John K. Maniha

Expert Author

John Maniha holds a PhD in sociology and is a Certified Genealogist doing client research. He was a faculty member at Florida State and is a retired research administrator for the Federal Government. He has been actively engaged in genealogy for over 30 years, but has been a professional genealogist since 2004. He volunteers at the National Archives and is genealogist for the Steinway project at the Smithsonian Institution. John belongs to Association of Professional Genealogists, Fairfax Genealogical Society, New England Historic Genealogical Society, and New York Biographical and Genealogical Society. He teaches genealogy courses for Osher Lifetime Learning Institute at George Mason and American Universities. He lives in the Washington D.C. area and has a second home in Massachusetts. His interests are New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Italian records research.

Favorite Genealogy Quote

Although he didn't mean it for genealogy, Ronald Reagan's words to Chairman Gorbachev are relevant, as they apply to handed-down data about families: "Trust but verify." Trust, because there is often a kernel of truth in what families pass on to future generations and you have to start somewhere, but verify, because the "kernel of truth" is often lacking the "truth" part.

What are your specific genealogical interests?

I like the 17th and 19th centuries in New England, and the Middle Atlantic (New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia). I am also interested in Italian genealogical records and early Italian immigration and have done a lot of work in that area.

What got you into genealogy?

Personal reasons got me into genealogy: a love for history, an interest in the sociology of kin-relationships, a fascination with historical mysteries and problem solving, and a burning curiosity about my origins and what made me who I am.

Most surprising genealogical find:

My most surprising genealogical find was an entry in Dutch Church records in New York City of the 17th century that named the wife of the Lord of Pelham Manor, one "Aelte Beeks." The couple stood as godparents for a child. The family tradition of the Pells was that this woman was an "Indian Princess," the daughter of a local chief. Instead she appears to be a Dutch woman of unknown origin, and it is highly questionable that she was an Indian princess. What is the fascination that many Americans have with Native American ancestry in a country that all but wiped out its Indian population? I have encountered several clients who were enthusiastic for me to find Native American ancestry for them because of a family tradition, but I never have.

If you could find the family history of any historical great, who would it be and why?

Charlemagne. Lots of genealogies seem to be able to trace a line back to Charlemagne, but his own lineage is murky and dubious. Some sources trace him back to Roman Gaul, but what is the real truth about his origins? Connecting late classical/early medieval figures to the Roman world would be a fascinating look at the transition from ancient to medieval society in Europe.

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