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Researching your family tree?

I received a mail solicitation from a company that says it is about to publish a book about my family tree. It is supposed to contain information about those who first came to America and a directory of more than 90,000 families with the same last name.

The book sells for close to $40.

Will you please investigate and tell us if this is legitimate? E.M. Response: According to the Better Business Response: According to the Better Business Bureau in Akron, Ohio, the people who sign these solicitation letters (with the title of director) are simply people who happen to have the right last names and who allow the company to use their names in return for a 2 percent commission on sales.

The company does not trace family trees and does not make genealogy claims. There is no guarantee that those first people to set foot on American soil were your ancestors, even though they may have shared the same name.

The company simply compiles lists of names from phone directories, automobile registrations, electoral rolls and other public records.

The BBB says it has received complaints alleging that the book's directory of names is incomplete because it does not include the people in the complainants' families. The company's response is that the books contain only 90 percent of household heads with a particular surname living in certain countries.

If you wish to research your family tree, you might begin by sending a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope to the National Genealogical Society, 4527 17th St. N, Arlington, VA 22207 and ask for a brochure titled "Suggestions For Beginners in Genealogy."

A free brochure titled "Genealogical Records in the National Archives" is available by writing to National Archives and Records Administration, Publication Sales Branch, Washington, DC 20408.

Also, a list of people who do research for a fee will be furnished, upon request, by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, P.O. Box 19165, Washington, DC 20036-0165.

The Pinellas Genealogy Society makes its home at the Largo Public Library where genealogy volunteers are usually on hand to help. In addition, the Largo and Tampa libraries have extensive genealogical collections.

Photo reworking

Our church wanted a photo of its parishioners for an album. The church would get a free photo of each member. If members wanted pictures of themselves, they would be available for a fee.

Because we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next year, we decided to buy a $242 package deal so we could give pictures to our grandchildren and other relatives. We explained to the photographer that we would purchase this package on one condition.

A heart attack left me with very dark circles under my eyes and I wanted the circles erased from the pictures. The man assured us that this would be done.

Well, in the finished pictures the circles are even darker than they really are. I would never give the pictures to anyone.

I tried to contact the photographer through his company, United Photographers Inc. out of Galion, Ohio. I went to its local office in Clearwater but no one was there. I left a note with my phone number.

My pastor also tried to reach them but no one ever responded.

My husband and I live on a limited income. We could not have afforded this photo package had not my mother-in-law died early this year and left us a little money.

Please don't print our names or we'll have to change churches. M.A.

Response: The folks at United Photographic Industries say they have no record of your complaint. Our letter was the first they heard that you were dissatisfied with your pictures, they said.

They said you should have called the 800 number listed on their receipt. They would have been happy to remake the order from a new pose, retouch the existing portraits or even rephotograph you at a new sitting, they said.

In any event, they have asked you to return the portraits for correction. Do let us know if you are happy with the results.


Thanks for getting the message through to CVP on my behalf. I finally received a full refund.

I hope I don't need your services again but it's nice to know you're there if I do. Carol Nay

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our voice mail system; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.