A Genealogical Scam!

My first experience at genealogical research wasn’t research at all.  But I didn’t know any better. 

I wanted to know more of my ancestor David Pinder/Pindar/Pendar/Pender/Pynder.  His Seaman’s Protection Certificate tells me he was a native of Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts, he was  5’11” with light hair, light complexion, blue eyes and a large scar on his bosom. He died at sea in 1815 at the age of 27.  His young widow and their two young daughters ages 3 and 5, relocated to Malden, Massachusetts a distance of about 20 miles. 

I knew how to research in Malden (or so I thought – keep in mind, this was my first week as a researcher), but had no idea how to research in Ipswich.  So, I “Googled” the Ipswich Historical Society and asked if they could help.  A few days later, they referred me to a local genealogist. We made contact, I sent her a fairly large check and a few weeks later, I received a beautiful report, which I now know as an Ahnentafel Report, tracing my family back to the 1600’s in Massachusetts.

I was soooo excited! This research stuff is easy!  I added the Pinders to my family tree on Ancestry.com put the report in my Pinder file and checked them off my research list.

Fast forward a bunch of years.  Now that I have taken some intensive genealogy courses, read blogs, magazines and  practiced the techniques learned (making lots of mistakes along the way), I am revisiting those ancestors added to my tree in the early days.

I pulled out the Pinder report last week.  I realized it was unsourced.  I attempted to locate records online and also consulted microfilmed Essex County probate records (I happened to be at NEHGS for a day).  I have many other records to look at (unfortunately Ipswich is a three-hour drive).   So, I decided to email the researcher who created the report – why recreate the wheel!  She must have a reliable source for David’s parents (she listed them as Moses Pinder & Mary Kimball) and his paternal grandparents (supposedly John Pinder and Katharine Kimball). 

The response was kind of, what word should I use –  horrifying?  First, the genealogist, who will remain nameless, acts insulted that I was asking for her source,  she lists her credentials and indicates I should just “trust” her, why would she lie?  Then she tells me Ancestry.com is for amateurs.  After much prodding, she reveals the source. It is the published Ipswich Vital Records (she even lists the Essex Institute as publisher in her email). I tell her that I consulted the same exact source on AmericanAncestors.org (and forward her the following cover page of the digitized book) .


She then changes her tune and says that she used the real books and not something on the Internet.

I have copy/pasted the email exchange below (my responses in italics, hers in bold).

This is just so wrong on so many levels.  I feel cheated.  Not only is she unable to provide a source that answers the genealogical question (who are David’s parents and his paternal grandparents?), but she only consulted one source for the entire report?

What happened to the The Genealogical Proof Standard?

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

Live and Learn!!  I am writing this for all of you just starting out…  Yes, hire someone to assist you when you are “stuck” or if it is geographically impossible for you to pay a visit to the town/village/city of your ancestors – but take care – hire a Certified Genealogist (http://www.bcgcertification.org/associates/index.php) or at least someone who is listed on the APG (http://www.apgen.org/) – ask for a sample report and check references before you just write a check!


Hello [name removed],

Several years ago, I had hired you to do some research on my Pender/Pindar/Pinder family.

I  finally have time to do some of my own research.

My 4th g-grandfather was David Pindar who was born in Ipswich and died at sea in 1815. Vital records to 1850 list his son of Moses baptised on16 September 1787.

There seems to be two Moses’s in the area at that time. I found marriage intentions which are 11 days apart; both men named Moses married a Mary:

(1) Mary Kimball – 19 Sep 1778 “Massachusetts, Marriages, 1695-1910,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FCCS-TM5 : accessed 13 May 2012), Moses Pinder, 1778.


Gloucester: (2) Pinder Moses and Mary Procter m Sept 8 1778 by Rev E Forbes.

In the report you gave me, you indicated that David was the son of the Moses (born to John Pinder and Katherine Kimball) who married Mary Kimball. The document that you provided to me did not include sources and I have been unable to find any record which indicates that this Moses is father to David (vs. the Moses who married Mary Procter).

I was hoping that you could let me know the source that you used so that I can obtain a copy for my files and create a proper source citation.



It has been a long time. All the information I supplied to you came directly from Primary sources.  I would have used the vital records from Ipswich and Gloucester. I would have gone to Gloucester to help verify my sources.  I have my Masters in History and archival research and would have only used only primary sources.  Unfortunately I have moved and cannot find your file and it is difficult for me to remember all the research that I have done after all these years.  If you had questions they should have been asked at the time. I will try and check with the info you sent but I cannot make any promises.


