There are some cultures in which telling self-serving lies about your own ancestors would be so shameful as to be inconceivable. Michele Bachmann's culture is apparently not one of these.
Bachmann, who's flirting with a presidential run, was in the early-primary state of Iowa last week for the Rediscover God in America conference. Bachmann was born in Iowa, as she told the crowd. But she couldn't leave it at just being an ordinary Iowan:[jump]
"I'm actually even more than just an Iowan," she told her audience. "I'm a seventh-generation Iowan. Our family goes back to the 1850s, to the first pioneers that came to Iowa from Sognfjord, Norway."
And from there, Bachmann was off and running, spinning an American story about her ancestors, Melchior and Martha Munson, who braved a 13-week ocean passage to Quebec and from there trekked overland to carve a homestead out of the wilderness of Iowa, felling trees and building a better life for themselves on the frontier.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't hold water, as researcher Chris Rodda ably points out at OpEdNews.
"I was watching her speech, and it was when she said that she was a seventh-generation Iowan that I knew something was wrong," Rodda tells City Pages. "She's in her fifties--there's no way there could be seven generations between her and ancestors in the 1850s."
So Rodda, who has a background in genealogical research, decided to do a little digging. Without too much trouble, she found that Bachmann is actually a fourth-generation American, not seventh, as she claimed. And that's just the start.
Bachmann's immigrant ancestors didn't make a pilgrimage straight to the promised land of Iowa. From Quebec, they went to Wisconsin. That's where the 1860 census found them. From there, they moved to the Dakota Territory.
Bachmann claims that her people "kept going, and they persevered" through floods and crippling winters. Well, kind of. After enduring those trials in the unforgiving Dakota Territory, they actually turned tail and retreated to the relative ease and safety of...Iowa.
"Okay," Bachmann apologists may be saying at this point, "but history is hard and stuff! Maybe this was just an honest mistake."
Not a chance, Rodda says.
"The only historical sources where she could have found some of the details of her story--like the 13-week ocean passage--also clearly show that her family went to Wisconsin, not Iowa," Rodda says. "She couldn't have known those things without knowing that the whole premise of her speech was a lie."
You can read the whole of Rodda's excellent historical fact-checking here.
And here's video of Bachmann telling her imaginary American tale:
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