27 May 2010

"Closet Rusyn" Bret Michaels wins NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice"

If you're not a reader of The Huffington Post, you may have missed Megan Smolenyak's piece on the Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry of rocker Bret Michaels -- who was the last celeb standing on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday night on NBC.

Smolenyak, a Carpatho-Rusyn herself and a member of the Carpatho-Rusyn Society, traced Bret Michael Sychak's great grandparents to the villages of Habura and Kalinov in modern-day Slovakia.

As she began her search for his ancestry -- he's one-quarter Rusyn -- Smolenyak suggested he might be a "closet Rusyn." That's an interesting term that provides a neat label for those of us who, intentionally or not, have a hidden Rusyn identity. How many of our relatives are "closet Rusyns"? 

As for Smolenyak, a while back I posted an interview I did with her in connection with her work on NBC's fine "Who Do You Think You Are?" The series looked at the family histories of a group of celebrities, from Lisa Kudrow to Spike Lee.

While that series looks at the famous, and Smolenyak has studied the family backgrounds of people like First Lady Michelle Obama, she noted in out conversation, "there's no such thing as a boring family."

The NBC show, which offers a basic primer on family history research, has been renewed for the fall. Here's a link to that earlier interview with Smolenyak.

By the way, she's authored a number of good books on genealogy and family history, including the companion book to "Who Do You Think You Are?" I've provided a link to the book on Amazon.

And here's the AP report on Michaels, who has faced a series of health problems, getting the "You're hired!" from Donald Trump on Sunday night.

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