Many of us will do whatever it takes to skip a family get together. Fake sick, throw ourselves down a staircase — anything to avoid the stress. Inevitably, though, you’ll find yourself stuck between your second cousins at the dinner table and when you do, you better dig for secrets.

Some families pride themselves on being thick as thieves, not knowing that they are, in fact, actual thieves. Lurking beneath the surface of the family foundation are shocking truths and shameful pasts. These Buzzfeed users were happy to share some of their juiciest family secrets, and what they reveal will leave you gobsmacked.

1. Known for their quick exits: “My aunt revealed that my great-grandparents fled Scotland because my great-grandfather had a habit of robbing people, and the police were starting to catch on.”

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2. When you find out what dad’s real job is: “My dad created a Ponzi scheme claiming he created an invention that turned water into energy. When he went to prison, we believed it was a mistake, until my mom revealed that he committed a similar crime before I was born.”

New York Times

3. Ruining the holiday season: This is why you shouldn’t snoop for presents: “When I was younger I was searching through my parents’ drawers and found a reindeer thong that played ‘Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ My mother walked in on me playing with it and was mortified.”

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“Years later, I brought it up to my mom and she informed me that it was my father’s. I’ve been estranged from him since I was 14 (for other reasons), so the only real personal thing I know about him is that he enjoyed wearing musical thongs.”

Register Citizen

4. Ancestral testing led to a fun surprise: “I found out accidentally via 23andMe DNA testing that I’m not my dad’s biological child. Apparently, my parents split for a few months and my mom got pregnant. She didn’t find out until she was back together with my dad, so she stayed quiet.”

Daily Mail

5. It’s all fun and games until: “My stepmother let it slip that my aunt and uncle were swingers for a long time. They ended up quitting after a guy dropped dead on top of my aunt in a motel during a nooner.”

Daily Mail

6. All it took was a bit of drinking: “My grandma got wasted and let it slip that my biological grandfather wasn’t actually my grandfather. My real grandfather was their married neighbor who ultimately wanted nothing to do with her after she got pregnant.”

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7. Even in death, family surprises you: “When my great-uncle died in the ’90s, my family went through his stuff before selling the house. They found a very decomposed dead body of a woman in the basement freezer…”

Happys Appliances

“It turned out to be a woman who went ‘missing’ in the ’60s who was his girlfriend at the time. Newspaper clippings showed that her family thought she ran away to Europe and my great-uncle ‘confirmed’ she did. My family still refuses to discuss it.”

Liar Liar / Universal Pictures

8. Only a Dad could screw this up: “My dad faked his own death in an attempt to get back at my mom for cheating on him. He had a note posted outside the bedroom door that said, ‘Don’t let Karsten (me) in.’ My mom walked in and immediately began screaming.”

People / Modern Family

“I ran to her and saw nothing but blood (which turned out to be fake), my dad, and a shotgun. We ran and called the cops. Apparently, he only did it to give my mom the feeling he felt when he found out she was cheating.”

Small Joys

9. You know, every family has its disappearances: “My aunt mysteriously disappeared. Her car was found running with her purse was still inside, parked off the side of the road. No one knows what happened to her. They didn’t even fill out a missing person’s report. It’s as if she ‘ran away.’”

Click On Detroit

10. When the family is a secret in itself: “After my uncle died, we discovered that he had a second wife. Literally, no one on either side knew this for over 25 years. He purchased the same prefab house, same furniture, and same everything for each of his wives so their houses mirrored each other.”

11. There’s a reason that one uncle stays quiet: “My uncle accidentally killed a fellow soldier while in Vietnam. He was strung out and paranoid while on watch. When he was spooked by the soldier who came to replace him, my uncle stabbed him to death. He served a few years in military prison.”

Apocalypse Now / Zoetrope Studios

12. This aunt is way cooler than expected: “My great-great-aunt hid Jews in her apartment in Denmark during WWII. One of her neighbors saw a man in her apartment through the window and asked her about it. She knew she’d be killed if caught hiding Jews, so she said it was her boyfriend.”

Essays In History

“At the time, a woman having a man over was scandalous, so all of her neighbors thought she was a floozy, and her reputation was ruined. Still, she lived through the whole war and helped a lot of people!”

VICE

13. All families have their ups and downs: “My great-grandmother raised my grandfather as her own. A generous deed after having pushed his ACTUAL mother out a window, killing her.”

