Minnesota Genealogical Society

2017 North Star Conference Breakout Sessions


Mary Eberle

Finding Adoptee's Birth Families with DNA
Minnesota adoptees have limited rights to information on their birth families. Because of this, DNA is important for many adoptees looking for their birth families. This talk describes two case studies of Midwest adoptees: one born in Chicago in 1954, the other in Aurora, Illinois, in 1918. Both used DNA to find their birth families. Learn about the steps required for each case.

J.H. Fonkert

Family History Crossroads: 19th Century Migration to the Upper Midwest
Every migration story is different, but learning about common migration routes helps us understand the migration possibilities for our individual ancestors. Learn about major 19th Century American migration routes and how to look for clues for the routes taken by your ancestors.

Lois Mackin

Using City Directories to Find Family and Solve Research Problems
Did you know that city directories were published in some areas of the U.S. before 1800? Directories, increasingly available online, can help you find family members between censuses, track movements and migrations, learn about your ancestors’ residences and occupations, and explore changes in your families. They also provide key information about the places your ancestors lived, including government offices, churches, schools, social organizations, and more. Learn how you can find directories, work with the information you find in them, and use them to solve your research.

Joanne Sher

Immigrants on the Iron Range
Minnesota’s Iron Range was a melting pot of immigrants from Europe, Scandinavia, and Great Britain. Who were they? What did they do? Where can you find their records? This session will answer those questions.


Kim Ashford

Four Tips for Tracing Immigrant Ancestors
One goal in genealogy is to trace back to our ancestor's country of origin. Identifying your immigrant ancestor is the first step, but we usually need assistance to locate their home town. Learn about sources and tricks for finding the information you need to track down your ancestor's origin.

Diane Barbour

Learn the Power of Probate
Learn about special probate terminology and explore some of the many kinds of probate documents contained in an 1885 probate packet. Unique features of this case include a will that did not name an executor and the 16-year duration of the case. This packet also contains a guardianship case and the papers involved in that process. The information in probate files can help you meet the Genealogical Proof Standard; learn where to find the probate records you need.

Vickie Chupurdia

Photo Restoration With Free Software
In this session, you will learn how to scan and restore photos yourself. We will discuss different scanning devices, scanning techniques to get the best results, cropping, making collages, and how to restore and enhance your photos with free software.

John Vanek

French-Canadian Settlement in Minnesota: History for Genealogists
From le Grand Portage on Lac Supérieur to Le Sueur and Petit Canada, Minnesota is truly L'Étoile du Nord. French-Canadians and French-Metis were the first people of European heritage to settle permanently in what later became Minnesota. Though small in number compared to German and Scandinavian immigrants who arrived after 1850, French-Canadians continued to migrate to Minnesota through the end of the 19th century. Learn why French-Canadians left Canada, where they chose to settle, and what they did for a living. Also explore connections between Minnesota’s French communities and those as far flung as New England and the Pacific Northwest.

Alice Hoyt Veen

Therapy for Troubled Evidence: Resolving Conflicts
Different sources often provide different answers to the same question. If your findings include major inconsistencies or disagreements, it’s time to put your evidence on the analyst’s couch and provide therapeutic intervention for those troubled sources. This presentation uses a typical case-study to explore strategies for resolving conflicts in evidence and for reaching a “well-reasoned conclusion.”


Kim Ashford

Using the Power of Google in Your Genealogy Research
Google is a powerful search engine, just as the engines found in high class sports cars. Just as we all take Driver's Education classes to learn to drive, we all need a few lessons in Google Searches to enjoy the power it can bring to our research.

Melissa Brechon

William J. Hoffman: Library and Research Center, the Gift of Research
This session will give you 17 tips for using resources at the William J Hoffman Library and Resource Center at MGS to discover your family history. Learn about access to essential online and print resources, how to connect with other researchers, and tools to help find answers to the important question: “where did I come from?” The presentation includes discussion on reducing paper clutter, and organizing and streamlining research materials.

