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The Springer Hoax was a scam starting in the mid 19th century, often using a phony genealogy in various ways to collect money based on the supposed multi-million dollar estate of prominent colonialist Carl Christopher/Christoffersson Springer and debts said to be owed to him by various government agencies of Wilmington, Delaware and Stockholm, Sweden.[1] It is notable today primarily as the result of amateur genealogists' (and others'[2]) mistaken reliance on the various Springer genealogies going back to Adam and Eve via Emperor Charlemagne.

Wilmington's supposed debt was related to land purportedly owned by Springer. The land actually had belonged to Old Swede's Church. Springer was merely a life trustee for the land. The tie to Sweden was based on a phony genealogy used to claim that Springer was part of the Swedish Aristocracy.[3]

In one version of the scam from the 1850s, people claiming to be Springer heirs sold stock in the "Springer Heirs Corporation", supposedly to file court cases to prove their alleged ownership of large sections of real estate in the downtown area of Wilmington, Delaware or the royal jewels of Sweden. The corporation folded after a few minor court cases for several small, unclaimed estates.[4]

A later version of the scam was started in 1913, targeting actual and possible descendants of Springer. Again, the estate was said to hold legitimate title to large sections of land in Wilmington. Victims were enticed into buying shares in the "Springer Heirs Corporation 1913 U.S. American and Canada".[5]

When indicted for charges of larceny, several perpetrators of the scam claimed that their story was essentially true and the truth was being hidden by a conspiracy involving the courts, the government of Wilmington, and the Old Swede's Church.[6]

Notes

  1. ^ "Example of a spurious genealogy.". http://www.thecolefamily.com/hobby/springer.htm.  
  2. ^ "House of Names". http://www.houseofnames.com/xq/asp.fc/qx/springer-family-crest.htm#Read-Name-Springer.  
  3. ^ "Haunted Delaware: Ghosts And Strange Phenomena of the First State". Patricia A. Martinelli, Stackpole Books, 2006. ISBN 0811732975.
  4. ^ "Genealogical History of Some Carsons, Johnsons, and Related Families, Chapter 24". http://www.carsonjohnson.com/chapter24-springer.htm.  
  5. ^ "Pitfalls in Genealogical Research". Milton Rubicam, Ancestry Publishing, 1987. ISBN 0916489280
  6. ^ "The Fabulous Springer Estate: George W. Ponton Claims to be the Victim of a Hoax", New York Times, December 23, 1883.
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