Fraud notice: Halbert's Publishing Co.

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Notice of the creation of fraudulent genealogy and family trees by Halbert's Publishing Company.  The United States Postal Service has filed an injunction against them - a copy can be found here.  I will post the injunction in its entirety at the bottom of this post.

If you come across any genealogical references, citations, or any other "histories" from Halbert's Publishing Company, you should treat them with extreme skepticism.  I would recommend against trusting any Halbert's reference or citation.

To get some idea of how damaging fake references can be, you can view the discussion that led to this discovery:

https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/589703/questions-surrounding-lineage-noblett-francis-richard-william?show=591599#c591599

This bogus family line is posted (and repeated) across the internet, here is an example:

Descendants of Jean De NOBLET

Upon completion of this post, I will be creating a new Fraud category for Halbert's.  If you come across Wikitree profiles that are sourced from Halbert's Publishing Company, you should tag them with the category:

[[Category:Halberts Publishing Company Fraud]]

Halberts Publishing Company Fraud

A copy of the notification from Goldsraw.org.uk:

Halbert's, Inc., of Bath, Ohio, a mail order firm that markets surname products, has agreed to the provisions of a cease and desist order issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS) in November 1995. "Halbert's " "Family Book Offer," and "Historic Book Offer" are trade names used by Numa Corporation of Akron, Ohio.

On 23 March 1995, the National Genealogical Society (NGS), with the support of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), submitted to the United States Postal Service's Chief Counsel, Consumer Protection, a 120-page report on Halbert's marketing practices with the request that these practices be investigated.

NGS and FGS also launched a "grass roots" campaign to encourage the participation and cooperation of genealogists nationwide. A brochure and companion flyer entitled "PSSST! Wanna Buy Your Name?" were mailed to genealogical societies and libraries. Societies were asked to reprint the cartoon and brochure text in their newsletters. Librarians were asked to post the flyer on their bulletin boards. As a result, many people wrote to NGS and its Ethics Committee about the solicitation materials they had received from Halbert's, and others wrote directly to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

On 21 November 1995, the Postal Service issued a supplemental cease and desist order prohibiting Halbert's from further use of certain misleading marketing practices, which included a consent agreement signed by Halbert's. Previous cease and desist orders issued against Halbert's in 1985 and 1988 remain in effect.

The supplemental order issued in November 1995 includes the following provisions:

Halbert's was ordered to desist from falsely representing ". . .that (1) a solicitation for a surname-related product was sent by a relative of the solicitee; (2) a relative of a solicitee was involved in preparing a surname-related publication; or that (3) a relative of a solicitee endorses a surname-related product." The Postal Service contended that the company's solicitations, which advertised books such as The World Book of [surname] and The [surname] Since the Civil War, violated the 1988 consent agreement, because they appeared to be letters from relatives of the addressees urging them to purchase a recently completed book on their family.

Halbert's was ordered to begin displaying prominently the following disclaimer on any advertising for sumame related publications: "No direct genealogical connection to your family or ancestry is implied or intended."

Halbert's was ordered to cease and desist from "...representing, directly or indirectly, that advertising has been approved by the United States Postal Service."

The consent agreement entered into by Halbert's in November 1995 contains several other provisions. Halbert's may submit proposed advertising to the USPS General Counsel not more than three times per calendar year to obtain an opinion on whether the advertising violates cease and desist orders. Halbert's must pay $2,000 for each submission to defray investigative, administrative, and legal costs incurred by the Postal Service.

For a period of one year from the date of execution of the consent agreement, Halbert's must, ". . . within ten (10) days after written request therefor, pay full and unconditional double cash refunds, including postage, handling, and deposits, to all consumers who have previously requested in writing to [Halbert's], and not received within thirty (30) days after the receipt of the written request therefor, refunds in connection with any and all surname-related solicitations in use prior to the date of [the consent agreement]." Halbert's must also accept and honor refund requests from the Better Business Bureau, the Postal Inspection Service, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, and any other duly constituted governmental entity which has received complaints from consumers about its promotions.

