Genealogy Rumor Mill (or E-mail)  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , ,

It's funny. Since I started this new genealogy hobby I seem to be getting more and more history related e-mail. You might remember the last one I wrote about: Prohibition Poster - Fact or Fiction?.

This time I got an oldie but a goodie: The Real Spin - Makes you wonder about your family tree:

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher here in southern California , was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Harry Reid's great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory:



On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: 'Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.'

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle.

Believe it or not, Harry Reid's staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

'Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.'

NOW THAT is how it's done folks! That's real SPIN.


So the first thing you do when you get one of these is check Snopes.com and of course this story is false. It's been running around since 2000 and has been applied to whoever is a recent newsworthy politician: Remus Rodham, Gunther Gore, Robert Dion (for you canucks), Remus Stevens and finally Remus Reid.

According to Snopes:
This item is merely a very old bit of humor (dressed up with an accompanying photograph of train-robbing outlaw Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum) which has been adapted into a "one-size-fits-all" political jibe - all one need do is simply alter the text by changing the surname to match that of the disfavored politician du jour, then send it winging around the Internet yet again.


The Ketchum page linked in the Snopes article is very interesting and has several other photos.

By the way, does anyone know if Judy Wallman is an actual person and a professional genealogist?

This entry was posted on Monday, January 19, 2009 at 8:41 AM and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 comments

Very good explanation!

April 3, 2009 at 11:42 AM

30 months later and this myth is still being circulated! Worse yet, people think its credible and pass it on.

October 18, 2011 at 9:06 PM

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