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14. This one stays within the family: “I was told that my great-uncle died of a heart attack in a hotel in Vegas, but I recently found out that he died mysteriously before he was set to testify against the mafia. We assume it was a mob hit, but nothing came from the investigation.”

The Sopranos / HBO

15. A lateral move can make all the difference: “My grandparents basically swapped spouses. My grandmother on my mom’s side had an affair with my grandfather on my dad’s side. Everyone got divorced, and then the two of them got married. Family reunions were fun.”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / Warner Bros

16. What happens in Denmark doesn’t always stay there: “When my mom was 50, she went to Denmark with my grandma and discovered that she had two older sisters and an older brother. Apparently, my grandpa had been secretly married TWICE before he met my grandma.”

Wall Street Journal

17. Good deeds can’t be trusted: “My mother randomly flew to me from the other side of the world before I was scheduled to give birth. I didn’t find out until much later that she was actually planning on taking my newborn back with her to raise as her own.”

Isabell Steinert Photography

18. That Dave Matthews Band song finally makes sense: “My great-uncle was killed in a train accident in the ’60s. I recently learned that he was having an affair at the time, and was killed when he and his mistress were fooling around while parked on a railroad track! The train crashed right into them.”

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19. The reason Dad was always sweating: “I thought my stepfather was awarded custody of me and my brother in 1990. I found out in 2015 he actually kidnapped us. He died in 2005 so he wasn’t punished. My biological mom tried to find us for years.”

Traveling Dad

20. Pass the collection plate to this woman: “My aunt had an affair with a PRIEST and got pregnant and no one knew except for me and my mum. The kid is 15 now, and has met the priest, but doesn’t know he’s his father.”

Fleabag / Amazon

21. Stay out of your parents bedroom: “When I was in high school my parents went on a trip to the Bahamas. One night I went to borrow my mom’s leather jacket, and in her closet, I found travel brochures for my parents’ trip. It turns out they were on a swingers cruise!”

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22. He won’t be attending career day: “My dad’s father left when he was young, and until a year ago we didn’t even know his name. When we finally found out we looked him up and saw he’s one of the heads of the Polish mafia and wanted for 70+ murders.”

Chicago Tribune

23. Honestly, Abe, good for you: “My great-great — I have no idea how many ‘greats’ — grandfather is rumored to have had a homosexual relationship with Abraham Lincoln.”

Lincoln / Touchstone Pictures

24. They could’ve had it all if wasn’t for those pesky Astors: “According to my father, the Astor family stole the fur/riches from our family hundreds of years ago, and thus earned the fame/money of being the most prominent fur-trading family at the time.”

Skift

25. Probably a good idea to pass up on this grandma’s cooking: “My great-great-grandmother was widowed eight times. That’s a lot of husbands to bury. She managed to amass a considerable amount of wealth from her ‘misfortunes.”

National Post

26. A few phone calls might be warranted: “My great great grandmother gave birth to a baby who didn’t survive, but she wasn’t going to leave the hospital without one. Nobody knows how she got away with it — or how she got her fingers on a legal birth certificate — but my great-grandfather was a stolen baby.”

WD Hospital

Keeping your lips zipped about a shameful family secret preserves some semblance of normalcy temporarily, but chances are the lid will blow off that sucker in a much more catastrophic way. Down the line, somebody is going to face the consequences, as Lee and Paul did.

Art With Impact

Paul and Lee both sat down at their respective laptops, logged into a dating site, and hoped to find their very own You’ve Got Mail-style, head-over-heels romance. Then with the ‘ding’ of notification, their lives were completely upended.

The Jeremy Kyle Show

The two Brits were stunned by the ease of their conversations. Each day, their connection grew stronger as they divulged more personal details. Soon, both were on the same page: they’d caught feelings.

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Still, they were hesitant. They’d heard their fair share of catfishing horror stories to know that an online Prince Charming could likely be a total fake. As the months ticked by, Paul and Lee let their barriers fall, confiding more of themselves than they’d ever had before.

Mic

Their lives continued, work, family, friends, all the while their best confidant was miles away. The seriousness of their feelings made it safer to be tethered to their phones, but after 2-and-a-half years, they could no longer avoid the inevitable.

Palms sweaty, rattled with nerves, the two of them made the leap to finally come face to face. Paul remembered, “It was emotional because we’d been talking for so long.” Still, both feared the meeting would tank the relationship.

