One of the major lessons that genealogists try to share with new researchers is the importance of verifying everything that is found in secondary sources. Secondary sources are those that have been created long after an event and generally by someone who has no firsthand knowledge of that event.
What makes secondary sources a problem is the fact that the information, when it goes unverified, tends to be reprinted and passed along to others. And at no other time is this more important than today with the modern technology that allows the rapid spread of misinformation like never before.
Gustave Anjou was never a genealogist. He just took his profession as forger to a new level.
A Little Background
Gustave Anjou was born in Sweden in 1863. Apparently he had a very colorful job in Sweden as he ended up serving a prison term for forgery. He immigrated to the United States about 1890.
Upon his arrival in the United States, he took up the profession of genealogist. Though those of us who consider ourselves genealogical researchers now would probably take exception to his title.
Genealogy for Sale
Anjou's genealogical reports took approximately three weeks to complete. He would include a coat of arms, and he also would provide a history of the surname. There were other items that were included in these reports, that were in manuscript form.
What is so disappointing is that Anjou would use some information that was indeed accurate and proven. Unfortunately, he would then fabricate certain lineages, records and localities to suit the purpose of the report.
His reports cost, on average, $9,000 though they could be even higher. They were intended to give the rich exactly what they wanted.
The More the Better
One of the systems that Anjou relied on was his method of overwhelming the client with data. Mixed in amongst the properly cited, correct lineages were the false lineages that he had created, along with false documents that he conjured up and invented.
This makes it paramount that a researcher go through these genealogies with a fine tooth comb. You just never know which of the entries is real and which has been invented. This can only be done by verifying the entire manuscript with the use of other, primary, documents. Even other secondary documents can not be used, as they have very often relied on the original work of Anjou.
In 1927, Anjou published a catalogue of 192 of these genealogies. At the present time 103 of them can be found in the Family History Library's collection. This leaves some 89 that are not currently accounted for. You will want to keep your eyes out for anything by Anjou and treat it as extremely suspect.
For more information on the currently available genealogies in the Family History Library, along with additional information about Anjou's creations, you will want to see the following web site:
Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is an award-winning author of several genealogy how-to books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, The Genealogist's Computer Companion, and Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more advice from Rhonda in her columns Expert Tips, Tigs and Trees, and Overheard in the Message Boards.