, and found his decomposing body ... upon their return. He had gotten drunk out of his mind the first night my aunt and uncle were gone, left an illegible note, and took his own life out of grief and shame. Pro tip: mental health and substance issues need to be spoken about, not swept under the rug when your family doesn't like how it looks."
Their choice to leave him behind while they went on their trip, and his resulting suicide, caused a huge rift in my family between my aunt/uncle and everyone else. Basically, we thought they were out of their minds and they thought we were accusing them of being responsible for all of this (yes and no)."
18. "Not mine but my husband's family secret. My husband suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in May 2020 due to his drinking and a fall. His drinking got increasingly worse at the start of the pandemic upon finding out that he was lied to his whole life by everyone in his family."
"He was always told his mother died when he was a baby in a car accident. Turns out his mother abandoned him when he was a baby. He struggled growing up without a mother his whole life, a contributing factor to his alcoholism. His adult son's mother knew this information [in secret] for almost 20 years [and] ... held onto it until my husband met me and was starting to turn his life around and get his drinking under control. Once he found out his drinking got out of control. When he fell his aunt let me know that it was true and his mother was alive.
... If it wasn't for that fall, he would be dead from drinking. If it wasn't for that fall, I would have left him too. The day of his fall I decided I had enough and no longer could help him. He no longer drinks and is so lucky to be alive. How severe his injury was...most people die. He's gonna need brain surgery soon for his seizures, and that is only to give him a little better quality of life. I'll be lucky if he survives the next five years. He has never mentioned his mother or growing up without a mother since that fall. We don't discuss it. His family doesn't discuss it. They have never once came to help me with him or really visit either. It's a shame he has lost so much of what he once was because his family decided it was better to lie then have him deal with those emotions of abandonment as a child.
19. "My uncle sexually assaulted my cousin when she was young. When she came out to confront her father, he ensured she was cut off and denied her of any help. She is experiencing homelessness now. My family believes my uncle is a stand-up individual and that his daughter is experiencing homelessness by her own means. In reality, he’s a monster and she’s experiencing homelessness because he ensures it."
20. "My grandfather murdered the man who molested my mom and aunt."
21. "In my late teens I decided to do a deep search on ancestry.com. My grandma had passed away when I was 15, and I wanted to feel closer to her. She was arrested when she was 16 for committing adultery. I also found her with a different last name than my grandpa’s. She married the man she was committing adultery with for a short period of time before remarrying my grandpa."
"I also found out my dad was married for a short period of time before marrying my mom. He’s a short tempered piece of work so I don’t want to ask him for more information, like if I have any more siblings floating around."
22. "I one time walked in on my mom and my dad's sister…you know…"
23. "My mother has always been narcissistic, controlling, manipulative, emotionally abusive, and sometimes physically abusive to us kids. When we were young, my older sister found her diary where she wrote that she wanted to leave our dad but wouldn't because she would have to take us kids. She did actually run away for a week or so when I was about four. Once my younger brother was in high school and the rest of us were on our own, mother cleaned out half of the bank accounts and left. I have refused to have anything to do with her for almost ten years. She's a snake and I wouldn't trust her to watch my sandwich while I used the bathroom."
24. And finally, let's end on a silly one that's not so dark...and may give you a new gravy recipe:
"My grandmother recently died. She was famous in our town for her amazing cooking/catering, in particular her turkey dinners. Notably, her gravy was absolutely amazing. So delicious. She had a heart attack several years ago and her near-death experience convinced her to share some of her secret recipes with me, all except for her gravy recipe. When she died this spring, I was going through her pantry and found an entire bucket of KFC gravy mix. She was literally using KFC gravy mix as a base to make her incredible gravy. Huge scandal. Lmao."
What's your wildest family secret? Let us know in the comments!
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.