But it was fireworks. They were one of those online success stories; they’d found love on the internet. Being with the person they’d stayed up late talking to, who they’d messaged every day for years, it was such a relief to know they could be together forever.

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Seamlessly, they slipped into a serious committed relationship. Lee and Paul had skipped all the awkwardness of the early stages of dating. Talks of marriage bubbled up early. The only word that felt adequate to describe each other? Soulmate.

Fodors

Within a week of meeting, Paul and Lee began introducing their friends to the online mystery men they’d prattled on about for years. Once their pals saw the grins on their faces, they gave a quick stamp of approval. It was obvious; Paul and Lee were in love.

Denver.org

Before they could swap rings, there was one more traditional hoop to jump through — meeting the parents. Honestly, they couldn’t wait. They were sure their families would be just as smitten with their beaus as they were.

Meet the Parents

Lee’s family was first. He’d prepped his mom, Ena, that this one was the real thing. When they walked in the door, it was hugs all around. Paul made a perfect impression and the whole family felt firm he was a worthy match for Lee.

Newsii

Ena watched her son interact with Paul; he was clearly infatuated. But as her eyes drifted to her son’s lover, she couldn’t help but think there was something about his kind, dark brown eyes that made her feel like she’d known him for ages.

The more she looked, Ena realized, his eyes reminded her of someone she’d committed to memory. “When I saw Paul for the first time I instantly thought he looked like my ex-husband, Ron.”

She wasn’t the only one. A few of the other family members piped up about the resemblance to Ena’s ex-husband. As their evening progressed, Lee’s family peppered Paul with questions trying to get to know him. Instead, his answer to one question instantly shifted the mood.

Business Insider

Paul didn’t just resemble Ena’s ex Ron. They bizarrely shared the same last name. Lee’s family pressed Paul about his relatives, but he couldn’t clarify much. In fact, he’d been adopted at 3 years old, so he had no clue about the origins of his last name.

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Listening to Paul made Ena start to feel sick. She was suffering from early onset Alzheimers, but as the pit in her stomach grew impossible to ignore at Paul’s adoption tale, hazy memories flooded back into her mind.

Maple Heights Living

To her stunned family, Ena recounted a grim story. During her marriage to Ron, times were tough. The couple was scraping by, struggling to keep food in the mouths and a roof over the heads of Ena’s 3 children. In the midst of their hardship, Ena found out she was pregnant.

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Ron and Ena discussed their options over and over. Months passed by, and soon, they were looking down in their arms at their baby boy. They tried to manage a 4 child household, but ultimately, they made the choice to give their son up for adoption at 18 months.

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Since Lee and Paul expected a quiet evening of getting acquainted, they were at a total loss about how to proceed after Ena’s truth bomb. Of course, if Paul was actually Ena’s son, that made the lovers half brothers. For answers, they turned to the tabloid program The Jeremy Kyle Show.

SKY News

Host Jeremy Kyle didn’t mince words. He asked Lee how he was feeling about the possibility that he’s in love and in a sexual relationship with a man who could be his brother. Lee answered, “It makes me sick,” he said. “It makes me basically horrible. I can’t describe it.”

Metro UK

They explained that if the results of the DNA test organized by the show proved them to be brothers, they would go their separate ways. Paul admitted, “I’m hoping it’s not true because I love you so much it’s unreal.”

Inform Overload / YouTube

The envelope arrived on stage and the lovers braced for the news. Jeremy Kyle opened the results that would determine the course of their usually complicated position. “The test results show,” he said, “that you two…” he paused for dramatic effect.

Reddit

“You’re half brothers,” he said. Immediately, Paul was overcome with emotion and fled the stage. A psychotherapist from the show comforted him, saying “It’s going to take time to process that and you’ll need to do it at your own speed.”

In the aftermath, Paul and Lee called it quits. Neither of them could continue a romantic relationship now that they knew they were half brothers. One bizarre silver lining was that in losing his lover, Paul gained a biological mother, father, and entirely new family.

Paradigm Malibu

Their love story transformed into a miracle-level reconnection of family. It just goes to show how small the world can be, and how easy it is for our paths to cross. One other British couple experienced a similar (but more family friendly) instance of Deja vu.

NY Post

By 2015, soon-to-be-married Heidi Parker and Ed Savitt had spent about a fifth of their lives together. After that amount of time—and on the verge of such a big commitment—you figure they’d know just about all there was to know about each other, right?

