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The Great American Family Fabrication

Updated on December 29, 2012

Founding Fathers

We have all experienced it, no matter where in the United States you live. Obnoxious bragging about the connections of a family and how "old" someone's illustrious family may be. Usually, this happens at a gathering while trapped in a corner far, far away from the bar. This may be due to our nation's relative youthfulness. Since we all were either kicked out or escaped some country out there, you would think Americans would not necessarily want to discuss their family's shady beginnings. You would be wrong. This type of beginning is exactly what people love to "spin" into tales of great wealth and fabulous old families. Keep in mind that I am not a supporter of this type of embellishment. I prefer to put a stop to it. First, you must recognize what you are dealing with- a family fabricator.

Fake a Fabulous Family History

YOU can fake a fabulous family history yourself. Here's a primer on some ways I have seen it done. First, what was the "golden age" of your particular city? California? The gold rush era. Boston? Bummer, very expensive Jacobean furniture or colonial furniture. Great Southern port cities such as New Orleans or Savannah? Federalist or Empire. Buy up oil portrait paintings from the 1830s and pass them off as relatives. Never mind that your great-grandfather was a drunk and never actually married your great-grandmother. So what if she once was on the indigent widows ' list; who is actually going to look that up? Lucky for you, they stayed in your city...perhaps there is even a street named after their last name, due some property owned once long ago. Once it was where the poor lived and now it is on the edge of the wealthiest area of town. Time marches on in old cities and soon, even the graveyard they are buried in is prime real estate. You join the Friends of Mossy Oak Cemetary and buy an entire fence in your great-grandfather's honor. Donate to a few other choice preservation charities through the years and, voila, your family is "old" Mayberry or whereever you may live. Now you can bore unsuspecting non-native couples who intimidate you somewhat by putting them in their place- they are not natives and never will be. Worse for them, they must also listen to you drone on about your family. Be careful how much information you put out there- you might motivate your victim into actually researching your family.

How to Stop It

Don't want to be trapped into a tedious and boring family story of greatness that probably never happened? Here are some easy ways of stopping it.

Most of these types of people have very little real knowledge of history. They don't know about settlers' patterns of settlement during the 1700's to mid 1800's. For instance, for families in Mississippi and Alabama, most of us came from Virginia, then through the Carolinas and then Georgia. You may not want to be related to this idiot, but you probably are. At the very least, you can irritate them with the idea of being a relative,because the whole point of their story is that they are trying to put forth that they have been here longer than you. Also that they are better than you. Try saying, "Your family came from Virginia; MY family came from Virginia! Where??? " "MINE, TOO!" "We must be COUSINS!"

Another way to stop it: Tell them you are somewhat of an amateur researcher of local families. Even though you aren't from here, you love to learn about them! It's real history, you know! Say, " Why, just last week, I learned that the Jones family actually got their start owning brothels, not a grocery! Imagine!" In fact, you are planning on going to the genealogy arm of the library this very week for their particular family, now that you've finished with the Joneses. You'll report back soon! 

I have found that some guilty of doing this have "to the trade" last names. By this, I mean, names such as Taylor (tailors), Smith (any type of smithing such as blacksmith), or Cooper ( barrelmakers). You could say, "It is very American to pull oneself up by the bootstraps and make a way for one's self. Just think, your family were once........smiths! Look at you now! " Guaranteed to stop it.

Don't care to see or deal with this person ever again? "Maybe they were even smiths....... to my family! We were related to Thomas Jefferson, you know."

Family Manners

People bragging on their families are suspect. If your family was so great and illustrious to the point that I need to learn about them, why do you have to go on about it? Shouldn't I have already heard about them? Why do people feel the need to do this? Is this a problem in other countries?

For one thing, it is bad manners. The whole idea of manners is to make someone feel more comfortable, not uncomfortable. Just as it is rude to speak of money, it is bad form to bore others about your family. Less is more. Or at least that's what my ancestor by marriage, George Washington told my great-great-great-great grandmother, Martha Custis. Just kidding. Or maybe I'm not- I don't brag about my ancestors.

Genealogy Video


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    • DemiMonde profile image

      Demi 5 years ago from Mobile, Alabama

      I just found out I'm related to ......Britney Spears! That was a bit of a shock, or maybe it wasn't. Haha!

      No, I haven't given up writing. We've had a big house renovation project fall in our laps. So now I'm avoiding painting by writing! Thanks for stopping by. LOL about Obama!

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      I did my time in "geneaology prison" have become a slave to it for a few years. I agree with you totally that it is very easy to do the broad jump and claim links in family relations that are vague at best, especially if it means that you are now kin to someone famous in history. Look at Obama....his family history claims that he is a descendant of America's first slave. I didn't know the records were that good back then nor did I realize the American public is naive enough to buy that claim....Good write....hope you have not given up! ~WB