SLIG 2020 Faculty

Lisa Parry Arnold

Lisa Parry ArnoldLisa Parry Arnold was born and raised as a Quaker in the Philadelphia area. Many of her ancestors were among the original Quakers who settled the colonies of PA and NJ with William Penn. She is the proud mother of five and grandmother of ten.

Lisa is a professional genealogist with a bachelor’s degree in History-Family History from Brigham Young University. As part of her degree work, she fulfilled an internship at the Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library, which is the repository of 300 years of Quaker records from the Mid-Atlantic region. She is completing a Master’s degree in History from the University of Nebraska – Kearney. Lisa worked for for eleven years as Senior Content Strategist. She is a frequent speaker at national genealogy conferences. For several years she was involved in helping to bring the Quaker records to Ancestry, a joyful coincidence for her.

Lisa has written a book on researching Quakers called Thee and Me: A Beginner’s Guide to Early Quaker Records, published in 2014 and available on Amazon.

Brandon Baird, AG

Brandon Baird, AGBrandon Baird, AG, specializes in the research areas of Spain and France. He participated in multiple archive research trips through Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal. He is a graduate of the Family History program at BYU and works at the Family History Library.



F. Warren Bittner, CG

F. Warren Bittner, CGWarren Bittner, CG, holds a master's degree in history and has lectured widely. He works for Ancestry ProGenealogists as a genealogist. His article won the NGS Award for Excellence in 2012. He is former German Collection Manager at the Family History Library. He has taught week-long intensive German research at IGHR, GRIP, and SLIG.


Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CGJeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, is a self-employed, full-time professional researcher with
twenty (20) years of experience. She specializes in Chicago and Cook County research, forensic genealogy, problem solving, and multi-generational family histories. Her experiences as a former financial analyst, small-business consultant, and banker contributes to her success as the owner of a small-business.

Jeanne conducts research projects for government agencies, attorneys, national and international heir-search firms, oil-land-lease companies, authors, newspapers, television-production companies, professional genealogists, and family researchers. Her clients are international and include those from Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Ireland, Israel, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

As a case manager for the American History Company, Jeanne works on identifying family members that can provide Family Reference Samples (mtDNA, Y-DNA, and autosomal DNA) to aid in the possible identification of unaccounted for soldiers from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War and to determine the Primary Next of Kin and the Secondary Next of Kin of the servicemen.

Jeanne, the author of Chapter 9: Managing Records & Time in Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards, writes articles for scholarly journals and society publications. She lectures frequently at conferences, workshops, and institutes.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts [History] from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a second-year certificate from the University of Chicago's publishing program. She is a trustee and a former president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists® (BCG).

Angie Bush, MS

Angie Bush, MSAngie Bush, MS (Biotechnology), BS (Molecular Biology), is the Director of Region 1 for the National Genealogical Society. She is a professional genetic genealogist and has been researching her own family since she was 8 years old. She regularly provides advice regarding genetic genealogy to other genealogists in the Salt Lake City area where she lives with her husband and two descendants. Prior to her involvement with genetic genealogy, she pursued a career in molecular and clinical genetics. Between obtaining her bachelor's and master's degrees, she spent several years working in the biotech industry where she gained an in-depth, working knowledge of the technologies used in DNA testing. Angie has helped many adoptees to find their biological family through autosomal DNA testing, and is particularly focused on using DNA as a genealogical record to reconstruct relationships and break down brick walls – whether they are recent or several hundred years old.

Angie is a member of the Association for Professional Genealogists, International Society of Genetic Genealogists and Utah Genealogical Association.

Evan Christensen, AG

Evan Christensen, AGEvan Christensen, AG, is a professional genealogist at AncestryProGenealogists specializing in Latin American and Southern European family history research. He is accredited in Mexican genealogy. An Ancestry employee of four years, Evan works full-time for his clients. In addition to this work, he has researched for the TV series Long Lost Family,, and Ancestry’s We’re Related app.


Henrietta Christmas

Henrietta ChristmasHenrietta Christmas, a well-known speaker has given hundreds of presentations on topics related to Hispanic/Southwestern research. Engagements include: keynote - Santa Fe Trail Association, featured at annual conferences: Texas Genealogical Society, Historical Society of New Mexico, DAR and BIA-International Conference.


