10 June 2008

Family Fraud: Misha DeFonseca Holocaust case

The research methods used in exposing the Misha Defonseca Holocaust Fraud case provide lessons for any family history researcher in forensic genealogy techniques.

An overview of this case and the lessons was presented by Sharon Sergeant, in April, at the Massachusetts Genealogical Council Annual Meeting and Seminar.

A film of the presentation is now available to any Public Access Television station, genealogical society or library as long as the program is free and open to the public. It was produced by David T. Robertson (contact robertson.d@rcn.com) and the Framingham, Massachusetts Public Access Televison station, which recently premiered the film.

To order a DVD, there's A $10 fee covering DVD production and mailing.

Robertson, in this article, talks about his feelings on genealogy.

There's more to genealogy than dead people.

"Genealogy helps you understand the world around you," and a professional genealogist's job can be proving a person's Daughters of the American Revolution credentials or proving who's the rightful owner of something stolen in 1938.

"We do things like heir searching. You want to find the person who gets the money," said Robertson, a former president of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists. "You're not working with ancient history," but "the same methods apply."

A few years ago, he was hired by a German legal firm to track down what happened to a former stockholder last known to live in Newton. The company was required to make reparations for Jewish clients' assets that were frozen or stolen during World War II.

After some digging, Robertson found "the only person left is his mistress in Florida," except for a niece who received "$100 and the residual from his estate" in the man's will.

The interesting story goes on to detail many of his cases and what he's discovered over the years, his views on what's available on the internet "just the tip of the iceberg," solving problems and finding the paper with the answers.

But if your story doesn't check out, beware.

"In the business, we have a saying: You can lie to your priest, but you can't lie to a genealogist."

The presentation outline:

The Misha Defonseca Holocaust Fraud:
Forensic Genealogy Lessons for Your Own Family History

Connecting the Right Dots ... Names, dates, places, events, relationships and activities can create many stories. The true story can be mixed in with other stories.

Forensic Genealogy in the Defonseca Case Study: Photograph Analysis, Database Mining, DNA Analysis

"Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years," By Misha Defonseca.

The Story that Misha Told - According to Misha in the 1997 US Version.

Misha also published a 1997 best-selling French version "Survivre avec les Loups" (Surviving with the Wolves).

In the US 10 Years Later. Finding the Truth - Real Hidden Children, US Public Records, Story Changes, Other Experts, Belgian Archives.

Photo Time Line Focus: Real Name, Age and Family?

Data Mining: Negative and Positive Proofs in the Data Time Line.

The Truth Revealed: Belgian baptismal certificate, naming patterns, school records.

What if Misha had not confessed? Planning for DNA analysis.

Forensic Techniques Can Change the Way You Research Your Own Family History

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