Gore Vidal

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Vidal in 2009, photo by Prphotos

Birth Name: Eugene Louis Vidal

Date of Birth: October 3, 1925

Place of Birth: West Point, New York, U.S.

Date of Death: July 31, 2012

Place of Death: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Ethnicity: Romansh (from Austria), Swiss-German, German, Scottish, English, Scots-Irish/Northern Irish, Irish

Gore Vidal was an American writer, public intellectual, and politician. He was the son of Nina (Gore) and Eugene Luther Vidal, an athlete, aviation pioneer, and director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Air Commerce from 1933 to 1937. Gore was a Democratic Party nominee for Congress in New York in 1960. His nephew is actor and director Burr Steers, who is the son of Gore’s half-sister, Nina Gore Auchincloss.

The origins of Gore’s patrilineal Vidal line are not completely clear. His great-grandfather Eugen Fidel Vidal was born in Austria, to Felix Vidal and Elizabeth. Eugen has been described as being of Romansh (a Swiss ethnic group) background. It has been speculated that the family line had originally come from Spain to Austria, or that the family was of Italian, or Italian Jewish, origin, but it is not clear if this has been verified. Gore also stated that the Vidal line was Romansh, lived in Feldkirch, Vorarlberg, Austria, and then moved to Friuli, Italy, before returning to Feldkirch. Other than the Vidal line, Gore’s traceable ancestry included Swiss [of Swiss-German origin], German, Scottish, English, Scots-Irish/Northern Irish, and Irish.

Gore’s paternal grandfather was Felix Luther Vidal (the son of Eugen/Eugene Fidel Vidal and Emma de Traxler Hartmann). Felix was born in Wisconsin. Eugen was Austrian or Bavarian, of Romansh descent, the son of Johan Felix Vidal and Elizabeth. Emma was Swiss, of Swiss-German descent, the daughter of Ludovicus “Ludwig” Von Hartman/Hartmann and Caroline Traxler/von Traxler/Troxler.

Gore’s paternal grandmother was Margaret Ann/Annie Rewalt (the daughter of Luther Lazarus Rewalt and Mary Jane Magee). Margaret was born in Pennsylvania, and had German, Scottish, and Irish ancestry. Luther was the son of Wilhelm/William Rewalt and Mary Catherine McKinley. Gore’s great-grandmother Mary Jane was the daughter of James F. Magee and Margaret Rosanna Hinkle.

Gore’s maternal grandfather was Thomas Gore (Thomas Pryor Gore, the son of Thomas/Tom Madison Gore and Caroline/Carrie Elizabeth Wingo). Gore’s grandfather Thomas was born in Mississippi. A Democrat, he was a United States Senator from Oklahoma, having served, from December 11, 1907 to March 4, 1921, and again from March 4, 1931 to January 3, 1937. Gore’s great-grandfather Thomas was the son of Ezekiel Fletcher Gore and Mary Smith Green. Caroline was the daughter of John Hamilton Wingo and Caroline Miriam Hawkins.

Gore’s maternal grandmother was Nina Belle Kay (the daughter of John Thomas Kay and Marcella/Macilla McLaughlin). Nina was born in Texas. John was the son of James Warren Kay and Susannah Massey. Marcella was the daughter of John McLaughlin and Louisa/Lucy.

Gore’s stepfather for much of the 1930s, stockbroker and lawyer Hugh D. Auchincloss, Jr., later married Janet Norton (Lee) Bouvier, the mother of First Lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The two were married until Hugh’s death.

While Gore had sometimes been described as a relative of politician Al Gore (through his Gore lineage), such a genealogical connection has not been established, going back to at least the late 1600s. Gore Vidal and Al Gore were/are descended from two different immigrant ancestors.

Sources: Genealogies of Gore Vidal – http://www.geni.com

Gore’s paternal grandfather, Felix Luther Vidal, on the 1870 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

Gore’s maternal grandmother, Nina Belle Kay, on the 1920 U.S. Census – https://familysearch.org

Gore’s speculation about his patrilineal family line (in Italian) – http://aldorossi.altervista.org

13 Responses

  1. andrew says:

    Austrian Romansh is something which does not exist (being a Swiss ethno-linguistic group), so remove it (just Romansh is enough).

    You could quote some biographies: “Eugen Fidel Vidal— was a con artist, born in Feldkirch, Austria, of Romansh stock, a Swiss ethnic group that spoke German, Italian, and a native tongue of their own.” (Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal – by Jay Parini)

    “…and descended from the Romansch-speakers of the Swiss and Italian Alps, of whom Gore has written in his coffee-table book Vidal in Venice” (Gore Vidal’s America – by Dennis Altman)

  2. andrew says:

    Gore’s great-grandfather Felix Vidal was born, c. 1790, in Italy, specifically in Forni Avoltri, Province of Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.


    The history of Vidal family is well explained in Gore’s biography written by Fred Kaplan. A Jewish origin is possible. Also Gore visited Forni Avoltri in 1977 where a local priest, very keen in parish registers, told him that his family had Jewish roots. He showed him two marriage records between Vidals and Romanins (“Romanin” is a Jewish family from Padua, Veneto), and others between Vidals and members of families with alleged Jewish ancestry (carrying surnames like Baldegg, Hartmann and Herzog, usually adopted by converts). Btw Gore’s father formally excluded this possibility. Otherwise he told that he had been sometimes taunted because of his Italian (and Catholic) background.

    Information about Gore Vidal’s roots in Italy:

    • follers says:

      Vidal’s great-grandfather was born in Austria, according to the census, at least. The history or possible history of where the Vidals came from is already addressed above.

      I don’t know whether the Vidal line was at some point in time ethnically Romansh or Swiss or Austrian or Spanish or Italian or Jewish. To quote Roger Ebert, “To the degree that I do understand, I don’t care”.

      • andrew says:

        so that must be his great-great-grandfather Felix Vidal who was born in Italy. What is certain is that Vidal family lived in the Alps between Austria, Switzerland and Italy (the town of Forni Avoltri is on the border with Austria), and they were publicly Catholic. I don’t think there’s such thing as “Austrian Romansh”. Romansh has official status as language only in Switzeeland.

        • follers says:

          It says, “C’erano due famiglie Vidal. Entrambe erano estinte o andate via, una era ebrea e una romancia. Quale eravamo?”

          So all of this is just speculation.

          It also says that in the West Point yearbook, Vidal’s father was called an “Italian immigrant”… and that Eisenhower was called a “Swedish Jew”.

  3. martin says:

    He himself claims that his last name come from Friuli, Italy.
    In North Eastern Italy there’s some 200 family with this last name…

  4. andrew says:

    no relation to Al Gore?

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