Daily Mail

Not quite! Heidi and Ed met at Newcastle University in 2011. It started when Ed, after spotting Heidi’s name on a piece of mail, messaged her asking how to use a communal dryer. It was, evidently, the pick up line of the century. They soon started dating.

Daily Mail

The two became inseparable, attending college costume parties together and allowing their romance to blossom. For four years, they learned everything about each other: secrets, histories, failures. They were in love. And yet…

Daily Mail

After four years together, had they been contestants on the Newlywed Game, Heidi and Ed probably would have killed it. However, there was at least one fact about both of them that hadn’t come out yet—but it was about to.

Heidi Savitt / Facebook

The truth came out in 2015. Heidi and Ed shared a lovely dinner with their mothers, Kay Parker and Fiona Savitt. As mothers do, Kay and Fiona started talking about their kids, which prompted Kay to elaborate a little bit about six-year-old Heidi.

Daily Mail

Kay mentioned that Heidi loved sailing as a kid. She reminisced about a family vacation to Turkey, where they sailed boats in the summer sun. Coincidentally, while on that trip, six-year-old Heidi had made friends with a little boy. They held hands.

Storer Boat Plans

After that dinner, something felt off to Kay about Ed—but she didn’t know what, exactly. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when she cleaned out her attic that she discovered a box of 1997 photographs from that Turkish sailing trip. Suddenly, she understood.

No Ordinary Homestead

When Kay looked at pictures of Heidi with her “holiday boyfriend,” she realized that the six-year-old kid from the Turkish sailing trip was the same exact Ed her daughter was dating in 2015! She recognized Ed’s face in the bowl cut-wearing kid from the 1997 pictures immediately.

Daily Mail

As it turned out, back in that summer of 1997, the Parkers and Savitts had both been vacationing in Turkey. Both families traveled from different cities in the United Kingdom, but somehow, they ended up in the same foreign city at the same time!

Daily Mail

“I was screaming, it was just unreal,” Kay told Daily Mail. “Of course, I sent it to Fiona [Savitt]. Then loads more photographs came out.” Sure enough, Kay had taken plenty of pictures of the two adorable kids.

Daily Mail

“When Kay sent me the photo of a little boy called Ed,” Fiona said, “I shrieked, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s [my] Ed!’ It was unbelievable. We sent it around to all our family and friends and everyone was amazed.” And how did Heidi and Ed react to the news?

Daily Mail

For Heidi and Ed, news that they’d had a chance meeting on a family vacation 18 years before only solidified what they already knew: they were meant to be together. In the summer of 2017, they made their relationship permanent.

Daily Mail

“From the moment we started dating we were inseparable and knew we were going to be together forever,” Heidi told Daily Mail. “It’s crazy to think we could have got married, shared our lives together, but then never found out about this.” Crazy indeed!

Daily Mail

It’s strange that Heidi and Ed didn’t discover this early connection sooner. After all, they’d spent four years together by then; you’d think a trip to Turkey would have come up! Still, it was undoubtedly a pleasant discovery, and made for the perfect wedding story.

Daily Mail

They married at Haddon Hall, a 12th-century manor house rich with history. It’s fitting that the couple tied the knot at a historical landmark when they, too, had an “ancient” history together. Still, the revelation did more than strengthen this couple’s love…

Daily Mail

As Kay Parker put it, “It was not just Heidi and Ed who met on that holiday but all of us as well.” This random meeting in Turkey, followed by the subsequent relationship between Ed and Heidi, forged friendships between these entire families.

Daily Mail

Kay and Keith Parker now regularly vacation with Fiona and Johnathan Savitt. Who knows? Maybe in the future, they’ll bring their grandkids to Turkey where they’ll meet their future spouses, too!

Daily Mail

But if any story proved a love that was meant to be, it’s that of Ed and Heidi. “Perhaps they just had a subconscious realization they had shared that time together when they met as adults,” Kay said.

Daily Mail

To think that what started out as a pre-wedding family dinner turned out to be a life-changing event that only strengthened the love between them all! If Kay had never told her story that night, would this couple have ever known they’d actually “dated” as kids?

Daily Mail

The bond Heidi and Ed forged as kids, whether they knew it or not, never went away. If nothing else, you have to wonder what else this couple might discover about each other after a few years of marriage…

Daily Mail