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CAGGNI Speakers

The following CAGGNI members have recently lectured on these topics.  If you are interested in arranging one of our speakers for your society, contact us at speakers @ and let us know the speaker and topic in which you are interested. Speakers may not be able to accommodate all requests, and fees vary by speaker.

WildApricot Getting Started Help - Looking for assistance getting your new WildApricot site up and running? Contact us at speakers @ and we will get back to you. 

Marty Acks

An Introduction to WikiTree, the Free Global Family Tree 

Suz Bates

DNA – Genetic Genealogy
 Genealogy Research Essentials
 Optimize Online Genealogy Research

Organizing Your Genealogy

  The Library Series

 Maureen Brady 
  Analyzing Your Research

 British Resources at Find My Past

 Chicago Area Research


 The Family History Research "Circle":  The Internet, FamilySearch Centers, Social Networks, Libraries and On-Site Research


 Family History Research in Illinois & Wisconsin

 Family History Research in the British Isles


 Family History Research in the Dairy State

 FamilySearch® -- The Digital Age


 Fill in Your Family Tree -- Family History Research for Beginners

 The First Frontiersmen:  The Scots-Irish


 Following the British Diaspora


 Irish Family History -- The Essentials


 The Jones Family -- A Chicago Irish Story


 "Little Egypt":  Southern Illinois Research


 The Old Northwest:  Researching the Great Lakes States

 Optimizing Your Searches on the Internet -- It's More than Ancestry® and FamilySearch®

 Quaker Family History Research

 The Québécois -- French-Canadian Research

 Quhat's In a Nayme?

 Researching Canadian Records

 Researching Religious Records

 Rules I Learned Along The Way:  A Case Study

 Scottish Family History Research:  Beyond the Basics

 Scottish Family History Research:  Historical and Geographical Background

 Scottish Family History Research:  In Your Own Backyard

 Spotlight on FamilySearch® -- Family Tree Memories

 Spotlight on FamilySearch® -- The Digital Records

 Spotlight on FamilySearch® -- The Family Tree

 Spotlight on FamilySearch® -- The Research Wiki

 Swedish Family History Research

 Tapping the Power of FamilySearch®

 Tennessee Family History Research

 The U. S. Census:  What It Can Tell You About Your Family

 Using Newspapers to Fill in the Gaps in a Family Story

 What's New in FamilySearch®

 You, Too, Can Read Old Handwriting

Michelle Bray Wilson

 *Premiering*Insights from MtDNA Case Studies
 *NEW* Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Genetic Genealogy

 DNA: The Sublime Segment
 *NEW* Using DNA Painter
 *NEW*Tracing Genealogy Through the French and Indian Wars

Building Northern Illinois: William McConnell's Montelona Farm

Genes for the Genealogist

  I Did a DNA Test, Now What?

 Bio-Parents for Peg and Donna: An Autosomal DNA Case Study

We're All Related! Searching for our Most Recent Common Ancestor

Searching for French-Canadians

PRDH :  The Gold Standard for French-Canadian Research

 Effective Use of
 Creating a Coffee-Table Style Family History Book
  Lineage Societies
 Genetic Genealogy: What it is and Why it Matters to Local Law Enforcement 


Caron Primas Brennan

 Comparing the Big Four: Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, MyHeritage

Genealogy Basics for Beginners

Research Your Family History Using the Internet

 How I use DNA In My Genealogy Research
 Family Primer
*NEW*Looking For European Roots 


Newspapers as Genealogical Resource

Uff Da! Researching My Norwegian Roots Primer 
 What's New on the Internet for Genealogists?

Where Did I Put Great Grandpa?  Organizing  Your Genealogy Files

 Travels with My Sister: Genealogical Journeys

Laura Street Chaplin


Beginning & Improving Genealogy Skills

BasicsGenealogy Bare-Bones Basics


Starting Research (With Hidden Treasures You Already Own)

DNADNA #1: Beginning Genetic Genealogy
DNA DNA #2: What Do I Do with It Now That I Have It? Working with DNA Test Results

DNA DNA #3: Going the Extra Mile: Additional Sites, Tools, & Techniques
DNAHeadline DNA: Helping to Solve True Crime

Ethnic Records & International Reasearch

Ethnic/ImmigrationComing to America: Finding & Using Immigration Records
Ethnic/ImmigrationQuakers, Plain and Simple 
MethodologyCollateral & Cluster Research 
MethodologyIntroducing GPS (Nope - Not That One!) 
Issuing Citations That Help "Prove" Your Genealogical Research
Online SitesAdvancing with
Online SitesFamilySearch Sleuthing 
Online SitesFinessing FindMyPast
Online SitesFold3 Flair 
Online SitesHandy with MyHeritage
Online SitesHistoryGeo 
Online SitesLook into Lesser-Known Apps & Sites 
Online SitesOnline Site Versus Software on Your Own Computer
Online SitesPay It Forward: Learning to Index on FamilySearch
Online SitesRootsMagic Mystery
Online SitesShaky Leaves...Yes! Shaky Leave...No! Best Searching on 
Online SitesWhat's Your Mission? (Inherited Collection, Future-Proofing, or Attacking Your Stacks)
Organization Color-Coded Organization
OrganizationDigital Files 
OrganizationDigitizing Those Precious Memories 
OrganizationOrganizing Your Chaos
Records & Resources Archives Research & How to Use Basic Resources Found There
Records & ResourcesCensus Discoveries: The Springboard to Splashy Research 
Records & ResourcesFinding & Working with Published Sources
Records & ResourcesPathways to Spicy Stories: An Overview of Court Records 
Records & ResourcesProbing for Probate: Research in the Probate Court 
Records & ResourcesRecord Vitality with Vital Records
Records & ResourcesTiptoeing Thru Tombstones: The Basics of U.S. Cemetery Research 

David Fleer

Finding Your German Ancestors on

Janis Minor Forté, B.A., M.A.

