Recent Blog Posts

  • Miranda family tree quote 2

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Revolutionary Ancestors

In climbing the branches of Lin-Manuel Miranda's family tree, I found myself following the trail of an early nineteenth century, interracial love story, peppered by war and rebellion, all interwoven with a decades-long struggle to outrun slavery that began in Virginia and ultimately unfolded under a handful of flags even though most of it occurred in one place – Nacogdoches.

  • Gateway to Chien Ancestral Hall rev sm

Q2 2016 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant: Cecilia Chien, West Chester, PA

Cecilia Chien was told by her father that her family was descended from a king of the 10th century. She began investigating her roots in 2002 and discovered that she is a 38th generation descendant of King Chien (852-932) who founded a prosperous kingdom in the Yangzi delta. Her goal is to write an account, “1,000 Years of a Chinese Family,” an odyssey back to the land of her parents. She will be visiting China this year to further her research. Cecilia requested and received funding to cover half of her round-trip airfare to Shanghai for her fieldwork.

  • Biden grandkids upon arrival in Ireland

Genealogy Roundup, June 22

This week's Roundup serves up a look at VP Biden's tri-generational trip to Ireland, a dramatic chapter from the 1830's that continues to send ripples into the present, the demise of cursive, and more.

  • Terry Cemetery Lawnmower

Q2 2016 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant: Terry Cemetery Fund, Victor, WV

Becky Shuff, one of the Q2 2016 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant recipients, undertook the role of caretaker for Terry Cemetery in Victor, WV. She was approved by a local correctional facility for the provision of six inmates and one guard to help with the upkeep of this cemetery, with her responsibility being the provision of equipment and meals for the inmates and guard. So for the first time ever, this grant is for a lawnmower.

Megan Smolenyak2

Megan Smolenyak2 is a real life history detective who loves to solve mysteries. You might have spotted Megan or her handiwork on Top Chef, Who Do You Think You Are?, Finding Your Roots, Faces of America, Good Morning America, the Today Show, The Early Show, CNN, PBS and NPR.

Her news-making discoveries include uncovering Michelle Obama’s family tree, revealing the true story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island, and tracing Barack Obama’s roots to Moneygall, Ireland. Formerly Chief Family Historian for, she also founded Unclaimed Persons.

Megan is the author of 6 books, including Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing and Who Do You Think You Are? (companion to the TV series), and conducts forensic research for the Army, BIA, coroners, NCIS and the FBI.

Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing!


  • Joe Biden and Megan Smolenyak

Joey From Scranton – Vice President Biden’s Irish Roots

June 14th, 2016|0 Comments

Given Vice President Biden's forthcoming trip to Ireland to explore his roots, I thought this would be a good time to re-share an article I'd previously written about his ancestry. Enjoy!

  • no girls allowed

When It Comes to Genetic Genealogy, Women Need Not Apply

May 5th, 2016|0 Comments

Television producers frequently reach out to pick my brains about forthcoming shows, and I generally do my best to help because I have a conspicuous bias: I’d like to see as much genealogy on air as possible. But yesterday I received an inquiry that made me check the calendar to be sure it was 2016.

  • Annie Moore of Ellis Island colorized

A Tribute to Annie Moore of Ellis Island

March 1st, 2016|0 Comments

To celebrate the beginning of Irish-American Heritage Month, I am sharing a photo of Annie Moore, the first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island, along with her brothers Anthony (l) and Philip (r).

  • Sgt. (William) Henry Johnson

WWI Hero Sgt. Henry Johnson Receives Long Overdue Medal of Honor

June 8th, 2015|2 Comments

Almost a century after their service, Sgt. Henry Johnson* and Sgt. William Shemin were finally awarded the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony for their heroics in World War I. As the genealogist who had the privilege of researching both of these Medal of Honor cases for the Army, I had the opportunity to seek out and steep myself in more than 1,300 pages of Sgt. Johnson's paper trail, so I'd like to clarify some misconceptions.