of Fraudulent Genealogies
Wild warns that not all genealogists are interested in finding
before in the history of genealogy have researchers been able
to access such a vast assortment of genealogical records with
the ease and speed that we have come to accept as the normal
state of affairs. But this cornucopia of genealogical bounty
is not to be sampled without caution, for we cannot accept
all the available data at face value. This comes about mainly
because of two reasons.
genealogy of the Freeman family is a typical example
of his forged lineages.
One is the very real fact that many hobby genealogists, in
their enthusiasm to go on record have unintentionally submitted
lineage records that are unproven. These submissions have
been incorporated into the huge databases and form the record
pool from which many hundreds of thousands of researchers
extract data every day. Most submitters of these genealogies
submit them with the noblest of intentions desiring to share
their research with the world, but most of them lack the source
verification that would allow them to be accepted with confidence.
The second, and far more ominous, reason for caution is that
many Internet databases contain fraudulent genealogies created
by such master forgers as Gustave Anjou who created hundreds
of genealogies in the late 1800s and early 1900s in exchange
for huge fees. It is estimated that Anjou alone has tainted
the lineages of over 2,000 common surnames and some of these
are listed later in this article. Anjou was not the only forger
active in creating questionable distinguished lineages for
unwary clients; the names of Charles H. Browning, Orra E.
Monnette, Frederick A. Virkus, C.A Hoppin, Horatio Gates Somersby
and John S. Wurts have also been recorded as “experts”
who used dubious sources.
Gustave Anjou was born in Sweden on 1 December 1863 as Gustaf
Ludvig Jungberg, the illegitimate son of Carl Gustaf Jungberg
and his housekeeper Maria Lovisa Hagberg. After serving a
prison term in 1886 for forgery, the young man changed his
name to Gustaf Ludvig Ljungberg and then to Gustave Anjou
after the maiden name of his wife Anna Maria Anjou, whom he
married in 1889. Anjou emigrated to the US in 1890, and soon
returned to his forgery skills. Anjou began creating hundreds
of genealogies for those that could afford his fees of up
His report took approximately three weeks and included a coat
of arms, a surname history and an overwhelming number of citations
to documents that actually exist interspersed with his creations
that made the genealogy go where he wanted it to go for his
unsuspecting and usually delighted clients. A typical Anjou
pedigree displays four recognizable features:
1. A dazzling
range of connections between dozens of immigrants to New England,
showing connections far beyond what may be seen in pedigrees
produced by other genealogists.
2. Many wild geographic leaps, outside the normal range of
3. An overwhelming number of citations to documents that actually
exist, and actually include what Anjou says they include.
4. Here and there an invented document, without citation,
which appears to support the many connections noted under
sad fact is that Anjou was not a genealogist, but a forger of
genealogical records. Any of your sources that trace back to
anything compiled by Anjou will prove suspect.
Detractors List of Anjou genealogies available for research
at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City,
Utah. The number given after the family name is the
call number at the FHL and some of these are films that
can be loaned and sent to your local Family History
Center. Others are books or manuscripts that cannot
be loaned but must be read in Salt Lake. It is possible
that on request to your local FHC the FHL may film a
book or manuscript to make it loanable but this process,
if approved, normally takes 2-3 months. A description
of each item can be seen by searching the Family History
Library Catalog at your local Family History Center.
The LDS web version of the Family History Library Catalog
will not allow you to search by call number but if you
search by AUTHOR and enter ANJOU in the author search
field you will be able to reference all of the items
listed below. The web version of the Library Catalog
can be accessed at www.familysearch.com.
Many individuals and organizations have taken up the challenge
to make the genealogical world aware of fraudulent genealogies
and prominent among them is Robert Charles Anderson. Anderson
has published many articles in prominent genealogy publications
such as The New England Historical and Genealogical Register,
The American Genealogist, The National Genealogical
Society Quarterly, The Genealogist and Genealogical
Journal. Mr. Anderson’s article We Wuz Robbed!
appeared in volume 19, numbers 1 & 2, 1991 of the Genealogical
Journal of the Utah Genealogical Association and
deals extensively with the fraudulent Anjou genealogies. Some
of the items in this article are taken from this publication
with the approval of the Utah Genealogical Association.
