They say all happy families are the same, but unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.
I can tell you that this is simply not true. My own family was happy, is happy and, I hope, will remain happy. But I know for certain that we are not like most other happy families.
My name is Mike. I’m 42, a family doctor and live with my lawyer wife Susie and my eighteen year old stepdaughter Sophie. Both Susie and Sophie are sweet, bright and beautiful and I sleep with both of them.
From a very young age, I had suspected that things in my family were not quite like in ‘normal’ families. I grew up acutely aware of my older great uncles and aunts whispering about things which we children should not be told, and it was common knowledge that our family had ‘secrets’ which must not be revealed.
From the Victorian prudishness with which the little I knew had been talked about, and the salacious glee with which they discussed it among themselves, I guessed that the secrets were sexual in nature.
The nature of the secrets became more obvious to me when my own sexual preferences began to manifest themselves. As I grew older, went to University and eventually qualified, I resolved to investigate.
In times past – even recently past – so many things were kept hushed up that it’s hard to find reliable details of things that took place even one or two generations back. Our parents and their parents took most of their secrets with them to the grave, but sometimes left the odd letter, photograph or other form of record which gives a clue to the hidden truth.
These days, analytical techniques are much better too. Blood matching and even DNA tests are available to professionals like me so I have been able to find proof of relationships which had been little more than suspicions for many years.
We are certainly a family of secrets and are used to living with them. However, after nearly twenty years’ genealogical research, I’m fairly certain about a few things.
Further back than my grandparents I can only conjecture. I hope to discover proof eventually but the first person I am truly sure about is my grandmother.
An extraordinary lady, my father’s mother was a single parent, which was a real scandal for her era. Most girls were forced by peer pressure, cultural pressure or even the police to reveal the father’s name and to marry, but throughout her life, my grandmother remained strong and silent despite the shame it brought her.
Evidence I now have suggests very strongly that my father’s father was actually his uncle. In other words my grandmother was made pregnant by her own brother (is this making sense?) We certainly know they were very close and actually shared a house in later life after his wife, my great aunt, died. My father was an only child and my grandmother died, still unmarried, shortly after her brother.
Next, I know for certain that my father married his first cousin (his mother’s brother’s daughter), who became my mother. This is not illegal in the UK – indeed if cousins couldn’t marry then most European royal families would have died out centuries ago. It is, however, considered inadvisable and runs the risk of birth defects.
If you have read the above carefully, and my suspicions are correct, you will have noticed this means that my mother was actually my father’s half sister as they both shared the same father – my great uncle. (Am I still making sense?) Their relationship is therefore incestuous (they are both still alive and well by the way).
My parents had three children – my two older sisters and me. My sisters are twins – not uncommon in families with some in-breeding – and are three years older than me.