Getting Started: Approaching the Past

Getting Around Burned Counties: Methods and Strategies

 Un-Puzzling Birthing History

Using Non-Traditional Sources to Identify the Slave Holder and Reconnect Slave Era Families
 Seven Proven Strategies for Identifying Slave Ownership and Reconstructing Slave Era Families
 Creating and Sustaining Your Family Newsletter
 Loose Women, Policy Queens and Black Ewes

Colored Confederate Pension Applications
 Using the Records of the Freedmen’s Bureau in the Reconstruction and Enhancement of African American Family History

Heritage Book: Telling Your Story

 Researching the Digital Library on American Slavery
 Even Gangsters had to Register
 Putting Some Clothes on Charles
 USCT Pension Files
 Slave Tags

Going Beyond the Population Count

Mike Karsen

You Can Pick Your Relatives

The Musical CHICAGO and All That Genealogical Jazz

 Liven Up Your Family History with Images

Ed Rosenthal

What’s New in Technology

Jacquie Schattner

*NEW*New Language? Deciphering Genealogical Documents (including Old German Script)
*NEW*Publishing Your Genealogy Using Windows

European and U.S. Newspapers and Directories – Good News

*NEW*Organizing Genealogy – Less Piles, Better Files 
 A Guide to Overseas Genealogy
 Central Europe is Easy – Merci Napoleon!
 Emigration & Immigration – The Story of Your Immigrant Ancestors

Explore U.S. Church Records: Find Family

 Genealogy – Where do you look? 
 Top 10 Genea-Tricks and Tips 

Gerald Schmidt 

Genetic Genealogy: What it is and Why it Matters to Local Law Enforcement 

John Stryker

Handheld Apps for Family Research

Regina Yuill

Preparing to Publish Your Book: Tips and Tricks for the Writer 

Detailed descriptions of selected programs

Marty Acks 

Marty Acks has been researching his family history since 1999 after having caught the bug from his mom and dad. He volunteers at WikiTree where he contributes to the global family tree. Leads a Porterfield surname study (maternal grandmother), assists other members and monitors activity as a WikiTree Ranger. 

An Introduction to WikiTree, the Free Global Family Tree

WikiTree is a free community of genealogists dedicated to growing an accurate single family tree using DNA and traditional genealogical sources. In this program, you will learn the key features of WikiTree, be shown how you can easily get started on the site and learn numerous tips and techniques to get the most out of your time on WikiTree.  

New 2022! Marty's video, "An Introduction to WikiTree, a Personal Perspective"


Maureen Brady

Maureen Brady, a former school librarian and computer educator, has forty years experience with family history research.  She has traced her Scottish roots back to the end of the 17th century and beyond, and has also pursued Chicago and the Midwest, the trans-Allegheny U.S., Quebec, Irish and Swedish research.  Maureen has made numerous presentations to genealogical societies, libraries, conferences and workshops throughout the U. S., as well as presenting for the Brigham Young University Library family history webinar series.

She is a member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild, as well as a life member of the Aberdeen and Northeast Scotland Family History Society and the Ohio, Chicago and McHenry County (Illinois) Genealogical Societies.  She is also active in the Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Lake County (Illinois) Genealogical Societies, and the British Interest Group of Wisconsin & Illinois , and the Chicago Scots Genealogical Group.

Analyzing Your Research

The gates to many research “brick walls” may often be opened by a thorough analysis of the records.  Using examples of typical research documents, this presentation will demonstrate how clues for further research are often found “between the lines”.

The Family History Research “Circle”:  The Internet, FamilySearch Centers, Social Networks, Libraries, and On-Site Research

Today’s family history researcher has access to a wide variety of resources, including the Internet, libraries, and local repositories – the Family History Research “Circle”.  Using actual research examples, Maureen Brady will demonstrate how a successful research strategy can be developed by building on the strengths of each part of the “circle”.

The First Frontiersmen:  The Scots-Irish

Some refer to them as Ulster Scots, others as Scots-Irish.  Whatever their name, they are the U. S. descendants of those who were “planted” in the Ulster province of Ireland in the 17th century and subsequently immigrated to the American frontier.  Their famous sons include Daniel Boone and Andrew Jackson, and we see their cultural influence in square dancing and country music.  This presentation will review the history of the Scots-Irish and suggest resources for researching their family histories.

Following the British Diaspora

From the 17th century, the people of the British Isles have looked for opportunities throughout the expanding British Empire and the Commonwealth.  This presentation will provide a brief overview of the major movements beyond the British Isles, suggest some key research websites and trace one family's movements from Scotland to the far points of the compass.

Irish Family History:  The Essentials

Learn to be successful with your Irish family history research.  This presentation will discuss how Ireland’s history affects the records and their availability, help for deciphering the layers of Ireland’s land divisions and place names and the best websites for locating the records.

The Jones Family:  A Chicago Irish Story

Chicago area family history research can be a challenge due to historical events and the physical size of the area and population.  Using a case study of a Chicago Irish family that fled the Great Famine and settled in pre-Fire Chicago, this presentation will demonstrate strategies for tackling the challenges of Chicago area research and review record availability, repositories and online resources.

"Little Egypt":  Southern Illinois Research

After the American Revolution, the counties of southern Illinois were opened to settlement inland from the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  Those early settlers very often migrated from across the Appalachian range and along the Ohio River, most often moving from Virginia, Tennesse, Kentucky and southern Indiana.  They were followed by miners from the British Isles seeking the better opportunties this newly opened land offered.  This presentation will look at the settlement of "Little Egypt" and discuss resources and strategies for successful research in this region of Illinois.

