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I decided to pass this on for all of our
researchers. I received this message from
Just to inform you of scams out there.
Dear Researchers, this article appeared in Dick Eastman's On Line
Newsletter. This is an alert about someone scamming people with a fraudulent
gedcom that he tries to get money for. The old saying BUYER BEWARE!!!! If it
smells like a rat it is, and this guy is just that. Dick is trying to get
people who have been scammed to turn their info into the local police in VT.
I would strongly recommend that you sign up for this great piece of info
that comes weekly for $10 a year. You can get the standard edition that is
free but that will not include the great "plus" articles that save money,
tell you of special deals and new products, this is one thing I would not be
without it. You can sign up at: www.egon.com You can also read archived
Scam: The Fraudulent GEDCOM File
There is a young man in Vermont who seems to have a nice "sideline"
business. He prowls the online message boards looking for messages posted by
people looking for information about hard-to-find ancestors. He then sends
an e-mail to each person, offering information about specific ancestors that
"has never before been published." He claims this information comes from
"hand-written journals" kept by his grandfather and other family members.
E-mails get exchanged, and eventually this con artist asks for money to
supply the information, typically $100 or $150. Once the money is paid, the
young man sends a GEDCOM file containing the desired information. The "newly
discovered" ancestors are often linked to nobility, often to a particular
castle in Ireland. He also cautions the buyer to "not share this information
with others." There is but one problem: the new data is bogus.
I have no idea how many people have been victimized by this scam. I do know
that I have received e-mails from several of his victims. Most did not want
their names used, and I cannot say that I blame them. This week, however, a
recent victim suggested a different idea. He offered to write about the
experience. He wrote, "If you use the article, I would appreciate being an
anonymous author, basically because I am embarrassed that this happened to
I agreed. I also will not publish the name of the con artist in this
newsletter, at least not yet. I suggest that you read this article from this
week's anonymous author to make sure that you are not the next victim:
Dick Eastman has covered genealogical fraud in his column on several
occasions. I thought I would share a recent situation where someone tried
and was almost successful in taking advantage of me. In the following
article I have removed personal information and used a fictional name (Jane
DOE) for my ancestor.
The process began with an email from someone who had seen a query of mine
online. Researcher X sent an email in which he claimed: "Pursuant [sic] to
your inquiry on rootsweb.com: I have a ton of information on the ancestory
[sic] of Jane DOE. She was a distant cousin of mine on my mother's side."
This was an exciting development because my research was at a dead end
with this individual. Previously I had combed through census, land, probate,
and town records for a county in Vermont on this family, and had found
nothing to link Jane DOE's to other DOE families.
I sent an email offering to send a documented file on Jane DOE's family.
Typically, when I am contacted by other researchers, they want this type of
data. In contrast, Researcher X answered: "Thank you for your reply.
Currently, I am depending upon genealogy to make my living. Would you be
willing to reimburse me for the information? It is a combination of my own
research and data that my grandfather transcribed from ancient family
I have occasionally paid professional genealogists to conduct research in
sources that are inaccessible to me, usually newspapers or un-microfilmed
county records. But I have never been approached by someone offering
completed research for a price. Although a red flag popped up in my mind, I
replied, "Sure, I would be willing to reimburse you. I haven't often paid
for research, so can you send a list of the types of records and how much
Researcher X responded: "The information on Jane DOE's ancestry was
transcribed by my grandfather from a series of journals, which were
maintained over the years by members of my family--the first being my
ancestress.... Subsequent female descendants continued the tradition and
recorded genealogical information from family letters, personal knowledge,
etc. The benefit of such a primary source is that those who recorded the
information actually knew the individuals of whom they wrote! My
grandfather's transcription totals at over 1000 pages (representing many
families who share common lineage; including the DOEs). Though I have
received few remittances thus far, most people have donated between $100.00
and $150.00.... I also consider this to be congruent with the time and
effort that I have invested (and continue to invest) in this project. Your
help would be appreciated greatly. Looking forward to sharing my material
I called a friend who does genealogy and we discussed the issue. We both
thought the scenario unusual, but the possibility that Research X had the
long sought information made me take a chance and a check for $100 was sent
A week later an emailed GEDCOM file arrived. I unzipped it and opened it.
I quickly found Jane DOE. The information on Jane and her two husbands was
obviously culled from my online query. Her father was listed by name only
and his parents were not identified. Her mother at least had a birth year.
