Grey’s Anatomy: 20 Wild Details About The Grey Family Only True Fans Know


Grey's Anatomy has been a staple of television since it first aired in 2005, but not a lot is known about the family behind the woman who narrates every episode. In a series that features a huge ensemble cast, each with a great deal of detail surrounding their early careers or upbringing, the Grey's family seems to grow at a rate too fast to keep up with. Over the many years the series has been on the air, details have emerged to help paint a picture of how Meredith grew up, but only fans who paid close attention could recall everything there is to know about the Grey family from before Meredith set foot in the hospital on her first day as an intern.

Frankly, it's the nature of the series (and any other made by Shonda Rhimes) to reveal little to nothing about a main character like Dr. Meredith Grey until it becomes necessary to further the plot. For a series that likes to drop a new sister into the cast every now and again to shake things up, you might think we would know more than a little about Meredith's childhood. It took a few seasons before many of the details listed here were truly fleshed out, but as any fan of the series knows, there's probably a lot more to reveal as time passes and the series heads into its 16th season and beyond.

After digging into the past, we came up with these 20 Wild Details About The Grey Family Only True Fans Know.

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Young Meredith Grey
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Young Meredith Grey

The thing about Meredith that makes the most sense is that she was almost completely raised in a hospital. Not only was she brought to the hospital constantly so she could see her mother, she carried along an Anatomy Jane doll the whole time, which helped spark her interest in medicine. For the most part, Meredith was brought to the hospital as an excuse for Thatcher to see his wife.

It was during these early years, when Meredith was between three and five, that her mother was involved with Richard, so bringing Meredith along may have been more of an excuse than anything else. Regardless, spending so much time in a hospital at an early age clearly had an impact on Meredith's choice to go into medicine like her mother.


When we first see Meredith in the pilot episode, she is about the right age for a woman to have graduated from med school and begin interning without any gap in her education. Most people who follow that path begin school right out of high school and enter into professional medicine around the age of 26, but in the original script, Meredith was supposed to be older.

In the earlier drafts of the pilot script, Meredith was meant to be 32 when she began her internship. There was never any explanation given in that script as to why she had a six-year age gap with other interns.


Thetcher Grey on Grey's Anatomy

When we first met Meredith, the details of her parents came in rather slowly. It was known that her mother was afflicted with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, but not much was known about her father. As the show progressed, we learned that her parents divorced when Meredith was rather young and that she had no real relationship with her father, Thatcher Grey.

While little detail has been given as to the state of Ellis Grey and Thatcher's marriage prior to their breaking up, one thing did make it to air; they had been married for seven years prior to their divorce. This was an interesting reveal because it means they were married for two years prior to Meredith's birth.



The details of Ellis and Richard's clandestine relationship weren't revealed for a long time on the series, but a flashback episode finally showed how these two crazy kids found one another. While working in Seattle back in the 1980s, both were interns, but weren't treated with fairness or respect due to the fact that one was a woman and the other was a black man.

When they were the only two willing to treat a man who came in with GRID (the early identification of what would become AIDS), they bonded. Their willingness to work together helped to solidify that bond and they became close friends-- and then, much more.


thatcher grey

When it comes to details about certain characters on Grey's Anatomy, there has been little to nothing revealed. That's certainly true of Thatcher Grey, Meredith's estranged father. There are some details we will get into later in this list regarding his health, family, and other aspects of his life, but one thing we know very little of is this man's career.

It's apparent that Thatcher is a professional of some kind from early in the series, but few details emerged throughout the years to indicate what he does for a living. Thanks to some one-off phrases made by Ellis and others, we know Thatcher is a professor, but the show has never indicated what he teaches. He doesn't work in medicine, that's clear,  but other than looking like a history professor, there isn't much to identify his area of study.


Thatcher Grey Grey's Anatomy

Early in the series, it's clear that Meredith has absolutely no relationship with her father. It is eventually revealed that he moved out of the family home when Meredith was only five and she never saw him until she became an adult. That's a long time to go without seeing your father. The indication is that Thatcher wanted nothing to do with his daughter after his marriage ended.

As it turns out, that wasn't the case at all and Thatcher wasn't the neglectful father he was initially made out to be. As it happens, he did try to see his daughter several times after ending it with Ellis. He wasn't able to get close to her because of his relationship with Ellis. It was that chaos that kept him out of Meredith's life for so long.