The Old Northwest:  Researching the Great Lakes States

The Territory Northwest of the Ohio River was created in 1787 and lasted until 1800.  From it, five states were formed:  Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.  This presentation will review the history of the "Old Northwest" and suggest research strategies for the territorial period, as well as for each of the subsequent states.

Quhat’s In a Nayme?

The spelling of individual and family names was often “in the ear of the listener” and was not standardized until well into the 20th century.  This presentation will look at the history of names, various naming patterns and research strategies for locating the “right” spelling of a name in various types of records.

Researching Canadian Records

Our neighbor to the north was often the “gateway” for U. S. bound immigrants.  Some families may have lived in Canada for a generation or two before continuing on to the U. S.  This presentation will include a brief overview of Canadian history and immigration, and a review of the major record sources for Canada and the best websites to locate those records.

Researching Religious Records

Since the founding of Penn’s Woods (Pennsylvania), the American Colonies and the U. S. have attracted those who sought religious freedom.  This presentation presents strategies for researching religious records in the U. S., identifies the major repositories and archives and reviews various websites which provide access to religious records.

Tennessee Family History Research

Tennessee was one of the first states established after the American Revolution, and it provides a rich body of historical records.  This presentation will offer a brief overview of Tennessee history and how that affects the availability of the records, online resources for Tennessee research and an overview of repositories and archives.

The U. S. Census:  What It Can Tell You About Your Family

The United States Federal government has taken a census of its population every ten years since 1790.  These census records are a “goldmine” of information about our families and can provide vital clues to our family history research.  Learn what records were produced, which still exist and how to access them.  This presentation will include examples of census records, search strategies for locating them and analysis techniques for “gleaning” the most from these records.

Using Newspapers to Fill in the Gaps in a Family Story

Local newspapers provided our ancestors with “all the news that’s fit to print”. Finding those nuggets of information can help break down brick walls or add color to our ancestors’ lives. This presentation will review locating websites with  digitized historical newspapers, as well as search strategies for finding your family’s stories.


Suz Bates

Suz Bates

Suz Bates has been a family history researcher for over 40 years and a private consultant for 20 years. Starting her study of genealogy in the early 1970s, before computers, Suz spent many hours at the Newberry Library, learning traditional research methods. Since then she has built on those skills, attending numerous classes, workshops and conferences.

Suz earned a B.A. in modern foreign language with a minor in history and an M.S. in education. She taught both adults and children in various educational settings. Suz takes these teaching and lecturing skills, combined with her extensive genealogical research experience, into her genealogy career of speaking, researching and consulting in an easily understood manner with enthusiasm and a wealth of knowledge.

Suz has been a member of various genealogy and history associations including the National Genealogical Society, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the NSDAR, the Du Page County Genealogical Society, the Fox Valley Genealogical Society and CAGGNI. She is listed in the Genealogical Speakers Guild.

DNA – Genetic Genealogy topics

  • Cut to the Chase! Which DNA Kit Do I Buy?
  • My DNA Results are In! What do they mean?
  • My AncestryDNA Kit is Back! What do I do now?
  • Using Ancestry Trees Securely and Effectively
  • DNA - No Tree! No Response! I need more! DNA Shared Matches One Step Further
  • GEDmatch Beginner’s Tools
  • My Family Tree Family Finder FTDNA Kit is Back! What do I do now?
  • My Family Tree FTDNA Y-DNA Kit is Back! What do I do now?

Genealogy Research Essentials

  • Going Vital! - Birth, Death and Marriage Records
  • Censuses and City Directories – The Backbone of U.S. Research
  • Using Ancestry Tree Effectively
  • Gleaning Clues by Doing a Double Take
  • It’s Not Online – The other 90% of records
  • Getting a Copy of Social Security and Naturalization Records
  • Genealogy Treasures in Cemetery Records
  • From Old Worlds to New Worlds: Genealogy in Passenger Lists
  • Preparing to Visit Your Ancestor’s Town

Optimize Online Genealogy Research

  • Tweaking The Big Two
  • Way More Than The Big Two
  • What’s New and How to Find It!

Organizing Your Genealogy

  • Owning and Caring for your Genealogy Research Paper Overload: I know I have it but where did I put it?
  • Creating a Family Archive and Genealogy Library

The Library Series

  • Genealogy Research: What is it? How do I begin?
  • Use Your Public Library’s Genealogy Databases for Online Research
  • Censuses – The Backbone of U.S. Research
  • Genealogy Research: Optimize Your Time and Effort


Michelle Bray Wilson 

Michelle Bray Wilson has been active in the genealogy community for more than a dozen years.  She speaks throughout the Midwest, most frequently on genetic genealogy, French Canada, ancient ancestry, and creating family history books. Michelle’s lectured for Illinois State Genealogy Society, Franco Fete in Minneapolis, for UW’s Early Music Festival in Madison, for MSPCE (Midwest Security and Police Conference) and at numerous area conferences, genealogy groups and libraries, including being a featured speaker for Chicago Public Library, DuPage County and Lake County societies. She is a former president of CAGGNI, the Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois, and served many years as Registrar at a local DAR chapter. An engineer by training, Michelle consults for the medical device manufacturing industry, and has recently begun accepting a limited number of clients in the genealogy space.