Under the 1988 cease and desist order, the following conduct by Halbert's is prohibited:

Representing that a book is principally about a particular family name and the history of this family name 


Representing that a book contains information about someone's forebears and their emigration from Europe 


Representing that a book contains information about the heraldry and family crest of a particular family 


Representing that a book explains how a particular family got its surname 
Representing that a book explains why someone's forebears immigrated to the New World (the United States, Canada, and Australia) 


Representing that a book explains why persons with a particular surname immigrated to the New World 


Representing that a book is the result of research through numerous sources by themselves, or someone acting in their behalf, to compile information on persons with the addressee's surname who immigrated to the New World

The Postal Service has advised NGS that Halbert's is a member of the Direct Marketing Association and participates in the Mail Preference Service. Anyone who does not wish to receive future mailings from Halbert's can have their name deleted from the company's mailing lists by writing to: Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, PO. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.

The NGS Consumer Protection Committee (formerly the Ethics Committee) is chaired by John P. Shockey.

[This article from the March/April 1996 issue of the NGS Newsletter may be reprinted in other publications.]

WikiTree profile: Peter Noblett
in The Tree House by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
edited by SJ Baty
This has been around for quite a while. I’ve read some of their “reports” and found them to be of little to no value. It is largely marketing to gullible people who think they have a coat of arms.
I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations on civil cases is shorter than 23 years.
By the look of the age of this report they do indeed to have been around for a while.  The point of this post is threefold:

First, following the directions for creating a new category for the fraud:

* Post about it to the G2G discussion group.

* Posting to the G2G discussion group raises WikiTree awareness, creates web visibility for the problem, and can get you help with the cleanup.

Second, my discovery of it was the first I'd heard of it.  In chatting with Ellen Smith about it - it was the first she had heard of Halberts.  I'm guessing fewer people have heard of Halberts than have.

And third, to create a record.  I was able to find the link at goldstraw.org.uk but we don't know if that site will always be there and/or how popular it will be (so far as Google ratings and search page placement).  Creating a record of hit here will serve as a beacon on search engines and perhaps will save some researcher a lot of time and grief in the future.

Regarding "gullible people," the problem isn't with the gullible person who buys the "coat of arms," its after they publish it to Ancestry.com and state that it came from so and so.  Then, it gets copied, and copied, and soon, it IS reality.
They didn't really do much genealogy. As I recall, if you ordered the book, you just got a list of people copied off of phone books and mailing lists and a few vague generalities about surnames. It's not like they were making up fake family trees. The "family crest" business is so widespread that you'd probably be better off warning people that most of those are fake. Halberts were just one of dozens, and the genre is still active today, with crap like https://www.houseofnames.com or http://www.surnamedb.com/ . I even see people on G2G posting links to those sites.

I actually just found my old Halbert's The Buckners in America: From 1790 To 1997. Before it hits the recycle bin, I'll just note that everything up to page 4.12 is generic American history and genealogy. It's followed by a lsit of Soundex equivalent names, an (incomplete) list of census index hits up to 1910, and then contemporary phonebook listings by state. In the introduction, it states "The Buckners in America: From 1790 To 1997 is more than just a collection of Buckner census records," which is true, in that it also has some phonebook listings.

Thank you for this helpful information. Yesterday I was presented an offer by an ill family member to purchase their Halberts books. Otherwise they’ll sell it to another relative. My dilemma is in don’t want to spend $50 I don’t have, on trash …. but as a genealogist I also don’t want to see that trash get out onto public family trees. I’m confident it would if the other party bought it.  The one thing I can’t do is tell this family member the truth, as it would break their heart knowing they’d been duped. Advice?
Find out who the other relative is and then contact them later.
Good idea.

1 Answer

+4 votes
For J. Palotay: My understanding is that the statute of limitations for fraud begins at the time of discovery- or when one should have discovered the fraud. (At least in the United States.)
by Dorothy Coakley G2G6 Pilot (174k points)

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