Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Fanily Trees Yield Big Coin"

Here is the transcription of the article in the 20 March 1934 Spokane (WA) Daily Chronicle newspaper, on page 3:

"PHILADELPHIA, March 20. (AP) --

"Uncle Sam's agents say that J. Montgomery Seaver, 43, made $100,000 in five years by digging around the roots of family trees to report that they extended down to William the Conqueror, Richard the Lion-Hearted and other notables of yore.

He had three offices in Philadelphia and one in Washington but it was a "racket." Postal Inspector A.T. Hawksworth testified in the U.S. district court yesterday. Seaver was give a 15-month sentence in the federal penitentiary.

Twenty-two persons testified that they had paid Seaver $10 for a book of family history and $3 for a coat of arms."

Jesse Montgomery Seaver is fairly well-known in genealogy circles for producing a large number of really thin family history books for different surnames. He never did publish a Seaver surname book, but did circulate a Seaver manuscript that is in several repositories, including the Family History Library and the NEHGS library. I have found few errors in the Seaver manuscript and it has been helpful to my Seaver surname research.

At $10 per book, he sold about 10,000 books, assuming that the word "made" means gross income and not net income.

The scam must have been pretty odious if they prosecuted him for fraud. It probably took him several years to write and publish all of the books with some veracity, at least enough to fool his customers with their recent ancestry. Just think what someone like this could do these days with online databases and family tree software!

Full disclosure: To the best of my genealogy knowledge, I am not related by blood to this man.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sounds like you only take the good and leave the bad behind.