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In Search of Our Ancestors Paperback – March 1, 2000

5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There's no shortage of materials available on how to search for your family's genealogical records--deciding whether the search is worth your time, however, is another matter. In Search of Our Ancestors, a printed companion to the PBS series Ancestors, is filled with stories, more than 100 of them, each supplying a different answer to the question, "Why search?"

No story is longer than a few pages, but most are such touchingly personal tales that you may find yourself reading just one or two at a time--unless you're in the mood for a good cry. The photo of a great-great-great grandmother's "free pass" (that proved she was not a slave) and its accompanying story of being made into a medal and touring the country during the bicentennial is a definite tearjerker, as are the multiple stories of lives being saved through families passing on information about genetically inherited diseases. To lighten the mood a bit, laugh along with the researcher who discovered his wife was also his fifth cousin, or with the fellow who managed to ruin his family's tales of famous ancestors, uncovering a war deserter instead. A few stories have relevant research information at the end--all for specific organizations--but the book isn't aimed at your practical side. More than anything, this collection is designed to simply share the warmth and surprises that genealogical research can bring if you stick with the hunt, keep your sense of humor, and listen to your heart. --Jill Lightner

From the Back Cover

Based on the best stories collected for the new public television series, Ancestors: The Family Search, this book will appeal to the millions of Americans who want to know more about their origins.

101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection in Rediscovering Our Family History!

Shaking the family tree is one of our fastest growing leisure-time activities-over 100 million Americans have started their own genealogical research.

With over 100 true stories of the amazing luck, unexpected kindness, and unusual serendipity encountered by researchers as they track down their family records, In Search of Our Ancestors offers an inspirational look at the rewards of family history. It includes the stories of:

An American researcher who receives a trove of valuable family documents from an old man in Luxembourg trying to repay the debt he feels for American aid during World War II.

A family that travels to France to visit their newfound cousins and is overwhelmed by their generosity and their enthusiasm for recreating long-lost family ties.

A woman researching obscure records a county Historical Society who discovers that the great-grandfather of the clerk helping her had helped her grandfather-as a signer to his citizenship papers.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Adams Media Corporation; Ftv edition (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580623174
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580623179
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,235,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 Ancestry.com.

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

Kind words about Megan's work:

"Megan Smolenyak is a master storyteller who brings personal history to life." -- Cheryl Richardson, New York Times best-selling author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care, Take Time for Your Life and more

"Megan Smolenyak ... is the guru ... - the beginning, the middle, and the end of genealogy. And like all good gurus, she inspires the rest of us to find our own roots, to keep digging until we know our own story." -- Pam Grout, New York Times best-selling author of E-Squared, E-Cubed and more

"Megan is a gifted roots detective who uncovers the past through meticulous research." -- Patricia Harty, Editor/Co-Founder, Irish America Magazine

"The stories in In Search of Our Ancestors are touching and personal. Each one reveals the three S's that are at the heart of researching our family roots: surprise, serendipity, and secrets." -- Lisa See, New York Times best-selling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love and more

"Megan . . . is, hands down, America's greatest genealogist." -- Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers War Letters and Behind the Lines

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

"Megan Smolenyak is the genealogist's genealogist - the go-to person for building your family tree and solving stubborn historical mysteries." -- Dr. Spencer Wells, Director of the Genographic Project, National Geographic

"Megan can find the living as well as the dead - and she has the skills to do it quickly." -- Leland & Patty Meitzler, genealogyblog.com

"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

You can find Megan online at the following sites:

* MeganSmolenyak.com (http://www.megansmolenyak.com)
* Honoring Our Ancestors (http://honoringourancestors.com)
* Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-smolenyak-smolenyak)
* Twitter (http://twitter.com/megansmolenyak)
* Facebook (http://facebook.com/smolenyak)
* LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/megansmolenyak)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Megan Smolenyak's, "In Search of Our Ancestors; 101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection in Rediscovering Our Family History" breaks new ground in the long-known but little discussed area of the seemingly divine help millions of researchers have known when they commenced to discover their kindred dead. The book chronicles the most remarkable--but believable--instances of individuals who sought to learn of their ancestors and their heritage but who encountered brick walls along the way, only to have the walls smashed by acts of kindness or happy and unexpected breakthroughs.
Some of the accounts in the book border on the miraculous, such as when books fall-off shelves to reveal portraits and biographical sketches of ancestors. There are accounts of distant cousins from different continents meeting in the same county court house on the same day, looking for the same ancestors. There are accounts of microfilmed records seemingly scrolling to the exact spot necessary to find an ancestor. There are accounts of cousins working on genealogy who discover one another by serendipitous accident: one accidentally leaving his genealogy on a photocopier the other was next to use.
In all, "In Search of Our Ancestors" is a life-affirming work, edifying us in our knowledge that we live not just for ourselves and that there is more than this life alone. It is a remarkable contribution to the hobby and the practice of family history research.
As a professional genealogist, I have already purchased dozens of the books and given them to my clients. Everyone should own a copy.
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Since this book arrived, I haven't been able to put it down! Each story makes me want to read the next. I especially enjoyed the "What Are the Odds" chapter. BUY IT! READ IT!
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This book is a "must have" for any aspiring genealogist. The stories will inspire and encourage even the most discouraged researcher to keep digging for those elusive ancestors. Fascinating reading!
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The millions of genealogists who are researching their family trees will find this book both inspiring and encouraging as the make the discovery of family members they never knew or were sure that information about them was lost throughout the centuries. It shows what others have achieved by both hard work, synchronicity and almost "supernatural guidance." I believe everyone will find ecouragement here in their research for their roots! A must buy!
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Even if you're not a 'newbie' to the Genealogy 'bug', you will love this book! It is composed of short but wonderful and fascinating stories of different people's search for their 'roots'.
I found each story so thoroughly enjoyable that I forced myself to limit my reading to only two a day in order to savor the book as long as possible. I was so sorry to come to the end of this wonderful collection of real people searching for their ancestors, that I emailed the Public Television site that had dramatized some of the stories in a series and then recieved the wonderful news from the author, that there may be another book!!
If you at all are interested in searching for roots, ancestors or just enjoy warm, wonderful stories, PLEASE don't miss this book!!
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Gems of genealogical tidbits wrapped in one hundred and one surprising and fun stories. I was inspired by, and will never forget, the researchers who thought to ask to actually see the burnt records, the daughter's pursuit of information about her father who died in the war three months after she was born, using the Internet to find a sister not seen for six decades -- or any of the 98 other inspiring, sad, sometimes-scary, humorous or (mostly) very happy stories. Even my friends who are not interested in genealogy wound up carrying the book around to read the stories...everyone enjoyed it!
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This book will help get anyone started. Finding ancestors can frequently be difficult, but this book explains all steps very clearly and lightens the job dramatically.
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I bought this book to read one article, but I got hooked. As I read article after article, I found that I couldn't put the book down. The book shares unique stories about everyday people who found information about their own past in surprising and wonderful ways. Now, I find myself telling friends about the fascinating articles that were in this book.
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