Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (yes, that's her real name), author of 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, has been an avid genealogist since the 6th grade and is skilled in many aspects of family history research.
Megan is honored to serve as Chief Family Historian and North American spokesperson for Ancestry.com, the largest genealogical company in the world. She is also co-founder of Roots Television, a pioneering and popular online channel of genealogy and history-oriented programming. Among the many shows available for viewing is the New York City press conference about Annie Moore, where Megan corrected history by revealing the true story of the first immigrant through Ellis Island. This story was featured on the front page of The New York Times and in a variety of other publications, such as the Irish Echo, Time for Kids, and The Wall Street Journal. The story was also covered by NPR’s Morning Edition, PBS's Out of Ireland, and numerous other TV and radio shows. More recently, she made another interesting Irish connection when she traced a branch of Barack Obama’s family to Moneygall in County Offaly.
Megan also made news when she discovered a startling connection when requested by Austin Fenner of the New York Daily News to research the roots of Rev. Al Sharpton. Much to her astonishment, she learned that Rev. Sharpton's great-grandfather had been owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond. After she walked him through his family tree, she traveled with him to Edgefield, SC to see first-hand the plantation and slave quarters (still standing) where his family had lived and the slave cemetery where some of his family is likely buried.
Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree, her latest book (co-authored with Ann Turner, M.D.), has been featured in Newsweek, The New York Times, on NPR, and in the Book of the Month Club. If you're interested in learning more about the fascinating topic of genetic genealogy, please visit Megan's sister site, genetealogy.com.
Megan has appeared on Good Morning America (featured in roots segments on Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, Chris Cuomo and Sam Champion), the Today Show, CNN, BBC Breakfast, Ancestors, TimeWatch, NPR, BBC Radio and a number of local television and radio shows, and has spoken at the National Genealogical Society, Federation of Genealogical Societies, Who Do You Think You Are LIVE! and numerous other genealogical, historical, military, ethnic and literary events (21 states, Washington, D.C., England, Canada and Mexico so far!). As lead researcher for the PBS Ancestors series, she delved into over 5,000 genealogical stories and developed much of the content for the companion website. She has subsequently consulted for other television programs, including They Came to America and African American Lives for PBS, and BBC’s Timewatch (regarding the identification of sailors’ remains recovered from the USS Monitor). Since 2000,
Megan has also been a consultant with the U.S. Army's Repatriation project to trace families of servicemen killed or MIA in Korea, WWII and Vietnam. The intent is to develop a DNA-database from relatives' blood samples so that remains that are now being repatriated can be identified and interred. She has supported this and more than 75 other genealogical initiatives through her Honoring Our Ancestors Grants Program.
Recipient of International Society of Family History Writers and Editors awards in 2003, 2004 and 2005, Megan has written articles for Ancestry, Ancestry Daily News, Family Chronicle, Family Tree Magazine, Genealogical Computing, Heritage Quest, NGS NewsMagazine, Everton's Family History Magazine and APG Quarterly. She's a former board member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and is also delighted to be the 2004-2005 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, she has traveled to more than 70 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.
For More Information about the 2008 Conference, visit http://www.maineroots.org/.