5 Bad Guys of Genealogy

By Diane Haddad Premium

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns out there: Even the happy world of family history has its villains. The mere mention of these bad guys gets genealogists’ blood boiling.

  1. Heir scammers: You’ve inherited a million dollars from a long-lost great-uncle! Just supply your bank account information so the Independent Committee of Eminent Persons (or some other official-sounding entity) can wire the funds. This email scam takes a variety of forms, sometimes claiming the windfall was left in the abandoned account of a Holocaust victim. Just say no.
  2. Sploggers: Genealogy bloggers, especially, detest these creators of fake blogs, which use RSS technology to automatically repost content from other blogs–with nary a credit nor a link to the original. The goal of these splogs (“spam blogs”) is to increase their websites’ search engine rankings. If your blog is targeted, stick it to the sploggers by following the advice on GeneaBloggers.
  3. The Halberts: This infamous operation in Bath, Ohio, was the target of a joint National Genealogical Society-Federation of Genealogical Societies anti-fraud campaign. The Halberts’ “family history” books–cunningly marketed via postal mail to appear authored by the potential buyer’s relative–contained just general how-to information and names from phone books. The US Postal Service issued cease-and-desist orders in 1985, 1988 and 1995.
  4. Elias Abodeely II: The man behind websites such as FamilyDiscovery.com, Genseekers.com and GenealogyGiants.com has made several appearances in blogger Dick Eastman’s scam reports. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, resident misrepresented his subscription services–they were actually just lists of links–and refused to cancel customers’ “free” trial memberships. He also photocopied and altered checks, then recashed them. Abodeely pled guilty to felony first degree theft in 2004 and was sentenced to three years’ probation.
  5. Gustav Anjou: In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Anjou (who died March 2, 1942) wrote genealogies containing falsified information so his rich and famous clients could feel good about their illustrious connections. Anjou is estimated to have single-handedly tainted the lineages of more than 2,000 surnames.

From the November 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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