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Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing [Kindle Edition]

Megan Smolenyak
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

Digital List Price: $13.99 What's this?
Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.39
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Book Description

You've heard of the Dog Whisperer? Meet the Ancestor Rescuer.

Part forensic scientist, part master sleuth, Megan Smolenyak has solved some of America's oldest and most fascinating genealogical mysteries. You've read the headlines; now get the inside story as the "Indiana Jones of genealogy" reveals how she cracked her news-making cases, became the face of this increasingly popular field--and redefined history along the way.

How did Smolenyak discover Barack Obama's Irish ancestry--and his relation to Brad Pitt? Or the journey of Michelle Obama's family from slavery to the White House? Or the startling links between outspoken politicians Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond? And why is Smolenyak's name squared? Test your own skills as she shares her exciting secrets.

Whether she's scouring websites to uncover the surprising connections between famous figures or using cutting-edge DNA tests to locate family members of fallen soldiers dating back to the Civil War, Smolenyak's historical sleuthing is as provocative, richly layered, and exciting as America itself.

"Thank you for taking the time to lay out our family map. . . You're practically family. You certainly know more about us than we do." –Stephen Colbert

"Megan is a genealogist's dream, a forensic investigator who can also tell a great story." –Sam Roberts, The New York Times

"Megan is a blessing to cold case detectives and a master genealogist." –Julie M. Haney, special agent, NCIS Cold Case Homicide Unit

"The Indiana Jones of genealogy. . . Megan Smolenyak is a national treasure." –Buzzy Jackson, author of Shaking the Family Tree

“In this breezy narrative, Smolenyak allows us to look over the shoulder of a relentless genealogist as she works the puzzle pieces of her craft. Whether unearthing evidence from Internet databases, newspaper offices, court houses, libraries and cemeteries, consulting translators, historians or her vast network of fellow genealogists, pioneering the use of genealogical DNA testing, solving the mystery or occasionally hitting a brick wall, Smolenyak remains wholly committed, curious and cheery, eager to share her methods and excitement. Bottom-up history from a top-shelf researcher.”-Kirkus Review

Megan Smolenyak is an incurable genealogist who loves solving mysteries, making unexpected discoveries, and pushing the boundaries of conventional genealogy.

A popular writer, speaker, and TV guest, she does all she can to get the g-word out there and inspire others in their quest for roots. She has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today show, CNN, NPR, and the BBC, and consulted on shows ranging from Who Do You Think You Are? to Top Chef.

Megan is the author of six books (including Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, companion guide to the NBC series), a Huffington Post contributor, and former chief family historian and spokesperson for She lives in southern New Jersey with her husband and lots of research tools.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are cousins! So are Obama and Dick Cheney, Obama and Brad Pitt, and Obama and Rush Limbaugh! Wow. What are the odds? “Oh,” Smolenyak writes, “about 100 percent.” The most surprising thing about this lively book by a noted genealogist is that some things we think are surprising really aren’t. Technically speaking, we’re all related, if you go back far enough, but even starting from a mere 10 generations ago, you’ll find more than 1,000 direct ancestors have been generated, making unexpected kinships, well, expected. Geography plays a big role, too. Hillary Clinton is related to Celine Dion and Shania Twain, for example, because one of the branches of her family is French Canadian. By relating some of her more famous and intriguing genealogical investigations—the Obama–Brad Pitt connection, the history of a family Bible, Obama’s much-publicized Irish roots—Smolenyak shows readers just how exciting, shocking, and heartwarming the field of genealogy can be, and he busts a few fondly held myths about the work genealogists do. --David Pitt

Product Details

  • File Size: 1174 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; Original edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,207 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delightful Genealogy Book! February 13, 2012
By Rosy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I preordered this wonderful book and read it as soon as it came in the mail. It is a great uplifting and motivating read for anyone interested in genealogy. I think it would even be a fun read for those not really interested in genealogy research. She is a great detective and a wonderful representative for all genealogists everywhere. She certainly has shown everyone that genealogy research can be anything but dull! She is an expert in the field but her writing is in no way condescending and makes you feel like you can follow the same research steps that she does. She also explained how DNA testing can be extremely helpful for genealogists. Thank you Megan Smolenyak!

