We see errors everyday in the course of our research. There may be mistakes included in a family tree posted to Ancestry or FamilySearch by well-meaning but misinformed researchers. There may be honest mistakes in published transcriptions. There may even be occasional mistakes in our most esteemed journals; ergo the existence of a (generally) annual section of most journals called “Additions and Corrections.” But fraud, the intent to deceive for financial or personal gain, is another matter. And it does exist in genealogy.
Perhaps the most notorious genealogical fraudster was Gustave Anjou (or, at least, that’s what he called himself). Born in Stockholm in 1863, he immigrated to New York City in 1890 and set up business as a professional genealogist. From then until his death on Staten Island in 1942, he was employed by a huge number of East Coast families of wealth who were eager to establish connections to European royalty. Anjou was happy to oblige and invented connections where there were none. To bolster the appearance of historical accuracy he even produced fake documents to back up his reported research.
In the decades immediately following his death, diligent genealogists began to put the pieces together. Finally in 1991, the Genealogical Journal, a now defunct journal then produced by the Utah Genealogical Association, published two companion articles about the matter. Robert Charles Anderson’s “We Wuz Robbed: The Modus Operandi of Gustave Anjou” covered the depth and breadth of the fraud, while Gordon L. Remington’s “Gustave We Hardly Knew Ye: A Portrait of Herr Anjou as a Jungberg” revealed Anjou’s actual identity by identifying his parents: Carl Gustaf Jungberg and Maria Lovisa Hagberg.Only NGS members have access to full articles of NGS Monthly. Please log in or click here to learn more about joining the National Genealogical Society.
If you have trouble logging on or accessing the articles, please contact [email protected]
Let us not forget the 19th Century genealogical fraudster, Horatio Gates Somerby, who duped clients on both sides of the Pond!
And the “surname” schemes of the early 1900s. The ones that promised “you are entitled to a fortune back in England, because you are one of the descendants of XXXX family and all of the English heirs have died.” That one was so crazy-wide spread.