Genealogical Fraud

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!" (Walter Scott in 1808 poem Marmion)


Introduction

A man from Wynnewood, Oklahoma has falsely claimed to be a descendant of James Lewis DALTON and Adeline Lee YOUNGER and a grand-nephew of their outlaw sons who were known as the Dalton Gang. Following in the tradition of a long list of impostors pretending to be related to various historical figures, he has lied to his neighbors and citizens of Oklahoma about his ancestry. He has falsified documents and proofs of that relationship and many genealogists and historians have been duped by his fraudulent history which has found its way into books and publications and is reproduced in many web sites and genealogies. But it is not true. It is a purposeful distortion of historical evidence.

Purpose

The purpose of the exposé is twofold:

  1. Expose the instances of fraud.
  2. Show that Bea Elizabeth Phillips can not be the daughter of James Lewis Dalton and Adeline Lee Younger.


Introduction

Every child dreams of being a hero or an explorer and adults imagine where they might be or what they might become. Some plan and work towards those goals while some retreat into insanity, believing their own imaginings. Others seek to attain their dreams through deceit or theft. Pretending to be someone is for actors. Others are identity thieves, cheats and con artists.

In the field of history and genealogy, it is not uncommon for someone to purposely misrepresent facts in order to attain some unearned prize, whether it be money or fame or status or bragging rights. The infamous outlaws of the old west have all lived well past their deaths, with impostors claiming to either be the outlaw or to be related to him. Jesse James, Billy the Kid, John Dillinger, the Doolin brothers and the Dalton Gang, to name a few, have all been survived by impostors pretending, and some actually believing, they are that infamous person.

Detecting Genealogical Fraud

Here are some typical signs of a genealogical fraud or impostor:

  • all info from one person
  • evidence of fraud in any area
  • access to original documents denied
  • no supporting evidence offered
  • no supporting evidence found
  • illogical time line of events
  • inconsistencies
  • illogical, reality-defying facts, names, places & stories
  • inaccuracies
  • elaborately crafted stories to cover holes in the evidence

This is an account of a man who created a completely false ancestry, linking himself to the infamous Dalton Gang of the late 19th century. One can only speculate why he would do that, but he did. (Others in his family may have believed this version of history, but no evidence has been found implicating anyone but Billy Murl Phillips – the man who uses the false names William Dalton Phillips or Bill Dalton Phillips – in the fraudulent creation of evidence to prove it, nor in the dissemination of that fraud.)

This man began using a different name so he could use the name DALTON. He forged Bible records and filed applications for death certificates using false information. He "replaced" tombstones with ones he paid for, having them engraved with epitaphs saying that his grandmother was the daughter of Lewis and Adeline Dalton, the parents of the Dalton Gang. He collected Dalton documents and other artifacts and his home became a museum to his alleged ancestors. He gave talks, published papers and even led tours and was caretaker of historic sites related to the Dalton Gang. He altered documents and provided false transcriptions of newspaper articles. He even joined the Dalton Genealogical Society and presented himself as a descendant. He has successfully convinced many people that he is related to the Dalton Gang. Had I met him, I probably would have believed him too. But it is all fiction, a lie.

(It's actually kind of creepy for a person to collect memorabilia on a family to which he never belonged, had never even met, all of whom are long since dead, and for that person to try to present themselves as a member of it.)

Combating the Fraud

Fighting this fraud is like trying to remove weeds that grow by underground runners – it is pernicious and deeply embedded in many publications and genealogies. Please use the navigation menu or view the Site Map or the Table of Contents to view all the pages in this exposé.

Rarely does the genealogist / family historian run across blatant, calculated fraud and, for that reason, our defenses are down and we are unprepared to deal with it. This fraud is often accepted as true because the word of a family member is regarded as valuable evidence, but not if the "family member" is a pretender and not a family member at all. The fraud exposed here runs deep and will be difficult to uproot. Please read on.

The claim that Bea Elizabeth DALTON is the daughter of James Lewis DALTON and Adeline Lee YOUNGER (parents of the Dalton Gang) is a good example of genealogical fraud. The false "evidence" has been accepted at face value by many honest, well-intentioned people, even by the Dalton Genealogical Society. It has been reproduced so many times and is now so widespread in on-line genealogies that it must be true – "if it's on the internet, it must be true". Alas, many researchers have swallowed the falsehood and refuse to step back and examine the evidence, too embarassed to admit they've been taken in.