Susan Grey Grey's Anatomy

Eventually, Thatcher moved on when he married another woman, Susan, with whom he had two additional children. Because of their 20+ year-long estrangement, Meredith never knew her father remarried and she had no idea there were a couple of sisters hanging around somewhere. That ignorance led to some surprises when new sisters kept popping up every other season or so.

Susan was a sympathetic character who worked hard behind the scenes to try and forge a reconciliation between her husband and Meredith. She showed up every now and again to try and push their relationship into a mended one. Sadly, her story had a tragic ending that didn't help Meredith and Thatcher stay close.


Richard Webber and Ellis Grey in Grey's Anatomy

Richard and Ellis were more than close friends who eventually had fling; they were in a serious relationship that left the two of them in a position to possibly leave their respective partners. When their relationship began over the first GRID patient in Seattle, it went from a flirtation to pretty serious in a short period of time. Unfortunately, they were both married to other people at the time, which certainly complicated their budding romance.

All told, their relationship lasted for around early 1982 until late 1983 when Richard put an end to it. The affair was intense and more serious that either may had admitted at the time. When Meredith came to work at the hospital, it rekindled somewhat while Ellis was being treated for her condition, but not in a romantic way.



When Richard finally called an end to Ellis and his relationship, he did so for a specific reason, and it didn't have to do with his wife or her husband. The two were on the verge of telling their respective partners about their relationship and "running away together," but that's not what happened. Ellis told Thatcher about the affair and destroyed her marriage, but Richard didn't follow suit.

When the time came, Richard remained with his wife, Adele. His reason was the nomination of Ellis for the Harper Avery Award for her creation of the Grey Method. He became jealous of her professional success and didn't want to feel that way for the rest of his life, if were he to remain with her. His ego got in the way of both of their happiness and it was hardest on Ellis.



Unbeknownst to Richard (and pretty much everybody at the time), Ellis was pregnant when she and Richard's relationship came to an end. At the same time, Ellis' marriage to Thatcher exploded in her face and her life changed completely. The same could be said for Meredith, who was only five years old at the time. Her mother was going through some serious trouble and she was along for the ride.

It was later revealed that not only was Ellis pregnant, but she carried the baby to term and gave her up for adoption. That left another sister out there in the world somewhere for Meredith. Like most of women in the family, she went into medicine. She came to Seattle and found her father, one Dr. Richard Webber, as well as her sister Meredith. Her name was, of course, Dr. Maggie Pierce.


Shortly before she brought the baby we now know as Maggie Pierce to term, Ellis went to a pretty dark place. She mad moved away from Thatcher and Richard to raise Meredith elsewhere, but she was also in hiding to keep her pregnancy a secret. The plan was to have the baby elsewhere and give her up because she reminded her too much of her father, Richard.

While in this dark place, Ellis came to a point where she attempted to take her own life. This may have been a cry for help or meant to get Richard's attention, but it amounted to Meredith calling 911 and saving her mother from herself. She was taken tot he hospital where she was saved and she gave birth to Maggie shortly after. Meredith blocked this memory out and only recalled it much later in life.



Meredith lives in her mother's home in Seattle, but she didn't grow up in there She may have spent the first five years of her life there, but she wasn't raised in Seattle at all. After Ellis and Richard's affair ended, she moved to Boston, ensuring she and Meredith were far from Thatcher or Richard.

Ellis and Meredith moved into a nice house in Boston and she began working as Mass Gen. Meredith went to school in the city and went on to Dartmouth College in Hanover. Eventually, Meredith  went to med school and returned to Seattle for work and to care for her mother and take possession of her family home. Only then did her association with Seattle truly begin.



If there's one thing we all know about Ellis Grey, it's that she was devoted to medicine above all else. She spent most of her time in the hospital working hard to prove to the world she had the skills and creativity to be an amazing surgeon. She was recognized for this time and time, again and even won the (formerly) coveted Harper Avery Award twice. You might think she wanted a similar life for her daughter, but that's not the case.

When it came time for Meredith to choose her career path, Ellis did everything to persuade her daughter to look elsewhere. Ellis didn't believe Meredith had what it took to make it as a surgeon and the argument pushed Meredith to travel in Europe.


