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Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History Paperback – December 28, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review



--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 A"ncestors" 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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (December 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143118919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143118916
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,982 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)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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 ancestry.com and think it's a fabulous and essential resource.
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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

2009

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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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 Ancestry.com. 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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