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Buchanan Estate Scam: Detecting and Navigating Genealogical Hoaxes

Newspapers and Periodicals

Historical newspapers in hard copy, microfilm, or digital collections may provide a range of information on an heirship scheme. Major headlines circulated by syndicated news sources tell readers about the broad view of events, such as public announcements, federal intervention, and court proceedings. At the local level, reporters capture the impact of the big news on small communities. Use both types of this material to add historical and circumstantial context to your family history. Mine every article, especially the local ones, for details that may become leads in your research.

The Bad News

Mixed in with the useful facts about the goings-on and the current generations, are often unfounded claims about grand estates and distinguished lineages. These are the crux of such genealogy scams. Due to these fabrications and mistakes being mixed-in with the true facts, every aspect of the articles must be scrutinized by researchers.

The Good News

Buchanan estate claims that headlined in local papers included personal details about Great Depression era relatives that may otherwise be hard to discover. Information that they knew first-hand about their immediate family and situation is likely to be reliable. Look for these types of details to use as leads that you can verify or refute with further records as you conduct your research.

  • Names and addresses of living relatives, particularly those interviewed
  • Occupations, pastimes, and community activities of the profiled family members
  • Location of heirlooms and family papers (as of the article’s publication date)
  • Genealogical data of living generations

About the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room

The Serial & Government Publications Division maintains one of the most extensive newspaper collections in the world. Beyond its newspaper holdings, the Division also has extensive collections of current periodicals, government publications, and comic books. These collections are accessed in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room which is located in Room LM-133 in the James Madison building in Washington, D.C.

Subscription and Free Databases

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.