Back in the mid-1990s, MasterCard began the “Priceless” campaign with a story of a woman who took her mother back to Ireland to re-discover the old country. One of the scenes was drinking Guinness in the local pub that she had always heard her mother talk about.

So, now CitiBank is running a credit card campaign “whatever your story is, we can help you write it.” In one ad, a man takes his father to Norway to discover the old country, and they see a fjord and eat lutefisk and go visit the city hall to find their family records and realize they are actually descended from Swedes.*

Okay. That right there, that’s crossing the line. Genealogy means nothing if you don’t have real people, real stories, real memories to back it up. Constructing these stories, from dusty old documents—then that’s history, and you better do it right. You don’t get a pass just because you are related to people you have no real conception of.

* This commercial came on at my mother’s house, and family said “oh, I think this is cute and funny. Don’t you like it, Dance?” and I said, “I hate it” and launched into a rant. Ranting about commercials is one of my favorite activities.

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