Michelle's Schedule, First Half - 2024

Date  Title / Venue

 26 Feb

 Using DNA Painter - Palatine Library

Handouts: Guide     Paper Exercises     Paper Exercises Answers

 2 Mar Insights from MtDNA Case Studies - CAGGNI DNA SIG 
 16 Mar Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Genetic Genealogy - CAGGNI
 15 Apr Creating a Coffee Table Family History Book - Zion (IL) Genealogy Society
 16 Apr Bio-Parents for Peg and Donna - St Cloud (MN) Area Genealogists
 11 May I Did a DNA Test - Now What? - Genealogy Society of Sarasota (FL)  
 8 Jun 

 Tracing Genealogy Through the French and Indian Wars - NSGS (IL)

Selected Programs by Michelle Bray Wilson

Insights from MtDNA Case Studies *Premiering* Mitochondrial work is often treated as the downtrodden stepchild of DNA. Yet due to its extraordinary reach, MtDNA can yield insights not possible with other technologies. We will briefly explore MtDNA organization and inheritance, and then dive into four Mt case studies: one leading to Fort de Chartres, the first European settlement in Illinois, another focused on a Metis family from Montana, a third showing how MtDNA can assist autosomal analysis, and a fourth exploring a woman purported to be from the Ontario Metis of Drummond Island. 

I Did a DNA Test, Now What? - Learn how to put DNA to work for you to confirm and extend your lineage and breakdown longstanding brick walls in your family history research. 

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know about Genetic Genealogy *NEW* Just how is it possible that we share more than 98% of our DNA with the chimps but only 12.5% with our first cousins? How do genetic genealogists solve cases that have stumped law enforcement for years? How was that "King in the Car Park" actually identified? Learn the answers to these questions and many more at this delightful and informative session, ideal for all types of civic groups, not just genealogists.

Tracing Genealogy Through the French and Indian Wars *NEW* The French and Indian Wars (1688-1783), known as the Intercolonial Wars in Quebec, were a series of conflicts across what is today the US/Canadian border involving British, French and Dutch colonials and Native Americans. Of particular interest to genealogists are the thousands of persons taken captive from New England frontier villages and force marched or carried to Canada. We will tell the story of the four wars making up these conflicts and how to track the many children and their parents who were caught up as captives, mainly using the Deerfield raid of 1704 as an example.

Bio-Parents for Peg and Donna: an Autosomal DNA Case Study

An interactive, real-life autosomal case study to identify the bio-parents of two related adoptees. Learn how the processes of separating maternal and paternal relatives, marshalling support to gain access to locked trees, gathering necessary genealogical records, working up pedigrees, and narrowing down candidates actually works in practice.

Every unknown parentage case involves two separate searches, one for each parent. While the bio-mother in this case was identified routinely, the bio-father was obscured behind an incorrectly attached (wrong) pedigree, mis-attributed parentage of a grandfather, and descendants resulting from a son and his mother who (re-)married siblings, resulting in higher than usual autosomal sharing among their descendants.

Search angel work can be quite an adventure, and anyone serious about genetic genealogy is encouraged to become familiar with the methods required. Solid knowledge of the techniques involved provides firm footing for those wishing to use related methods to extend lineages back in time with the help of DNA.

DNA: The Sublime Segment

The DNA segments we inherit from our common ancestors are what make DNA match lists possible. Studying these segments gives us a much more detailed and nuanced window into our inheritance and can even help us begin to re-construct the genomes of long-deceased ancestors. Learn how to use the chromosome browsers to advance your work, and how to think about and organize your own segments using tools such as DNA Painter. This lecture was first presented September 2022 at CAGGNI's GeneaQuest Conference.

Structure of DNA and the Commercially Available Kits

Learn the organization of DNA as applicable to the genealogist, how it varies from person to person, and what the various types of tests actually examine and report on. We’ll cover everything from the old-style paternity and “CODIS” tests, to the Y-DNA STR and SNP tests (and how these differ from haplogroup reporting), mt-DNA tracing back female lines, and the popular autosomal tests offered at the “big four”, 23andMe, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA. Along the way we’ll discuss Best Practices (part 1) including what tests which company to choose for which candidate testees, what to expect when your results arrive, and a couple third-party tools where you can do even more. Combine with DNA Inheritance lecture below to create a half-day workshop.

DNA Inheritance, Our Matchlists and More Best Practices 

Inheritance results in only tiny changes to the Y-DNA men get from their fathers and the mt-DNA we all get from our mothers. But the inheritance process makes a scramble of our autosomal DNA. Understanding inheritance is key to making sense of our matchlists, and how our matchlists are the key to both unlocking unknown parentage and to pushing back our ancestral lines. We’ll use actual case studies and explore some third-party tools to apply this knowledge for cases such as unknown parentage and pushing back brick-walled lines to the next generation. In Best Practices (part 2) we’ll explore cases where matches don’t post trees and show how to get the most out of the hints in Ancestry’s ThruLines and MyHeritage’s Theory of Relativity.

We're All Related! Searching for our Most Recent Common Ancestor  *NEW*

Are you descended from Charlemagne? The results may surprise you! This captivating talk explores research into the relatedness of all humans. We will discuss mitochondrial Eve (including a simulation), Y-Adam, and the Most Recent Common Ancestor and the Identical Ancestors Point. We will examine the groundbreaking modeling by Rohde, Olson and Chang done in 2004, and investigate how the 2013 DNA studies on Europeans by Ralph and Coop lines up with the earlier simulation work. 

Using DNA Painter *NEW* offers a host of tools for analyzing your DNA and charting your segment analysis. We will study segment inheritance to help organize and verify segments. We will demonstrate some of the most commonly used free tools such as the WATO "What are the Odds" tool and the Shared CM tool, and then dive into the mechanics of uploading your identified shared segments from FTDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe into a Chromosome Map. DNAPainter regularly adds new tools, and we will explore a couple of those as well.

Genes for the Genealogist

Curious about DNA? Happily, DNA for the genealogist is straightforward to understand. We’ll break down the SNPs from the STRs, the haplogroups from the haplotypes, and learn how these DNA patterns are used to prove inheritance and determine deep ancestry. Learn the secrets of DNA and put this powerful complement to paper-trail research in your tool kit.

Searching for French-Canadians

The French-Canadian record is extraordinarily complete and well-indexed.  If you have any French-Canadian ancestors, you are in luck! Learn the tricks that will have you uncovering vast swaths of your pedigree in the space of a single weekend. 