Verify, Verify, Verify

A genealogist considers many types of evidence, weighing and combining them to make their best assessment of a relationship. An oral family history can be one form of evidence as is a photocopy of a document, e.g. Bible records, and the epitaph on a tombstone. Each type of evidence is assigned varying levels of relevance which, when added together either enhance or challenge the existence of a person, family or relationship. But, when proven false, anything else from that informant becomes suspect.

In this case, all of the above have been proven to have been falsifed.

The dearth of data available for Bea Elizabeth "DALTON" requires the genealogist to seek information from family members, but that source has been tainted by the fraud coming from at least one of them.

The falsified documents and misrepresentation of facts is enough to cause the serious researcher to doubt the veracity of the claims that Bea Elizabeth "Dalton" is related to the Dalton Gang, but the undeniable fact that she was born in Texas and the lack of any other verifiable evidence about her is all the proof we need that she is not related to this Dalton family.

Consider


  • No public records have been found for Bea Elizabeth. None. No census records, no will, no probate, no land records, no newspaper articles or obituaries.
  • No (legitimate) documentation has been found to prove Bea Elizabeth Phillips was the daughter of Lewis & Adeline DALTON.
  • The only "safe", unalterable evidence for her are the census records, social security applications and death certificates for her children — all of which indicate their mother was born in Texas, not Missouri, and, for that reason alone, she cannot be the daughter of James & Adeline Dalton.
  • The abundance of genealogies (primarily on the internet) indicating she is a daughter are presented as "proof", when they are just incorrect information repeated ad nauseum.
  • The "proof" for Bea Elizabeth "DALTON's" link to the Dalton Gang consists of a forged death certificate, falsified Bible records, altered newspaper articles and the (recent) placement of new tombstones, one reading "DAUGHTER OF JAMES LEWIS AND ADALINE DALTON" on his grandmother's stone, her name "Elizabeth" on Adeline Dalton's stone and "GREAT-NEPHEW BILL PHILLIPS" on Emmett Dalton's tombstone. What would Bea (Elizabeth) say if she could see what her grandson has done in order to gain a little notoriety?

    A tombstone ought to be useful evidence

    But not when it has purposely been crafted to deceive.

    Be careful of "Proof" carved in stone.

See the Tombstone page for details.


Verifiable Evidence

There is no reliable evidence that anyone named Bea Elizabeth Dalton ever existed or who she married. We don't know Bea Elizabeth Phillips' maiden name, but it is probably HARRIS or HARRISON. The only source found is the "U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900" index, which is a complilation of data from other peoples' genealogies and family histories whose accuracy cannot be confirmed. The index has listings for two marriages, one to HARRISON and one to Tom PHILLIPS and give her name as Bea Elizabeth or Elizebeth DALTON. The fact that no dates or places are given indicates the data did not come from a useful genealogical resource e.g. a Bible record or marriage index. The information for "U.S. and International Marriage Records" says:

This unique collection of records was extracted from a variety of sources including family group sheets and electronic databases.

The records from which these marriages were derived can be seen here and on the "Time Line" page. It will be obvious to any researcher that these records do not constitute proof or even the slightest notion the events ever happened.

The Fraud

Please see Fraudulent Genealogies and Genealogical Proof

Some people desperately want to share in the notoriety of infamous outlaws. Some just brag about it to their friends while others have been shown to have spent inordinate amounts of time and money creating these false personas, even altering documents, publishing false information, collecting memorabilia and, in this case, even replacing tombstones with ones engraved with the proof they seek.

The primary person alleging that Bea was the daughter of Jas L. DALTON and Adeline YOUNGER joined the Dalton Genealogical Society and took advantage of them by posting on their web site that his grandmother Bea Elizabeth "Dalton" was their daughter, that his parents were Jack and Annie Tarrant Phillips and that his name and address was: Bill Dalton Phillips, 402 W. Seminole, Wynnewood, Oklahoma 73098 (except that his name is actually Billy Murl Phillips and he uses the middle name Dalton to help perpetuate the hoax). He gave them a modified version of a chronological list of children made by Emmett Dalton and the creative obituary of his brother all designed to provide additional "proof" of his being descended from Lewis and Adeline DALTON.