Anderson includes a listing of 109 genealogies found at the
Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. One hundred
and three of these are compiled genealogies by Anjou and six
are extracts of documents or original source material not organized
or typed as formal genealogies but whether these six can be
attributed to Anjou is not known. In a separate sidebar elsewhere
in this article we have listed the title and call numbers for
these records that can be researched at the Family History Library.
Readers are cautioned that it is difficult to determine a false
entry in these genealogies by just looking at it. Each entry
will need to be researched and the source material indicated
checked carefully to make sure that the link being made was
in fact real and not an Anjou invention.
Harold Oliver, Director of America’s First Families has
also been active in promoting knowledge of these fraudulent
genealogies online; a search under “fraudulent lineages”
will turn up dozens of websites dealing with this aspect of
Genealogy Frauds website
estimates that up to 55 percent of online genealogies
contain serious errors.
On 11 February 1989 there died in Ireland a man by the name
of Brian Leese whose genealogical activities, though prolific,
were highly questionable. Dr. Neil Thompson, attorney, professional
genealogist, editor of The Genealogist and fellow
of the American Society of Genealogists specializing in British
and Colonial American research had this to say about Brian
Leese. “Had he confined his penchant for genealogical
romance to his own pedigree he would have been merely pathetic.
It is unfortunate that armed with very considerable personal
charm and ability with the written and spoken word, he was
able to persuade hundreds of people that he or his representatives
could solve genealogical problems for them in the British
Isles, Italy, and even South America. Almost always these
solutions have turned out to be false and misleading, requiring
thousands of hours to unmask and correct.”
Perhaps the greatest incidence of modern forgery is unintentional
and arises from the millions of hobby genealogists who in
their inexperience splice genealogical links because they
seem to make sense. The ancestor they are looking for could
have been born in that place at about that time and the name
fits a father/son naming pattern so on the surface it seems
logical so, bingo, another generation is added. The compulsion
to find hundreds and thousands of ancestors is great. It is
virtually impossible to sit in any general discussion group
with genealogy enthusiasts without hearing how someone has
3,000 names in their database and has a friend who has 30,000.
These names are usually uploaded to Internet databases and
become part of the huge online resources that are so avidly
searched by modern enthusiasts. Having spent 10 years researching
800 names, I can only surmise that I am a very inefficient
researcher or am being far too fussy over accepting some links.
I think this kind of laissez-faire attitude is alive and well
in the genealogy world and accounts for much of the small
That there are hundreds of millions of properly researched
and perfectly legitimate lineages in databases is not in question.
However, these are interspersed with poorly researched and
outright fraudulent lineages that dictate that caution be
employed when downloading information from Internet databases.
That the information available can be extremely useful in
providing direction to genealogy researchers is self evident,
but the information should be checked, sourced and validated
and not just accepted as gospel because it is published on
the Internet. This is a wise precaution that will not only
save researchers embarrassment but will allow them to have
confidence and pride in their own research successes. They
can then upload their research to Internet databases with
the knowledge that they will be helping thousands of other
researchers make valuable and authentic progress in their
own research efforts.
We are indebted to the Utah Genealogical Association (P.O.
Box 1144, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110), publishers of the Genealogical
Journal, for their permission to excerpt material from
volume 19, numbers 1 and 2, published in 1991, which was a
special issue dealing with genealogical deception. Material
we have used came from several articles that include We
Wuz Robbed! by Robert Charles Anderson CG, FASG, Gustave
We Hardly Knew Ye by Gordon L. Remington and A Twentieth-Century
Genealogical Charlatan by Neil Thompson, PhD, CG, FASG.
Several web sites on fraudulent genealogies were researched,
the most useful of which was Fraudulent Lineages the website
of America’s First Families
The authors of this site indicated that much of their web
material came from the articles in Genealogical Journal.
article originally appeared in the January/February 2001 issue
of Family Chronicle.