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Megan Smolenyak

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Unexpected Ways To Find Your Ancestors

Posted: 02/ 6/2012 9:17 am

You might have resisted the pull until now, but admit it. You're starting to develop a hankering to look into your roots, aren't you? Maybe it was that episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" that made you ponder about your own Italian great-grandfather, maybe it was your son's family tree homework assignment, or maybe it was that co-worker bragging about being related to Jesse James, but now you've got a bit of an itch to take peek into your past.

Perhaps I can ease you along your learning curve so you can make that incredible discovery a tad faster. As an avid genealogist since the sixth grade, I've learned a few tricks when it comes to finding ancestors who stubbornly refuse to come out of hiding, and in this slideshow, I'd like to share advice featuring examples from some of the investigatory adventures featured in my new book, "Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing" [Citadel, $15.95].

Learn to spell badly
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Living in a time when an incorrect middle initial can cause you to miss a flight, many of us are locked into the "right" way to spell our names, but accurate and consistent spelling is a fairly recent development. Hinda Amchanitzky, whose tombstone mysteriously materialized on a sidewalk in Manhattan, was hidden in cemetery records as "H. Anachowsky" and in census records as "Annie Magimity."

Particularly when seeking ancestors with multi-syllabic names, prepare to be flexible. Insist on finding Grandpa entering the country with the same spelling you use today and you'll almost definitely miss him.
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