Ava Gardner

Gardner in 1953, in Eiga no Tomo

Birth Name: Ava Lavinia Gardner

Date of Birth: December 24, 1922

Place of Birth: Grabtown, North Carolina, U.S.

Date of Death: 25 January, 1990

Place of Death: Westminster, London, England, U.K.

Ethnicity: English, as well as distant Scottish

Ava Gardner was an American actress and singer. Her roles include the films The Killers (1946), Show Boat, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Mogambo, The Barefoot Contessa, Bhowani Junction, On the Beach (1959), 55 Days at Peking, Seven Days in May, The Night of the Iguana, The Bible: In the Beginning…, Mayerling, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Earthquake, and The Cassandra Crossing, and television’s Knots Landing. She was part of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

She was the daughter of Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” (Baker) and Jonas Bailey Gardner. Her parents were tobacco sharecroppers. She was raised Baptist. Ava’s family moved to Newport News, Virginia, in the early 1930s, and then to Wilson, North Carolina, after her father’s death. Her mother ran a boarding house for teachers.

Ava has sometimes been described as having had Irish and Scots-Irish/Northern Irish ancestry. It is not clear if these lineages have been verified/documented. The surname Forbes, which appears in Ava’s recent family tree, could indicate Scottish ancestry, although it is not clear if any of Ava’s family lines have explicitly been traced to Scotland.

It has also sometimes been claimed that Ava had African-American, Native American [sometimes Tuscarora], Romani, Melungeon, and French Huguenot ancestry. It is also not clear if any of these lineages have been verified/documented. No African-American, Native American, Romani, Melungeon, or French Huguenot ancestry appears in publicly available family trees of Ava Gardner.

Ava’s paternal grandfather was James Bailey Gardner (the son of William Gardner and Cynthia Eliza Batts). James was born in North Carolina. William was the son of William Gardner and Nancy Poteet. Cynthia was the daughter of Bailey Batts and Esther/Easter Jordan.

Ava’s paternal grandmother was Mary Elizabeth/Mollie Dildy/Dilda (the daughter of Benjamin/Benj Dildy/Dilda and Mathilda/Matilda/Mattie Cobb). Mary Elizabeth was born in North Carolina. Benjamin was the son of Jesse Dilday/Dilda/Dildy and Ivy/Avy Matthews/May. Mathilda was the daughter of Jonas Gray Cobb and Elizabeth Cherry.

Ava’s maternal grandfather was King David Baker (the son of James Baker and Temperance Ellis). King was born in North Carolina. James was the son of James S. Baker and Nancy Stillwell. Temperance was the daughter of Archelaus Ellis and Frances/Fannie Lewis.

Ava’s maternal grandmother was Mary Elizabeth Forbes (the daughter of Hiram/Hyrum Forbes and Millicent Ann “Milly” Harrell). Mary Elizabeth was born in North Carolina. Hiram was the son of Arthur Forbes and Beatrice Beaty/Beady. Millicent was the daughter of John Webb and Mary Polly Harrell.

Ava’s paternal great-grandparents, William Gardner and Cynthia Eliza Batts, were also the paternal great-great-great-great-grandparents of actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead. This makes Eva and Mary Elizabeth second cousins, three times removed.

Sources: Genealogies of Ava Gardner – http://groups.yahoo.com

Genealogy of Ava Gardner (focusing on her father’s side) – http://www.geni.com

Ava’s paternal grandmother, Mary Elizabeth/Mollie Dildy/Dilda, on the 1850 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org


Curious about ethnicity

55 Responses

  1. andrew says:

    Is there any bibliographic source where she’s actually described as “African-American”? Found none.

  2. jonasbttencourt says:

    Jonas used to be a very common name in southern US, especially among WASPs, Alonzo and Maria Louisa too, interesting…

  3. andrew says:

    According to most genealogies, Ava Gardner had 1/128 Scottish ancestry (on Cobb line) through Col. John Gray, born c.1691 in Barony, Lanarkshire:

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