World: Mallet's Millions

Many Americans suspect that they are descended from European royalty and often hire genealogists to prove it. By the same token, many Europeans are convinced that they have a relative who emigrated to America and became a millionaire. A few are right. The rest provide employment for lawyers, archivists and private detectives—especially in France, where the search for several legacies has gone on for generations. None of them is more fabulous than that of Jean-Pierre Mallet, who, so the story goes, died childless in 1818 in Winooski, Vt., leaving behind properties that stretched from the shores of Lake Champlain all the...

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