‘Discredited descendants’

Recently a colleague was interviewed for a UK radio show concerning his Mayflower ancestor Governor William Bradford and noticed an entry on a Wikipedia page regarding William Bradford’s descendants. I have long been aware of Hugh Hefner’s Mayflower line, as this has been mentioned in most of his biographies, and he even named his youngest child Cooper Bradford Hefner. Gary Boyd Roberts included the line (see below) in his recent publication, The Mayflower 500. Looking at the line over the years, I have never seen anything wrong with it. Four close relatives of Hefner (two of his father’s first cousins, one second cousin, and a second cousin once removed), joined the Mayflower Society on the line between 1971 and 1982. Hugh Hefner remains listed among notable descendants on the Mayflower Society’s website.

What does this claimed article “Letters” in the Mayflower Quarterly from 2006 say? Nothing! There is no article entitled “Letters.” Hefner does not appear in the index for this year (or the year before or after). Rich Hall, who has written several articles in the Mayflower Descendant on notable figures, also noted this on his website in 2015.

In looking at the “edit history” behind the Wikipedia page, the article on William Bradford’s descendants was created in 2010 when it was made into a new article from the primary page on the Plymouth Colony governor. That article was created in 2003, and Hugh Hefner as a Bradford descendant first appeared as “Trivia” on 3 April 2006 and was removed one month later. The trivia was added again in October 2006, and the section was changed to “Descendants” the following month, and several descendants were added to this section over the next several months.

Of course, anyone can add to a Wikipedia page…

The citation to the fictional article in Mayflower Quarterly was added in on 5 May 2007 by “DvonD,” and has remained there (and the successor descendants page) for thirteen years now! This Wikipedia editor added in several valid citations concerning other descendants, and it’s hard to say what the motivations were behind creating this hoax (all eleven edits were made on the same day). Given Hefner’s own biography, one possibility is that this editor was embarrassed.

Of course, anyone can add to a Wikipedia page, and thankfully this hoax does not seem to have gone much beyond these pages. Perhaps with this post it will go away for good!

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About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

10 thoughts on “‘Discredited descendants’

  1. Wikipedia can be deceiving, indeed, and while “anyone” can make edit it a page, it’s not easy to do so. Therefore, information tends to be generally reliable (arguable, naturally, but decent), though toward working out one’s genealogy from gateway / colonial ancestors to the present, it is not. For example, Sarah Dudley, daughter of Gov. Thomas Dudley, showed up on an ancestry app as an ancestor of mine, married to a certain Job Judkins. There are dozens of sources for her profile, so I thought, good–looks to be well-documented. I jumped on Thomas Dudley’s biography at Wikipedia and found the same information, with a footnote. Good–the marriage and children are documented (I no longer recall where the footnote led). However, when looking at the three volume book on the offspring of Thomas Dudley, there’s no mention of Job Judkins.

  2. So, is he or is he not “discredited”? Also, where does his line get off tract? My wife’s line appears to be from Asa Woodward, son of Mary Bradford and Joseph Woodward, through Asa’s first wife (known as Unknown wife).

    1. He is not discredited. Hefner is a valid descendant. The “hoax” was this claim on the Wikipedia page for 13 years that Hefner was not a valid descendant. Hugh Hefner very much is a descendant of William Bradford.

      1. Thank you for clarifying, but I see that I’m not the only person who was confused by this article. I think the confusion could’ve been avoided if the article here specifically mentioned that Hefner’s ancestry had falsely been discredited and state clearly that the information regarding his line is accurate. I think that most readers are interpreting this article as meaning that Hefner’s ancestry has been discredited, but it’s actually supposed to be saying the opposite (i.e. the discrediting was wrong).

  3. It looks like Gary’s documentation is correct (eh, Chris?) What is “wrong” is the Wiki citation to a NON-EXISTENT article in The Mayflower Descendant. And Chris should know. (If this interpretation is also “wrong,” Chris will let us know.)

    I have been an “editor” re genealogical info, but stopped as much of what I did got re-written, usually back to the original misinformation, by either the original poster or whomever.

    I even tried to edit a Wiki page for a person I went to high school with, whose national prominence waxed and then waned to minor newspaper columnist status, though she pops up as a talking head on some cable shows from time to time. I used “true facts” from the NYT and NY Daily News (dates and pages and excerpts) to amplify some of the areas of her life/career. She deleted all of them. Her dissertation/book on a CT Anglican divine will never need to be re-written, so I must assume that being truthful based on public facts applies to other people, but not herself.

  4. Too bad HH’s Bradford line can’t be discredited….like many “life perks” he boasted about, he didn’t deserve any honor. And I’m no prudish, inhibited individual. My parents partied at the mansion and visited the Grotto. Yet my take is this: HH created a white privileged male persona, exploitative and demeaning to women, the misplaced imitation and envy of which haunts our male population to this day!

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