The history of the French-Canadians during the Nouvelle France period ending in 1760 provides additional context to this engaging presentation.  Variations on this program were presented at the Madison Early Music Festival, Franco-Fete in Minneapolis, Lake County Genealogical Society, and Winnebago & Boone Counties Genealogical Society.  

Creating a Coffee-Table Style Family History Book

Michelle has created three print-on-demand family history books.  The books are in full color, and chock full of photos, documents, newspaper clips, genealogy charts and other family artifacts.  Learn how to put together a beautifully formatted book, how to print copies at a very reasonable price, and how to publish and make your book available to others. First presented to the A.B. Cook Chapter, DAR, in 2018.

Building Northern Illinois: William McConnell's Montelona Farm

The life of William McConnell (1810-1887) of Richmond, McHenry County's most prominent early settler. We'll touch on how we researched and wrote a book detailing his life, homesteads (still extant), and family history. Presented with co-author Rommy Lopat.


Caron Primas Brennan 

Now ZOOM or web-enabled! All programs are 1 to 1 ½ hours long and geared to the beginning and intermediate researcher.  When in person, an internet connection (preferably wireless) is required along with a projector.  Caron brings her own laptop or uses yours.  Handouts are available for each program.

Current program offerings:

Comparing the Genealogy Big Four:  Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage
Everyone has heard of Ancestry, but there are some other big databases for genealogy research.  They all share search capabilities as well as have their own unique merits.  Learn “the good, the bad and the ugly” about the Big Four – Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindMyPast and MyHeritage.  Learning about these databases will help you target your research.  All of them have Library editions (free access) in addition to their subscriptions.

How I Use DNA In My Genealogy Research

In this presentation, I talk about “why” and “how” of DNA testing in genealogy research.  Using case studies and examples, I explain how I have incorporated DNA testing into my research.  Disclaimer:  This is NOT a primer on the science of DNA, although some basic information is included.  The audience does not have be knowledgeable about DNA testing to learn from this presentation.

Looking For European Roots *NEW*

If you are ready to "cross the pond" in your research, this presentation will provide ideas of where to find records for European records.  Includes the well-known sites like FamilySearch and Find My Past, and also lesser known sites.

 Newspapers as Genealogical Resource *NEW*

Learn how to find and use newspapers to find information about your ancestors as well as the times they lived in. Some of the items to be found in newspapers includes obituaries, marriage and engagement announcements, birth announcements, legal cases, and ship passage information. We will learn how to find newspapers on line and in libraries and archives and cite your sources.

Travels with My Sister: Genealogical Journeys

Traveling to a significant location in your personal history can be a very satisfying experience.  Seeing the homes of your ancestors, walking the paths of your people and seeing the geography that informed their existence can be moving as well as helpful to understanding them.  This presentation uses Caron's real-life adventures of traveling to do genealogical research. Primer

This presentation will look at the site, including the Ancestry Trees, and review what is has to offer beginners as well as more advanced genealogy researchers.  It will also discuss what is available through the free site and the paid subscription. Whether you are just starting out and want to host a tree at Ancestry, or have been researching for years but want more information on-line, this is the session for you.

Family Primer

This seminar is an overview of the free web site to see what is has to offer genealogy researchers.  Will include a review of the research opportunities as well as the newer areas for sharing family trees and pictures.  We will also look at the genealogy programs that have been certified to share/interact with FamilySearch.

Genealogy Basics for Beginners

Target audience is folks interested in learning more about genealogy or just getting started.  Covers information needed to get started, basic forms and organization tips, overview of top web sites and other resources used by genealogists.

What's New on the Internet for Genealogists?

There are new genealogy sites on the Internet every day.  This fast-paced presentation is a review of popular, new, little known, and perhaps unusual genealogy resources on the internet to help you in your research.

Research Your Family History Using the Internet

Ready to start your genealogy research on-line but do not know where to go except Caron Primas Brennan will show you the basics as well as some other little known, and perhaps unusual genealogy resources and internet sites to help you in your research.

Where did I Put Great-Grandpa?  Organizing for Genealogists

Organizing your genealogy information so that you can find what you want when you want it can be a daunting task.  Get tips on how to keep records in digital and print-based formats.


A more in-depth tour focusing on We review of available documents and resources, many military and governmental, digitized from the National Archives, Library of Congress, and other institutions, not previously available on-line. Also includes a tour of the tools available on the site and how to use resources found on the site. 

Uff Da!  Researching My Norwegian Roots

Caron will share what she has learned through researching her own elusive Norwegian great-grandparents and discovering cousins in Scandinavia.  She will discuss things to know, lessons learned, research locations and guides, and other helpful hints.


Laura Street Chaplin

Beginning & Improving Genealogy Skills

Learn some basic tips to get started in genealogy (or possibly fill in some gaps): interviewing, checking your home, using charts as tools, formulating research questions, tracking sources, online search tips, resisting Bright Shiny Objects, using social media intelligently, sharing your discoveries, and utilizing local experts. Whew! That’s a lot to pack in but Laura makes it fun!

Genealogy Bare-Bones Basics

This is your chance to experience an overview of the “bare-bones” basics about researching your family history! Find out how to start with what you know, fill out classic forms (like Family Group Sheets or Pedigree charts), use desktop software, flesh out dates with historical stories, and much more.

Starting Research (With Hidden Treasures You Already Own)

Go beyond the basics by hunting for family history “hidden treasures” right in your own home! Do you have birth, marriage, or death certificates? Or a family Bible? What about funeral cards? Old Valentines? Journals? Photos? Newspaper clippings? Explore what to look for and how to get the most out of these and many more to build your own family tree.

