Ginnifer Goodwin's shocking criminal family secret was exposed during an episode of TLC's Who Do You Think You Are?, and the 37-year-old actress was left devastated after learning that her great-grandfather spent time in federal prison.
"When my grandfather was alive he never wanted to discuss his parents," Goodwin told People magazine. "A few years ago when I was still on Big Love, my father and I tried tracing my paternal great-grandparents on our own, but gave up pretty quickly. We didn't know what we were doing."
Curious to learn more about her ancestors, the actress was upset following the investigation into her family history.
"I not only sobbed the whole week of filming, but my husband watched it with me and it gutted us all over again," Goodwin said. "I never dreamt that I would be made to feel like I actually know these people. I got such an intimate look into their lives. I now understand that they were greatly misunderstood."
Ginnifer Goodwin, who stars as Mary Margaret Blanchard/Snow White in the ABC series Once Upon a Time, explained that her grandfather never spoke about his parents and kept them a secret for years.
"There is an incredible paper trail when your relatives were criminally inclined," Goodwin said.
Ginnifer Goodwin also learned that her great-grandmother, Nellie, had been in prison for drug trafficking. But perhaps what shocked the star the most was when she was shown a mugshot of her great-grandfather.
"I don't think anyone in my family has ever seen a picture of him! I can see him in my father. The Goodwin gene is strong," a tearful Goodwin said.
The actress also explained why she wanted to explore her family's genealogy.
"It's important for my son to know his history. Life experiences become this patchwork, like a quilt that we wrap around us and our ancestors are very much a part of that. My great-grandparents didn't get the Goodwin love, so I feel like it's important for Oliver to somehow give them that love retroactively."
The rest of Goodwin's family secrets will be uncovered in the next episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, which airs on Sunday, July 26, at 9 p.m. ET. Each week, viewers get to take a closer look at the family histories of celebrities as they go on a journey to trace their family tree. The show is executive produced by Lisa Kudrow, and the seventh season premiere of the Emmy-nominated series is on Sunday.
[Image via Jason Merritt / Getty Images Entertainment]