FAMILY survey uncovers New Zealand's hidden family secrets

Thursday 15 December 2011, 9:24AM
317 views, New Zealand’s largest online family history website, has today released research revealing some of the nation’s hidden family secrets – everything from scandalous affairs and illegitimate children, to cross-dressing relatives and bizarre medical conditions. recently conducted the survey of 2,000 New Zealand and Australian residents, which asked a broad range of questions about their family history.
The survey prompted respondents to share details about a rumour from their family tree that motivated them to research their history – such as links to someone famous, children born out of wedlock or whether an ancestor was a convicted criminal.

The results highlighted that the tradition of keeping family skeletons in the closet, while universal, is also being re-evaluated in the modern era, as old family ‘sins’ are now seen as great family stories.
Brad Argent, content director for, comments: “Time definitely has a healing quality. As attitudes and social mores have shifted with the passing decades, hidden family secrets are now seen as fascinating historical revelations rather than shameful skeletons to be kept in the closet.”

Argent says 51 per cent of respondents said they were motivated to research their family history to see what stories they could pass down to their children.

“Fortunately, it would appear that you don’t have to shake the family tree too hard to uncover your own family secret, as almost one third of respondents in both countries have discovered one by chance,” says Argent.
Some of the family rumours that respondents reported to be researching included:

  • A member of a family who was committed to a lunatic asylum
  • An affair that resulted in a sibling that other family members didn’t know about
  • A woman who posed as a man and married a family member in the 1800’s
  • A medical condition where a family member was born without a nose
  • The honourable adoption of a baby conceived through rape
  • Relatives with Native American, Asian or Italian heritage
  • A murder / suicide pact that existed in the family

New Zealand trumps Australia in the celebrity stakes, with 16 per cent of Kiwis able to lay claim to someone famous in their family tree, as opposed to 10% of Australians.

However, Aussies with their convict history, are twice as likely as New Zealanders to be related to ‘convict royalty’, with almost one in five of the Australians surveyed claiming links to a convicted criminal or convict from Australia’s early settlement days.

Interestingly, in both regions, almost 12 per cent of respondents said family members refused to discuss family secrets or rumours at all.

Regarding this finding, Brad Argent comments: “One of the most common regrets I hear from people is that they didn’t ask their elders questions about their family history when they had the chance.
“Knowing where we came from and how we got here are such fundamental questions for us all, and the fact that we have such an extensive history at our fingertips through now should encourage more people to do so.

“Every family has an interesting story to tell, and this research certainly proves that Kiwis are curious about their past - even if they have yet to explore it.

“Christmas especially is a perfect opportunity for New Zealanders to sit down with their relatives and begin exploring their family history, because it’s when you’re most likely to get everyone in the same room. Sharing your heritage with younger generations now will give them a better understanding of their past, which will have great value for them in future.”

To begin searching your family history, visit