Illinois State Genealogical Society
Meet Our 2020 Conference Speakers
Lisa Louise Cooke
Lisa Louise Cooke is the producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast and the weekly YouTube show Elevenses with Lisa (both available at her website She is the author of five books including The Genealogist's Google Toolbox 3rd Edition, and a podcast producer and instructor and columnist for FamilyTree Magazine.
Lauren Peightel
Lauren Peightel is the Manager of Genealogy and Cultural Programs with the Indiana Historical Society and co-chair of their Midwestern Roots Family History Conference, where her goal is to inspire the researcher to understand how their story fits into a larger historical context and why that history matters to today. Peightel comes to the Midwest with over ten years of experience as a research librarian and time in academic and national museum archives with a master's degree in museum studies from Johns Hopkins University. Passionate about storytelling, Peightel has been in love with history since a young girl playing with her American Girl dolls and family vacations to historic sites.
LaDonna Garner
LaDonna Garner, M.A., is a historic consultant and professional genealogist in Southeast Missouri. She has earned an M.A. in Historic Preservation and focuses on forgotten communities and cemetery preservation. Her current project regards the recording and mapping of minority communities in S.E. Missouri. Garner is passionately merging genealogy and historic preservation for a greater understanding of people, places, and cultural heritage.
Michelle Wilson
Michelle Wilson is a past president of  CAGGNI, the Computer-Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois. She is a co-founder of CAGGNI's DNA Special Interest Group and began her first autosomal genetic genealogy search angel case in 2009. She is a DAR Registrar. Michelle speaks throughout the Midwest, most frequently on Genetic Genealogy, French Canadians and writing family history books. Her latest project was a two-year study of an early McHenry County settler, resulting in the book Montelona Farm with co-author Rommy Lopat. Wilson holds an MS in electrical engineering and computer science and works in the medical device industry. She is currently accepting a limited number of clients in the genealogy space.
Dr. David Joens
David Joens is the Director of the Illinois State Archives. He is a fifth generation resident of Illinois and currently lives in Springfield. Joens received a Bachelor's degree in political science and history from Northern Illinois University, Master's degrees in both political science and history from the University of Illinois at Springfield, and a doctorate in history from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He is the author of several articles on Illinois history and of the book From Slave to State Legislator, which is a biography of John W. E. Thomas, Illinois' first African American State Legislator.
Joy Upton
Joy Whitson Upton, Genealogist and Librarian, has taught DNA and Genealogy courses at JALC since 2012 and has presented workshops on the rapidly developing topic throughout the state under the auspices of the Illinois State Organization NSDAR. Currently, she teaches classes at JALC, Carterville and Du Quoin, focusing n free internet sites which are helpful for genetic genealogy researchers. Trained as a librarian, Ms. Upton holds an MS in Library Science. She served as librarian on the high shool level and taught library courses at the college level. Upon "retirement" she devoted ever more effort to genealogical and family research. She has taught genealogy classes and participated in workshops since 1984 near wherever she lived. After 50 years of research, she has proved she and her best friend Jeanette are related using the tools available with their DNA. She has served as President of the Illinois State Genealogical Society, the Du Quoin Public Library Board, officer of many genealogical groups and has been honored to have served as Illinois State DAR Librarian.