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Unknown Relative

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Most people know who they are related to. Most people know their friends' family, too. However, in fiction there are many ways to create story tension by having a relative be unknown before leading into a reveal.

The work has Alice, who has been friends with Bob for a long time. In season 4, Bob's sister Claire comes to visit and Alice does not know who she is, despite it being a reasonable expectation for her to be acquainted with Claire after knowing her brother so long. Bob may be on vacation and doesn't introduce them, leading to awkward hijinks occurring before it is revealed who Claire is to both the characters and audience. Perhaps Alice has been dismissive of Claire, or mentioned how much she feels threatened by her friend's sisters.

This is not the only circumstance, but is a common one. Another common variation is the character themselves not knowing of a relative of their own, that person then coming to meet them — in these cases it is more likely that the audience already knows of the relative. A character may also be hiding their relationship to a family member from their friends for a good reason, though that family member may be frequently present.

May be foreshadowed by having the same surname. The interactions may go on for a significant length of time before the reveal, sometimes with everyone but the relative not knowing, though usually the identity will gradually be told to more people.

Super-Trope to Long-Lost Relative, for specific cases of when both parties do not know they are related, Your Son All Along, when the relationship is a father-son one that the father doesn't know about and Luke, I Am Your Father for the other way around, and Relative Error, when someone doesn't know that two people are siblings and thinks they are dating. See also Remember the New Guy?, when a never-before-seen character is treated as if they've been through the story with everyone else (making them an unknown relative to the audience, rather than the characters).

This is not for examples of when two people have alternate identities and don't know that their masked partner/villain is related to them.

As this is a form of The Reveal, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece: Luffy apparently never even thought of having a father (he only remembered having a grandpa) until his grandpa Garp points it out. It, of course, enables a reveal: that Luffy's father is an infamous criminal (the most wanted man in the world, in fact) named Dragon. It is implied that Dragon never raised Luffy and just left him in his hometown in East Blue.
  • Flame of Recca: Early in the series, Recca has an antagonistic relationship with Kage Hoshi due to pitting his friends against him. However, he finds out later that she is his mother, Kagerou, who actually saves him from their village massacre 400 years ago by teleporting him into the modern age which results to her becoming immortal. Her actions in the first arc is a test to see if her son is ready to fight stronger enemies.

    Comic Books 
  • Lena Luthor from DC Comics in the Pre-Crisis Continuity originally had no idea that she was the sister of famous super villain Lex Luthor due to the fact that her and Lex's parents (who were actually alive in this continuity) changed their name from Luthor to the anagram Thorul.
  • The final issue of Immortal Hulk reveals that Bruce Banner/the Hulk and his archenemy, the Leader, are distantly related to one another via a common ancestor, with an implication that their feud is just the latest expression of a blood feud and Cycle of Revenge between the Banner and Sterns families that goes back centuries.

    Fan Works 
  • The Line Is Not Broken depicts Tsunade as Minato's mother and Naruto's grandmother, but only she knows this.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell:
    • Chapter 24 of the sequel, Picking Up the Pieces, has Rex, having learned of Wind Breaker's failure to find his parents in the Griffish Isles, offer to create a tracker using a DNA sample in an attempt to find them. He doesn't quite finish it, but early tests with the spells end up revealing that Matron Hush Tone, Page's mother figure who's only recently met Wind, is Wind's grandmother and that the egg she gave up to help clear her debt (being a former Hatchery Griffon) is one of his parents.
    • By extension, Hush Tone's ward and Wind's friend Page Turner is effectively his aunt, which surprises but doesn't bother her when Wind points it out.
  • In Danny Phantom fanfic Resurrected Memories: As stated elsewhere the little girl Ember saves from Skulker and her big sister whose band Ember ends up joining turn out to be Ember’s nieces, a fact the three of them are completely oblivious to at the moment.
  • RWBY: Scars: In Volume 5, Ruby meets her maternal aunt Ivory while traveling. Ruby's mother Summer had never even mentioned having an aunt.
  • The Secret Biography of Donald Duck: Upon learning that Beakley adopted Agent Kay K while reading through Donald's journal, Webby begins wondering if Kay might actually be her birth mother, since she knows nothing about either of her parents. The idea is soon dropped when Huey points out the timeline doesn't match whatsoever considering Kay died before she could have conceived Webby, meaning the spy is merely her aunt by adoption... at least until it's revealed that Kay survived the crash that made the kids initially drop the idea, with her going on to have a one-night stand with Donald Duck years after the fact, which does fit the timeline and implies that Donald could be her father. When Donald is asked directly a few chapters later, willing to answer any lingering questions the kids have, he immediately confirms her parentage, though he further reveals that he was also Locked Out of the Loop and didn't know until he investigated himself a few months prior.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Coco, Miguel's great-great-grandfather abandoned his family to become a musician, and was Un Personed as a result. Miguel is initially excited by evidence that his ancestor was actually his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, but eventually learns that it was Hector, the lovable loser whom he befriends through most of the movie.
  • Meet the Robinsons: Lewis is an orphan who winds up traveling to the future with his new friend, Wilbur Robinson. It's only at the beginning of the third act that he learns that Wilbur is actually his own future son, and that the rest of the Robinsons are thus the family whom he's going to gain after being Happily Adopted.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • After the Wedding: Jacob, a Danish aid worker who is getting a donation from a rich philanthropist. He gets invited to the rich guy's daughter's wedding. He's pretty startled when he shows up at the wedding and sees that the bride's mom is his girlfriend from 20 years ago. It doesn't take long for him to realize that the bride is actually his daughter.
  • In the wuxia movie The Jade Faced Assassin, the two main characters are twins born in a martial arts clan from a forbidden love affair, and are taken in by separate martial arts families without the knowledge of each other's identities. Unfortunately, the clan's leader isn't going to allow them to leave, and manipulates both of them into fighting each other, intending for one of them to die so that the other can be a worthy successor to restore family honour.
  • In Wanted, Wesley doesn't realize that Cross is his father until after he kills him. This is foreshadowed by the fact that Cross seems bent on killing everyone but Wesley.

