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Beware of Fraudulent Genealogies

Ron Wild warns that not all genealogists are interested in finding the truth.

Anjou’s genealogy of the Freeman family is a typical example of his forged lineages.
Never 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.

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.

About Anjou
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 to $9,000.

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 migration patterns.
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 item 1.

The 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.

Anjou Genealogies

Anjou 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.

SURNAME
ANDREWS
BACKUS
BACON
BEACH
BELL
BLAISDELL
BLOEDEL
BRAMAN
BROOKING (Broquin)
BUCKNER
CALDWELL
CARR
CARROLL
CARUTHERS
CARTER
CHALFONT
CHAPLIN
CHILD
CHURCH
CHURCH
CLEMENT
CLISE
COCHRAN
COOK
COPLEY
CORBIE
CORLIEZ
CORRY
CRAWFORD
CUNNINGHAM
DANIEL
DeRONDE
DEVECMAN
DICKEY
DORNAN
DOTY
DU PONT
DUNCAN
CALL NO.
929.273
929.273
908083
908083
908833
929.242
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
908510
929.273
897418
929.273
908086
929.273
929.273
000182
929.273
929.273
929.273
908136
929.273
929.273
929.273
1651933
929.273
929.241
929.273
929.273
929.273
924400
929.273
929.273
908504
929.273
SURNAME
ERICKSON
FICKEN
FISH(FISK)
FLANDERS
FREEMAN
GALWAY
GALLAWAY
GALLOWAY
GILL
HOLLIDAY
HALLIDAY
HULBERT
HURLBERT
HULL
HUNGERFORD
JACK
JACQUES
JAMES
JOHNSON
JONES
KENNETT
KLAUS(CLAUS)
LANE
LEE
LENMAN
LEMAN
LANHAM
LENHAM
LEWIS
LILLY
LINCOLN
MARK
MARSHALL
McVICKAR
MONS(MANTZ)
MOORE
NICHOLSON
ORD
CALL NO.
929.273
929.273
908219
929.273
1033558
908219
908219
908219
908504
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
908071
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
908006
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
908006
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
SURNAME
ORMOND
PARSON
PULLMAN
REDBURN
RICHARDSON
ROBINSON
ROCKWELL
ROGER
ROSS
RUNK(RUNCK)
RUSSEL
SCHNEIDER
SEAMAN
SHAPLEIGH
SPROULL
STONE
STOWELL
SWIFT
THAXTER
THOMPSON
TILNEY
TONE
TOPPING
TRAYLOUR
TURNER
VON HORN
WALLEY
WARD
WATERBURY
WELD
WELLING
WHEELER
WHITMAN
WILSON
WITHERSPOON
WOLFF
WOOLEY
WORCESTER

CALL NO.
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
908510
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
908504
929.273
908504
929.273
929.273
929.273
924086
929.273
924400
929.273
929.273
908504
908504
928025
908504
908834
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273
929.273

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 genealogical research.

The Genealogy Frauds website
estimates that up to 55 percent of online genealogies contain serious errors.
Modern Forgers
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 “f” forgery.

Precautions
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.

Acknowlegements
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
(www.linkline.com/personal/xymox/fraud/fraud223.htm). The authors of this site indicated that much of their web material came from the articles in Genealogical Journal.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2001 issue of Family Chronicle.


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