FASCINATING TALE: When Byron Bay's Lance Innes started searching to find out more about his father, he uncovered a fascinating story.
FASCINATING TALE: When Byron Bay's Lance Innes started searching to find out more about his father, he uncovered a fascinating story.

An elusive history chase turns into TV show

THEY say every family has a secret and for Byron Bay mortgage broker Lance Innes the secret is so big and so strange that it's little wonder it caught the interest of television producers.

Lance, who moved full-time to Byron in September last year to spend more time with his daughter, is one of six Australians taking part in the new SBS documentary Every Family Has A Secret - and his secret is a beauty.

Premiering on June 25, the three-episode series from the team behind Who Do You Think You Are? and hosted by Noni Hazlehurst, sees six everyday Australians discover the truth about their family's past.

For Lance it was a chance to find out more about the father he never knew who left when he was just 18 months - a man with more aliases than he had wives (and he had four).

A man who had dealings with the Philippines president, Castro's right-hand man, and even came under the notice of Hoover and the FBI.

"It's a ridiculous story," Lance admitted. "I have a friend who is a producer on Australian Story, and I contacted her and said I have this crazy story, what do you think?"

She loved it but they didn't have the budget to do it justice. She instead directed Lance towards a friend involved with the SBS show, who jumped at the chance to tell the story.

And what a story it is.

A man calling himself John Wayne Gorsy arrived in Australia in 1956. Over the next three years he married, had two children, and then abandoned his family and simply disappeared. Lance was only 18 months old.

He subsequently discovered his father had four wives and nine children spread across three different continents - families that until recently didn't know of each other's existence.

His father used numerous aliases throughout his life and was named in recently declassified FBI files. Lance is determined to uncover who his father really was.

"There are still 100 pages of FBI files (about his father) that aren't declassified," he said.

While Lance knew some of the story before filming started, he said there was a lot the researchers uncovered as well.

There is still a lot to learn and a lot he might never learn.

"As much as it opened more questions than it answered, it knitted in a lot of things I already knew and has given me closure in certain areas," Lance said.

"Our surname is Gorsy, and I thought we were Russian, but his father was from Hungary and mother was Slovakian.

"I didn't know anything about how he died, but I have more understanding now on a practical level."

Knowing that his father died of heart failure in his late 40s, Lance can now answer questions about his own medical history when asked by a doctor - something a lot of us take for granted.

For Lance, finding a new extended family and meeting his siblings has allowed him to feel "more like a man" and "more well-rounded" after growing up with just the stories and relations from his mother's side.

It has also given his daughter and his sisters' children lots of new cousins to get to know on social media and helped fuel his interest in investigating his family history further back beyond his father, which will include a pilgrimage to Auschwitz with his wife later this year.

"This was rooted in the past, but it's now about the future," he said.

Lance's episode of Every Family Has a Secret will screen on SBS on July 9 at 7.30pm.

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