DNA #1: Beginning Genetic Genealogy

Since DNA has become the latest technique in our genealogy toolbox, it’s important to understand what this means for your own research. This presentation covers some DNA Basic Training and helps you develop a DNA research question based on your own personal testing strategy. Which test? Which company? Come explore some answers.

DNA #2: What Do I Do With IT Now That I Have It? Working With DNA Test Results

Once you get your DNA test results back, how can you best understand and utilize them? This presentation covers lots of tips on transferring raw DNA results to other companies, creating a skeleton digital family tree to link to your test results, working with family members’ tests & more.

DNA #3: Going the Extra Mile: Additional Sites, Tools, & Techniques

After learning the basics and making the most of our DNA tests, this third installment looks at analyzing those results using DNA tools like Shared Matches and Chromosome Browsers, plus an introduction to GEDmatch, Visual Phasing, DNA Painter and more. There are so many cool tools out there expanding our DNA abilities!

Headline DNA: Helping to Solve True Crime

With DNA making headlines as a key forensic tool, many want to know more about the science of crime-solving DNA analysis.  What kind of DNA is this? How is it obtained? How is the DNA used? What are developing issues involving privacy, insurance, or personal control? Come explore this hot topic and hear some examples from recent true crime headlines.

Ethnic Records & International Research

Are you intimidated by starting a family history search with overseas records? Starting with your immigrant ancestor and continuing through locating their home village, town, or city, this presentation shows some of the points you’ll need to cover and a good selection of tools to help your journey over the border or across the pond!

Coming to America: Finding & Using Immigration Records

Starting with a fascinating historical perspective on what the experience was like for our immigrant ancestors, this presentation then leads into the types of immigration or emigration records kept and where to find them. Where were the ports of embarkation? Where did people go, depending on the year, when they arrived in America? What about naturalization – never simple, especially if you were female. Some of the best immigration record search engines will be demonstrated.

Quakers, Plain and Simple

Do you, like so many others, have Quaker ancestry? Laura will share tips on researching their amazing records and some stories of her own Quaker family – right down to the present day. Learn how the history of the Society of Friends (the official name of this religion) has impacted the United States for good and why you can be proud of Quaker additions to your family tree.

Collateral & Cluster Research

Collateral & Cluster Research - What do these two interrelated terms mean? How can learning about this type of search help you unpuzzle your ancestors’ stories? Understanding and utilizing this “backdoor” approach can help break down brick walls. Come explore these fascinating and rewarding techniques.

Introducing the GPS (Nope – Not That One!)

It sounds dry but it’s fun! Come learn about a fundamental genealogical concept – the Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS for short). The group will look at and practice all five steps together. We will also learn the 3x3 Evidence Analysis Process (from Elizabeth Shown Mills) to understand Source, Information, and Evidence and how they impact each other. Putting all these pieces together makes your research accurate, complete, and fascinating to share!

Issuing Citations That Help “Prove” Your Genealogical Research

Using Dr. Thomas W. Jones’ book: Mastering Genealogical Proof, as a template and resource, this presentation explores, in a hands-on format, how to build essential citations documenting our sources used. Learn why citations are so essential, the 5 Ws of citations, how to craft 2-part citations, and details on the various types. Review basic genealogical underpinnings to understand and implement excellent citations. These include characteristics of good research questions & Elizabeth Shown Mills’ 3x3 Evidence Analysis Process. Bring your own thoughts and be prepared to talk to your neighbors during this fun approach to issuing your own citations!

Advancing with has changed a great deal recently. AND … AncestryDNA is growing exponentially! Come catch up on all the latest tools and tweaks so you can reach more rewarding results on your own.

FamilySearch Sleuthing offers so many genealogical treasures and ALL FOR FREE! This presentation begins with the FamilySearch basics and goes on to investigate many of FamilySearch’s under-utilized features. This wonderful site offers a great deal more than you might think!

Finessing FindMyPast

With its United Kingdom emphasis, FindMyPast is an incredible resource but are we taking advantage of it? Learn to finesse its finer points in this presentation and enrich your research. Laura covers FindMyPast’s specialties, searching for records, their Family Tree function, and plenty more.

Fold3 Flair

Many family historians find Fold3 to be a bit intimidating. Since it’s indispensable in doing Military Records research and has so many other hidden gems to offer, why not develop some Fold3 flair? Learning Fold3 will benefit you in countless ways!

Handy with MyHeritage

Searching effectively on MyHeritage may be a challenge when you are more used to other sites. Help yourself access all that MyHeritage offers – increase your “handiness factor,” becoming familiar with this valuable resource. From Family Trees, your MyHeritage personal website, and their DNA offerings to their impressive Photo tools, this presentation is designed for you.


Explore a little-known subscription site perfect for family historians! HistoryGEO combines historical maps, geographical details, and the Bureau of Land Management documents for the original sale of land in many states. It’s a great short-cut companion for genealogy research!

Look Into Lesser-Known Apps & Sites

This presentation highlights specific, but under-used and often lesser-known apps, sites, and helpful tools for our family history research. Get enlightened on free sites, screen capture apps, photo tools, cloud storage, and generally fascinating new things!

Online Sites Versus Software on Your Own Computer

Even though many people now keep their family history research exclusively on online sites (like because it’s super convenient, there are dangers and drawbacks to this. Laura will examine the pros and cons and show you how to get the best of both an online tree AND software that lives on your own computer!

Pay It Forward: Learning to Index on FamilySearch

Contribute to the future of genealogy - volunteer to help index new FamilySearch collections! This is not only rewarding since you are paying it forward, but it also hones your own skills reading old handwriting, deciphering place names, and becoming familiar with diverse records. A win-win all around!  Laura walks you through getting registered, tutorials, how to pick your projects, and assessing your progress and contribution. Genealogists unite!