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a good novel! February 29, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am not a 'genie' so was surprised and delighted to find this book about various aspects of a genealogists trade to be such an engrossing and interesting read.
Megan not only shares her stories of challenges and accomplishments, she also teaches us how to think about solving these types of puzzles.
Her easy story-telling style makes me feel included in her excitement and wonder at the many unexpected truths she unveils as she works her way through the cases.
This book seems appropriate for folks who are exploring their own family roots as well as those of us who are just intrigued by this type of detective work.
She clearly loves what she does and is a generous and dedicated professional with a lot of writing talent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful, Fun reading for all Genealogy Folks June 9, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After seeing there were full 5 stars and over 30 reviews, I decided this author must have some good writing ability, and stories to tell about geneaology. Sure enough I was not disppointed, I am about 3/4 way thru this book and lounging my way through the last portion as I have two more days before the other two books written by her will arrive here. Yes, I ordered two more of her books. This book delves into various stories of a professional geneaologist, from tracking down descendants of a man who died in the civil war ship Monitor, to the man who helped make the famous Liberty statue on top of the U.S. Capitol building. The only part I did not particularly care for was the amount of ink spent on both the current President Obama and his wife, perhaps one chapter on him would have sufficed, as I am not a fan of Mr. Obama's policies. However I easily overlook that and focus on the excellant writing, attention to detail, use of the language, and well proofed and intelligently written but easy to read chapters in this book. I highly recommend this book, and plan on reading at least 2 more of her books on genealogy and genetics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I purchased it May 9, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this one in one evening after I purchased it for my kindle. It is a very enjoyable anecdotal book as well as being very informative about many uses and needs for genealogy that I had not realized before. I love a good detective story, and this meets the criteria. Other reviewers have covered content review, but I wanted to add that I was pleased with the Kindle format on this book. I have been disappointed with the formatting of some other books, feeling that I missed out on some of the images, etc, but the kindle formatting on this one was very good, with photos, images, and style intact.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute must read for genealogists~ April 1, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book from beginning to end~ Megan's insight into researching her family tree as well as others made me feel like maybe I could crack what I have never been able to find doing my own genealogy. What was really interesting is one of her searches was a woman from Baker City, Oregon. I was born about 20 miles from there. Megan is so inspiring and I am honored to call her friend.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing the past alive April 1, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have been researching my family history for almost 30 years. I follow Megan on Facebook and Twitter, and wasn't sure what to expect when I downloaded this book on my Kindle. I really wasn't looking for a dry "how to" book.

However, I was very pleased and entertained! This is a collection of stories of of some of her most intriguing cases, both celebrity and non-celebrity. She tells about her brickwalls, how she got through them, and the "a-ha" moments. All written with a wonderful sense of humor.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected more May 25, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I purchased this book to expand the search of my roots. Unfortunately I learned very little. The author used this book to 'sell' herself which did not reveal many specifics. If you are a beginner, or thinking of searching your family - for the first time, this may be helpful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Read May 27, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the book. Each chapter is like its own short story on researching a specific project that Megan encountered!
I really hope that there will be a volume II!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars No Roots Touch Up Here
Nicely written in a folksy, home style. Some of the descriptions on how
Megan acquired her data were vague and could have been clarified.
Generally, not a bad job. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Gary S. Yonchak
3.0 out of 5 stars New
I have just received it, so I have not yet began to read it. Will follow up with a review when I get into it.
Published 2 months ago by Patricia Cole
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun stories from the field
The author uses practical examples from her years as a professional genealogist to teach and amuse. Any genealogist in the family would like this book because it does not read... Read more
Published 3 months ago by JVB Jr.
2.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing
The very LAST thing I expected or wanted to read in this book on one of my favorite topics was the long drawn out, ad nauseum description of the Obamas' family history. Read more
Published 4 months ago by R. A. Buss
2.0 out of 5 stars No helpful advice.
Its not what I thought it would be. Very little help. It only provided a narrative of the author's experience.
Published 4 months ago by Donna Fornadley
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
This author has so much great information. I have a hard time putting her books down. I have learned a lot from her.
Published 7 months ago by Judith Dacumos
3.0 out of 5 stars Would have liked more depth
This is a fun read, lots of anecdotal material. I was hoping for more depth of content, not just stories.
Published 7 months ago by MCL
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey America, Your Roots Are Showing
Another great item to add to anyone's genealogy library. filled with facts and stories that entertain and set off the seeds of thought. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mrs. Norma L. Boyce
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
This book is like several short stories about Megan's work on different cases. She talks about her work on President Obama's family, and others that I can't recall now. Read more
Published 12 months ago by B. Jorgensen
5.0 out of 5 stars entertaining book- genealogy "lite"
I am not an experienced genealogist, as I launched on my family project only a few months ago, following in the wake of my mother and sister. Read more
Published 12 months ago by E.Dickenson
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More About the Author

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (yes, that's her real name) is a genealogical adventurer who loves solving mysteries, making unexpected discoveries and pushing the boundaries of conventional genealogy.

A popular writer, speaker and TV guest, Megan has appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Early Show, CNN, NPR and BBC. In addition to consulting on shows ranging from Who Do You Think You Are? to Top Chef, she is the author of six books, a Huffington Post contributor, a cold case researcher for the Army, NCIS and the FBI, and former Chief Family Historian and spokesperson for

Her most recent books are Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing and Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, companion guide to the TV series.

Megan's "greatest hits" include the following:
* Discovering Michelle Obama's roots, as featured on the front page of The New York Times
* Celebrity roots as featured on assorted TV shows (e.g., Martha Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Brooke Shields, Cory Booker, Susan Sarandon, Emmitt Smith, Richard Blais, etc.) and in her writings (e.g., Betty White, Katy Perry, Joe Biden, Beyonce, Julia Roberts, Jon Hamm, Josh Groban, Pink, Prince, Jon Stewart, Bruno Mars, etc.)
* Tracing Barack Obama's roots to Moneygall, Co. Offaly, Ireland
* Providing 14 years of forensic consulting to the U.S. Army to locate thousands of family members of soldiers still unaccounted for from WWI, WWII, Korea and Southeast Asia
* Correcting history by revealing the true story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island, as featured on the front page of The New York Times
* Using her sleuthing skills to help coroners and medical examiners locate the next of kin for unclaimed persons
* Supporting more than 150 genealogical initiatives through her Seton Shields Genealogy Grants Program

You can find Megan online at the following sites:

* (
* Honoring Our Ancestors (
* Huffington Post (
* Twitter (
* Facebook (
* LinkedIn (


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