Family Declassified

Katherine Fennelly


Uncovering My Grandfather's Journey from Spy to Children's Book Author —  Why do people keep deep secrets about their lives and ancestry?  In Family Declassified, Katherine Fennelly applies her expertise as...

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Uncovering My Grandfather's Journey from Spy to Children's Book Author — 

Why do people keep deep secrets about their lives and ancestry?  In Family Declassified, Katherine Fennelly applies her expertise as a social science researcher to answer this question regarding her maternal grandfather, a Jewish Hungarian immigrant who arrived in the US one hundred years ago.  A Google search for ‘Francis Kalnay’ yields more than 54,000 results—the vast majority related to the children’s book, Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa, for which he won a Newbery Honor in 1959.  Buried deep within the search results are a few references to his years at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—the precursor to the CIA.  However, none describes how a foreign-born sailor overcame a childhood marked by tragedy and became the head of an elite espionage unit for the Allied Forces during World War II.  At the OSS Kalnay was one of the few foreign-born Americans informed and ‘indoctrinated’ in what we now know as the ULTRA decrypts, the German Enigma messages that were used to capture or thwart almost all German offensive intelligence activity during the Second World War.  

It took several years of reviewing previously unexamined government records and conducting personal interviews and genealogical searches to piece together the life of a man who hid his Jewish identity, the nature of his work as a spy, and the murder of his sister and nephew by Hungarian Nazis. The result is a manuscript that examines the nature of family myths and presents the gripping story of a man whose life was shaped by some of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century. 


“Family Declassified takes the reader on a remarkable journey of discovery that is part memoir, part biography, and part history of generations of a 20th century Hungarian Jewish family. In an era when family secrets dominate best-selling books, few can compete with the unpacking of the secrets in the life of the author’s grandfather.”
Riv-Ellen Prell, Ph.D., anthropologist and Jewish Studies scholar; author of Fighting to Become Americans: Jews, Gender and the Anxiety of Assimilation.

“Katherine Fennelly's quest to understand her talented but difficult and mysterious grandfather does much more than introduce us to the memories and puzzles of an individual family. It also brilliantly conveys to readers the excitement,  hard work, persistence and collaborative ethos of historical research”.—Donna R. Gabaccia, Ph.D., immigration history scholar; author of Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective

Family Declassified is a multifaceted family history that focuses on the life and work of the author’s grandfather, Francis Kalnay, who came to this country from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire in April 1919.  The author has conducted extensive research that makes use of previously unexamined documents on the OSS.”—Kirk Ford, Jr., Ph.D., Military Historian; author of The OSS and the Yugoslav Resistance, 1943-1945

This compelling page-turner about a compromised character and shapeshifting survivor tells a story much like those of my Jewish family members. Self-invention was essential to their lives. Truth or fiction was secondary to success.” —Lori Gladstone, Theater producer

Katherine Fennelly’s book, Family Declassified, is a masterpiece. It tracks her grandfather Francis Kalnay’s service as lead organizer of US espionage in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations during crucial final years of World War II.  It’s also a memoir of his childhood, a Jew living in Budapest, whose family suffered horrendous persecution, even murder, by Christian Hungarians, forcing thousands to leave for the US.—Ann Markusen, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, University of Minnesota; Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, 1995-2002.

“I just finished reading Family Declassified  and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. What an amazing personality Ferko had, and he made such an impact at so many levels. And the data sources and photos…wow!  The book has something for everyone.—Silvia Blitzer Golombek , Ph.D. , Adjunct Faculty, Johns Hopkins University Carey School


Author: Katherine Fennelly
Page Count: 250
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Publish Date: August 29, 2023
Imprint: Sunbury Press
Genre: Memoir

HISTORY / Wars & Conflicts / World War II / European Theater
FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / Family History & Genealogy 

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