Brothers and secrets

It has always been talked about in our family that they were in fact half brothers. Sharing a father, my grandfather, the one with the "hidden not spoken about" Scottish childhood.

Years later, that was thrown into some doubt when my sister worked on that part of our family tree. For a time it was perhaps my grandmother who was the natural parent to both.

And one more theory battered around was, that my uncle was an orphan who travelled with my grandfather from Scotland to Canada around 1920 before he even met my grandmother. Who, yes, was also from Scotland.

That made sense to me. They look nothing alike and my uncle bears no resemblance to either of my grandparents.

But no, my sister did her research, found the marriage document that proved that my grandfather had a wife (who was the natural mother of my uncle) before he married my grandmother. Great story hidden in there.

My paternal grandfather, I never met. He died shortly before I was born. My father didn't talk much about him. Although my grandfather lived with my family, as grandparents often do. So they were close, close enough to open their home to him. 

My parents in the 1950s were a typical example of the new family unit. A growing family, establishing themselves in the post WWII suburban landscape.

They welcomed my grandfather into their home after my grandmother died.

But no one, talked about him, his childhood or where he was from. In fact, my mother discouraged it. 

"Don't ask", she would insist. And when my sister started to research into our grandfather's childhood in Scotland and his subsequent migration to Canada, she was told quite firmly, "Don't stir up a hornet's nest."

All that did was inspire her more to find out what was hiding. And did she ever... she got into it!

Once I was given the notes, it all made sense.

You see, grandpa was an illegitimate child. His mother simply never married his father. For my father, that was a huge deal. Something to keep a secret.

I suspect it played on him. Perhaps even called his own legitimacy into question. Because the story really gets intersting when my uncle arrives on the scene.


My father only found the information about his father's young life  when he himself was well into his 80s. He was fascinated by the revelations that his grandmother married a coloured man, which would have been taboo at the time, and had other children.

Something that was hidden from him, perhaps could have opened his eyes to the world. What we will never know is how much did my grandfather know about his mother's life.

What was most enlightening for my father is that he thought my grandfather had been placed in an orphanage at birth. Meaning he would never have know his mother. But in fact, the truth was that he was placed there at age 5 and well and truly knew his mother.

The story is so wonderful. I do wonder though, if, when my father and his brother were young children, if they ever talked about it.

Brothers from another mother


The fact that my grandfather had a less than tradition childhood was trumped by his young adult life.

With some of my sister's research and some snooping of my own around the usual sites like and, I found some pretty juicy stuff.

I can write about all this now as all the people's who's lives wouldhave been impacted by these stories have all died. And also, times are different now and stories are part of us and should be shared.

My Uncle Mac (on the left) and my father (on the right) had different mothers.

My grandfather emigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1916. In 1918, at the age of 30 he married Lillian Smith, just 19. By 1921, so the Canadian census tells us, he had 2 sons. One boy was 3 and the other, my Uncle Mac just 1 year old.

Now comes the interesting bit. My father was born in 1924, and his mother is not Lillian Smith, but Isabella Michie.

What I can't find is the birth record for the 3 year old son of Lillian Smith and my grandfather, or a divorce decree for them. No marriage certificate for my grandfather and Isabella Michie either. 

My imagination goes to this story. My grandfather married an already pregnant Lillian Smith, giving legitimacy to her first born. It was 1918 and perhaps the father of her child was a soldier who was killed in WW1? 

Divorce was expensive in those days and often not done. Couples simply went their separate ways. Perhaps Lillian died? But what happened to her first born? No idea. 

My grandfather and my grandmother perhaps never married, but lived a life as husband and wife.

Whatever the story, I simply can't get enough... and will continue to search for the missing records.