Questionable Source: Media Research Bureau, Washington DC

+16 votes
1.3k views

I ran into this source today, "Media Research Bureau, Washington DC", and tried researching it to see if I could find what it contained for the profiled person. What I found instead, after a good while spent on Google, was that this company was forced out of business in the early 1960s, apparently for fraudulent activities. The closing was accomplished by the American Society of Genealogists (president Milton Rubincam) with the cooperation of the United States Postal Service.

I've added the company to the Frauds and Fabrications category, and added a comment to the profiles I could find where this company is listed as a source (not very many).

Not all of the information the company put out in it's "research" documents may be wrong, but in light of it's forced closure I would suggest caution in using it as a source.

See http://fasg.org/about/first-fifty-years/  Standards and Ethics paragraph

in The Tree House by John Beardsley G2G6 Mach 3 (38.0k points)

Thanks for finding this, John.

I took the liberty of changing the category name to "Media Research Bureau, Washington, DC., Fraud".

I think that pages like this one and profiles that may have been affected by the fraud need to be in that category to help alert people to the issues -- and the name of the parent category doesn't appear on pages where a category is invoked.

IMHO "may have been affected" is too loose of a criteria.

Profiles which currently list Media Research Bureau and those which have data that is demonstratively derived from their publications should be tagged with the category.

Profiles which have never listed Media Research Bureau as a source should not be tagged. Profiles which have, or may have previously, listed this source but which have removed it and whose remaining sources are demonstratively not dervived from Media Research Bureau should not be tagged.

 

John, I agree with your comments. I also think your comments apply to all the Fraud Categories. There are now many Fraud Categories.
I added the Media Research Bureau category to profiles that identified this organization as a source, sometimes as the only source. They seldom cite publications; instead they might say "According to the Media Research Bureau," and go on to name parents, list children, or describe some other aspects of the person's life or ancestry. Ideally, the profile managers or other members of the family would identify and label any information attributed to MRB that is demonstrably wrong or is unsupported by any verifiable source. But that may not be practicable, since many of these MRB sources seem to be reports provided to families as private "research," so they cannot be accessed to determine what they contain.

 If the identifiably bad info and the category are simply  removed, it's likely that another family member who received the same information will want to show up and add it. Some profiles affected by fraud get revised rather frequently by people who are unaware that Aunt Joan's family tree (or other source) was based on a fraudulent genealogy.
Note that the language in these fraud category descriptions says "This category is a location to identify the profiles of PEOPLE  whose BIOGRAPHIES and FAMILY HISTORIES have been affected..."  It does not necessarily indicate that the Wikitree profile has bad data; it says that the person's biography or family history (which likely exists in many more places than Wikitree) has been (or may have been) affected by fraud.

This is not intended solely (or even primarily) as a disclaimer of possible error in a Wikitree profile, but as an alert to people who visit the profile in the future. Ideally, Wikitreers will have corrected any errors in the profile and added a discussion of the fraud and the bad information that has circulated as a result of the fraud.
I'm sorry to contradict you Ellen, but you added the category to at least three profiles which do not list Media Research Bureau as a source, and the data on those profiles very clearly does not derive from that source.  Beardsley-350 is an example, I've checked the change history all the way back to when the profile was created and Media Research Bureau was never listed as a source.

Adding the category because someone might come along and add the source is too proactive to me. Deal with each instance as it occurs is better.

Well, I still find a reference to the Media Research Bureau publication "The Name and Family of Fairchild" on the https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Beardsley-107 (where you removed the MRB Fraud category). And because the profile https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Beardsley-2721 (the son of Beardsley-350 ) has a prominent mention of the MRB's "The Name and Family of Beardsley or Beardslee," I think it is highly likely that the same "book" has contaminated the father's genealogy as well. Why don't you want to alert people to the possibility of being duped by this fraudulent Beardsley genealogy?

I apologize about Beardsley-107, I was seeing the forest but not the tree on that one. One chapter of the Fairchild genealogy contains information from the Media Research Bureau and I had failed to strip it out. The remainder of the genealogy cites reputable sources, such as Orcutt. I have stripped the Media Research Bureau information now.

Beardsley-350 does not have any information derived from Media Research Bureau's publication. Beardsley-2721 did list Media Research Bureau as a source, but not for any facts, only anecdotal information that I have removed now.. As far as I am able to discern none of the actual data on either of the profiles has been "contaminated" by Media Research.  