John Philip Colletta, PhD, FUGA

John Philip Colletta, PhDJohn Philip Colletta is one of America’s most popular genealogical lecturers. Knowledgeable, experienced, and entertaining, he resides in Washington, DC. For twenty years, while laying the foundation for his career in genealogy, he worked half-time at the Library of Congress and taught workshops at the National Archives.

Today Dr. Colletta lectures nationally, teaches at local schools, and conducts programs for the Smithsonian Institution’s Resident Associate Program. He is a faculty member of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (Athens, GA), the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and Boston University’s Certificate in Family History program. He has also been an instructor and course coordinator for the National Institute on Genealogical Research (Washington, DC), the Genealogical Institute of Texas (Dallas), and the Genealogical Institute of Mid-America (Springfield, IL).

His publications include numerous articles, both scholarly and popular, two manuals — They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor's Arrival Record and Finding Italian Roots: The Complete Guide for Americans — and one “murder-mystery-family-history,” Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath. It tells the story of Colletta’s great-great-grandfather, Joe Ring, who moved his family from Buffalo, New York, to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, after the Civil War. When Joe Ring’s country store burned to the ground with five unfortunate victims sleeping upstairs, the incident was investigated as mass murder, robbery and arson.

Dr. Colletta appears frequently on podcasts and local and national radio and television. He is featured in Episode Four of Ancestors, the ten-part KBYU-TV series, as well as its sequel. He has received many professional honors, including fellowship in the Utah Genealogical Association and distinguished service awards from the Dallas Genealogical Society and the National Society, Daughters of Colonial Founders and Patriots.

Arturo Cuellar, AG

Arturo Cuellar, AGArturo Cuellar, AG, born and raised in Mexico, is a genealogical researcher with more than 30 years of research experience. He is an Accredited Genealogist in Mexico; he is working towards a second professional accreditation in South America. He has researched in many Latin America and Spain repositories.


Catherine B. W. Desmarais, CG

Catherine B. W. Desmarais, CGA full-time professional genealogist, author, and educator, Catherine is the owner of Stone House Historical Research. She is the immediate past Vice-President of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), and has previously served on the board of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy. Board-certified since 2011, she specializes in forensic research for probate, real estate, and military repatriation cases. She has a broad range of experience in the US and internationally, with a particular focus on Vermont and Ireland.

Catherine has a Masters in Education from the University of Vermont, and has taught at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh, and the Forensic Genealogy Institute. Her research and writing has been published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Crossroads, and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly.

Victor S. Dunn, CG

Victor S. Dunn, AGVictor S. “Vic” Dunn, CG, is a full-time professional researcher. The coordinator for the Virginia track at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, he is a frequent contributor to major genealogical publications including feature articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The Genealogist, BCG OnBoard, and Magazine of Virginia Genealogy. In 2014 he received the Mosher Award for Colonial Virginia Research and was named as the official genealogist of the Order of First Families of Virginia. He is a past trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, past treasurer of the National Genealogical Society and past governor of the Virginia Genealogical Society.

Stefani Evans, CG

Stefani Evans, CGStefani Evans, CG, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was Board certified in 2005 and elected to the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ (BCG) board of trustees in 2011. She served on the Board’s executive committee as member at large and vice president 2012–18 and was Nominating Committee chair in 2018. From 2009–16 she was a trustee for the BCG Education Fund. During her 2010–14 term as a National Genealogical Society (NGS) director, she chaired the NGS 2013 Family History Conference. A PhD candidate in the History of the North American West, she was project manager for the Building Las Vegas oral history project at the Oral History Research Center at University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Libraries 2016–19 and is the Nevada delegate on the board of the Southwest Oral History Association. She has taught in the SLIG Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum and You Be the Judge courses and the You Be the Judge course at the Genealogical Research Institute at Pittsburgh (GRIP). She also mentored the ProGen2 Study Group and looks forward to SLIG 2020, where she will reprise her teaching role in the You Be the Judge course and teach oral history in the Chinese Family History course.

Joan Ferrer

Joan FerrerJoan Ferrer, President and member of the Academia Dominicana de Genealogía y Heráldica. Member of the Instituto Dominicano de Genealogía. Member of the Real Academia Matritense de Heráldica y Genealogía. Member of the Academia Costarricense de Ciencias Genealógicas y Heráldicas. Member of the Academia Argentina de Ciencias Genealógicas y Heráldicas. Member of the Academia Nacional Heráldica de Colombia. Member of the Academia Dominicana de la Historia. Honorary member of the Centro de Estudios Históricos Diego de Torres y Moyachoque. Member of the Sociedad Numismática Dominicana.

Anita Finger-Smith

Anita Finger-SmithAnita Finger-Smith is a full-time professional genealogist, an accomplished researcher, and a national lecturer. She specializes in Native American tribal records, focusing on Southeastern research from the pre-Removal period to the present. She is employed as the genealogist to the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. Anita is currently on the Board of Directors of the National Trail of Tears Association and is the treasurer of the North Carolina Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association and the Qualla Boundary Historical Society. She is the principal genealogist for Cherokee Genealogy Services, licensed through the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Anita has presented lectures at Five Tribes Ancestry and NGS national conferences and is a frequent presenter at statewide and local organizations. She has attended and presented lectures at the Institute of Historical and Genealogical Research (IGHR), and currently serves as coordinator of Course 13, The Five Civilized Tribes.

Rick Fogarty

Rick FogartyRick Fogarty is a professional genealogical researcher and lecturer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is a third-generation genealogist with deep Oklahoma roots and a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation. He specializes in Native American, adoption, and DNA and forensic genealogical research. He has attended the Boston University program on forensic genealogy, the Forensic Genealogy Institute course on genetic genealogy, and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy course on professional genealogy. He is a life member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. He is a member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild. He is an instructor on Native American genealogy for the Virtual Institute for Genealogical Research and lectures frequently on many genealogical topics. He currently serves on the board for the Oklahoma Genealogical Society. He is a member of the National Genealogical Society and the International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG, CGL

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG, CGLLaBrenda Garrett-Nelson is an author and lecturer who focuses on African American families with roots in the South; she also serves as a facilitator on the faculty of the Boston University Online Genealogical Program. LaBrenda was approved as a board-certified genealogist in 2015, and elected as a trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists in 2016. She earned a BA in government from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and both a Law degree and a Master of Laws degree from New York University School of Law. While practicing law, LaBrenda authored several editions of her family history as well as two church histories. She has been published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, among other genealogical publications, and in 2016 published A Guide to Researching African American Ancestors in Laurens County, South Carolina and Selected Finding Aids, a book that was widely acclaimed as a model for research in South Carolina and other states. She was the mentor of ProGen 37, and the SLIG 2019 Course Coordinator for “1619-2019: Four Hundred Years of African American Genealogy.” She is also on the faculty of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh and the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records.

Paul K. Graham, AG, CG, CGL

Paul K. Graham, AG, CG, CGLPaul K. Graham, AG, CG, CGL, is a Senior Genealogist at AncestryProGenealogists, where he conducts research for clients and for the television show Who Do You Think You Are?. He specializes in genealogical problem solving across the English-speaking world. Paul is BCG-certified and an ICAPGen Accredited Genealogist professional, and he holds a master’s degree in public history and a professional certificate in geographic information systems. He has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, including Georgia Courthouse Disasters and Georgia Land Lottery Research. His publications have earned him the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Award for Excellence and the American Society of Genealogists (ASG) Scholar Award, and he is a winner of the NGS Family History Writing Contest. Paul grew up in North Carolina and Georgia and currently resides in Utah.

Colleen Greene, MLIS

Colleen Greene, MLISColleen Greene, MLIS, is a nationally recognized speaker with 21 years of genealogy experience. She is a librarian, educator, and web developer. Colleen is the Marketing Librarian at California State University, Fullerton, and teaches an online graduate-level genealogical methodology course for San Jose State University. Her speaking and instruction focus on Mexican and Hispanic research; DNA; methodology; search strategies; emerging technologies; and society marketing and communications. Colleen’s Hispanic ancestors hail from Mexico, California, New Mexico, and Texas. She conducted research trips in Mexico and Spain in 2017.

Deborah S. Gurtler, AG

Deborah S. Gurtler, AGDebbie Gurtler, AG, graduated with honors from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor's degree in Family History. She worked as an intern at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. She has also made research trips to archives in Spain, Virginia, and North Carolina.

She is employed by FamilySearch where she is currently the supervisor of the Latin America – Southern European team and the International floor at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. She is fluent in Spanish. She can also read genealogical documents in Portuguese, Italian, and French. She is a member of several genealogical societies including HISPAGEN and Antzinako in Spain, the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), and the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) in the United States.

Debbie serves as a treasurer on the board for the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists for She is also the Chapter Representative for the Utah Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Debbie holds three AG credentials. One is for Spain where she has done research in various parts of the country. Another is for the United States Mid-South region. She has done extensive research in North Carolina and Virginia. Her most recent accreditation is for Mexico.

Michael G. Hait, CG, CGL

Michael G. Hait, CG, CGLMichael G. Hait, CG, CGL, is a full-time professional genealogical researcher, writer, and instructor. He has written case studies for several genealogical journals including the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. In 2012 Michael won 1st prize in the National Genealogical Society Family History Writing Competition for his article “In the Shadow of Rebellions,” exploring descendants of an enslaved woman living in 19th-century Maryland.

Michael has taught on numerous topics at the National Genealogical Society Annual Conference, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society Conference, the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

Michael formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists (2012–2013) and on the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (2013–2018). He also served as the founding President of the APG Writers Special Interest Group.

Debra A. Hoffman, PLCGS

Debra A. HoffmanSpecializing in Maryland and German research, Debra A. Hoffman, PLCGS, is a professional genealogist and the owner of Hoffman Genealogical Services. She is a genealogical author, lecturer, and researcher. She is a frequent speaker at genealogical societies, libraries and has presented at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. She has authored articles in the Carrolltonian, Der Kurier, Bluegrass Roots, Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. She has a certificate in Family History from Brigham Young University and, since 2009, has completed courses at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, and at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. Active in the genealogical community, Debra currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed) and is the Recording Secretary for the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society. She is recent past Vice President for the Maryland Genealogical Society and for the Carroll County Genealogical Society. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and belongs to the William Winchester Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution as well as many other state and local genealogical societies. Debra has received awards for her genealogical writing from the International Society of Family History Writers & Editors. She also received a research fellowship from the Kentucky Historical Society and the Jimmy B. Parker Scholarship to attend the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy.

Melanie D. Holtz, CG

Melanie D. Holtz, CGMelanie D. Holtz, CG, is a full-time professional genealogist, lecturer, and writer specializing in Italian genealogy and dual citizenship. She operates an international research firm that maintains offices in both the U.S. and Italy. Melanie is a board-certified genealogist who lectures and writes on Italian genealogy, professional development, and genealogical standards.

She is a former APG board member and chair of the Professional Development Committee, where she advocated for mentorship and expanded educational offerings within the organization. Melanie is also a co-administrator of the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research and published multiple Italian genealogy courses, as well as The Family Tree Italian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Family Tree in Italy.

Melissa A. Johnson, CG

Melissa A. Johnson, CGMelissa Johnson, CG, is a professional genealogist, writer and editor. She has expertise in researching families with origins in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and England, and works on forensic cases, dual citizenship matters, and lineage society applications. She is also proficient in using DNA test results to break through ancestral brick walls. Melissa is the former Editor of NGS Monthly and frequently writes articles on methodology and sources. She is also Reviews Editor of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (APGQ), and editor of the GSNJ Newsletter, a publication of the Genealogical Society of New Jersey.

Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGSThomas W. Jones works and plays full-time as a genealogical editor, educator, researcher, and writer. He has lectured at national genealogy conferences since 1996, coedited the National Genealogical Society Quarterly since 2002, coordinated courses at genealogy institutes since 2006, and taught “Evidence Analysis and Documentation,” in Boston University’s genealogy certificate program. Tom also is the author of Mastering Genealogical Proof, a popular textbook on genealogical methods.