Meredith Grey

While backpacking through Europe, Meredith learned that her mother had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. It was during this time that Ellis was taken to a nursing home in Seattle, which is why Meredith eventually found herself living in that city. The two had fought before Meredith's trip and remained on bad terms right into the diagnosis.

It was the diagnosis that finally pushed Meredith to choose her path and head to medical school. Had her mother not taken ill, it's possible she would have remained in Europe and done something completely different with her life. Like so many children who fall into the field, she did so because of her mother's illness.


Molly Thompson Grey's Anatomy

You might think that everyone related to Meredith went into medicine at one time or another in their lives, but not everyone did. It seems like every other season, another sister pops up who happens to be a brilliant heart surgeon or some other expert in medicine, but one of Meredith's half-sisters, Molly Grey-Thompson, has nothing to do with medicine other than needing its assistance from time to time.

Molly was introduced as the youngest of the Grey sisters who was married and expecting a baby girl. Complications brought her into the hospital and her daughter nearly succumbed to the flu, but she was saved. Not much is known about her and she hasn't been seen since season three, but she is still out there, alive and not working in medicine.


Thatcher and Meredith Susan's Death Grey's Anatomy

Susan Grey passed away as a result from an infection resulting from an emergency surgery she required after coming into the hospital for hiccups, of all things. When she first came in, Meredith and Thatcher were cordial and getting along, but their relationship effectively came to a conclusion due to the results of Susan's surgery and resulting demise. Sadly, he put the blame for everything right on his daughter's shoulders.

Everything about the case was odd, which is why it was so strange that hiccups might eventually lead to a patient's passing. When it happened, Thatcher became enraged and blamed Meredith; even going so far as to slap her in the face. The event put a permanent strain on their relationship and it never fully recovered.


Thatcher and Lexie Grey Grey's Anatomy

When Susan passed away, Thatcher took it about as well as you might expect. He blamed his daughter for her passing and lost his wife so he turned to the only "medicine" widely available in grocery stores. Like so many people who succumb to the dangerous effects of self-medication through drinking, Thatcher became dangerously addicted.

He was dangerous mostly to his daughter, Lexie, who was experiencing the loss of her mother as well as the downfall of her father. Eventually, Thatcher found recovery through a program, even going so far as to apologize to Meredith and make amends, but his addiction left its mark in the form of liver disease.


When someone damages their liver by drinking, it's unlikely they will get high on a liver transplant list. That fact became a reality for Thatcher when his rampant drinking resulted in the demise of his liver in the form of liver disease. UNOS wouldn't provide him with one due to the risk of his destroying another, but Lexie wasn't going to let that happen.

She tried to offer up a portion of her own liver, but was found to not be a match. Meredith, on the other hand, was a match so she had a decision to make. In the end, she offered up a portion of her liver to save the life of her estranged father. The surgery was a success for both patients and their relationship edged slightly close to a normal one.


Chyler Leigh as Dr Lexie Grey in Grey's Anatomy

Like many characters on the show fans came to know and love, Lexie Grey suffered an untimely passing. The series went through an upheaval with the loss of her and others in a plane crash. While her passing hit Meredith rather hard, it hit Thatcher much harder. Having lost his first wife to another man, his second to the hiccups, and his daughter to a plane crash, Thatcher has had to deal with a lot of loss in his life.

It seemed likely he would returning to drinking when his daughter passed away, but fortunately, he remained true to his sobriety. During this time, he lost touch with Meredith and the two haven't spoken to one another since Lexie's passing. Eventually, she learned he had been diagnosed with cancer.


One thing we know for certain about the Grey clan is that dangerous diseases run in the family. As any doctor knows, genetics spell a dark and ominous future for Meredith Grey thanks to the genes she has inherited from both her mother and father. Her mother succumbed to early-onset Alzheimer's disease and passed away at the age of 54 due to complications from her condition and heart failure.

Her father suffered from alcohol-related liver disease and while addiction can often be passed down through the generations, Meredith has not picked up the disease. She does need to worry about the disease that put her father into hospice care: Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Leukemia, Alzheimer's, and addiction can all be in Meredith's gene, which is something she knows from her training and education. Hopefully, she will be spared her parents' fate.


Do you have any other trivia to share about the Grey family from Grey's Anatomy? Let us know in the comments!

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