It should be noted that Media Research Bureau's fraudulent activity was selling "Family Crests" and coats of arms. I haven't seen any information which indicates they created false genealogies. I have not seen "The Name and Family of Beardsley or Beardslee" and have no way to determine it's accuracy or lack thereof. I agree that this company's publications should not be trusted without substantiation from other reputable sources. But once profiles have been cleaned of references to Media Research's publications there is no need to have that category on the page.
Perhaps, in cases like this, a warning under sources to be aware that MRB published questionable info about this person?

This discussion does raise the need to clarify -- perhaps on the outermost category page--  under which circumstances to apply the pertinent category.

I realize I use fraud categories on profiles where the fraudulent genealogy has dominated thinking about the person's relationships or created whole cloth fabrications.
Loads of people have put out questionable info.  WikiTree has circulated far more questionable info to far more people than Anjou ever did.

MRB seem to have crossed the authorities by not having what they advertised and not supplying what people were paying for.  Whereas people like Anjou gave their clients exactly what they were paying for and did nothing illegal.

The trouble only started when naive third parties mistook the genre and took it as truth (influenced by their own ancestor-greed).
CAUTION:  The early research from about 1939 seems accurate and the Sanderson/Saunderson Historical Sketch that I have a copy of is quite good.  I sense that it is so similar in its' findings to two of my own family genealogies dating from 1935 and 1955 that it must have at least used the common family histories available in that time frame. As with any similar document, my MEDIA RESEARCH BUREAU document should be tested with the most trusted sources.  So far, I can't find valid proven errors in the BUREAU document I have.  (Campbell-25710)
Glad to hear that you thought their work was OK. Regardless of that experience, please don't treat this organization's output as reliable sources. Consider it as clues to be pursued, just like a user-contributed family tree.
I agree with most of your comment.  It's sound advice.  The Bureau's Historical Sketch is data from other secondary sources.  Understand that I have been doing genealogical research for over 60 years.  I try to sort fact from opinion and then attempt to prove or disprove the facts.  The interesting aspect of the Bureau Sketch is the striking parallels to the Reddington, Kemp, Sanderson, Morton and other family genealogies of the early 1900's.  They must have been relying upon something like Domesday or the like.  The California Reddington's had access to the best researchers of that era.  Winston Churchill spent time with FDR as well as the newspaper Hearst's when he was here in the States.  I'm certainly not suggesting I know best about anything, but I've learned that I can usually learn something from almost everyone. I would encourage every genealogist to test information and use common sense.  Never discount user-contributed family trees out-of-hand.  Most are problematic, but some are "first hand" sources and passed down older "first hand" accounts.  Even legal documents executed by the principal individual may contain errors and omissions.  I've seen it in my own family. .
That's a great philosophy, Ron. I may have an unusually negative view of this particular outfit after interacting another member who was convinced that a write-up attributed to this source was the Gold Standard of information on one particular family.

3 Answers

+3 votes
Good catch, John.  I hadn't heard of this company, but it sounds like it worked on a profit model, not a research model.
by Vic Watt G2G6 Pilot (331k points)
+4 votes

The WorldCat has a list of over 200 "books" produced by this company. See: http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3AMedia+Research+Bureau

by Rick Pierpont G2G6 Pilot (118k points)
+1 vote

Archive.org has one sample of their output

https://archive.org/details/namefamilyoflord00medi

but somebody's borrowing it.  Well I suppose somebody must still own the copyright.

 

 

by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (568k points)
We have an example of their output right here on WikiTree: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Benedict_Family_Written_History_Document
Gotta love the bit where Pope Benedict XV becomes a member of the family.
The Benedict report seems to be paraphrased from Henry Marvin Benedict's book (1870).

Can't wait to see "The Name and Family of Jones".
It was mostly because other WikiTreers appeared to be convinced of the authenticity of that MRB Benedict document that I got excited about documenting the fraudulent nature of the company.
I was the one borrowing the Lord book on Archive.org. Wanted to see what their standard fare was. Most of the material seems to be simple rehash of what had been published elsewhere. To give them credit they did include bibliographies, and those included names I recognize as reputable researchers.

It seems strange that Media Research Bureau ran so afoul of the A.S.G. and Post Office for marketing these books and family crests which a large number of companies are still doing today. Politics involved somewhere maybe?

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