"Name Histories" and "Family Crests"
Recently, in a preliminary discussion of electronic scam artists selling "Name Histories" and "Family Crests" online, we quoted from the Eastman Genealogical Newsletter. (Dick Eastman is the CompuServe forum manager and edits the Roots Forum Website as well as his own.) Part of the quotation we reproduced was as follows:
To chase this particular lead we intended to publish an examination of the Halberts product, but this is to be postponed while, instead, we look at the relationship between Halberts and one of the companies trading under the name of Burke's Peerage. As many readers will know, this operation was well publicised by the BBC's consumer programme, Watchdog, which argued that the Halberts product the "Burke's" company was selling in Britain was not quite what the purchasers thought they were buying. It is, to put it bluntly, a list of telephone numbers prefaced by some general and fairly useless remarks about history ~ but more of that next month.
Let's look at the offer letter the "Burke's" company sends out to its computer generated punter list. (Some odd names appear from time to time and are then ridiculed in letters to newspaper editors ~ BUMS, for example, which may have started out as "Burns" and hit a glitch somewhere. DAFTS was another ~ and this prompted its recipient to reply to the offer of "The Burke's Peerage World Book of Dafts" with the offer of a "Daft World Book of Berks".) The quality of the paper is not quite what might be expected by any recipient believing it to come from the famous (and now defunct) Burke's Peerage. The logo at the head of the page is badly printed, but does resemble the arms Sir Bernard Burke (who died in 1892) used when he was Ulster King of Arms.
Yes, it is all rubbish. The "leather-grained cover dramatically imprinted" is not leather and the imprint is not dramatic. And "Many Bums inquire often as to when we intend to update out Bums Family Book" is untrue. But, nevertheless, Halberts has survived a long time with the help of its clever lawyers, and the operation has always been difficult to nail with a direct proven lie. Until now.......
This important paragraph irrefutably ties the British Publisher of 1826 to the Book of Bums of 1996. The publisher of the 1996 Book of Bums claims in this paragraph of his sales literature to be the Burke's Peerage, founded in 1826, that continued to trace lineages for a century and a half.
But the Burke's Peerage founded in 1826 went into liquidation several years ago. It is defunct, dead, deceased ... like John Cleese's parrot. The Burke's Peerage World Book of Bums is published by a company that pays a licence fee to the entity that bought the name of "Burke's Peerage" from the Receiver. It is thus legitimate (albeit misleading) for this publisher to use the name of "Burke's Peerage" on its wares. But it is not legitimate to claim that it is in fact a company that is dead. It is not legitimate to imply in consequence that the publisher of The Burke's Peerage World Book of Bums has been tracing lineages for a century and a half.
The letter is signed "Yours Sincerely" (yes, a capital S) by "H.B. Brooks-Baker" who describes himself as "Publishing Director" and thus may be the man responsible for this monstrosity.
Elsewhere we have proposed the frauds be fought with publicity. We have tried to ridicule the "Distinguished Surname" merchants with parody, but although the risibility factor may prevent a few punters surrendering their money, it will not remove the nuisance. The law takes a long time to act. Publicity may achieve more a little faster.
Our readers can help. Tell your friends. Spread the word:
DON'T BUY "THE HISTORY OF YOUR DISTINGUISHED SURNAME"
DON'T BUY "THE COAT OF ARMS OF YOUR FAMILY"
DON'T BUY THE "WORLD BOOK" OF YOUR NAME
You are invited to save a copy of this page and to forward it to any of your friends who, interested in family history, may be tempted to answer letters received from Halberts or "Burke's Peerage".
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