Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sprucing Up the Family Tree

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Nick Farber has "Father of Eugenealogy" printed on his business cards—and nobody is challenging him for the title.

"I came up with eugenealogy out of frustration," says Farber from his office in Hoboken, New Jersey. "Whenever I'd sit down to write about one my ancestors, I'd come across some piece of information that didn't quite fit. One guy deserted during the American Revolution. He dressed up like Martha Washington and hid in the general's tent. Another guy let the KKK use his barn for morning calisthenics. I was mortified."

Farber's solution was to "clean up" his family history by discarding embarrassing information, and replacing it with more palatable fictions. The deserting soldier became Washington's aide-de-camp; the KKK became the 1927 New York Yankees.

Eugenealogy was born.

"Anyone can do it with a little practice," says Farber. "Start with an illegitimate child or a humiliating divorce, and then move on to felonies and crimes against humanity."

Elliot Lyell of the Center for Genealogical Ethics is appalled by the concept of eugenealogy.

"Genealogists are historians," he insists. "And as historians, we must deal with the facts as given, and not twist them in some demented effort to 'purify' our genetic pasts. It's an abomination."

A lucrative abomination for Nick Farber and wife Ethel, who are now marketing a service they call "Eth-Nick Cleansing."

"Customers are lining up around the block," he boasts. "It seems everyone's got something they want to hide. When Eth-Nick Cleansing is done, our nation's past will look a lot brighter."

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