Friday, December 8, 2006

Genealogy fraud has a long history

One of the major sources of Seaver genealogy data, especially for families outside of Massachusetts, was a book called "The Seaver Genealogy," published in 1924 by Jesse Montgomery Seaver in Philadelphia. He corresponded with many Seaver families found in city directories or other records to generate this book. Based on my own research, I have found only a few mistakes in his Seaver surname research, considering he did not have access to the census and other records unless he visited the location of each family.

Jesse Montgomery Seaver also wrote many other surname books, some with very common names. Apparently he was one of the first genealogy scam artists, as shown at

A newspaper article in August 1930 includes:

"J. Montgomery Seaver, thirty seven, president of the
American Historical-Genealogical Society, Broad and Norris sts., was confronted withState and Federal charges today.

George C. Baker, superintendent of mails at the post office announced a fraud order against Seaver's organization had been issued at Washington yesterday. At the same time Seaver was being held in $500 bail for court on charges growing out of a collision.

Post office inspectors investigating the Historical Genealogical Society's activities reported he had arranged a plan for selling books purporting to give the records of various families back to the time of William the Conqueror.

After the investigation Horace J. Donnelly, solicitor of the Post Office Department at Washington, reported the plan to be "a scheme for obtaining money through the mails by means
of false and fraudulent promises."

Read the whole article. Poor Jesse got caught. I don't know what happened to him after this.

I fear that old Jesse M. was a descendant of Robert Seaver (1608-1683, immigrant in 1634 to Roxbury MA) and a cousin of mine, although he could not find enough records to prove the connection.

My purpose here is to call attention to him so that other researchers don't rely on his fraudulent works. Researcher beware!


Unknown said...

Oddly enough, I ran across the article you mention just a few hours ago, myself! I was given a Davis family history book (which I can't seem to find now) but I also saw a web link posted on an message board for a site that has transcribed it and several other J.M. Seaver books. It appears that MANY copies of his books are used by MANY sites and libraries.

It's good to hear that you haven't found much wrong with his work, but it would be nice to find the same about his other books.

Not to stir anything up, but perhaps I'll try to do some investigating of Mr. Seaver & his works. I'd guess that they could certainly be used as "starting points", but it would be nice to know how accurate they are!

Anonymous said...

P08X0L Very good blog! Thanks!

Unknown said...

After receiving a Butler Family book by JM Seaver, I researched the facts for DAR purposes (which have become very stringent). Surprisingly the info in this book was very accurate. It's sad that in 1929 it was considered a scam to make money off of the family's interested in their history and today we have websites ie ancestry that make millions selling the very same info. JM Seaver was just ahead of his time.