21 April 2008

Forensic Genealogy: Waltham, MA, April 26

Sharon Sergeant of Ancestral Manor will present the impact of the Misha DeFonseca Holocaust international fraud case in Waltham, Massachusetts, on Saturday, April 26.

She will speak about the many forensic genealogy lessons and implications for all genealogists, at the annual meeting and seminar of the Massachusetts Genealogical Council.

The MGC Seminar will also have a day packed with tips and tools of the trade from experts on records access, technology and networking, family rogues (rather than frauds), unusual sources (institutions and state censuses), under documented populations (African American and Portuguese), and disasters (fires and weather) [for more details, click here] .

This case demonstrates that forensic genealogy has wider applications than the more traditional heir searching or property settlements. Modern fraud issues and historical mythologies can be solved with the same methodology.

Image time lines and story boards are on a par with data mining, time line and evidence analysis methodology, as well as DNA cladagram analysis and science.

A photo time line provided the divining rod for the Defonseca case. The document proofs came out of an exhaustive and methodical search based on the historical and geographical context. But - had Defonseca continued to claim that she wasn't the same person in the document trail - and not confessed to her fraud, we were prepared to go after DNA tests with living relatives.

Open records access incentives and the methods needed to work around closed records are also paramount issues.

Additional cases coming up, says Sergeant, include:

-A European publication of a recent Defonseca "copy cat" (Defonseca had a 20-year run) will soon be exposed based on a "this is the same person" time line that destroys the central theme of yet another World War II story fraud.

-A writer exploring his own family's Civil War roles is developing a theme for a book that dismantles many myths that today's public figures maintain - yet is legitimately concerned with defensive defamation suits.

-The descendant of a European World War II orphan is concerned that their own family's story can be told with the proper documentation.

-A middle aged woman with an Asian adopted child has decided to find her father's family - more than 50 years after he deserted his wife and children.

-An elderly person with a patchwork quilt of previous personal and professional inquiry into their own family roots decides that it is time to resolve the "unsolved mysteries."
Sergeant says that other forensic genealogy lessons will be offered in the coming weeks in Illinois, Missouri, Ontario, Canada and California. Click here for Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick's program schedule.

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