Megan Smolenyak

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Smolenyak in 2012

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak,[1] born October 9, is an American genealogist,[2] author, and speaker. She is also a consultant for the FBI and NCIS.[3]


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.[4]


Genealogy work[edit]

Since 1999, she has been a consultant with the U.S. Army's repatriation efforts to locate the families of soldiers still unaccounted for from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.[5] As a genealogist, she is best known for unearthing celebrity roots,[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] She researched Michelle Obama's family tree,[9] researched Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island,[1] traced Barack Obama's roots to Moneygall, Ireland,[10][3][11] and discovered that Al Sharpton’s great-grandfather had been owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond.[12] She also found out that Joe Biden is "roughly five-eighths Irish".[13] 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.[14] She is nicknamed the "Indiana Jones of Genealogy".[15] She is a former board member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).[4]


Smolenyak has authored six books. 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] Smolenyak conducted research and wrote the companion book for the U.S. version of Who Do You Think You Are?.[16]

Speaker and consultant[edit]

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,[17][18] 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.[19][20]


She was the winner of writing awards from the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors and the Bo Peep Award, given by the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists.[21] Smolenyak was awarded the 2010 NGS Award of Merit for her work in advancing responsible genealogy to a broad popular audience.[22]


  • 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[23]
  • Honoring Our Ancestors: Inspiring Stories of the Quest for Our Roots. Provo, UT:, 2002. ISBN 978-1-931279-00-0[24]
  • They Came to America: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors. San Francisco, CA: Santa Fe Ventures, Inc., 2003. ISBN 978-0-9641403-4-9[25]
  • Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree. (With Ann Turner). New York, NY: Rodale, 2004. ISBN 978-1-59486-006-5[24][26]
  • Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History. Viking, 2010. ISBN 0-670-02163-6[27]
  • Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing. Kensington, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8065-3446-6[28][29]


  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 Lineberry, Cate. "Genealogy Tips from Megan Smolenyak - AARP The Magazine". AARP. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  4. ^ a b "Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak". APG. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  5. ^ Joseph A. Gambardello, "Haddonfield genealogist helped Army identify remains of airman killed in 1946" Philadelphia Inquirer, December 31, 2012.
  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. ^ Kannadasan, Akila (2018-08-22). "Genealogy tourism picks up as people set off in search of their roots". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  12. ^ Robin Shulman, "Sharpton's Ancestor Was Owned by Thurmond's," The Washington Post, February 25, 2007.
  13. ^ "Joe Biden: US Vice President returns to his Irish roots". BBC News. 2016-06-21. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  14. ^ "The genealogical detective and champion of our ancestors". 2014-03-03. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  15. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing:: Adventures in Discovering News-Making Connections, Unexpected Ancestors, and Long-Hidden Secrets, and Solving Historical Puzzles|Paperback". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  16. ^ "Megan Smolenyak". Penguin Random House. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  17. ^ "Putting the 'Genes' Back into Genealogy", NPR, Talk of the Nation, June 22, 2007.
  18. ^ "Discover Your Family History". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  19. ^ "Linda Konner Literary Agency :: Speakers Showcase :: Megan Smolenyak". Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  20. ^ Burke, Kate (28 February 2011). "Famous genealogist to present program in Stromsburg". York News-Times. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  21. ^ "Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak to Speak at 2008 Conference - Maine Genealogical Society". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  22. ^ Cerutti, Pam. "NGS Names Winners of Top Contributors to the Field". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  23. ^ "101 stories of serendipity". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  24. ^ a b "Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak". Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  25. ^ Kentner, D. A. "The Readers' Writers: Genealogy detective Megan Smolenyak". Geneseo Republic - Geneseo, IL. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  26. ^ "DOLHENTY ARCHIVE: Book Review - Trace Your Roots with DNA". Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  27. ^ "Megan Smolenyak". HuffPost. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  28. ^ "Calling Up the Ancestors: Genealogist Megan Smolenyak". Irish America. 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  29. ^ "Genealogy 101: Discover Your Roots". Travel. 2015-02-20. Archived from the original on November 7, 2018. Retrieved 2021-01-07.

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