The Dalton Names Hoax

Another falsified piece of evidence is the statement that several of their family have Dalton as part of their given names, supposedly providing support for their claim of relation to the Gang. But, none of the five children or eighteen grandchildren of Thos. and Bea Elizabeth PHILLIPS were given the name Dalton – although grandson Billy Murl PHILLIPS has told people that DALTON was his middle name (to strengthen the hoax) when it is not. His own "proof" works against his assertion – the absence of the DALTON name anywhere in their family is further proof this PHILLIPS family has no relation to the DALTONs.

Following the logic above, one might expect given names to be repeated in the Phillips family but, with the exception of Emmet and Robert, none of the Dalton given names is repeated in the Phillips family. The Dalton given names are: Adeline, Benjamin, Charles, Coleman, Emmett, Eva, Frakes, Franklin, Gratton, Hanley, Hannah, Henry, James, Kossuth, Lee, Lelia, Leona, Lewis, Littleton, Louis, Mason, May, Nancy, Noel, Randolph, Rennick, Robert & Simon.

The given names for the Phillips children & grandchildren are: Albert, Alford, Alfred, Ann, Billy, Burl, Carley, Clyde, Dee, Dorothy, Doyle, Edward, Emet (spelled differently), Gerald, Jackson, Jay, Jean, Jesse, Joe, John, Kathy, Katie, Keith, Kenneth, Larry, Lee, Lewis, Lonnie, Loyce, Murl, Norma, Opie, Pearl, Ray, Robert, Shirley, Thell & William. The two repeated names appear to be coincidence, not evidence of a relationship.

More False Proofs

Billy Murl Phillips (using various fictitious names, among them Bill DALTON, William Dalton PHILLIPS, Bill Dalton PHILLIPS, and Murl B. PHILLIPS) has purposely invented and fabricated proofs of his relationship to the Dalton Gang including:

  • Provided altered transciptions of newspaper articles that depicted the name of his grandmother as being the child of Louis and Adeline Dalton when, in fact, the original articles did not have her name in them.
  • Obtained a "delayed filing" death certificate for Bea using false information.
  • Contacted the Dalton Genealogical Society, claiming to be a descendant of the Dalton Gang, and offered a list of children that included the name "Bea Elizabeth (Lelia) Dalton" as the 4th child (though there was no daughter born 1856). His list would then require 16 children when there were only 15 and there is no evidence his grandmother ever used the name Lelia. Bill's list directly conflicts with Emmett Dalton's list, which has Lelia as the 5th child, implying a birth date of 1858, and Bea is not on the list and it has no child born 1856.
  • He also proffered copies of pages from the family Bible -- with notations in ball point ink, an impossibillity in the 1800's.
  • A typewritten genealogy with the false daughter "Bea Elizabeth" was circulated.
  • He has submitted this false information to many other organizations, including NOLA (National Association for Outlaw and Lawmen History), outlining his relationship to the Dalton Gang.
  • He replaced and modified tombstones of his grandmother and that of Adeline (Younger) Dalton and her son Emmett Dalton with engraved statements of his relationship to Louis and Adeline Dalton. Now the "proof" was literally carved in stone.
  • Also offered as proof is a newspaper article stating that a John Phillips was a pall bearer at Simon Dalton's funeral (see "The Dalton Gang and Their Family Ties" by Nancy Ohnick), but the obituary says the pall bearers were acquaintances, not relatives. (See the "pall bearer" on the Phillips References page.)
  • He claimed the "John Phillips, Guthrie, OT" engraved on Nannie Dalton Clute's gravestone was a member of his family and proof of their relationship, but that man was the owner of the monument company that made the headstone and he was born in Iowa, not Texas. See the "Phillips References" page.
  • Another shameless "proof" are the obituaries he crafted for his uncle Lee Phillips and for his brother Loyce Phillips, both with "proof" they were descendants of Lewis and Adeline Dalton.
  • The person offering the proofs, again falsely, uses the middle name Dalton as his own and presents that as part of his proof which normally would seem like a small thing but, in light of the other fraud, reinforces the observation that this person will do anything to fool people into thinking he is related to the infamous Dalton Gang.
  • The only proof that Bea Elizabeth "DALTON" belongs to the family of James Lewis DALTON and Adeline Lee YOUNGER has been shown to have been purposefully fabricated and cannot be trusted.



