Whole Number 174
An article entitled "Halbert's Under Cease and Desist Order" appeared in the News letter of the National Genealogical Society for March/April 1996. Some of the facts in the following paragraphs have been taken from that article.
The name "Halbert's, Inc." located in Bath, Ohio, is probably familiar to most of our readers because of the tens of thousands of postal cards mailed out annually announcing the publication of what purports to be a genealogical work pertaining to "your" family name. These publications have had such titles as The World Book of Sparks,TheSparksSince1866, SparksSince the Civil War, SparksAcross Therica,The SparksFamilyAlbum, etc. (One should be suspicious of such titles if for no other reason than the fact that Halbert's does not know the plural of the name Sparks, i.e., Sparkses.)
Halbert's is a mail order firm that, according to the Newslettercited above, is a trade name (along with "Family Book Offer" and "Historic Book Offer") used by Numa Corporation of Akron, Ohio. At one time, the name "Beatrice Bayley" was used to identify the "author" of such books, and in the SPARKS Quarterly of December 1982, your editor published an article (pp.2483-2487) devoted to The Sparks Family HeritageBookpublished by Beatrice Bayley, Inc.
The same postal card is used by Halbert's in advertising the hundreds of each surname book that they sell. If one buys the product, usually at a cost of $29.85, one receives the identical text, but with a list of names and addresses of persons having "your" surname, or a list of deceased individuals with your" name who had Social Security numbers. Millions of names and addresses now exist in computer bases for the use of advertisers, arranged by zip codes., and Halbert's simply prints these out. Likewise, the Social Security records for deceased holders of SS numbers are available in the same manner.
Through the years, Halbert's has used varying wording in its advertising, but the implication is always that the book provides genealogical information. In recent years, the advertising cards appear to contain a recommendation for purchase by a relative. Those for "Sparks books" have been "signed" by William S. Sparks (no address). In response to your editor's query in 1992 regarding the identity of WIlliam S. Sparks, a form letter was received from Halbert's containing two blanks that were filled in by hand, "William S. Sparks" and "Sparks," with the statement: "They [sic] have given us permission to use their name in our advertising to offer products to customers with the same last name.
Genealogical associations and individuals have regularly protested . Halbert's misleading advertising to the U.S. Postal Service, resulting in cease and desist orders issued to Halbert's in 1985 and in 1988. The National Genealogical Society protested again in March 1995 with a 120-page report on Halbert's marketing practices. On Nov 21, 1995, the Postal Service issued a supplemental cease and desist order from further use of certain misleading marketing practices.