Document supporting Elizabeth Warren's ancestry claim doesn't exist

The exciting conclusion to the Case of the Missing Marriage Application. Remember, after a bit of sleuthing, Michael Patrick Leahy determined that the whole 1/32 claim came down to an 1894 marriage application that had supposedly been unearthed by an amateur genealogist but which no one else had actually seen. Leahy couldn’t reach that genealogist on Friday; today, he did. Mystery solved:

Lynda Smith, the amateur genealogist who unknowingly found herself at the root of the false “Elizabeth Warren is 1/32 Cherokee” meme introduced to the media by “noted” genealogist Chris Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, acknowledged in an email to me this past Saturday, May 12, that her statement in a March 2006 family newsletter upon which Mr. Child based his claim of Ms. Warren’s Cherokee ancestry was made with no supporting documentation. It was, in fact, an honest mistake that Ms. Smith now acknowledges is entirely without foundation…

According to Ms. Smith:

“I am rather embarrassed about this posting of mine [on rootsweb about William J. Crawford], especially since it seems to be of some importance…. I’ve been through all papers in my Crawford file and I didn’t find who sent that Cherokee reference to me…”

Read the whole thing for an explanation of Smith’s mistake. The obvious question: Why did the professional genealogist who confirmed Warren’s ancestry for the Boston Herald rely on an amateur’s research instead of demanding to see the original documents? Investigative reporter and genealogist Thomas Lipscomb was wondering that too and sent this e-mail to Powerline:

No reputable genealogist or genealogical organization would ever use a family newsletter by an amateur genealogist as the basis for an opinion. They require direct documentation from a certified copy of a birth or marriage certificate or some other objective evidence. While family newsletters, or family web postings may provide a useful tip as to where the real documentation may be, they are just as likely to be dead wrong encrustations of family myth that may or may not be true, but can’t be proven.

While family members may find these myths of interest, professionals like the New England Historic Genealogical Society and Christopher Child, or the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, where I have served on the Heraldry Committee, will not accept them as documentation for any kind of genealogical claim. And they certainly won’t take a chance of embarrassing themselves professionally by making a public statement on the basis of flimsy evidence they regard as little more than rumor.

Read all of that too. But wait — you’re not done reading yet. One last piece is William Jacobson’s new post chronicling his e-mail exchange with the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the curious appearance in his comments of someone who’s very interested in spinning what the NEHGS originally told the Herald. Did they really confirm that Warren is Native American, or did they merely confirm that she had an ancestor by the name of O.C. Sarah Smith whom others were claiming was Native American? Spintastic.

Via the Daily Caller, here’s Warren standing by her claim even as Scott Brown’s campaign insists that there’s nothing left of her minority status. Alternate headline: “Elizabeth Warren: I’m very proud of my Native American heritage that apparently no one can document.”