Hi again,

My apologies for the delay in inquiring.  It is my fault – I had no idea until very recently of the importance of source citations.

I am sure you did the proper research and that the information you provided is correct, but I would love to have the source for my records. 

I can scan or mail the copy of the report you sent me, if that would be helpful.

As mentioned previously, I descend from David Pinder/Pindar (1787-1815) of Ipswich who married Elizabeth Jones (daughter of Thomas Jones and Hannah Smith).

David’s father was Moses Pindar (see attached birth record). His marriage record (attached – right hand page about half way down) says only that he is from Ipswich. His death record (also attached – see right hand page about 1/4 of the way down), just says that he died at sea. He died intestate – the probate records do not mention his parents, only his wife.

Family search has:

(1)   Moses Pindar  – bride’s name: Elizabeth Safford; marriage date: 04 Oct 1765; marriage place: Ipswich,Essex,Massachusetts – https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FCCS-T9H 

(2)   Moses Pinder – bride’s name: Mary Procter; marriage date: 08 Sep 1778;  marriage place: Gloucester,Essex,Massachusetts – https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FCHH-FJV the Mary Procter marriage registered in Gloucester states that Mary was now from Ipswich: Moses, and Mary Procter [formerly of this town, now of Ipswich, C. R. 1.], Sept. 8, 1778.

(3)   Moses Pinder – bride’s name: Mary Kimball; marriage date: 19 Sep 1778  marriage place: Ipswich,Essex,Massachusetts – https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FCCS-TM5

I don’t know for sure, but since David was born in 1787, I am guessing one of the Mary’s was his mother.  If Elizabeth Safford (a widow) was married to Moses in 1765, if she was living, it is unlikely that she would still be of child bearing age 22 years later.  Maybe Mary Kimball and Mary Proctor are the same person?  Perhaps Mary was married previously and one town uses her maiden name and the other the name she used during her first marriage – since the intentions are 11 days apart?

In the 1790 census there is a Moses in Ipswich – 1 male <16, 1 male >16, 2 females  In the 1800 census there is also one Moses in Ipswich – 1 m < 10, 1 m > 45, 1 female 10-15, 1 female >45; the numbers do not seem to match up, in 1800 there should have been at least 2 sons, George age 7 & David age 13. The children born to Moses in Ipswich include:

(1) Mary Pinder daughter of Moses and Elizabeth, b. 28 May 1769 (Ipswich vital records)

(2) Moses Pinder son of Moses b. 30 Dec 1770 (Ipswich vital records)

(3) Joseph Pinder son of Moses b:Aug 29, 1779 (Ipswich vital records) – no further records found, probably died young

(4) John Pindar son of Moses b: 21 Jul 1782 (Ipswich vital records) – died 1783

(5) Polly Pindar daughter of Moses b: 10 Oct 1784 (Ipswich vital records) – died 1787

(6) George Washington Pinder Son of Moses and Mary Pinder b:7 Feb 1793 (Ipswich vital records) – married Priscilla Allen in 1822

on Fold3 & Ancestry.com, in 1775 I found a military service record: Enlistment – Pinder, Moses, Ipswich. Private, Cat. Abraham Dodge’s co., Col. Moses Little’s (17th) regt.; muster roll dated Aug. 1, 1775; enlisted May 3, 1775; service, 12 weeks 6 days; also, company return endorsed “October the 9 1775;” age, 25 yrs. [if this is my Moses, he would have been born in 1750 to be age 25 in 1775 – the Moses born to John Pinder and Katherine Kimball was born 10 years earlier in 1740/1741]

I did not find any probate records in Essex County for any man named Moses Pinder [could he have moved out of the county? or perhaps he did not have an estate at death].  There are records for both John Pinder and his wife Katherine that do mention a number of children as heirs, including a son Moses. 

Any help that you could offer in providing a source proving that the Moses born to John and Katherine is also the father of David would be appreciated.



I did double check my sources last night.  ALL my info came directly from the Vital records of Ipswich, Massachusetts not from the Massachusetts state records. The individual town records are more accurate than the state records.  And all the data was correct starting with Moses’s birth & parents and his marriage.  I do not list each time I use a source when the one source I used was used for all the data I found.  I never assume anything-that only leads to confusion and misinformation.  I did go to Gloucester to check on their Moses.  Two different men, two different birth parent and marriages.  There is no doubt in this case.