Missing Evidence

Bea Elizabeth "DALTON" has not been found on any census, with any family, anywhere. According to the article about Bill Dalton Phillips published in NOLA (National Association for Outlaw and Lawmen History), his mother "came to Okalhoma(sic) around 1873 or 1874 and then went to Brownsville and Sherwood, Texas to meet and marry Thomas Louis Phillips ... that was in 1880 and they came to Oklahoma around 1883...". Lewis and Adeline DALTON were in Missouri through 1880 and there is no Bea or Elizabeth with them. If this was because she left home before the 1870 census, she would have been younger than 14 years of age. This then presumes she traveled to Oklahoma (Indian Territory) when she was between 13 and 18 years old. If this is true, she should still be on the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses with another family, but she hasn't been found on any of them. Her husband, Tom Phillips, is on the Kerrville tax rolls in 1881, 1882, 1883 & 1885, making an 1883 trip to Indian Territory seem unlikely. In the NOLA article Bill writes that they were in Oklahoma / Indian Territory around 1883, but they haven't been found there either (to be fair, this researcher knows of no census for the Indian Nations during the 1883-1890 time period and they haven't been found on an intruders' list). There are no other records — no (official) marriage records, no (unaltered) Bible records, no wills, no probate, no death certificate, no original tombstone. (Our mistake could be that we are looking for someone with the DALTON surname while the evidence indicates she was born to a different surname - HARRIS or HARRISON - and perhaps even a different given name.)

She never appears on any census or any other document with the family of James Lewis and Adeline DALTON.

She is missing from Emmett Dalton's list of children, published in his book in 1918. One would think, were she his sister, he would have included her on the list.

Her original tombstone is either missing or never existed (and has been replaced with one inscribed with false information).

What is known about the PHILLIPS family

We know that Tom Phillips was born in Kerrville, Texas, had a wife and five children there between 1882 and 1890 and was in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) by 1900. The evidence indicates the family did not arrive in Indian Territory until after the birth of their last child in 1890. Though no records exist for her name, the family says her name was Bea or B. Elizabeth and the proven evidence shows she was born in Texas (not Missouri). No evidence has been found showing her parents or siblings or where they lived or that she was ever married to anyone else (i.e. no evidence for a HARRISON marriage). (See "Finding Bea" for all the available evidence for her and her family.)

We know that all their children were born in Kerr County, Texas, the last being twins born 1890 (see finding Bea). The social security application of his youngest son says he was born in Kerrville, Texas, though he gives his birth year as 1895, which is after Bea's death.


Is Emmett's sister Lelia the same person as Bea Elizabeth DALTON?

  • Some conveniently - perhaps using Bill's fraudulent genealogy - combine Emmett's sister's name with Bea's to create someone named "Bea Elizabeth Lelia DALTON" (though no evidence is shown where she used that name), but merging Emmett's sister's name with Bea's doesn't prove anything other than sloppy genealogy or desperation to prove a non-existent relationship.
  • Emmett's list is in perfect chronological order for all the other children, and so it seems reasonable to assume that he is correct about Lelia and that she was born after Littleton and before Frank, i.e. about 1858, not 1856 as for Bea.
  • Lelia never appears on a census with her family (the 1860 census hasn't been found). If she left home before the 1870 census, she would have been less than 12 years old. It is unlikely she married and had children. Family members indicate she died young.
  • The PHILLIPS family have produced no (legitimate) record of their Bea Elizabeth PHILLIPS ever being called Lelia, so how could the conscientious genealogist conclude she is the Lelia in Emmett's list?
  • If she is Emmett's sister, why didn't he list her by her name, Bea or Elizabeth?
  • Some say it is because Lelia was the family nickname for her, but that wouldn't explain his making a mistake as to her date of birth. Bea cannot be the Lelia in Emmett's list.
  • Were Bea actually married to a Texas Ranger, and were she Emmett's sister, why didn't he mention that lawman in either of his books?

What remains?

Virtually nothing – no known official records, newspaper accounts or other records have been found. The only evidence to be found is either questionable, proven falsehoods or highly suspect because of the accompanying lies and the discerning genealogist is forced to conclude that there is no evidence that Bea Elizabeth was related to the Dalton Gang or even that her maiden name was DALTON.

