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Honoring Our Ancestors
December 15, 2011

Greetings Fellow Family History Sleuths,

Yikes! 2012 has barely begun and the genealogical world is popping! By the time my next newsletter arrives, we'll already be a couple of weeks into what will be a remarkable four months (2/3/12-5/20/12) of celebrity roots shows on air that will feature a total of 32 celebs! And though I hate to be the bearer of bad news, in case you haven't heard, the SSDI is under serious threat. Read more about all of this, as well as my new book – Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing – which I'm happy to say will be released at the end of this month!


"I'm thrilled to announce that my new book will soon be available – and particularly tickled to share this cover quote from a man I've long admired: "Watch out Watson and Crick! Megan Smolenyak decodes our fascinating, complicated past in this tour de force of detective work." — Ken Burns

Who Do You Think You Are

To be released on January 31st!


Four Months of Celebrity Roots on Air in 2012

For genealogy buffs and those who just can't get enough of celebrities, there's plenty of cause to celebrate in 2012 as there will be four solid months of famous roots on air. Barring any schedule adjustments, the heritage of one to three celebrities will be explored every week from Feb. 3 to May 20.

NBC will launch first with its third season of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring a stellar line up of 12 stars: Jerome Bettis, Paula Deen, Edie Falco, Helen Hunt, Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe, Reba McEntire, Martin Sheen, Jason Sudeikis, Marisa Tomei, Blair Underwood and Rita Wilson. Slotted for 8:00 on Friday nights starting on Feb. 3, this will be the longest season to date.

On Sunday evenings beginning March 25, Henry Louis Gates Jr. returns for his fourth season on PBS with Finding Your Roots. With a format that blends two notables each week and places greater emphasis on genetic discoveries, this series will peek into the past of 20 high profile individuals: Kevin Bacon, Tyra Banks, Cory Booker, Angela Buchdahl, Geoffrey Canada, Margaret Cho, Harry Connick, Jr., Robert Downey, Jr., Sanjay Gupta, Samuel L. Jackson, John Legend, John Lewis, Branford Marsalis, Yasir Qadhi, Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Rodriguez, Kyra Sedgwick, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters and Rick Warren. And yes, in case you're wondering, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are cousins, so the six-degrees phenomenon will definitely be on display.

Having worked on Who Do You Think You Are? as well as three of the PBS series, I thought I would take a moment to address the frequently raised question of which show came first. Who Do You Think You Are? is a British import due to enter its ninth season in the U.K. It first aired in 2004 and had spread to several other countries before finally gaining a foothold in the American market in 2010. Earlier efforts had been made to bring the show to the U.S., but it took the stewardship of Lisa Kudrow and her production partner, Dan Bucatinsky, to make that a reality.

As to the series spearheaded and hosted by Dr. Gates on PBS, they include African American Lives (2006), African American Lives 2 (2008), Faces of America (2010), and now, Finding Your Roots. That's if we exclude 2007's special, Oprah's Roots. Those with especially long memories might also remember two seasons of a genealogy series called Ancestors that ran on PBS in 1997 and 2000, but this show did not involve celebrities.

So which came first? Well, that's subject to interpretation. Who Do You Think You Are? already had a couple of seasons under its belt in the U.K. when African American Lives (AAL) made its debut, but AAL was first in the American market. In my view, 2010 was the watershed year for genealogical programming in the U.S. since it was the first time that both shows aired in the same season -- and all indications are that 2012 will be bigger, badder and better than ever!

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Genealogy Round Up, January 5

Twins born in different years! That'll be fun to try to enter into genealogy software!
Irish American twins born in different years in historic first

Thanks to IrishFireside for including this Irish orphan heirloom article among best of 2011!
Orphan Heirloom Rescue: 1870 Diary of an Irish Immigrant
Check out the others here!

Updating my website and gathering celebrity roots (past & present) in one place.
Celebrity Roots - article and blog links, photos and videos

Early review of my upcoming book.
Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing by Megan Smolenyak

Yowsa! World's oldest twins turn 102!
Ena Pugh and Lily Millward, The World's Oldest Twins, Celebrate 102nd Birthday Together

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Related to Stars

We're all (likely) related to stars: A genealogist explains why we're all likely to have celebrity relatives

Katherine Skiba of the Chicago Tribune wrote this fun article sparked by several chapters in my upcoming book, Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing. "Genealogical math" isn't a surprise to family historians, but tends to be a bit of an eye-opener to others.