RootsMagic Mystery

RootsMagic 8, the latest version, is a powerful and versatile lineage software that could be just the thing for you! Learn plenty of ‘how-to’s’ in all aspects of the program, then apply them to your own research – achieving RootsMagic Mastery!

Shaky Leaves…Yes! Shaky Leaves…No! Best Searching on

SO much wonderful information is available on that we cannot ignore it, but we must guard against making errors that result in “shaky foundations” in our family trees. This session will explore tips, techniques, and strategies to minimize the risks and maximize the results.

What’s Your Mission? (Inherited Collection, Future-Proofing, or Attacking Your Stacks)

Which of these Missions fits you? It’s safe to say any of us yearns for a treasure trove of already completed research to fall into our lap from a relative! But if this windfall comes to you (and it probably will at some point) how do you handle it? Many of us are concerned about leaving our legacy of research to someone in the future. And, if we’re honest, many of us still have stacks to attack! Laura walks through a step-by-step strategy to organize, sort, and integrate new information, safe-guard current information, and get your piles into files. A blindingly accurate, valuable, traceable life’s work is our Mission Target!

Color-Coded Organizing

The first step in successful research is to have a workable organization system. Who wants to spend all their time trying to locate something you KNOW you’ve seen? This presentation demonstrates a Color-Coded system based on the FamilyRoots Organizer long taught by Mary Hill. Assign one color to each grandparent, match your document folders to that color, and follow a simple method to get organized and stay that way. This is making a positive difference in Laura’s own filing madness! Establish your filing system with a good method, in a good way, and you’ll reap the rewards forever!

Digital Files

Swamped with photos and scans from your research and don’t quite know what to do with all of them? This presentation helps you find answers. Explore what encompasses digital files and how to create a consistent structure, file names, and storage. Adapt a system of your own from Laura’s bountiful examples!

Digitizing Those Precious Memories

This topic focuses specifically on scanning, archiving, and organizing precious photographs. Using additional resources and handouts Laura will help participants think through their own digitizing projects and begin to make plans.

Organizing Your Chaos

A big challenge in genealogy as a pastime is keeping yourself organized – all those papers and digital files! Organization becomes a necessity very quickly! Come hear what Laura shares as best practices and ideas to meet this worthy goal. Touches on file-naming strategies, color-coding, and so much more.

Archives Research & How to Use Basic Resources Found There

How do archives differ from libraries? We will explore the colorful history of archives, types of archives & the roles they play, how they’re organized, & how to find and access their holdings using catalogs, databases, finding aids and digital collections. We’ll even talk about planning your own archives research trip!

Census Discoveries: The Springboard to Splashy Research

Exploring the U.S. Federal Census, we will learn about its history, purposes, how to use it, and where to find it. Laura demonstrates some tips and tricks to try on your own and looks at a case study from her grandmother’s Quaintance family.

Finding & Working with Published Sources

Have you ever wondered whether somewhere out there is a published book or manuscript in a repository giving fantastic, never-before-seen details on a surname you are researching? Learn how to locate these kinds of resources. Laura presents a method utilizing the GPS system to do an exhaustive search, gather your evidence, and analyze the materials you find for quality & accuracy. Though often difficult to locate, these published sources may prove invaluable!

Pathways to Spicy Stories: An Overview of Court Records

Court records in their infinite variety are a treasure trove for genealogists because they are not just legal documents. They are pathways into the stories of our ancestors’ lives, often leading to clues we might otherwise miss. While vital statistics like birth, marriage, and death dates and places are important, it is the stories we uncover that add the extra spice. Attend this humorous attempt to give an overview of the various documents found in an American court!

Probing for Probate: Research in the Probate Court

Building on Laura’s “Pathways to Spicy Stories: An Overview of Court Records,” we zero in on only the Probate Court for a more in-depth look at the rich detail to be found in: Wills, Administration records, Inventories, and much more. If you haven’t yet dug into your ancestral probate files you’re likely missing out!

Record Vitality with Vital Records

We can always learn a little something more, even about familiar records like those for Birth, Marriage, and Death. This session skims the surface of the various vital records (what they are and how to locate them). Next, we explore substitutes to utilize when normal vital records cannot be found or do not exist. Finally, we examine challenges facing genealogists regarding records access and what we can do to improve that increasing danger.

Tiptoeing Thru Tombstones: The Basics of U.S. Cemetery Research

Transcribing information from cemetery tombstones is something most every family historian does early on. Come learn about the history of cemeteries and how they’ve evolved, death customs through the years, meanings on tombstone symbols, religious clues, and much more. You’ll come away with a plethora of informative handouts. Plus, Laura shares her best strategies for your next cemetery field trip!


David Fleer

David Fleer is a retired management consultant in software quality and testing. He has been researching his ancestors, on and off, since 2001. During his last trip to Germany in 2015, he was introduced to the Archion project, to which he has become a regular subscriber.

Finding Your German Ancestors on is the product of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD) and 11 regional church organizations. Its objective is to preserve the church books of the entire German Evangelical Church. This presentation describes how and when to use Archion and the challenges that it presents the researcher.


Janis Minor Forté, B.A., M.A.

Lecturer, Author, Writer, Publisher, Janis is the first place winner of the 2013 ISFHW&E Excellence-in-Writing Competition and other awards and citations. She is a member of several societies, including the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE), the Illinois State Genealogical Society (ISGS), the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago (AAGHSC) and others. Her presentation specialties include methodology, skill building techniques and case studies. She is skilled in both on-site and online research.

Getting Started: Approaching the Past

A workshop for beginning genealogy and family history study.

Getting Around Burned Counties: Methods and Strategies

Like a fireman approaches a burning building. This workshop presents techniques to resolve issues of “the burned county syndrome.”

Un-Puzzling Birthing History

Using 19th century records to verify birthing – a case study.

