Illinois State Genealogical Society
  Meet Our Conference & Workshop Speakers  
Dr. David McDonald has more than four decades’ research experience and has been a professional genealogist since his high school days in suburban Chicago. He has lectured at various national and state genealogy conferences, and has coordinated and instructed four courses at SLIG, IGHR, ISBGFH and GRIP. He has presented multiple online lectures for the Society of Genealogists in London and is a sometime panelist for DearMyrtle’s online genealogy chat. As a learner, he has taken courses at SLIG, IGHR, and Gen-Fed, and attended his first ISGS state conference at Springfield in 1982. Dr. McDonald is president of APG, past president of BCG and formerly served as a director for NGS and ISGS.
Dave’s research focuses on American migration patterns, the upper Midwest, New England, English & Germanic research. He has lectured and taught on methodology, religious records and research in various states. He belongs to several national lineage societies, and has written for the NGSQ, NGS Magazine, a number of state society journals and local society publications.
An Illinois native, Dave lives near Madison, Wisconsin. His earliest ancestors arrived in Illinois in the late 1810s, and six of his great-grandparents were born in, or raised in, central or southern Illinois. A June research trip had him finding the graves of five generations of mitochondrial forebears in a 75-mile stretch from Springfield to Fayette County. He has an undergraduate degree in American history with a specialty in federal-era (pre-1850) research. He also holds graduate and doctoral degrees in theology.

On-Demand Webinar: Illinois Migration & Settlement Patterns

From its earliest days as territory, through its developing years as a state, Illinois has had distinct settlement patterns that define its politics, its cuisine, its history and even its sports loyalties. We’ll examine the settlement of Illinois from the colonial era through the First World War, and the impacts on us as researchers and residents of the Land of Lincoln.

On-Demand Webinar: Before the Vital Records

Research in Illinois prior to the establishment of birth and death record requirements (December 1877) requires genealogists to approach census, land, marriage, religious records and courthouse holdings with diligence and care to establish the links and build family records. We’ll evaluate their utility, their accessibility, and their role in building a solid base for your genealogy research

On-Demand Webinar: 1880 and After…

The 1880 Census is a watershed year for genealogists, with the tables containing far more information of use and interest to genealogists. We will look at the expanding array of vital records, population schedules, and immigration into the state from the last third of the nineteenth century onward as a way of breaking through research puzzles that vex even experienced hands.

Special 2-Hour Workshop: Effective Research Plans and Achievable Goals (Registration capped at first 20 participants.)


Ginger Frere, MLIS, is a professional researcher who provides a variety of research services to authors, historians, film makers and individuals interested in genealogy. Her primary research interests include Chicago history and the creation of online tools for students and genealogists. She has worked on projects such as, a History Comic on the Chicago Fire, and a Newberry Digital Collection on “Chicago After the Great Fire” for teachers and students. Prior to becoming a full-time researcher, Ginger was a reference librarian at Chicago’s famed Newberry Library where she is now a Scholar-in-Residence.
Live Special Event:  The Night Chicago Burned
What happened that fateful night? Hear the story of the Great Fire and learn about the devastion it wrought.
On-Demand Webinar:  Researching Pre-fire Chicago
Think there's no way to research Chicago before 1871" Find out about some of the "hot items" which survived!

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.
On-Demand Webinar:  Exploring Historical Dimensions for Effective Storytelling
As we dig into the past, we can become caught up in the specifics of a person's life, often losing sight of the human experience and the lessons we can learn by applying empathy to our ancestors and their communities.
Special 2-hour Workshop:  Exploring Historical Dimensions for Effective Storytelling  (Registration capped at first 20 participants.)
We'll expand upon the pre-recorded webinar and explore a variety of stories a history can tell by starting our research in a completely new method that inspires different resources and ideas of understanding the past. From an introduction in theory and practice, to real examples and practical application, to captivating and creative storytelling, walk away with the tools and inspiration to apply this method to your own stories.

 J. H. ("Jay") Fonkert, CG researches Norwegian Morstads, Swedish Falks, German Rombkes, English Tidballs, Kentucky Fawkners, and Dutch Zorgdragers from his home in Roseville, Minnesota. He has lectured in a dozen states, taught at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and published more than 80 research and teaching articles, including three in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. He is co-maanging editor Minnesota Genealogist and a past-president of the Minnesota Genealogical Society.
On-Demand Webinar:  Why Were They There? Merging Evidence to Explain Migration
Finding where your ancestors came from is one thing. Figuring out why they settled where they did is another. Your ancestors might have traveled in a group, followed friends, or set out for a hot job location. Learn to use a variety of sources to understand why they were where they were.


Meghan Harmon is the Reference Librarian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and assists researchers in the library’s Reading Room.  She holds a Master of Arts in English, a Master of Library and Information Science, and a Certificate in Rare Books and Special Collections from the University of Illinois.  Before coming to the Presidential Library, Meghan served as the Local History and Genealogy Reference Librarian at the Chatham Area Public Library in Chatham, Illinois. 

On-Demand Webinar:  Researching at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
Meghan's talk will include a history of the library, an overview of the collections, electronic resources available, and how to best prepare for your research visit.


Rochelle M. Joseph is a Senior Records Archivist in the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System at the Illinois State Archives. Ms. Joseph also serves as the IRAD Ex-Officio Representative with ISGS and consults with the Illinois State Archives' State Records Management Unit.

Ms. Joseph has a B.S. degree from Illinois State University and M.A. degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield, Illinois, both in History. Prior to her current position at the Illinois State Archives, Ms. Joseph's professional career includes: 23 years as a legal assistant for attorneys specializing in estate planning, probate/guardianships, real estate, and contractual law; 8 years as a teacher/substitute teacher (pre-K through grade 12); 2 1/2 years as an IRAD intern at the UIS depository; and 5 years as a Records Archivist/Analyst in the Illinois State Archives State Records Management Unit. 

On-Demand Webinar:  Discovering Family and Local History through the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System
This presentation will provide an overview of the IRAD system, why genealogists should be using IRAD, and how to get started utilizing IRAD resources to research local government records.

Debra M. Dudek is Head of Adult and Teen Services at the Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook, IL. She holds a post graduate certificate in Genealogical, Palaeographic & Heraldic Studies from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. Ms. Dudek is the Book Review Editor of the Illinois State Genealogical Society, a board member of the Illinois State Historical Society, Chapter Librarian of the Chicago Chapter NSDAR, and is the author of the World War I Research Guide: Tracing American Military and Non-Combatant Ancestors – Includes a Guide to Canadian Military Research.
On-Demand Webinar:  Try-It Illinois!
The annual Try-It Illinois Database trial which runs from October 1 – November 30, allows state residents to access a ton of free genealogy databases from home for free! You'll find a wide variety of genealogical, academic, and digitized resources to successfully fulfill your research goals.