Megan Smolenyak

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Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (she is a double Smolenyak),[1] born October 9, is a genealogist,[2] author, speaker, and on-air expert.[3] Since 1999, she has been a consultant with the U.S. Army's repatriation efforts[4] and has located the families of over a thousand soldiers still unaccounted for from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.[4][5] As a genealogist, she is best known for unearthing celebrity roots,[3][6] conducting forensic research[7] for coroners, police departments, NCIS and the FBI, and championing the use of DNA testing to learn about one’s ancestry.[8] Her news-making discoveries include uncovering Michelle Obama's family tree,[9] revealing the true story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island,[1] tracing Barack Obama's roots to Moneygall, Ireland,[10] and discovering that Al Sharpton’s great-grandfather had been owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond.[11] She herself is of Irish and Rusyn heritage with roots in Ireland, Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine. Formerly Chief Family Historian for, she also founded Unclaimed Persons.

Smolenyak holds a BSFS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, an MBA in International Business from George Washington University and an MAS in Information Technology from Johns Hopkins University.


Smolenyak has authored six books. She was the winner of a 2009 gold Folio Eddie award, as well as five writing awards from the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors. She has written articles for Ancestry, Family Chronicle, Family Tree Magazine, Irish America, Genealogical Computing, Heritage Quest, NGS NewsMagazine, Everton's Family History Magazine, and APG Quarterly. Smolenyak is also a Huffington Post contributor.[6]

Recent activities[edit]

Smolenyak conducted research and wrote the companion book for the U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are?. Smolenyak has also consulted for and appeared on CBS's The Early Show, Good Morning America, the Today Show, Top Chef (Bravo), CNN, ESPN, BBC Breakfast, African American Lives, PBS's Ancestors, TimeWatch, They Came to America, Who Do You Think You Are?, Faces of America, Finding Your Roots, NuvoTV, NPR,[12] BBC Radio, and local television and radio shows, and has spoken at the National Genealogical Society, Federation of Genealogical Societies, Who Do You Think You Are Live?, Australasian Federation of Family History Organizations, and other historical, military, ethnic and literary events.


Smolenyak was awarded the 2010 NGS Award of Merit for her work in advancing responsible genealogy to a broad popular audience. She is the recipient of four Telly awards for video production, six magazine writing awards, and a former board member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).


  • Smolenyak Smolenyak, Megan. In Search of Our Ancestors: 101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection in Rediscovering Our Family History. Cincinnati, OH: Adams Media Corporation, 2000. ISBN 978-1-58062-317-9
  • Smolenyak Smolenyak, Megan. Honoring Our Ancestors: Inspiring Stories of the Quest for Our Roots. Provo, UT:, 2002. ISBN 978-1-931279-00-0
  • Smolenyak Smolenyak, Megan. They Came to America: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors. San Francisco, CA: Santa Fe Ventures, Inc., 2003. ISBN 978-0-9641403-4-9
  • Smolenyak Smolenyak, Megan and Ann Turner. Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree. New York, NY: Rodale, 2004. ISBN 978-1-59486-006-5
  • Smolenyak Smolenyak, Megan. Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History. Viking, 2010. ISBN 0-670-02163-6
  • Smolenyak Smolenyak, Megan. Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing. Kensington, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8065-3446-6


  1. ^ a b Sam Roberts, "Genealogical detective story begins at Ellis Island," The New York Times, September 14, 2006.
  2. ^ Sue Shellenbarger, "Grandma Did What?' Digging Up the Roots of Family Lore" The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2013.
  3. ^ a b IMDB, "Megan Smolenyak On-Air Resume", Inc.
  4. ^ a b Joseph A. Gambardello, "Haddonfield genealogist helped Army identify remains of airman killed in 1946" Philadelphia Inquirer, December 31, 2012.
  5. ^ Matt Schudel, "Fallen but Never Forgotten: Remains Buried 60 Years After Flier's Disappearance," Washington Post, May 27, 2004.
  6. ^ a b "Megan Smolenyak Articles on The Huffington Post" Huffington Post
  7. ^ Sheila Langan, "Calling Up the Ancestors: Genealogist Megan Smolenyak", Irish America, February/March 2013.
  8. ^ Kevin Kelly, "Trace Your Roots with DNA + The Genographic Project: Practical genetic literacy," Cool Tools, August 22, 2005.
  9. ^ Rachel L. Swarns and Jodi Kantor, "In First Lady's Roots, a Complex Path From Slavery," The New York Times, October 7, 2009.
  10. ^ Mary Jordan, "Tiny Irish Village Is Latest Place to Claim Obama as Its Own," The Washington Post, May 13, 2007.
  11. ^ Robin Shulman, "Sharpton's Ancestor Was Owned by Thurmond's," The Washington Post, February 25, 2007.
  12. ^ "Putting the 'Genes' Back into Genealogy", NPR, Talk of the Nation, June 22, 2007.

External links[edit]