Michelle Obama’s Roots Researcher Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak Comes to West Michigan


Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Michelle Obama’s Roots Researcher Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak Comes to West Michigan

August 27, 2010 – Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Western Michigan Genealogical Society (WMGS) announces its GotAncestors?! Annual Seminar for 2010 entitled Are They Who You Think They Are? The seminar is Friday and Saturday, November 5th and 6th at the Prince Conference Center in Grand Rapids. Featured speaker is nationally known lecturer, author and researcher Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak in her first public appearance in Michigan. She presents Michelle Obama’s Roots on Friday evening. Megan will give four additional talks on Saturday including the discovery of the “real” Annie Moore, the first immigrant to come through Ellis Island.

The cost for the Michelle Obama’s Roots event on Friday is $15.00. Seminar Registration is $49.00 for Saturday only or $59.00 for the two-day program if registered by October 8th. Space is limited. Detailed information and online registration is available at www.gotancestors.com.

This is the third consecutive year the WMGS GotAncestors?! Seminar will be at the Prince Conference Center, 1800 East Beltline SE, Grand Rapids, Michigan on the campus of Calvin College. The facility is handicap accessible and smoke-free.

Michelle Obama’s Roots

On Friday evening, Megan Smolenyak will share why she researched the First Lady’s ancestry and what she discovered along the way. The talk highlights Mrs. Obama’s multi-cultural, seriously Southern (11 States), and Great Migration heritage, including the story of Dolphus T. Shields and his mother, Melvina McGruder, that was featured on the front page of The New York Times in October 2009.

WMGS has teamed up with the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society to present Friday’s event. A short introduction of the national touring RACE Exhibit which runs October 10th through January 2011 in Kalamazoo will be presented by SMBHS President Donna Odom. The evening will conclude with light dessert, tea and coffee.

All Day Seminar with Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

A full day of sessions on Saturday, November 6th is planned with Megan presenting four educational and inspiring talks. Learn how to connect with living relatives, take your research further with DNA, and learn proven sleuthing skills from one of the best.

Selected topics are: Reverse Genealogy; Right Annie, Wrong Annie (the story of the “real” Annie Moore); Tracing Your Roots with DNA; and Cases that Made My Brain Hurt. The day includes a Vendor Hall, Door Prizes, Lunch Buffet and networking with other genealogists and family historians.

Are They Who You Think They Are?

Sponsored by Ancestry.com the popular NBC series entitled Who Do You Think You Are? premiered earlier this year and new episodes are in production for the new fall season. The series originated in England and has been responsible for a broad increase of interest in genealogy and now has shown similar results with the U.S. version. Megan Smolenyak assisted in the research of some of the celebrities’ ancestors and personally appeared in episodes about Emmit Smith and Susan Sarandon.

The title of the WMGS 2010 GotAncestors?! Seminar is a subtle twist on the TV program. The question “Are They Who You Think They Are?” is intended to inspire genealogists to approach their research from alternative angles. Newer technological tools, like DNA, can help break through brick walls or prove an otherwise difficult ancestral line. A DNA expert, Megan also uses techniques similar to CSI type investigations, pushing the boundaries of traditional genealogy.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (yes, that’s her real name)

Megan is a genealogical adventurer who loves solving mysteries and making unexpected discoveries. Since 1999, she’s worn many hats in the family history world, including Chief Family Historian and spokesperson for Ancestry.com, the largest genealogical company in the world; creator of RootsTelevision.com, a pioneering online channel of free videos and winner of four Telly Awards; and founder of UnclaimedPersons.org, a volunteer group that assists coroners and medical examiners.

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 is a contributor to The Huffington Post, and was determined to be the most influential Twitter user on the topic of genealogy. Her most recent book is Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, companion guide to the NBC series.

Megan’s “greatest hits” include the following:

  • Discovering Michelle Obama’s roots, as featured on the front page of The New York Times.
  • Correcting history by revealing the true story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island, a story featured on the front page of The New York Times, and assisting in the discovery and identification of new photos of Annie Moore.
  • Tracing Barack Obama’s roots to Moneygall, County Offaly, Ireland.
  • Providing a decade of forensic consulting services to the U.S. Army to locate thousands of family members of soldiers still unaccounted for from WWI, WWII, Korea and Southeast Asia.

And more about Megan is available at www.HonoringOurAncestors.com

RACE: Are We So Different?

On Friday, Donna Odom of the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society will introduce the RACE Exhibit Initiative of Southwest Michigan. From October 2010 to January 2011, through a partnership with Western Michigan University, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum will host the national touring exhibit RACE: Are We So Different? It is a powerful, thought-provoking family exhibit that looks through the lenses of history, biology and lived experience, to explore human variation and reveal the reality, and unreality, of race. Through film, still photography, interactive components and programming, the exhibit invites people to explore race as well as the impact of race as an economic, political and cultural construct (www.raceexhibit.org).

About the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society

The Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society is a not-for-profit organization. The Society’s mission is to research and document the history and contributions of African-Americans in southwest Michigan, with the purpose of providing material for future publications, programs, exhibitions, and curriculum. Our goal is to establish resources for genealogical and historical studies.

Members of the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society receive advance notice of all programs and events and discounted rates on workshops, seminars, and official publications. In addition Society members can enjoy socializing with others who share an interest in the African American heritage of southwest Michigan.

For more information, contact Donna Odom at heritagesociety@charter.net or 269-381-9975. Or go online to www.smbhs.org

About the Western Michigan Genealogical Society

The Western Michigan Genealogical Society was founded in 1954 with the purpose of preserving and making available for genealogical research the records of our ancestors; encouraging and assisting members in genealogical research; promoting the exchange of knowledge and encouraging the deposit of genealogical records in established libraries and archives. WMGS was the second organization dedicated to Family History and Genealogy in the state of Michigan.

Membership meetings are held monthly from September through June in the Grand Rapids Public Library Ryerson Auditorium. The GotAncestors?! Annual Seminar is held each November. All meetings are open to the public. Genealogy classes are scheduled throughout the year.

Membership is $20.00 per year and includes a subscription to Michigana, the society’s 40 page quarterly magazine. It includes original and unpublished material, concentrating on western Michigan; helpful hints, book reviews, ancestor portraits, and “how to” suggestions.

For more information, contact Don Bryant at president@wmgs.org or 616-283-4256.

Western Michigan Genealogical Society
c/o Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-3268

Society Website: www.wmgs.org |   Annual Seminar Website: www.gotancestors.com

For more information about the Seminar contact Seminar@GotAncestors.com.


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