Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (yes, that's her real name) is a genealogical adventurer and storyteller who loves solving mysteries, making unexpected discoveries and pushing the boundaries of conventional genealogy. A popular writer, speaker and TV guest, she does all she can to get the g-word out there and inspire others in their quest for roots.
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, BIA and the FBI, and former Chief Family Historian and spokesperson for Ancestry.com.
Megan's "greatest hits" include the following:
- Providing 17 years of forensic consulting services to the U.S. Army to locate thousands of family members of more than 1,200 soldiers still unaccounted for from WWI, WWII, Korea and Southeast Asia (see JPAC to learn more or click here to read about just one of her many cases)
- Celebrity roots as featured on assorted TV shows (e.g., Martha Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Brooke Shields, Cory Booker, Susan Sarandon, Tom Colicchio, Emmitt Smith, Richard Blais, Lisa Kudrow, etc.) and in her writings (e.g. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pharrell Williams, Betty White, Katy Perry, Joe Biden, Beyonce, Jimmy Fallon, Josh Groban, Pink, Ken Burns, Prince, Jon Stewart, Bruno Mars, etc.)
- Helping Chris Haley, nephew of Alex Haley of Roots fame, use DNA testing to confirm the family's oral tradition about their ancestry and meet his Scottish cousins.
- Figuring out who would be king of America today if George Washington had been king instead of president (how she did it)
- Using her sleuthing skills to help coroners and medical examiners locate the next of kin for unclaimed persons and establishing a group of volunteers to tackle this quiet epidemic (read more about this initiative)
- Uncovering a surprising connection between presidential candidates Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond
- Finding serial centenarians — a pair of relatives who knew each other and lived in the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries between the two of them (that's all the U.S. presidents except Washington and Obama!)
- Supporting more than 150 genealogical initiatives through her Honoring Our Ancestors Grants Program
- Tracking down relatives of the sailors who lost their lives in the USS Monitor in 1862 to try to identify skeletons found in the turret
- Playing detective to return dozens of orphaned heirlooms to their families of origin
Many more articles and interviews about Megan's genealogical adventures can be found here.
Megan was one of the first to champion the use of DNA testing as a means to explore one's heritage, and along with Ann Turner, M.D., authored Trace Your Roots with DNA, the best-selling, how-to book on genetic genealogy (learn more about DNA testing and why her name is Smolenyak Smolenyak in this video, Did She Marry Her Cousin?).
She has consulted for and appeared on Good Morning America, the Today Show, The Early Show, CNN, ESPN, BBC Breakfast, Who Do You Think You Are? (NBC), Top Chef (Bravo), Faces of America, African American Lives, Ancestors, TimeWatch, Great American Railroad Journeys, They Came to America, NPR, BBC Radio and numerous local television and radio shows, and has spoken at the National Genealogical Society, Federation of Genealogical Societies, Who Do You Think You Are LIVE!, Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations, and numerous other historical, military, ethnic and literary events (39 states, Washington, D.C., England, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and assorted cruises so far!).
Megan's other books include "Honoring Our Ancestors: Inspiring Stories of the Quest for Our Roots"
, "In Search of Our Ancestors: 101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection in Rediscovering Our Family History"
and "They Came to America: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors."
Winner of a gold Folio Eddie award, as well as five writing awards from the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors, Megan has written articles
for Ancestry, Family Chronicle, Family Tree Magazine, Genealogical Computing, Heritage Quest, NGS NewsMagazine, Everton's Family History Magazine
and APG Quarterly
, among others.
She's a recipient of the National Genealogical Society's Award of Merit
, a former board member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), and is also delighted to be a winner of the Bo Peep Award, given by the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists to those who have "contributed significantly to the betterment of the community of historical and genealogical researchers."
Formerly an international marketing consultant (CMC), she has traveled to more than 80 countries and holds a BSFS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, MBA in International Business from George Washington University and MAS in Information Technology from Johns Hopkins University. Megan welcomes inquiries about her speaking, research and writing services, and offers a variety of programs
. Please check her schedule
for upcoming events.
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak