Megan Smolenyak, greatest Irish genealogist on top of her game


Oh boy, classic brick walls. We all hit them. On my Army cases for example, I’m really, really stubborn. I’ll just keep on backing up and coming at another way to break down the wall. I’ll brainstorm everything I possibly can. And at a certain point, once I feel I’ve exhausted everything possible, I kind of sit back. It’s weird, there’s a sort of serendipity thing that happens.I always say our ancestors want to be found as much as we want to find them. You’d be surprised how many times when you really have done everything you possibly can think of that all of a sudden an email will fall out of the sky from some posting you did six months ago that you’d forgotten about; some little clue will happen; a new record set will be released; or you’ll be using a new newspaper site and trip across an article on your ancestor or something.

With all the new resources available today, has the process of genealogy and tracing one’s roots changed?

Obviously with all the stuff that’s online now it’s much easier to get a running start and I do not miss the tedium that used to be a part of it – the amount of effort it took to look up each individual census record, for example. I think actually this is the best time ever to be a genealogist because we have all these tools. I’m so glad I was here when the Internet came along and DNA testing. I mean, to have these two toys to add to our toolbox is just amazing and it’s opened up possibilities for so many people who otherwise would have been stymied in their research. It’s the perfect time to be a genealogist, but the underlying methodology is still the same: link by link, prove every connection.