Archive for the ‘2010’ Category

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

Friday, August 27th, 2010


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

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.


Registration now Available

Friday, August 27th, 2010

The online registration system for Got Ancestors?! Are They Who You Think They Are? is now up and running. Click here to register for this highly anticipated event.

A Seminar flyer and registration form can be downloaded from here (but please register online even if you’re going to mail a cheque as it makes things easier for us).

Congratulations Megan – NGS Award of Merit

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

A news release dated 13 May 2010 from the National Genealogical Society includes

Haddonfield, NJ Genealogist Is Recognized for Bringing Sound Genealogy Practices
and DNA Testing to the Public Eye

Described as a “major influence on directing the newly interested toward uncovering family relationships and history, rather than merely posting names to a pedigree chart,” Megan Smolenyak received the 2010 NGS Award of Merit for her work in advancing responsible genealogy to a broad popular audience. The prestigious award was presented at the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on April 30, 2010.

Smolenyak, formerly chief family historian for, is the author of Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, the companion guide to the popular NBC series, and served as researcher for this show as well as PBS series Faces of America and African American Lives with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Haddonfield, New Jersey, resident co-founded and contributes a genealogy column to Huffington Post. She founded, a volunteer group that assists coroners and medical examiners to help reunite unclaimed deceased individuals with their families, and consults on cold cases with the U.S. Army, FBI and NCIS. Since May 2000, she has supported a variety of genealogical initiatives with her monthly Honoring Our Ancestors grants program.

The NGS Award of Merit is presented to an individual or organization in recognition of exceptional contributions to the field of genealogy by significantly aiding research or increasing interest in genealogy over a period of five or more years.

The full press release is available here.

2010 Saturday Seminar Topics

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Here is the list of topics we’ve chosen to have on Saturday.

Reverse Genealogy

  • Although genealogy is at its heart the study of long-deceased ancestors, connecting with living relatives has become almost as important to many family historians. Some seek living kin in an effort to track down family photos; others do it to find family history playmates or DNA project participants. A few pioneers have begun exercising their skills to save lives – to locate potential donors or warn of possible medical dangers. Whatever the motivation, one of the most addicting aspects of genealogy is the thrill of finding distant cousins, or in some cases, parents, children, or siblings. But this “reverse genealogy” (working from the past to the present) has its own special challenges and requires the researcher to be part genealogist and part private investigator. This presentation covers proven techniques for tracing 20th century friends and relatives from the past to the present.

Tracing Your Roots with DNA – an extended edition

  • With amazing swiftness, “genetealogy” (the marriage of genetics and genealogy) is graduating from pioneering research to standard practice. But what is it exactly and how can we use it to further our genealogical endeavors? Come hear one of the co-authors of Trace Your Roots with DNA discuss her own and others’ experience launching and managing a DNA project, including such considerations as test and vendor selection factors, privacy, and convincing others to participate. (Short and long versions available: one-hour version covers Y-DNA/surname testing only, while the extended 1.5-2 hour version also includes other types of testing, such as mtDNA, BioGeographical, etc. Also available for non-genealogical audiences.)

Right Annie, Wrong Annie

  • An Irish lass, Annie Moore, tripped down a gangplank and into the pages of history in 1892 when she became the first immigrant to arrive at Ellis Island. But less than a century later, an Illinois-born Annie Moore had somehow taken her place and was celebrated in song, statue and literature. That all ended when some stubborn genealogists decided to use their sleuthing skills to seek out the right Annie. Come learn how she and her true descendants reclaimed their rightful place in history when their reunion was featured on the front page of the New York Times.

Cases That Made My Brain Hurt

  • How could brothers also be uncle and nephew? How could the 1853 death of a toddler in Scotland help solve a Civil War history-mystery? And could there be any families with a pair of centenarians who knew each other and lived in four centuries between the two of them? Come and hear!

2010 Friday and Saturday Topics

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Friday Evening – Presentation and Dessert

The Friday Night event this year will be a presentation of “Michelle Obama’s Roots” by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.

Megan shares how and 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.

Saturday – 4 Sessions and Lunch

Saturday will be 4 sessions with our Speaker.

We’re looking for input from prospective attendees about what topics they’d like to hear on Saturday. Please fill out the poll so we can gauge the interest in Megan’s topics. The list of Megan’s topics can be seen here.

[poll id=”3″]

We will take the popularity of different topics as a guide when planning the 4 sessions.

Attendees will be able to choose to attend either Friday evening, or Saturday, or a “Combo Meal” of both at a reduced price.

Welcome Megan

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Yesterday’s Western Michigan Genealogical Society Board meeting accepted my proposal that the speaker at the 2010 Got Ancestors?! seminar be Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.

Mark your calendars for Friday evening 5 November 2010 and Saturday 6 November 2010.

We’re looking forward to hosting Megan on her first speaking engagement in Michigan. A list of her talks can be found here

This event is still in very early planning stages, details will be posted here as they become available.