Read article here

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120 Years Ago: Ellis Island Opens Doors and Welcomes Annie Moore of Ireland

A photo "slide show" about my girl, Annie! (Be sure to check out the closing chapter of my new book which shares the detective work behind the discovery and identification of a photo of Annie and her brothers arriving at Ellis Island).

Click here to view

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Genealogy Round Up, December 22

And now it's time to say goodbye to RootsWeb Review. Any guesses what's next??
Read more.

Just the kind of feel-good story I needed today!
Package Lost 33 Years Finally Delivered to Anchorage Home

A must-read by Kimberly Powell.
Genealogy Sites Pressured Into Removing SSDI

And now, a piece of good news!
Pennsylvania Governor Corbett Signs Bill Loosening Restrictions on Vital Records Access

Three Genealogy Powerhouses Join Forces to Publish 1940 US Census

Happy to say I'll be back at Jamboree in Burbank this year!
Genealogy Jamboree Blog: Speakers

I'm delighted to say that I'll be doing my first webinar this year. Hosted by Legacy Family Tree, I'll be sharing my approach to tracking down living individuals. Please join us!
Reverse Genealogy: Finding the Living

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Genealogy Round Up, December 15

Thanks for the kind words about my "Who Do You Think You Are?" companion book!

If you haven't heard about the serious threat to the SSDI, you should probably read this and contact your Congressional representatives.
Are We Going to Lose the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)?

Men of the USS Monitor: County Galway, Ireland is Home to Another American Hero

Love this!
Belgian nurse who saved American soldiers during Battle of Bulge honored 67 years later

And so it starts . . .
Website stops displaying Social Security numbers for recently dead

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Honoring Our Ancestors Grants

Congrats to our recent grant recipients! Don't forget that you can apply here.

December 2011
I'm fortunate enough to live within a few blocks of The Historical Society of Haddonfield, the kind of organization I wish every locality had. Haddonfield is one of those cozy towns that's been here since colonial days and features many houses with small plaques noting the original owners. While none of my heritage is based here, I have lived in Haddonfield as long as I've lived anyplace else and benefited in multiple ways, including the society's generous permission for BBC to film here. This particular grant is in support of the conservation and preservation of Greenfield Hall, a building which the society aptly refers to as its "beautiful Grande Dame." The hall is used for a variety of purposes from hosting events to housing a library that makes me jealous of those with Haddonfield roots!

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Upcoming Events

If you plan to be near any of the events where I'll be speaking, I would love to meet you. It's always a kick for me when folks mention that they read this newsletter, my blog, Huffington Post or whatever, so don't be shy about introducing yourself!

For more information on these events, please see my Events Calendar. And if you're interested in scheduling me, just click here.

  • February 7, 2012 - Philadelphia, PA - Barnes & Noble - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" Book Signing
  • February 8, 2012 - Princeton, NJ - Present Day Club - "Hey America, Your Roots are Showing"
  • February 9, 2012 - Cherry Hill, NJ - Barnes & Noble - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" Book Signing
  • February 15, 2012 - Bethesda, MD - Barnes & Noble - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" Book Signing
  • February 16, 2012 - McLean, VA - Barnes & Noble - "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" Book Signing
  • March 9-10, 2012 - Tucson, AZ - Tucson Festival of Books - Details TBD
  • March 20, 2012 - Trenton, NJ - New Jersey State Library - "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • April 18-20, 2012 - Houston, TX - Texas Library Association - "Next Generation Genealogy"
  • May 19, 2012 - Valley View, OH - East Cuyahoga County Genealogical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA," "Reverse Genealogy: Techniques for Finding Your Lost Loved Ones," "Find The Obituary! Online Newspaper Research" and "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"
  • June 5, 2012 - Short Hills, NJ - Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society - "Trace Your Roots with DNA"
  • June 8-10, 2012 - Burbank, CA - 2012 Southern California Genealogy Jamboree - Topics TBD
  • July 20-21, 2012 - Indianapolis, IN - Indiana Historical Society Midwestern Roots Conference - Topics TBD
  • August 1, 2012 - Legacy Family Tree - "Neglected History" Webinar
  • September 29, 2012 - Manassas, VA - Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC) for Genealogy and Local History - "Cases That Made My Brain Hurt"

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