  • The Cat Who... Series: Book #15 (The Cat Who Went Into the Closet), Qwill discovers, while poking around Euphonia Gage's former home, that while her husband was in prison, Euphonia had a child with another man, and gave her up to a foster family. Lethe, renamed and raised as Lena Foote, subsequently married Gil Inchpot and had a daughter of her own, Nancy, who knew none of this. Qwill subsequently reveals all this to Nancy's cousin Junior Goodwinter, who's quite startled to learn he has a new cousin who raises and races a pack of Siberian Huskies.
  • Jennings: In Jennings and Darbishire, the protagonists encounter a stranger at a cafe, and open up to her about their sufferings under their maths teacher, Mr Wilkins. It's only later that they discover the stranger is in fact Mr Wilkins's sister (who is, fortunately, highly amused by the whole affair).
  • Wagons West: In Illinois! Janessa was introduced to the Holts, who did not know about her existence until she was nine years old; Toby had no idea he had fathered the child until she showed up at the door with her mother.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Goodbye My Princess: Cheng Yin and Gu Jian are cousins. Cheng Yin only finds out when Ming Yuan tells him.
  • House of Anubis:
    • Though Patricia had been in Anubis House for what's implied to be several years, only her best friend Joy seemed to be aware of the existence of her Polar Opposite Twin, Piper. This allowed for a subplot where Piper stayed at Anubis House in secret, inadvertently tricking people like Alfie into thinking Patricia was suddenly being nice (and thus into thinking the crush he had was on her rather than on Piper). The moment when she revealed to everyone in the house that Piper existed was full of shocked reactions that could've only happened had Patricia simply never mentioned Piper's existence. It's implied her jealousy of Piper's talents and social skills were why she kept everyone but Joy in the dark.
    • Season two introduced Jerome's younger sister, Poppy. While he'd been secretive about his poor relationship with his parents until he opened up to Mara in the first season, he never mentioned having a little sister until she appeared at the school. Poppy herself exploited this, as she used Jerome's unwillingness to admit her existence to his friends as a way to blackmail him at the beginning of the season.
  • Grey's Anatomy:
    • Arizona picks up a girl at Joe's and takes her home, and it looks like it could be a successful one night stand for her to get over Eliza and finally uncomplicate her love life... until her long-time roommate and good friend, Andrew, comes home and scurries past — but the girl notices him and calls his name. She reveals that he is her little brother, something you would imagine Andrew would have probably mentioned to Arizona (since they have lived together for a few years and he testified for her at her daughter's custody hearing), or if not to have at least had a photo around that Arizona would have recognized.
    • Meredith started the show as an only child, discovering over many seasons that she has at least three half-siblings that her parents didn't even hide from her (Molly and Lexie from her dad, Maggie from her mom). She visited her dad a few times before meeting his daughters, apparently just never bumping into them or seeing photos, and was there for Maggie's birth but... forgot? So that Maggie could dramatically reveal it when she gets hired as Cristina's replacement and give Meredith the realization that Maggie's father is Richard Webber, which neither of them know. It's surprising that Meredith's mom's Alzheimer's didn't have her ever mention it.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Journey to Babel" Kirk is surprised to meet Spock's parents. It's a little unrealistic that a Starfleet captain tasked with transporting a distinguished delegation to a vital conference would have no idea that Vulcan's ambassador to the Federation is his first officer's father, even if their relationship might charitably be described as "tense".
  • Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue: Overlapping with Relative Error, the episode "The Mighty Mega Battle" has Ms. Fairweather call a famous scientist named Clark to help her build some armor for the Rangers. They get along exceedingly well, and Clark is even given the honor of revealing her first name (Angela) to the audience. Green Ranger Joel, who's in love with Ms. Fairweather, mistakes them for a couple and gets very, very jealous, but finally decides he wants her to be happy and saves Clark from the Monster of the Week. It's only in the final segment of the episode that he and the audience learn that Clark is Ms. Fairweather's brother.

    Video Games 
  • Jak 3: Wastelander: Jak doesn't realize that his mentor and father figure, King Damas, is actually his biological father until the latter's Last Request to find his missing son, Prince Mar, and brings out an amulet that matches the Orphan's Plot Trinket Jak has. However, Damas passes away before he could find out that Jak is the grown-up Mar.
  • Yakuza 3's plot kicks off when Kiryu discovers a man who looked just like his deceased father figure, Shintaro Kazama, appears and shoots Daigo Dojima. Much later does he learn that man was his younger brother, Joji Kazama, who after his career was disgraced because his connections to his brother, left to America and became a CIA agent.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in Gargoyles: the titular species raises their young communally, with all children in a generation being considered "rookery children" to all the gargoyles of the adult generations that provided eggs to that rookery. While they may or may not be aware of their biological relationships - children will often share a mix of features from their birth parents - it isn't culturally relevant to them. In several cases - such as Hudson being Broadway's biological father - the connection is only affirmed through Word of God, as in-universe it would never occur to most gargoyles to make any sort of deal about it.
    • Played straighter with Angela, a gargoyle raised by humans; while it's obvious from her appearance that she is the biological daughter of Goliath and Demona, it never even occurs to Goliath to mention this, as that connection isn't important to him - she is one of his rookery daughters either way. When Angela eventually learns of this, however, it does matter to her, which throws Goliath off for a time as he struggles to balance his desire to bond with her with his unease over her very un-gargoyle-like focus on their biological connection (not helped by concern about her potentially extending this focus to the other half of her parentage).
  • Miraculous Ladybug:
    • The first time she goes over to Juleka's, Marinette meets Juleka's brother, Luka, who becomes her Love Interest. Juleka being so shy explains why her casual friends didn't know about him (whereas her best friend Rose is already acquainted). In season 4, Luka and Juleka find out that Disappeared Dad is none other than world-famous rocker Jagged Stone.
    • It turns out Chloé has a maternal half-sister, Zoé, who'd been living in New York. She moves to Paris after the bullying at her boarding school gets too bad and bonds with Marinette before her relationship to Chloé is revealed.
    • It turns out Adrien's Missing Mom has an identical twin sister who shows up unexpectedly on the anniversary of her disappearance, faking out Adrien and the audience (Adrien was aware of his aunt's existence, but the timing of her surprise visit threw him off). She's also the mother of his identical cousin Felix, another example. Felix takes advantage of no one in Paris knowing about his relationship to Adrien in order to play a mean prank on Adrien's friends.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Twilight's brother Shining Armour is introduced this way when she receives an invitation to his wedding. Apparently the fact she had a brother had just kind of never come up, although forgetting to mention his existence would be in character for her.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender:
    • Lotor's backstory involves a scene where, as a child, he questions his father about the identity of his mother, not realizing said mother was in the same room and in his line of sight. It's implied that as an adult he did his own research and discovered Honerva had become Haggar, but refused to accept or acknowledge it.
    • Keith spent his childhood knowing nothing about his mother aside from the fact that she had left when he was an infant and was once in possession of his Orphan's Plot Trinket. It's not until his late teens that he learns that she is a Galra woman named Krolia who works with the Blade of Marmora, and her apparent abandonment was a case of Give Him a Normal Life.

    Real Life 
  • It is said that, in the final few years of his life, Steve Jobs was told an intriguing fact about one time that he had been to a restaurant: the waiter was his biological father (Jobs was adopted), neither of them knew it, and that was the last time that they would meet.

Alternative Title(s): Hidden Relative, Secret Relative