Mary Eberle

Interpreting Your Autosomal DNA Results
Autosomal DNA (atDNA) tests can reveal a lot about our ancestral families. Autosomal tests produce two types of information: ethnicity estimates and a DNA-match list. Your atDNA results can be baffling; learn why ethnicity estimates can be confusing and how you can use them to make sense of your matches. Get tips on which companies to test with and how to use DNA in genealogy. This presentation offers a little bit of science, but not too much, to help you make sense of your atDNA test results.

Lois Mackin

Online Resources for Finding Pre-1850 Ancestors North of the Mason-Dixon Line
Researching ancestors who lived in the colonial and early republican period baffles many genealogists! Growth in online genealogy collections has made researching these fascinating periods easier than ever before. Explore the resources available from major genealogical websites, lineage societies, and repositories in New England and the Northeast.

Joanne Sher

Two-way Migration: Immigrants Who Came to the U.S. and Returned Home
Looking for an elusive ancestor? Not everyone who came to the United States stayed. Some crossed back and forth between the U.S. and their home countries multiple times, while others returned home permanently. Personal or political reasons, and sometimes economic opportunities, drove their decision to return home. This session will review strategies for finding those ancestors.

Nicholas Weerts

Grandma Was a Liar and Other Research Challenges
Researching ancestors can be a challenge in any family, but when an ancestor purposely left a false and incorrect documentation trail, a whole new set of research issues arises. This presentation discusses not only the motivation an ancestor may have had for the false narrative, but also the resources – from standard documentary evidence to DNA – that can reveal the truth. We’ll discuss how to analyze the available evidence and how to separate fact from fiction when “Grandma was a liar."


Gary Ball-Kilbourne

Redeeming Heirlooms and Finding Genealogical Artifacts Online
Not every family has passed cherished heirlooms down the generations. Yet, a family's precious artifacts might still exist and show up in an antique store or auction house, or be offered for sale online. If you only knew how to find them, they might help you overcome a long-standing brick wall. As you research an heirloom's background, new and surprising insights might come to light. This lecture will show you some of the secrets to finding those heirlooms.

J.H. Fonkert

30 Percent Chance of Rain: Making Sense of DNA Relationship Predictions
DNA alone rarely is sufficient to identify an ancestor, but it increases the odds. Predicting relationships with DNA is a bit like forecasting the weather -- sometimes things turn out better than the forecast and sometimes worse. Understanding the statistics behind your DNA relationship predictions is key to evaluating both your Y-DNA and autosomal DNA matches.

Greg Isola

From Finland to Minnesota: A Journey to Three Minnesota Settlements
From 1864 to 1867, the earliest modern Finnish immigrant settlers left the Nordic region to create Finnish "nesting places" (in Finnish: pesäpaikka) in Michigan and Minnesota. In Minnesota, they settled and created their new lives in three small communities: Franklin area in Renville Co, Cokato area in Wright Co, and Holmes City area in Douglas Co. The story of their journeys and their close interconnection with Swedish and Norwegian settlers is the focus of this presentation. Research into these early families reveals how their lives and families were intertwined, both in their homelands and here in Minnesota.

Alice Hoyt Veen

Finding John Johnson: Putting the Genealogical Proof Standard to Work
Sponsored by the APG Northland Chapter

The Genealogical Proof Standard is a disciplined approach to the research process. See how it works in a step-by-step case study to locate John Johnson, a Swedish immigrant with a very common name! Learn to craft a focused research question, identify relevant sources, and construct a solid research plan. Discussion includes tips and techniques for efficient, effective searching and how to track your progress with a well-organized research log.

Cathi Weber

Using Family Tree Maker
Come and learn some tips and tricks for using Family Tree Maker genealogy software program. See how it interfaces with Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. See the new color coding feature. Find out what’s new in Family Tree Maker 2017.