Her maternal grandfather was also listed by name only. More complete
information was provided for her maternal grandmother, but flags were raised
again with that woman's parents, who were reported to have a title ("Sir")
and had once owned a castle in Ireland. (Subsequent research indicated that
a family by this surname had in fact owned this castle, but death dates and
the names of children for this particular family did not match the GEDCOM
Attempts to verify basic information failed, partially because there was
little documentation and no source citation for my purported ancestors. Jane
DOE's father should have appeared on the 1790 census, when she was four
years old, but he wasn't there. Nor were her maternal grandparents. Her
maternal grandmother was reported to have died in 1802 in New Hampshire, but
didn't show up in the census for 1800. Neither did her grandparents' other
The family members were also not in the IGI or Ancestral File. However, a
search on WorldConnect did locate Jane DOE's maternal grandmother and her
purported ancestry. What was striking was that Grandma DOE had a different
husband and a different place of death (South Carolina instead of New
Hampshire) than the file I had received. Luckily, the contributor had
included her source material- a GEDCOM file from Researcher X.
That was surprising. How could Grandma DOE have two different husbands and
two different places of death when the information came from the same
researcher? I sent Researcher X an email asking where the promised
documentation for Jane DOE's family was and why the WorldConnect file for
her grandmother differed.
He replied: "You will not find any [reliable] data on the DOE family
online because no one has posted anything on them. I am the only living
individual who has ever done serious research on the New England branch of
the family. The data that you found on worldconnect.com was my data
originally (which I shared with the submitter); however, I asked her
specifically NOT to post the data because the software that she used to
upload the GEDCOM created a host of errors (including the one that you
mentioned). Few members of this progeny appear in early census records for a
variety or reasons: Primarily because they were "Torries" [sic] (British
sympathizers) and did not make themselves particularly accessible to anyone
associated with post-Revolutionary Yankee government (with census-takers on
the top of that list). Rest assured that the information that I have shared
with you is accurate."
Needless to say, I did not rest assured. It puzzled me greatly how
importing a GEDCOM file into a program would create a "host of errors,"
since the GEDCOM computer program is designed to work well between different
genealogy software products. I've never had problems opening a GEDCOM file
in the four genealogy programs I have used.
I spent a few more hours researching on Ancestry.com, rootsweb.com,
familysearch.org, and on the internet in general. When I was through, I had
The purported ancestors and most of the close relatives of Jane DOE did
not appear in census indices. Even if they were British sympathizers, their
children would likely show up in the census records for the timespan from
1830 through 1850, when the divisions of the Revolutionary War had long
since cooled. That was not the case. In fact, the surname of the former
castle owner did not appear in any New Hampshire census records (even using
Soundex) from 1790 through 1840, although numerous men with that surname
were reported to have lived there at that time.
The majority of individuals were not listed on any of the major
genealogical databases (Ancestral File, WorldConnect, IGI, Ancestry.com). As
an example, the 18th century Ireland-to-America former-castle-owning family
was reported to have had 17 children, all of whom married, and most of whom
were reported to have left descendants. The likelihood that these people
would be missed in all of these databases is very low. The family is there,
but only because of the researcher who posted data from Researcher X's
contrived GEDCOM on WorldConnect.
In five cases, individuals in the GEDCOM file were found in online
queries or family websites. In several cases it was obvious that Researcher
X had cut and pasted sections from these websites. In all five cases, a few
pertinent details had been changed, usually birthdates and maiden names, to
make individuals fit into the database and create family connections that
almost certainly never existed.
I came to the conclusion that I had been taken for a ride down the
genealogy fraud highway. I sent an email back to Researcher X: "I'm sorry
but I don't trust your data. I spent hours trying to verify anything...and
came up with nothing. I have done genealogy for 28 years and this was the
first time I have been unable to find anything on a person. The fact that
another file is floating around, provided by you to another researcher, with
different information makes me conclude that I have been provided with false
Luckily for me Researcher X had not cashed my check yet. My bank quickly
stopped payment. Researcher X's response: "I am being cheated here!!!" I
spent additional hours attempting to find the family members in census
records on Ancestry.com. They simply did not exist. Further demands for
payment by Researcher X were ignored.
Lesson learned - if someone emails you an offer for information out of the
blue, and then asks for a large sum of money, you may want to hit the delete
button. The overwhelming majority of genealogists share data for free or
merely ask for payment for photocopies.
In addition, when you do receive information from others, make sure you
verify the data. Are there other records (census, land, vital records,
online databases, etc.) that support the information you have received? Are
sources properly cited? Does the researcher have a lot of strange excuses
for why individuals are missing from primary records? I think that the
overwhelming majority of people send accurate data, but there are a few bad
apples out there.
Another person accepted Researcher X's data and has posted it on
WorldConnect without questioning it. Actually, I'm glad she did, as it
allowed me to quickly uncover the sordid truth in the Case of the Fraudulent
Comments from Dick Eastman:
If you have been victimized by this person, I would suggest that you file a
complaint with the Vermont Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program.
