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Showing 1-10 of 75 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 89 reviews
on May 24, 2010
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.)

What I especially like about this book, in addition to the writing, is its begin-at-the-beginning approach (start with yourself and work back); this may seem obvious, but it's not obvious to many beginners. There is a good section on home sources, talking to relatives, etc. The record examples and illustrations are great: generally from the famous or infamous (Chef Boyardee and Al Capone, to name a couple). Smolenyak's chapter about her search for President Obama's Irish ancestors is one of the best parts of the book because it illustrates difficult aspects to resolving a genealogical problem and, in this case, doesn't make it look easy.

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to begin researching their family and to more experienced researchers who will probably find, as I did, some new (particularly online) resources.
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on May 5, 2012
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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on October 7, 2011
I have been doing genealogy for a long time, and have a sizable book collection. Megan, to me is one of the best Genealogist to come along. She seems to have the heart and soul of family history flowing through her viens. First of all, she gets it, one of the few who understands that the overwhelming majority of family researchers are not of the Mayflower gendre, and are not looking for Generals and Gentry. Also she realizes all immigrants did not own vast amounts of land, and her books are not dedicated to looking for wills and deeds. The Royals and the very rich did not emmigrate to North America. She is one of those professional who understands this intuitively.
This book is the best, so much good information and so understandable. She actually explains DNA, both types for research on 2 pages. If you are interested in DNA this book sums it up in a very understandable form. Again I will say that she is the best that has come along to genealogy since I have been researching, and that says alot since I do not consider myself an amature. You will also love her book on serendipity. Therefore, stop looking for famous people and attaching your family to them, instead, start with yourself, and begin the fabulous journy called "Family". Most of all, be proud of who you are and who you find.
Megan's books are the best for helping you achive your genealogical adventure.
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on March 24, 2011
"Who Do You Think You Are? The Essential Guide To Tracing Your Family History" is not only a superb starter manual for those just beginning to do their family research, but is also a great refresher for the more advanced genealogist. I know this to be true from experience. While I have owned this book for months now, it has taken me quite awhile to finish it because I kept stopping to take notes and getting sidetracked by checking out the websites listed in the book.

And its not enough that this book has provided many new avenues for my genealogy research, but being an enjoyable read as well differentiates it from a mere instruction manual. Not only did I enjoy the humor which is sprinkled throughout, like when Megan refers to herself as, "...the most proportionate new citizen", but I also thought that her examples using the famous and infamous made the illustrations much more interesting. For instance, you will never guess the occupation listed on Al Capone's WWI draft registration, its rather amusing!

The middle of the book contains a glossy paper section with color photos of the celebrities profiled on the first season of the U.S. version of "Who Do You Think You Are?". If you have not yet viewed these shows (which are available online on NBC's website) then I'd recommend you wait to read this section as it may contain "spoilers" for you. The great thing about these profiles is that they contain little golden nuggets of information that do not appear in the shows. One example is the book shares a fact about what Lisa Kudrow's father did upon retirement that isn't mentioned in the show. But I'm not going to spoil it for you, you'll just have to watch the show and read the book to find out what it is!
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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2010
"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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on March 5, 2011
I will get right to the point:

I've been tracing my family history for a few months now so not quite a beginner but still rather new at this. I've read many articles looked at several websites and read about 4 or 5 books on the subject and without any question whatsoever this is the very best bay a mile!
Ms. Smolenyak is an experienced and respected "genie" and the information, insights, tips and tricks she gives you are invaluable but the best part to me is she writes like she is talking to a good friend. Her enthusiasm and excitement for genealogy is obvious and contagious
I can go on forever but I'll just stop here and say if you are ready for any exciting trip into your past, get this book and get going. It will be the best 10 bucks you have ever spent!
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on July 31, 2016
Amazing book and very useful.
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on November 14, 2014
Wow, what a wealth of information. It is stories but with each story there is an explanation of how and where the information was obtained. It's very entertaining as well. I won this book. Megan Smolenyak is a frequent speaker on Legacy Family Tree for their webinars. She is an excellent speaker. Get this will not regret it.
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on July 20, 2011
As a newbie genealogist, I've learned a bit here and there about how to search for my ancestors. I wasn't sure how much I'd get out of this book, but I loved the television series, so I purchased it. I'm SO glad I did! It is written in a very straightforward manner, and I've picked up many tips that aren't listed in other online articles or help sites. Such as a way to look at the 1850 to 1860 census to find possible Civil War veterans - just one tip among many. I've got dozens of little flags and highlights that will help me to narrow down my searches.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone starting the genealogy journey.
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on July 7, 2013
Part of the book summarizes the celebrity genealogies in the TV show "who do you think you are?" So much more interesting to read than to hear (I'm sure) otherwise articulate entertainers "ooh" and "aah" over the discoveries the genealogists drop into their laps. Boring TV show, excellent stories. But the best part is the genealogy information imparted by Ms Smolenyak2, who is a genealogist with wit, charm and amazing tech skills.
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