Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mystery Solved: Disappearance of Eugene Gardos (Part 3)

Continued from yesterday:

Eugene Gardos left his family in 1929 never to be heard from again………that was until Eugene’s great grandson, David, (from his first wife) and I (Eugene’s great granddaughter from his third “wife”) made an connection.

A few months ago I received a message on from David. He noticed that we had posted the same passenger list record to our family trees. He contacted me to determine if our two great grandpas, Eugene Gardos were the same person.

1922 Passenger List, Hungary to U.S.

At first our connection seemed unlikely. My Eugene Gardos had a birthdate of 1891 (which was estimated from a census record), and his Eugene Gardos had a birthdate of 1884. David’s Eugene Gardos showed up in the 1930 Federal Census in New York, while my Eugene Gardos showed up in the 1930 Federal Census in Chicago.

1930 Federal Census, New York, New York, Eugene Gardos and family

1920 Federal Census, Chicago, Illinois, Eugene Gardos and family

Despite these challenges, we kept digging. David shared a story with me his family story about how Eugene Gardos was in the movie business, and had helped Vilma Banky come to the U.S. to get a movie contract with Sam Goodwyn. Then, I told him my story about Vilma Banky… we were curious!! Could they really be the same guy, despite the differences in birthdates and census records?

Vilma Banky (1901-1991), Hungarian Actress

Our next step was to share pictures. David had a picture of Eugene Gardos and his family circa 1920 (posted in Part 1 of this blog). We also had the picture of Eugene in his U.S. passport photo (posted in Part 2 of this blog). My family supposedly has pictures of Eugene, but they have yet to be found.

While my grandma, Eugene’s daughter was deceased, her brother, Arthur is still alive. His wife, my aunt, and my cousins on Arthur’s side have seen the picture of Eugene. My family knew I was doing genealogy research on the family, so during my sister’s bridal shower I showed them a couple pictures of family members. Two of the pictures I showed were Eugene’s passport photo and the picture David had shared with me. I actually showed them a bunch of pictures, some related and some not related, and asked them if any seemed they couldn't just think it looked like him.

Both Arthur’s wife, Ginny, her two daughters, and my uncle confirmed that the passport photo and the picture David sent, matched the pictures they've seen of Eugene Gardos. They said the only difference in the pictures was that he didn't have a mustache, as most of the pictures they saw of him, he had a mustache.

Talking about Eugene more stories about the family came out. Eugene was in the textile business….his passport application includes a letter from his textile company. Eugene’s third “wife” always told the family that their marriage record was lost or burnt, although my family was always suspicious. I have not found a marriage certificate. Ginny told me that Marie and Eugene were 18 years apart, and they probably lied about their ages in the 1930 Federal Census in Chicago. The 1930 Federal Census of Chicago also stated that my grandma, Mildred, was born in Illinois, when she was actually born in New York. I never knew she was born in New York.

The story began to piece together. Someday, somehow, and somewhere in New York Eugene and Marie were introduced to each other. They had an affair, Eugene was still married to his second wife. Marie got pregnant and had my grandma, Mildred in 1927. Eugene kept the affair and the birth a secret from his other family. During that time, Eugene and his wife Theresa had two kids, Elsa and Robert. The affair continued and Marie got pregnant again in 1929. Only this time, the stock market crashed, and proved to be a good time to run away from his marriage. Him and Marie ran away with their daughter, Mildred, and moved to Chicago where Arthur was born. They remained in Chicago, not able to get married, as Eugene was technically still married. Five years later, Eugene died from a heart attack…maybe all the stress from running away from his family or leading this double life? Meanwhile, in New York, Eugene’s wife didn’t know what happened to Eugene, and when it came time for the 1930 Census, a year after he disappeared, she included him as part of the family.

While the story is just a guess about what actually happened, it matches the family stories and historical records. While his wife, Theresa is deceased, Eugene’s daughter, Elsa, and my great uncle, Arthur are still living….discovering they have half siblings 81 years later. It seems like a movie…..

While I feel horrible for Eugene’s wife and family he left behind, if he had never had the affair with Marie and moved to Chicago, my grandma wouldn’t have been born, my grandma would never have met her husband, my mom would never have been born, and I wouldn’t be here today.

As Brad Paisley sings, “To me it’s all so clear, every one of us is here, all because two people fell in love…”

I thank David for reaching out to me and helping me discover the mystery of Eugene Gardos…I would never have known his birth name was Goldberger. I am so glad I was able to help David solve the mystery of the disappearance of his great grandfather, Eugene Gardos.


  1. What an amazing story! For all the complaining that everyone does about online tree, this story and many of my own family stories would never have been found without sharing our own research. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree, a really good story and those trees are good for making contact with distant and hithertoo unknown cousins!

  3. Wonderful story. One of those that reads like fiction - except you and your newly discovered cousin have proven otherwise. Thanks for sharing it.