Online Genealogy Scams

By Lauren Eisenstodt Premium

Remember the number-one rule of family history frugality: Don’t waste your money. Wouldn’t you hate to squander your hard-earned funds on sham products and services? Unfortunately, genealogy isn’t immune to scam artists—a fact some family historians have learned the hard way. Lured by Web sites and e-mails promising access to millions of genealogical records, they’ve shelled out big bucks to discover information they could have gotten for free.

A good example is a string of Web sites, including Genealogy Techs, that offer either online subscriptions or CD-ROMs with links to “hundreds of databases.” Buyer beware: There’s nothing special about those links—you could find the databases just as easily by browsing Cyndi’s List of genealogy Web sites or reading Family Tree Magazine’s annual 101 Best Web Sites list. The owner of the scam sites has since been charged with several felonies.

You also should be wary of anyone selling the “history of your family name” or “your complete family history.” A few years ago, a company advertised just that for about $40. Those who fell for the scam received paperbacks with only generic getting-started advice and a few telephone-book listings.

So how can you avoid falling victim to one of these scams? Trust your instincts. And if the service sounds shady, contact the National Genealogical Society’s Consumer Protection Committee (800-473-0060,, which keeps tabs on online and offline scams.

From the June 2005 Family Tree Magazine