If you choose to follow Gloucester it will only confuse you genealogy and send you on a wrong tree.



Thanks!  Can you please forward a copy of what you had found for Moses? I would be happy to pay you for your time and the copies. Please let me know the cost and an address to forward the check and I can send it out today.

I have access to the Ipswich typewritten books on AmericanAncestors.org and also to the handwritten Ipswich books on Ancestry.com (the first page in the book indicates that it is a copy carefully copied over by the town clerk Wesley Bell in 1884).

Neither of these books list any parents with the marriage intention, so I cannot tell if my Moses married Mary Kimball or Proctor. David’s birth and death record that I have does not list his mother’s name either.

I also could not find a second Moses with different set of parents in Gloucester. Could you please forward a copy of that record as well? 

The Gloucester books that I have says that their Mary (Proctor) was now living in Ipswich – were both Moses also living in Ipswich? I only see one Moses in Essex county in that timeframe in the census and tax records.  When and where did Moses #2 die? I did not find probate records in Essex for any Moses and I only found one death record and one enlistment record in Essex for a Moses.



The Books I used were Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts

                                                 TO THE END OF THE YEAR 1849

                                                                Volume 1, Births
                                                                Volume 2, Marriages
                                                                Volume 3, Deaths

                                                                         Published by
                                                                    The Essex Institute
                                                                        Salem, Mass

Reprinted by…..

Higginson Book Company
Salem, Mass 01970

phone; 978 745 7170


These are actual copies of the town’s vital records books  kept by the town clerks from 1650 to 1849.   All the vital records are in these including Moses birth-his parents-their marriage-Moses’ marriage.  These are the best resources for Ipswich records.  This is all I can do short of sending you my books.  I’m sorry you doubt my word and resources.  I have devoted my life as well as many years of schooling to make sure I do it right.  It does me no good to make up info especially when it is in my own line.   Ancestry.com is mainly secondary sources for amateurs and I know for sure that these books are not included.



I do have access to the books that you have referenced, reprinted by Higginson Book Company, in your last email via AmericanAncestors.org the (New England Genealogical Historical Society website – attached is the cover page of one of them).

If these are the sources that you used, they do not show (at least from what I can see) that David Pinder is the son of Moses Pinder who was born to John Pindar and Mary Kimball, nor does it show that Moses Pindar, father of David married Mary Kimball as stated in the document that you provided.

This morning in your email, you stated that there were two Moses’s born around the same time, to two different sets of parents who married two different wives. In all of Essex County, I see only a Moses born 1732 who also died 1732 to John and Katherine and a Moses born 1740/1741 also to John and Katherine.

In the books that you reference:

David’s birth states that his father is Moses – no mother is named.
David’s marriage lists his wife – no father or mother is named.
David’s death states that he died at sea – no parents or wife is mentioned.

According to these books, there is only one Moses born in Ipswich (and in all of Essex County) in the proper time frame and it does list his parents: Moses, s. John and Katharine, Mar. 3, 1740.

The books you refer to have THREE marriage records for a Moses Pinder in Essex County – (1) Elizabeth Stafford, (2) Mary Kimball (3) Mary Proctor

– NONE of these records lists any parents names. I cannot tell if there are three men named Moses of different parents or one Moses who married three different woman in his lifetime – or if Mary Kimball/Proctor was the same person and perhaps one name was from a first husband and the other her maiden name since the intentions in Gloucester and Ipswich were only 11 days apart.

There is only ONE death of Moses Pindar in Essex, again no mention of parents names or wife – Moses, Oct. 19, 1827, a. 86 yr. – Mary’s death does not give her maiden name: Mary, w. Moses, Mar. 2, 1826, a. 77 y.

As I mentioned this morning, it is unlikely that the mother of David was Elizabeth Stafford as she would have been past child bearing age when David was born.

So David’s mother was most likely either Mary Kimball or Mary Proctor (or both! – maybe they are the same person as I wrote in the prior email). ‘

After looking at the books you reference (along with other sources), I am not sure how you determined that David’s mother was Mary Kimball. I am just seeking clarification from you, and would love a photocopy of your source for my records.



