Genealogical Fraud

We see errors everyday in the course of our research. They may be mistakes included in a family tree posted to Ancestry or FamilySearch by well-meaning but misinformed researchers. They may be honest mistakes in published transcriptions. They 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”[1] 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”[2] revealed Anjou’s actual identity by identifying his parents: Carl Gustaf Jungberg and Maria Lovisa Hagberg.

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  1. December 7, 2020 3:40 pm
  2. December 8, 2020 8:37 pm

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