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Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree Paperback – October 7, 2004

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Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree + Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA + Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (October 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594860068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594860065
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Genetic typing is the newest tool for amateur genealogists, and it’s enthusiastically espoused by the experienced authors of this useful guidebook (Smolenyak is the lead researcher for PBS’s Ancestors and the author of In Search of Our Past Ancestors; Turner contributes to the GENEALOGY-DNA mailing list). How does it work? By tracing one’s "DNA heirlooms," the two forms of DNA that are passed on in a family from generation to generation. These "heirlooms" include genetic markers on the Y chromosome, passed on by fathers, and mitochondrial DNA, passed on by mothers. If it sounds hard to understand and do, the authors reassuringly offer clear explanations of the science and how to use it. DNA typing can tell you if you’re related to someone with the same surname, pinpoint a certain ancestor and verify your other research. But, as the authors warn, it could also prove your previous assumptions wrong or uncover unwanted information, such as that a family member was adopted. If you have been researching your family’s history and have unanswered questions, this enlightening book may offer some answers; at the very least, it will walk you through the benefits and drawbacks of DNA testing.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Megan Smolenyak has been an avid genealogist for more than three decades and is an expert at family history research. The lead researcher for the PBS Ancestors series, she is a contributing editor for Heritage Quest and the author of Honoring Our Ancestors, In Search of Our Ancestors, and They Came to America. She currently resides in Williamsburg, VA.

Ann Turner was hooked on genealogy when she learned that her parents' ancestors had arrived in the United States on the same ship yet went their separate ways until her parents met 300 years later. She works at home, writing computer software and composing messages for the popular Genealogy-DNA mailing list. She currently resides in Menlo Park, California.

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 (

Customer Reviews

Excellent book for the beginner who wants to understand DNA Testing and how to use it for Genealogy.
Trace Your Roots with DNA is highly recommended for anyone interested in their ancestry or genealogical research in general.
Harold McFarland
If you are involved in any research into your lineage, Trace Your Roots with DNA is a "must have" book.
M. L Lamendola

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

152 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on November 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Millions of Americans have become hooked on genealogy, the science or study of family descent. The popularity of pursuing one's ancestors through tracing one's roots backward generation by generation has soared since the advent of the Internet, which made it possible to rapidly search the world for even remote family members and set up family websites, and the creation of special computer software which enables anyone to use the power of the computer to trace his or her domestic roots. Now it is possible to go to the next level of searching one's family tree through the availability of DNA testing. And that is what this book, "Trace Your Roots with DNA," is all about.

Co-author Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (no, that's not a typo!) has been an eager genealogist for more than thirty years, is an authority on family history research, and was the lead researcher for the Ancestors series on PBS. She is also a contributing editor for "Heritage Quest" and the author of a number of books related to genealogy and ancestor historiography. The other co-author, Ann Turner, became interested in genealogy when she learned that her parents' ancestors had arrived in the United States on the same ship, yet went their separate ways until her parents met 300 years later. That sort of coincidence would also have piqued my interest in my family history if I knew something like that about my parents. Sometimes facts are really stranger than fiction.

"Trace Your Roots with DNA" is not really for leisure reading, but it does contain very valuable information for those who want to use the new DNA tests for help in tracing their family ancestry.
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94 of 97 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on November 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book explores the convergence of genetic research and genealogy, and provides its own convergence of the academic with the practical.

Some people make a life's work of tracing their family roots. I'm not one of those people. But a few years ago, my sister researched our family's immigration on the paternal side and found the account we'd been told our whole lives simply wasn't true. So when I saw this book, I thought it might be interesting. That's exactly what it turned out to be--in spades.

The authors took care to make the book readable to both novices and experienced genealogical researchers. As I have no experience in genealogy, I very much appreciated Part I. It gave me a good background, so I could understand and enjoy the rest of the book. Folks who already knew the basics could skip over Part I, without missing out on something of value to them.

This modular organization of Trace Your Roots is something I want to explain a bit more, by looking for a moment at a different genre. One of my pet peeves with computer books is most of them are either extremely basic throughout so you get bogged down in boring detail, or they are so advanced you just can't move forward. The correct approach is to include a primer on the basics for those who need it, and then write the book as though everyone knows the basics. I was pleased that Trace Your Roots took this approach.

Moving beyond the primer (which addresses genealogy and then genetics), the book takes one subject at a time and explains it in a clear and interesting way with examples and anecdotes.

In Part II, we start with tracing roots along the paternal path. There are two basic reasons for taking this path. The first is biological--the Y chromosome.
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99 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Campbell on August 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Genetic genealogy is a blossoming market and the number of books in this space is rapidly growing. Major books include: Seven Daughters of Eve, Adam's Curse, Trace your Roots with DNA, and DNA and Family History.

Professor Bryan Sykes' book The Seven Daughters of Eve was a seminal work. This book focuses on mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) that is passed down the maternal line. This book is written in an easy to read style that creates the tone and tenor of a mystery novel. The punch line of this book is that all maternal lines can be traced back to seven theoretic women who lived at different places in the worlds at different times. This book is very light reading and similar to picking up a pop culture magazine. This book is not recommended other than as the most basic introduction to genetic genealogy. It also suffers from it's minimal discussion of paternal DNA testing (Y-chromosome) which is the most popular form of DNA testing today.

Sykes second book "Adam's Curse" discusses the long term de-evolution of the male chromosome. It's a shame that Sykes has stooped to pandering to sensationalistic popular culture instead in more serious genetic research. Sykes made a name for himself in this space, but it seems that this segment of science has passed him by.

Two excellent introductory books were published in 2004 -- "Trace Your Roots with DNA : Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree" by Megan Smolenyak and Ann Turner and "DNA and Family History: How Genetic Testing Can Advance Your Genealogical Research" by Chris Pomery.

In Trace your Roots, Smolenyak, who makes her living as a professional genealogist, branches out into genetics and DNA testing.
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