They Took It to the Grave: In Which I Find a Sixty-Year Secret

When I was a little girl, I noticed that my father called his mother-in-law by a formal name, “Miz Packett”. I asked my mother why he didn’t call her Miss Ruth or Mother. Why so formal? Mom said that her mother really didn’t like my father when she met him. I was indignant. Who couldn’t like my daddy? I demanded an answer. Mom said that her mother said that any man that old already has a wife and children somewhere. 

My father was in his late twenties when he married my mother. I took a DNA test almost a year ago, and I’ve been waiting for a half-sibling to show up. The only one that showed up was my full sibling older brother. It looks like Grandma was worried for nothing. 

This post is not about my side of the family. 


Everyone that knows me knows that I am obsessed with genealogy. I have limited funds, so I spend them judiciously. I have a subscription to ancestry, fold3, and newspapers. Recently I discovered GenealogyBank. I subscribed to the 7-day free trial. After 6 days of intense searching and finding, I considered cancelling the subscription before the membership fee was sucked out of my bank account the next day. What the heck; let’s give it one more search. Now, who haven’t I searched for? Ah, yes, that one. 

I entered  my father-in-law’s name. 

Some of you might think that he is my EX-father-in-law. I didn’t divorce my in-laws, though, only their scoundrel son, and not until he had moved out after 23 years of marriage. (There’s more, but that is another tale.) Mr. X is a troubled soul who could  tend toward mood swings and violence. 

I got a lot of results. The first one, from the Springfied Union, Springfield, Massachusetts, confused me. You know when you are reading something and it doesn’t compute, and you stare hard at the words, not ready to read more, even though your eyes see the words on the following line? That moment happened to me when I read the first couple of lines. 

My in-laws were married on January 2, 1957, and their first child was born on September 14, 1957. Those of use that can do math can see that the child could have been premature. My mother-in-law apparently was not acquainted with calendar math, because she always insisted that the baby was 2 weeks *late*, which did not help her case. That baby became my Mr. X, not to be confused with  algebra or a superhero. 

Do you see how my father-in-law was divorcing someone named Joan Daniels in 1958? And that they married in 1956? 

My mother-in-law’s name was Barbara. 

Then, a few search results later, I find this in the Springfield Union, Springfield, Massachusetts, January 2, 1960…

So not only had FIL been married before, MIL had, too. Mr. X was her child by a man whose last name was Simon. 


When my daughter was born, my in-laws said that they had heard that in order for a child to have red hair, both sides had to have red hair in their background. They didn’t know who had red hair in their lines.

When my son was an infant, my FIL pointed to my son’s pronounced cowlick on his forehead and declared that he had the same cowlick. I thought that was sweet even though I didn’t agree. My father had said the same thing about his own cowlick and the baby. 

I sent  my FIL’s sister a  message. She confirmed that  there were two marriages, and that Mr. X is from his mother’s first marriage. 


I called my daughter to chat with her. You know, a little informal conversation  to say that you are not who you think you are. Your grandfather is not who you think he is. 

The next morning I started a group text with my daughter, my son, my brothers-in-law, and my sister-in-law. No one knew this story. 


Years ago, I asked my MIL who Mr. X had been named for. Her two other sons, who both looked exactly like their father, had family names for their middle names. Mr. X, who looked exactly like this mother and her father, was named Paul Alfred. There was no one in their family named Paul Alfred. 

She took a long drag off her cigarette, exhaled, and said, “He was named for a family friend.” Seriously? What family friend. I didn’t force the issue. 


I discussed this with Sugar. A few years ago, while going through some photos, I came across a group photo with Mr. X and his parents and siblings. Sugar thought that Mr. X didn’t look like the others. I said, “But he looks exactly like his mother who looks exactly like her father.” He said, “Ok.”

After reading the newspaper results, I called Sugar and said, “ You can say I told you so”, and I told him that it looked like Mr. X was born to a marriage of my MIL and a man named Simon, but I didn’t know his first name. He said, “Try Paul Alfred.”

You can try it, too. You’ll get an obit for Paul Alfred Simon. A search on social media of the surviving children shows a man who looks enough like a younger version of Mr. X. When I saw the photo, I said, “Oh my goodness, that could be his bro…”

I wrote to the potential sister, but haven’t had a reply. If they don’t reply, that is okay. 

But this Sixty Year Old secret is out of the box now. 

7 Responses to “They Took It to the Grave: In Which I Find a Sixty-Year Secret”

  1. Jan Wilberg Says:

    That’s some impressive sleuthing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth Rawls Says:

      It made me realize that I might have a different last name, as well as my children. What was the big secret that they pretended to have married 3 years before they really did? This means that his entire family and her entire family were in on the deception, whether actively or passively. There’s a huge hole from the time she graduated from high school to when she married the second time.


  2. Judith Richards Shubert Says:

    Interesting! Are you sure there isn’t a Lenoir City Shubert in the bunch?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Denise May Says:

    Back then divorce was “shameful.” It may have been that they didn’t want to tell about it. I don’t know why.
    My half-great uncle married a lady who had an illegitimate son. She NEVER told anyone who his father was. He wanted to know, but–nope, wouldn’t tell. I have speculated about the father being married, being a rapist, or just being a very bad man.
    I hope you figure out about your “real” FIL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth Rawls Says:

      I’m thinking today that, since Leslie got a non-contested divorce from Joan, they had to wait a year for the divorce to be made final. That could make the date of the initial action in November, 1957, so he and Barbara could have been together when Barbara got pregnant by Simon. It is all conjecture at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Teri Lowery Says:

    My father’s first wife was raped by her father and was pregnant when she was 16. He took her to Florida where they were “married” under false names and she was told to claim that her “husband” died in WWII. I learned about it over the years from her and my father. Her father told her he’d kill her if she told anyone. My father suspected something, but didn’t know until years after their divorce. Her son had learning disabilities and died many years ago. I became friends with his first wife through my half-sister and eventually learned what really happened. I agree with previous comments that there was such a stigma that many tales of incest will probably never come to light.

    Liked by 1 person

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