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Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History Kindle Edition

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Length: 224 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


About the Author

Megan Smolenyak2 (she's a Smolenyak married to a previously unrelated Smolenyak) is president of, founder of, consultant for the U.S. Army, former Chief Family Historian for, and is well-known for uncovering Michelle Obama's roots.

Wall to Wall is part of Shed Media, PLC, and is one of the world's leading producers of factual and drama programming. It has won most major awards, including an Emmy for Baby It's You and most recently an Oscar for its feature documentary Man on Wire, and is the producer of the multi-award-winning series Who Do You Think You Are?.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3052 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 7, 2010)
  • Publication Date: March 4, 2010
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002YKOXE8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #633,867 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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 (

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 63 people found the following review helpful By booklizzy on April 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a reference librarian specializing in genealogy I was very eager to get this book. The quality of this book far exceeded my expectations. For beginners in family history and genealogy this is an excellent get started book. More experienced researchers should not ignore this book though, they too will find helpful information. While not a large book, it covers a broad range of topics that I found to be most helpful. This is a book that I have and will recommend to my patrons. Fans of the television show will also discover that each show has been recapped for them in a special section.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Pat in Northern Utah on May 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although promoted as a "companion" to the popular TV series, this good and enjoyable guide to beginning genealogy really has little to do with the show, except for a color section in the middle covering each of the participants. Instead it's a nuts-and-bolts guide to 1) getting started on your family-history quest, and 2) the most commonly-used (and some not-so-common) records.

Smolenyak writes enthusiastically and well. She is passionate about her subject and it shows.

In some ways, the book suffers for the same reasons that the TV show suffers: it makes it look too easy. This is probably unavoidable in a beginning guide or a popular TV show since covering all the caveats might turn off the audience. That said, I wish there had been at least some emphasis on how one might go about developing skills, such as taking classes (which are often free or inexpensive), attending conferences, etc. Also lacking is any meaningful discussion of evaluation of and analysis of all of the various pieces of evidence one finds; obviously this can't be done thoroughly in a book like this, but it should at least be addressed.

The author works for [...], the giant online genealogical service; although it is noted on the jacket blurb, in the interest of full disclosure she could have been a little more forthcoming about that relationship throughout the book when one of ancestry's features or databases takes center stage. Her recommendation of [...]'s member tree feature (as her first suggestion for software to use for your data) is ludicrous; I would be very surprised if that is her own database software of choice. (Save the comments: I'm a whole-world subscriber to and think it's a fabulous and essential resource.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By texicanwife VINE VOICE on March 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Who Do You Think You Are?"

"Who Do Think You Are?" The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, A companion To The NBC Series

By Megan Smolenyak [2], Chief Genealogical Consultant

Viking Penguin


ISBN 978-0-670-02163-5

When my preordered book arrived, it was probably one of the most anticipated books I had ordered in quite some time!

Having been a fan of Megan's for a long time, I already knew it was going to be good.

Megan takes us on a journey, in plain, simple language, and easy understanding, to find our ancestors.

She fully explains the "tools of the trade" for someone who knows absolutely not one thing about genealogy, other than having a desire to trace their family history. But she does it in such a way that those of us who have been doing just such research for many years, finds it a pleasant recall and entertaining! Never is it boring, stuffy or redundant.

She touches on each of the NBC series participants, without giving so much away that we are let down when we actually watch the appropriate episode. Instead, we find ourselves saying, "I'm so glad she didn't give too much away! What a great show!"

In nine, easy-to-read chapters, Megan takes us through preparing for the search; using the Internet to assist us in our search; how to utilize the census records; using vital records [birth, marriage and death]; military records; performing research in other countries; and passing on our research through sharing.

If you haven't purchased your copy of "Who Do You Think You Are?" yet, I highly encourage you to get one now. Even if you've been researching for a long time, you're going to find some great vital information that you either didn't know about, or you have forgotten about! And if you are new to the "genie" bug, then I can't think of a better book to help you get started!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By LeRoy W Bloom on May 5, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been researching and working on a family history book for the past two years. It is too bad I didn't know about this book sooner.

I purchased this book a few weeks ago and have gone through it and find, because I have been at my research so long, it wasn't much help to me. If you are a new comer to genealogy then I would highly recommend it. All of the sources are there and the author does a good job of explaining how to use them. I was pleasantly surprised that the author did not just use her book as a shill for It appears that she is either a permanent, or sometime employee of the company, and the book cover also notes that the book is a companion for the TV series of the same name. The TV program is an offshoot of the website. I have never watched the program since it seems they only deal with celebraties and not just ordinary people like me.

Although I have not found much use for the book at the moment, I intend to hang on to it since I think it would be foolish to overlook some potential source that I haven't thought of in a while. As I stated earlier; if anyone has been at this type of research for any lenght of time, then they probably are well acquainted with all the sources described. On the other hand if someone is just starting out, then this book would be very helpful.
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