Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Barbara Smith and Barbara Ratner

Real Name: Victoria Bumgarner
Case: Lost Mother
Location: California
Date: 1940


Details: Barbara Smith Reed was born in July 1940 and grew up in Los Angeles in the 1940s. When she was five, one of her classmates said that she was adopted. Her parents had told her she was, but it wasn't until the classmate ridiculed her that she decided she wanted to meet her mother. One day, her parents had Dr. Maurice Sultan, the doctor who allegedly delivered her, come visit her. He said that her real father had died in World War II, and that her mother had died when she was born. However, she was certain that her birth parents were still alive. Finally, when she was a teenager, her father gave her the adoption papers. She learned that her mother's name was Victoria Bumgarner; she found no indication that she had died in childbirth.
In 1957, Barbara met Steve Reed; they fell in love and soon became engaged. One day, they visited a friend of his named Hy Ratner. She was stunned by a picture of his sister, Barbara, and felt that she looked very similar to her. They met and soon became best friends. They also married two men who were so. Barbara Smith was told that Barbara Ratner was adopted, but Barbara Ratner did not know this.
In 1966, Barbara Ratner's mother passed away; while searching through papers, she was shocked to find that she was adopted. She was even more shocked to find that her birth mother's last name was also Bumgarner. Barbara Ratner immediately called Barbara Smith and told her that they were actually sisters. They were overjoyed; in 1969, they confronted Dr. Sultan, who told them very little about their birth mother. When he died in 1989, he had all of his records destroyed. The women learned that their mother was close to him, so he protected her identity.
The women then contacted the Children's Home Society of California; they learned about how their twenty-three-year-old mother, Victoria Bumgarner, came to Los Angeles to visit Dr. Sultan who arranged Barbara Smith's adoption. Fifteen months later, she returned and he arranged Barbara Ratner's adoption. They grew up just five miles apart, both named Barbara Ann.
Now, the women are looking for their birth mother, Victoria Bumgarner.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 27, 1991 episode.
Results: Solved. Several viewers led the women to Victoria Bumgarner; they have since been reunited with her. However, because she had not told anyone about having had two children while single, the broadcast was not allowed to show their reunion. The women, however, thanked the viewers for allowing them to finally meet her. Sadly, Barbara Smith died on December 28, 2013.