 I am using the actual vital records not books or an internet site.  I think that I can get actual copies of the marriage records & birth records from town hall.  I believe they would cost $15.00 each.  They would also be notarized.  They would be on the new forms with the old info on them.  I have never had to do this before but I see no reason they wouldn’t do it, it is directly from the public records.  As a professional my credentials have never been called into  question before and I have done work for the DAR and the Mayflower descendants.  You may not understand the difference between actual vital records and books someone has written on the subject.  If you want the actual certificates just let me know,  they have to be paid for in advance.  It would take less than a week to get them to you.


16 responses to this post.

  1. Their credentials have never been called into question? Guess they only deal with beginners who don’t expect sources. Sorry you had to go through that but I hope others will learn from your post!

    Barking Up the Wrong Tree Blog



  2. I don’t know what to say but UNBELIEVABLE! Is this person a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists?



  3. Posted by joanne on January 29, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    Kind of snarky in her replies, isn’t she?



  4. This is really scary. Are these two sites you give just for American genealogists? What about when you want to do research in another country? How do you go about that then? I had truly great luck with the people I have used, with lots of tight sources, but what is the standard for European genealogists?



    • Good question! I have Lithuanian ancestors and have joined a very active Lithuanian Genealogy Yahoo Group. There are many experienced Lithuanian researchers who monitor the board and help guide the newbies – I have seen many posts where they recomend a specific researcher who they have personally used and had success with…. Maybe other researchers who read this post can comment? I do not have any experience hiring a genealogist outside of the United States – I would think that at a minimum checking references and asking for a sample report might help.



      • Thanks! I am so happy withYvette Hoitink who did my Dutch research and with Uwe Porten for the German. But I wondered what I should look for the in the future if I need another genealogist.


  5. Posted by Bonnie Splettstoeser on March 27, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    I commissioned a “reputable” researcher in Ireland over a year ago (14 months ago to be exact). She was listed on the APGI (Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland) and is quite well known and respected. I paid her in full. I have yet to receive ANYTHING from her at all except excuses and little in the way of apology. I am currently in contact with the APGI to help me settle this, but I am very concerned.

    My suggestions:
    Agree to a time frame and updates along the way. Don’t pay in full at the outset.



    • Thanks Bonnie! I have learned my lesson! Hope your situation gets resolved.



    • Membership of a body that has a code of conduct or ethics is a good thing to look out for. At least you have a course of redress.

      The following have such codes:
      Association of Professional Genealogists APG
      Board for Certification of Genealogists BGC
      Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives AGRA

      AGRA and ASGRA are UK based, the rest are US based.

      Relevant education is another thing to look for. In the UK, Strathclyde and Dundee offer masters degree programs, IGHS is well regarded.

      Specialist knowledge in geographic area, time period and subjects are also important for selecting a researcher. No one can cover everything.

      Genealogists are not legally regulated like lawyers,doctors etc, so anyone could start a research business. This topic has attracted much debate in recent years.



  6. Reblogged this on Passage to the Past's Blog and commented:

    It has been two years since I wrote this post, but I think it is important for those just starting out, so I am reposting….



  7. Posted by Denise Levenick on January 29, 2015 at 12:34 PM

    Just curious, has your research confirmed her findings? or ?



    • Good question Denise… You would think after two years this would be solved! But life gets in the way. I did write a subsequent post about Moses https://passagetothepast.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/52-ancestors-week-33-the-battle-of-bunker-hill/ – The taxes records indicate that he owned land with Hannah Pinder’s husband. Hannah’s birth record indicates that she was the child of John Pinder of Ipswich. They own land next to Benjamin Pinder, also a son of John. I still have to draft a proof argument (after a bit more research), but I would conclude that Moses is likely a brother to Hannah and Benjamin and thus the child of John Pinder. I have not found any indication that there were two Moses in the area (my researcher indicated there was one in Ipswich and another in Gloucester). The fact that there were two marriage intentions filed within 10 days of one another between a Moses and Mary indicates that maybe it was the same Moses and Mary. Mary was perhaps a widow from Gloucester, so they filed in both towns. Perhaps one town listed her maiden name and the other her married name. I hope to get back to this one in the near future, I just haven’t had a chance to get to Ipswich.



  8. Wow! So disturbing.



  9. Hi Linda, Wonderful post. I am another Linda who is a hobby genealogist (about 15 years). I became aware of your blog through my very distant cousin Midge (Granite in My Blood).



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