Using Non-Traditional Sources to Identify the Slave Holder and Reconnect Slave Era Families

Seven Proven Strategies for Identifying Slave Ownership and Reconstructing Slave Era Families

Creating and Sustaining Your Family Newsletter

A lecture designed to address implementation strategies in developing a family newsletter.

Loose Women, Policy Queens and Black Ewes

A lecture to discover the many types and locations of records of women who lived on the “other side of the law.”

Colored Confederate Pension Applications

Valuable economic, social and genealogical primary source information

Using the Records of the Freedmen’s Bureau in the Reconstruction and Enhancement of African American Family History

Heritage Book: Telling Your Story.

Methods and strategies in the development of a heritage book. A project for genealogy societies and family lineage groups.

Researching the Digital Library on American Slavery

Locating pre-emancipation documentation of individuals and community life.

Even Gangsters had to Register

WWI draft registration cards and the companion selective service records produced.

Putting Some Clothes on Charles

Using census supplemental schedules to explore and expand genealogical and social content of family history.

USCT Pension Files

A bounty of pre- and post-emancipation era family information.

Slave Tags

Governmental licensing, labeling and marketing of human souls.

Going Beyond the Population Count

An exploration of supplemental census schedules for their genealogical and social content.


Jacquie Schattner

New Language? Deciphering Genealogical Documents (including Old German Script) (New!)

Don’t speak the language? This presentation will give you many tips and tricks on deciphering documents in most European languages and includes ideas that help in reading that old German script. Includes hints to both transcribe and translate your documents with many helpful websites and resources.

Publishing Your Genealogy Using Windows (New!)

Publishing your family’s history? Written a rough draft? Considering self-publishing? What’s next? Time to prepare for publishing. Learn about templates, layouts, ideas to add interest to your manuscript, inserting family photos, three ways to source, indexing, and creating a beautiful cover. Details on editing your manuscript and where to find help. Five steps will elevate your original manuscript to be publish-ready. Complete the steps and you will be thrilled with the results. 

A Guide to Overseas Genealogy

Crossing the pond is easier than you think. We’ll review the history of immigrant travel into the U.S. and how to find genealogical records in most European countries. Includes a list of books and over 70 American and European websites for genealogical research. This presentation covers five areas of overseas genealogy – emigration, voyage details, immigration, naturalization and genealogical websites, both American and European.

Central Europe is Easy – Merci Napoleon! **Updated**

Explores websites both European and American to locate family in the countries where Napoleon ruled (France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Northern Italy, Germany and surrounding areas). Find church, census, military, maps and civil records. Links to over 40 websites, both U.S. and European and how to use them. (Recently updated with many new overseas websites.)

Emigration & Immigration – The Story of Your Immigrant Ancestors

Your immigrant ancestors are the foundation of your roots in the U.S.  Why did they come? The voyage itself.  Entering the U.S. ports. How to find emigration and immigration and naturalization records. Learn the interesting details of your ancestors‘ journey to their new life here. List of more than 30 websites and other resources included.

European and U.S. Newspapers and Directories – Good News! **New!**

Newspapers and directories may be the key to finding ancestors. Find stories, BMDs, including children births/deaths between censuses. Directories give occupations, place of birth, deaths and family relationships. They help locate important church records. Emphasis on European records. List of 75 newspaper and directory websites, from both U.S. and Europe.

Explore U.S. Church Records: Find Family

Church records contain surprises, not just baptisms, marriages and deaths. They provide clues to much more, including town of origin and immigration information, how active families were in their church, and their financial situation. Churches predate government and often have information on under-represented people: women, minorities, immigrants and young children. Learn how to identify your ancestor‘s place of worship, access surviving records and solve problems such as maiden names and overseas birthplaces. Find new and exciting information in church records!

Genealogy – Where Do You Look?

Discover your family history and find your ancestors’ stories. Using a list of over 25 free websites, this class will help you start your journey. Tips on using genealogical websites more efficiently and organizing your information will be discussed. Great refresher course too.

Organizing Genealogy – Less Piles, Better Files **New!**

Save time, get organized. Many ideas for organizing paper and computer files including color coding. Multiple file naming ideas. We’ll also cover organizing heirlooms, photos, USB drives and presentation handouts. This presentation will help find the system that works best for you.

Top 10 Genea-Tricks and Tips

A review of the top genealogical websites and how to use them most efficiently. Tricks and tips on websites such as, and even Google. Many use these websites but do not know how to get the most out of them.


Gerald Schmidt

Gerald Schmidt is a retired San Francisco Police Officer, Crime Scene Investigator and latent fingerprint examiner. He worked in the biometric identification industry with automated fingerprint identification systems, facial recognition and Livescan fingerprinting technologies. As an independent consultant, he coordinated RapidDNA demonstrations on behalf of the Utah State Crime Lab, Chicago Police Department, Cook and DuPage County Sheriffs Departments as well as the Illinois State Police. He now spends his time assisting others as a Search Angel and helping clients resolve their non-traditional family history questions ( 

Genetic Genealogy: What it is and Why it Matters to Local Law Enforcement (with co-presenters Gerald Schmidt and Michelle Bray Wilson; description here)


Regina Yuill

Regina has experience in researching within state courthouses, libraries and archives. She has traveled to and conducted genealogy research in Ireland and has become an expert in locating real estate records. She has published a 500 page family history book on her mother’s family line and is currently working on a second volume, this one focusing on her father’s lineage.

Preparing to Publish Your Book:  Tips and Tricks for the Writer 

Does publishing your family history book seem like a daunting task?  This talk will help you over come your fears of writing and publishing your family book. Discussion will cover how to generate ideas for your book, finding your target audience, setting up the book, finding publishing companies and how to use Microsoft Word to add special features to your book.

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