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GOP Lies About Everything: Michele Bachmann Family Edition

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 13, 2011

Welcome to yet another episode of “If a Democrat did this his or her career would be toast”:

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:

“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.

How off is Bachmann’s revisionist history? Really off. As in really, really, really off:

Since Bachmann said her great-great-great grandparents, whose names she provided, emigrated from Norway to Iowa in the 1850s, I searched the 1860 federal census for them. I started by searching for a Melchior Munson in Iowa, but came up empty. But, since unfamiliar foreign first names like Melchior were often misspelled or Americanized when written down by census workers, I didn’t think it was unusual not to find him on the first shot. So I tried Martha Munson, Melchior’s wife, since Martha was a common name that wouldn’t be misspelled. Still nothing. So I broadened my search to include sound-alike last names for Munson, in case it was their last name that was misspelled. Still nothing. Giving my search one last shot, I removed all search parameters except the first name Martha and the last name Munson, including any sound-alike last names. It was only then that I found Melchior and Martha — but not in Iowa. They were in Wisconsin.(1) So, there went that part of Bachmann’s ‘Iowanizing’ of her family history. Her great-great-great grandparents hadn’t gone from Quebec to Iowa. They had settled in Wisconsin.

And what about all those hardships that Bachmann says her ancestors persevered through during their first few years in Iowa — the worst winter in fifty years, the worst flooding in forty-two years, the worst drought that anyone had ever recorded, and a plague of locusts to boot? Well, obviously, none of this happened in Iowa, because her ancestors weren’t in Iowa. And it didn’t happen in Wisconsin either. This all happened in the Dakota Territory. That’s where Melchoir and Martha Munson and their children were from 1861 to 1864.(2) Like many Norwegian immigrants who had settled in Wisconsin, the Munsons set out for the Dakota Territory once Congress made it a territory in 1861.

[...]

But it’s not just where these events occurred that Bachmann is lying about in her revisionist version of her “Iwegian” family history. According to Bachmann, her ancestors “kept going, and they persevered, and they were people of faith.” But did her faithful ancestors really persevere and keep going? Well, no. They were among the settlers written about in the History of southeastern Dakota who “abandoned the Territory for the purpose of making homes elsewhere.” That’s how Melchior and Martha Munson ended up in Iowa — seven years after they came to America. By the time the Munsons abandoned the Dakota Territory in 1864, there was a well established Norwegian community in Chickasaw County, Iowa, so that’s where they stopped and resettled. Clearly, Iowa was never the intended destination of Bachmann’s great-great-great grandfather and grandmother when they left Norway in 1857, as she claims.

Bachmann even fudges the number of generations from Melchior’s and Martha’s to her own: Depending on how (and who) you count, it could be as few as four or as many as six, but it’s not seven. Then again, considering she’s an adherent of the Christian nationalist revisionist history movement as espoused by David Barton and John Eidsmoe (aka “Liars for Jesus” as Rodda calls it), this shouldn’t be surprising.

(Crossposted to Renaissance Post.)

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3 Responses to “GOP Lies About Everything: Michele Bachmann Family Edition”

  1. Charles II said

    Wait until the New Hampshire primary.

    That’s when we find out that some of her ancestors came on the Mayflower, but went north to escape high taxation.

  2. David W. said

    It’s not the fractured family history that bothers me, it’s how Bachmann is so boastful about it. It’s one thing to be proud of one’s ancestor’s, but quite another to use them as so many stage props. Not that she has any sense of shame in the first place.

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