The evidence strongly suggests someone so badly wanted the fame and intrigue of being related to the Dalton Gang that they purposely fabricated Bea's relationship to them. From an ethical and moral perspective, they are related – they are thieves just like the Dalton Gang, though not of money but of the trust of others and of a heritage that does not belong to them and the shameful dismissal of one's true ancestors.

Sloppy Genealogies

Genealogy researchers beware! It's easy to be taken in by this type of con. We tend to believe people at first, but hopefully we will be careful when a person earns our distrust.

Search the internet for "Bea Elizabeth Dalton" and you will see many genealogies showing her to be the daughter of Lewis and Adeline DALTON (there are over 1.4 MILLION genealogies for her on ancestry.com, most of them incorrectly showing her to be the daughter of James & Adeline Dalton). It is easy to see how gentle people can fall for this hoax, but there exist even more errors due to sloppy research. For example, some genealogies indicate she is the Elizabeth who was married to James HARRISON on the 1880 census in Salt River, Audrain, MO, even though that lady's parents were born in VA, and they contrive a marriage date of 1878 because their daughter is two years old (which creates problems explaining why Bea wasn't with her parents eight years earlier for the 1870 census), while another family tree says HARRISON's name was Robert, but with no source or explanation. Examples of "genealogical creativity" abound – with some extrapolating Bea's name into Beatrice. Bill Phillips claimed his grandmother married Tom Phillips in Brownsville and later he claimed Brownwood and on-line genealogies list both places. Brownwood is a long way from Brownsville. Another example of sloppy genealogy research which plagues this family are the family trees that list a Pennsylvania Society SAR application as a source for her husband Thomas "Tom" PHILLIPS even though that man is completely unrelated. Citing a source unrelated to the person or family is not a proof, it's just bad genealogy.

This document is an attempt to address and rectify the deliberate and accidental errors attributed to the historical record of the family of James Lewis DALTON and Adeline Lee YOUNGER, specifically by adding a daughter who never existed, Bea Elizabeth DALTON. Please take the time to study it and then make your own decision.

* Please first see "Finding Bea" to see the legitimate evidence for Bea Elizabeth PHILLIPS and then see Bill "Dalton" Phillip's fraudulent genealogy and the problems with the U.S. & International Marriage collection found at ancestry.com which lists marriages for a Bea Elizabeth (or Elizebeth) Dalton first to a HARRISON and then to Tom Louis PHILLIPS. All this data is unsourced and the careful genealogist must assume the events did not happen.

To see all the evidence in one place, see the Evidence Locker.

Please don't contribute to the fraud by perpetuating it.

Please refer to the Genealogical Proof page for guidelines to evaluating the evidence.


 

Summation

  • Be careful to not be swayed by the false evidence and the large number of genealogies that repeat this fraud. A lie, no matter how often or how convincingly it is told, is still a lie.
  • There is no credible evidence of anyone named Bea Elizabeth and certainly not for her being born in Missouri (required for her to be a daughter of the DALTONs). All available evidence for the wife of Tom PHILLIPS, whoever she was, says she was born in Texas.
  • The only evidence we have has been falsified to prove her being a member of the family.
  • There is no (legitimate) evidence of Bea being a member of this family..
  • Because of the blatant and pervasive fabrication of evidence that has been committed, any new evidence must unfortunately come under much more intense scrutiny than normal.
  • Bea Elizabeth does not appear to be a DALTON at all and is definitely NOT the daughter of Jas. Lewis DALTON and Adeline YOUNGER. The kindest that can be said is that no evidence exists that she is their daughter. The cold, unvarnished truth is that multiple instances of fraud have been committed trying to establish and prove the relationship, which tarnishes and discredits any valid evidence which may someday be found.

Conclusion

  • The genealogist is left with either (a) the evidences provided by censuses, social security applications & death certificates indicating she was born in Texas or (b) falsified evidence of Bea Elizabeth's (last name unknown) relation to James Lewis DALTON and Adeline Lee YOUNGER and the Dalton Gang.
  • Bea Elizabeth Phillips was not the daughter of James Lewis Dalton and Adeline Lee Younger.