Review: Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing, by Smolenyak

Smolenyak, Megan. Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing. New York: Citadel Press. 2012.

ISBN-13: 978-0-8065-3446-6.

The chapter on the life and times of the Baker City, Oregon, madam and her family is among the best stories told in this collection of adventures into forensic genealogy. Smolenyak details her, relatively simple, as it turns out, foray into tracing Mabel Cavin through the early decades of the 20th century.

The Mabel Cavin chapter is a good case study for researchers hoping to work together in trans-continental genealogy research. Given that it is a bit light on the technical details here, the gist of the study would be good material for an expanded article in a journal such as the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly.

Another chapter, on the civil rights detective work is also a good example of how things can turn up unexpectedly, sometimes years later, in different contexts. This chapter gives the rundown on an investigation for the FBI concerning a murder in Texas which has yet to be solved. (?)

Mrs. Smolenyak’s adventures cover decades of her work for various governmental agencies and her volunteer work, as well. The chapters on the presidential et cetera genealogies are less interesting, but provide clues for other genealogists who are interested in the subjects and techniques discussed there.


Mrs. Smolenyak now goes by Smolenyak2 in an acknowledgment that she is married to another Smolenyak. The details of why she squared her surname are buried in one of the later chapters, but knowing her history is a good clue as to why her name is written as such. Her description of genetic genealogy in her own research is also fascinating as it shows that even her family had secrets. These two chapters are also among the better stories.

Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing is a good read for those hours when you can’t do hard research on your own, and are able to bask in the pleasures of armchair detective work.

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research