Information can be found at:
A copy of this newsletter article, plus the full name and address of this
con artist, is being sent by regular mail to the Vermont Attorney General's
Consumer Assistance office at:
Consumer Assistance Program
104 Morrill Hall, UVM
Burlington, VT 05405
My records, including names of victims and all the details of all e-mail
messages I have received, are available to any law enforcement official with
authority in Vermont, should they ask. The information available includes
the con artist's full name, mailing address, and e-mail address. A quick
search on Google also quickly uncovers many of his public messages on
message boards, as well as other messages from his victims. A pattern soon
Your assistance is needed. If you have experience with this particular con
artist, please help shut his scam down by contacting the same Consumer
Assistance Program office listed above. You can also call them at (802)
656-3183 or 1-800-6492424.
If enough victims complain, this scammer will be put out of business. It has
happened before. For a recent example, see
Finally, a word of thanks to this informant for sharing their experience.
Plainly, their scrupulous adherence to sound, fundamental genealogical
research brought the scam to light.
Subj: family in the us!
Date: 8/24/03 6:53:29 AM US Mountain Standard Time
From: <A HREF="mailto:email@example.com">vosgerau(a)foni.net</A>
To: <A HREF="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">f3dback(a)aol.com</A>
Sent from the Internet (Details)
I´ve found family (german emigrants) in your database, and would like to
contact their families
Please follow th link <A HREF="http://vosgerau.de.vu/">http://vosgerau.de.vu</A> (more sources) and mail me at <A HREF="mailto:email@example.com">
To All Folks with Roots to Crawford co;
I as list master I allowed the following to subscribe
and if at any time I get a complaint about this
group, they will be disconnected.
German-American Newspaper "Ostfriesische Nachrichten"
The old German newspaper "Ostfriesische Nachrichten" was published by Pastor
L. Hündling [Huendling} in 1882 in Iowa as a connecting paper between the
people in the new American settlements and die old homeland with news and
events in Ostfriesland and the "New World". Later you could find this
newspaper all over the U.S. and Ostfriesland.
For the period between 1882 and 1915 the issues were microfilmed around 20 -
30 years ago. According to a descendant of Pastor Huendling about 10 years
ago, most of the issues between 1916 and 1971 got lost on the way to a
processing center to be microfilmed.
Besides Rev. Kenneth DeWall and others, who published in the past some
indexes of (only) obituaries, we started in 1997 reading each newspaper for
1882 - 1915 and 1916 - 1971 (single issues) from the front to the back and
taking all of the personal data in obituaries and local news into computer
files. We added also interesting stories about the events in the New World -
especially for the German readers -.
So far we have listed 10,300 names of deceased between 1882 and 1915 plus
12,300 names of relatives, and until 1971 only 2,000 deceased / 5,000
Now we are looking for issues of this newspaper between 1916 and 1971. The
undersigned would appreciate your answer if you have access to those issues.
Thank you very much in advance for your help in preserving the data.
Ostfriesland-Society of Iowa, Inc.
> The Family History Center in Salt Lake has negotiated with Ancestry.com to
make the 1880 U. S. Federal census images available for free on the internet
by linking them to the Census Index on Family Search. Go to the following
web site for additional information:
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
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Date: 8/2/03 11:35:42 AM US Mountain Standard Time
From: <A HREF="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">leedell(a)getgoin.net</A>
To: <A HREF="mailto:email@example.com">f3dback(a)aol.com</A>
Sent from the Internet (Details)
I was born march 30, 1921 in Hanover township, Crawford County, Iowa. My
father was farming on the "Fisher Farm East North East of Charter Oak. I
remember my parents going to the dance hall on top of the hill at Kiron ( or was it
Arion ?) The town is no longer there except for a little store and gas
station. I have not been there for many years so it may not be there now.
The town was expected to grow to be a large town because there were three
railroads crossing through it. Northwestern, Illinois Central and Union Pacific (
the railroad line that still goes through Denison. I helped a
well-digger,Leonard Staley, from Charter Oak, dig up the platforn of bricks when the
railroad station was torn down, for lining wells he dug.
The town had a population of about one hundred at that time around 1923. Now
it is a corn field. The Northwestern rails have been dug up all the way to
Sioux City since I left Charter Oak.
The Maacks listed in your phone directory are relatives.
Hope this infor is of some help to someone. I'm trying to trace my Great
Grandfather, Ernst Maack back to Germany. August Maack was my
Grandfather's brother. I may be one of the oldest Maacks left at age 82.
The 1930 Dow City census transcribed by Melba McDowell is now
on the Crawford GenWeb site.
Please everyone SPAM her with a THANK YOU!!
She has many hard hours doing this.
Melba THANK YOU!!