Megan Smolenyak – Home2018-09-22T17:20:32-04:00

Recent Blog Posts

  • Diane von Furstenburg and Statue of Liberty

Genealogy Roundup, May 15

When asked what she wanted people to take away from a visit to the Statue of Liberty Museum, Diane von Furstenberg answered, "The importance of liberty and the importance of freedom. The museum is directly across from Ellis Island, so it’s also about the importance of welcoming people."

  • Military Honors at Funeral

Genealogy Roundup, May 8

In this week's Roundup: Moving coverage from the memorial service for Sgt. Frank Suliman, one of the soldiers whose remains was recovered from North Korea. RIP, Sir.

  • Eugene Brown

Genealogy Roundup, May 1

Semiferal pets, cash stuffed into medicine bottles, and sometimes a file cabinet that reveals a millionaire. Ever wondered about the work of public administrators who oversee the estates and search for heirs of those who die without a will? Check out this week's roundup for a fascinating peek behind the scenes.

  • DNA Kit

Genealogy Roundup, April 17

In this week's Roundup: A peek into the genetic genealogy sleuthing process, organizing your family history research, two soldiers lost in past conflicts coming home, and more.

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!


  • Seton Shields at work

Celebrating 200 Seton Shields Genealogy Grants Awarded

June 27th, 2017|0 Comments

Ever wondered how I choose who to award grants to each quarter – what makes an application stand out to me or be eliminated? As a way of celebrating the milestone of 200 Seton Shields Genealogy Grants awarded, here's a behind-the-scenes peek into my grants program and the woman who continues to inspire my life and work. Enjoy!

  • Annie Moore

125th Anniversary of Annie Moore and Ellis Island

January 10th, 2017|0 Comments

On January 1, 1892, 17-year-old Annie Moore from Cork, Ireland became the first immigrant to ever arrive at Ellis Island, so both Annie and Ellis Island celebrated their 125th anniversary on January 1, 2017. Now is an especially relevant time to reflect on the Annie Moores in our own family trees – those pioneers who made a leap that so drastically altered the trajectories of their descendants’ lives for the better.

  • Miranda family tree quote 2

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Revolutionary Ancestors

June 27th, 2016|12 Comments

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.