Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pseudogenealogy

The word "pseudogenealogy" really does exist, although it comes up in the spell checker as unknown. Sometimes the word is written with a hyphen and sometimes as two separate words. It means exactly what it says: a made-up or make believe genealogy made to look like a real one. Today, some of the most commonly found pseudogenealogies are the dozens of websites that purport to connect your surname to a history and a Coat of Arms. A quick image check online using Google Images, immediately shows thirteen very elaborate Coats of Arms for the Tanner Family. As I have said before, I hesitate to show even one example because of my concern that someone will think it is real and post it on their own website.

When I traced down one of the suggested Coats of Arms, I was taken to the "coats of arms and family crests store" where obviously, I could purchase my own personal coat of arms and/or crest as glassware, clothing, hand embroidered, a cross stitch, a ring, or the standard plaques or shield. Hmm. Quite a selection. I bet I could even have it put on my car or truck. I appears that pseudogenealogy is not only a word, but very much alive and well in the United States and elsewhere. In addition to selling me a Coat of Arms, the store also, gratuitously provided me with an instant history of my family surname with a connection tracing my ancestors back to the Norman Conquest in 1066. Guess what? This genealogy seemed familiar and was almost verbatim the same as the one in my 1943 Tanner surname book! Well, then, I guess it must be right.

I can take my pick of websites offering me instant genealogies. I looked at a couple of them (I am not providing any links on purpose) and this statement about the Tanners caught my eye:
Some of the first settlers of this family name or some of its variants were: Daniel Tanner settled in Virginia in 1618: two years before the "Mayflower": Maurice Tanner settled in New England in 1663: William Tanner settled in Pennsylvania in 1682.
Yes, there was a William Tanner in Pennsylvania in 1682, Pennsylvania Land Purchases-1682 list three Tanners; William, John and Joseph. See also Hazard, Samuel, John Blair Linn, William Henry Egle, George Edward Reed, Thomas Lynch Montgomery, Gertrude MacKinney, and Charles Francis Hoban. Pennsylvania Archives. S.l: s.n.], 1852, page 225.

My own "William Tanner" shows up in Rhode Island about 1680 and there is no known connection to any of the Tanners in Pennsylvania, Virginia or New England from that time period. This and all the other similar websites are in the same-name-makes-relatives category of pseudogenealogy. This particular Coat of Arms website made an attempt to connect my own family to their site by listing as a reference the surname book of my Great-great-grandfather Sidney Tanner.

Even if you have the most common surname in the entire United States, Smith, you can still claim instant fame and wealth with your own Coat of Arms, in fact, there are hundreds to choose from. Just do a Google Image search on "smith coat of arms" to see what I mean. More concentrated pseudogenealogy. In fact, you can have your Smith Coat of Arms tattooed on your shoulder or where ever.

It certainly is comforting to know that so many people here in the democratic United States of America are really latent royalty. Maybe we are more suited to a monarchy than a republic?




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