Years ago, while in the greater Chicago area for a wedding, my Grandma and my immediate family visited a niece of my Grandma’s in her home in the suburbs. She had lived there for decades and Grandma had never visited her. I was in my mid-teens at the time and had been doing my genealogy research for a few years.
Several times on our trip there we heard how good of a cook the niece was. While at her home, the niece asked me what I knew about my Grandma’s grandfather. Before I could open my mouth, Grandma said “he doesn’t know anything about him.” I didn’t interrupt Grandma or correct her.
A few minutes later, the excellent cook asked my Grandma to come into the kitchen to “stir the beans.” I knew the “beans” were an excuse to discuss something they did not want me to hear. Snippets of their conversation were overheard, but nothing significant. The niece’s husband, a very nice man, was hard of hearing and only had one volume for his voice: loud.
From other sources, I did learn more about Grandma’s grandfather. I never did know what the specific details of what they were discussing in the kitchen. Interestingly enough, the family he had with his second wife were more willing to discuss him.
People sometimes know more than they let on and other family members may know there’s “something about” a certain relative without knowing any of the specifics. And sometimes there’s no way to get someone to tell you a family history secret if they do not really want to.