False Start

By Allison Dolan Premium

Was Detroit’s historical hero a genealogical fraud? Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the city’s founder, claimed to come from a noble family in southern France. According to Cadillac’s marriage certificate, his father was a member of the Toulouse Parliament and his mother was descended from the aristocratic Malenfant family.

But Cadillac apparently forged his family origins. The Detroit Free Press recently exposed Cadillac’s heritage hoax: As it turns out, Cadillac — ne Antoine Laumet — was actually a commoner. So was his mom. His dad was a local judge, not a member of parliament. Cadillac fabricated the coat of arms that the Cadillac car company later adopted.

Most historians agree that Cadillac was an arrogant, greedy (albeit well-educated) con artist. So how has he managed to dupe Detroiters for 300 years? A great city wants a hero, not a scoundrel. As historian Yves Zoltvany told the Free Press. “It was expected that civic-minded Detroiters with a taste of history would make him into a great man.” You can read more about the “Cadillac myth” at <>.

From the August 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine