Be on the Lookout for Genealogical Fraud

My experience based on years of observation, is a significant percentage of family historians compile and create family trees without including verifiable source documentation for all the basic facts such as birth, marriage, and death. It's often just lack of experience and knowledge in what and how to research, knowing what is a legitimate source, and how to properly cite a source. It's also an easy, time saving solution to just copy and assume, rather than checking and verifying. And researching and verifying using sources available on sites such as,, require time and money.

Most important, a legitimate source is not a tree found on Internet sites devoted to genealogy. Very frequently these trees will contain little or no documentation for individuals, and the only source documentation listed is naming the source of the tree that was copied. But these undocumented trees can and do provide clues identifying ancestors and descendants by initiating further research to determine if the match can be verified.

Secondly, a family history or family tree that has been copied or published many many times, does not make it authentic. A good example is in the 1930s a descendant of 1732 immigrant Michael Weisel, Calvin Kephart, made trips to Germany to trace his Weisel ancestry. Beware fraudulent Weisel / von Hohenweisel genealogies He was unable to find any record of Michael's birth, a marriage record, or birth records for the children. So in the tradition of Gustav Anjou he fabricated a family tree back to the 1200’s and nobility. It has been published and posted hundreds of times, including at the Family History Library.

Some advice for creating reliable genealogies by a certified Weisel genealogist

  1. No family history is a source! Only primary information (documents created from firsthand knowledge) contained within the history may be considered as useful. A few examples of primary information include but are not limited to, wills, birth records and church records and other such documents that are created at the time of the event by people who witnessed the event. Most family histories are unacceptable as source material for most societies and organizations unless they are accompanied by primary information due to it having been provided by a person who was relying on their memory, either many years later or who did not personally attend the event. In the absence of such documented information, family histories may only be considered as hints that need further verification with several reliable documents.
  2. Check every entry to verify that the given source contains what is listed in the posting for each individual. All sources need to be checked and all validated for accuracy, authenticity, and reliability.
  3. Do not include any information you find or are given that does not contain strong sourcing, or a verifiable citation.
  4. It is of best practice to follow up documented sourcing with additional sources. Do not accept a connection based solely on one source.
  5. Do not blindly link a previous generation to your ancestry until it has been fully verified by reviewing proper documentation.
  6. When linking a family member, always cite your sources and explain any indirect evidence you find so that others are able to accurately verify their connections to the same family.
  7. An excellent resource for citing and classifying sources is a chart by Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of "Evidence Explained" describing what constitues good sources; information and documentation.

To conclude: Some interesting reading on Genealogical fraud

Title / Link Comment
Fraudulent Genealogies A wiki article at
Category: Genealogical fraud A wikipedia article on genealogical fraud
Don't Be Gullible: Being Aware of Genealogical Fraud Written by Sharon Hall
GRAFTING FAMILY TREES by Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG

Since 12/4/2020