An active genealogist since his teens, Tom's research encompasses records of most American states and France, Germany, Ireland, and Italy. He specializes, however, in Georgia, the Midwest, Northern Ireland, Upstate New York, and Virginia. Tom writes and speaks frequently on genealogical methods applicable across geographic areas and time periods.

Gretchen Jorgensen

Gretchen JorgensenGretchen Jorgensen is a professional genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists, specializing in DNA analysis for unknown parentage, as well as use of DNA to solve genealogical brick walls. She holds a BS in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Colorado State University. After graduation, she spent more than a decade as a Software Engineer for a Fortune 100 company, followed by 17 years as a stay-at-home mom. Past genealogy courses include the SLIG DNA Boot Camp, APG Professional Management Conference, and the i4GG International Genetic Genealogy Conference.

Gretchen has spent thousands of hours researching her own family, with a focus on US and Danish records. A query from an adopted 3rd cousin DNA match had the unexpected side effect of developing a passion for solving unknown parentage cases. She participates in a local DNA Special Interest Group, and is an administrator for the DNA Detectives Facebook group.

Anthony King

Anthony KingTony King was born and raised in San Francisco Bay Area. He descends from Chinese immigrants who came to California, Oregon, and Hawaii in the late 1800s. Having retired from a 30-year career with the federal government, he has resided overseas for more than a dozen years in Malaysia, Germany, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and China (5 years). His focus since retirement has been on Chinese genealogy. He has conducted research in such places as California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Hong Kong, and southern China. Over recent years, he has taken four trips to southern China (including stays totaling six months of the last two years) to conduct research regarding his ancestral villages. He now serves as a volunteer at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, assisting those who are searching for their Chinese roots, and also serves with the FamilySearch China team, helping to improve the customer experience for Chinese patrons. He has lectured on Chinese genealogy in cities throughout the U.S. and Asia.

Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG, CGL

Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG, CGLRebecca Whitman Koford holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist and Certified Genealogical Lecturer. Her focuses are Maryland and military records at the National Archives, especially those of the War of 1812. Rebecca has been taking clients and lecturing since 2004. She has spoken for the National Genealogical Society Conference (NGS), Association of Professional Genealogists Conference (APG), RootsTech, webinars for Legacy and APG, the Maryland State Archives, and for groups in surrounding states. She has published articles in the NGS Magazine, APG Quarterly, SAR Magazine, and the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal. Rebecca is also the Course 1 coordinator for The Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR). She is a former board member of the Maryland Genealogical Society. She is a graduate and former group coordinator and mentor of the ProGen Study Group, an online peer-led study program based on the book Professional Genealogy by Elizabeth Shown Mills; she was appointed ProGen Administrator in January 2015. She has recently been appointed as the Executive Director of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, July 2018. Rebecca lives in Mount Airy and volunteers at the Family History Center in Frederick, Maryland.

Nicole Gilkison LaRue, CG

Nicole Gilkison LaRue, CGNicole Gilkison LaRue, CG, is a Board-certified, full-time professional genealogist with a special interest in researching women and other “brick-wall” obstacles. She has a degree in history and hands-on work in archives and museums. Her published articles appear in the National Genealogical Society’s NGS Magazine and National Genealogical Society Quarterly. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists.


Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG

Peggy Clemens Lauritzen, AGPeggy Clemens Lauritzen, AG, FOGS, has an amazing ability to bring laughter into the lives of her audience members. One of her favorite photos is a picture of her mother on her way to a church picnic, then on to an afternoon of cemetery transcribing. It was taken just four days before Peggy was born!

Having grown up with parents that were deeply involved in genealogy takes her love of family history to a new level. Some people are amazed that she knew people that were actually born in the 1800s; her own grandparents. Listening to the stories from bygone years, touching the fabrics from quilts, dresses, blessing gowns, and bonnets all have added to the admiration of previous generations.

Peggy is a frequent lecturer at many local societies in Ohio, as well as Family History seminars. She has presented at Brigham Young University, and ICAPGen, and taught Continuing Education classes at several community colleges and The Ohio State University. One of her proudest moments was achieving the credentials that qualified her to be an Accredited Genealogist, for it polished her research skills.

She is a featured columnist in Reminisce magazine, has written several Legacy QuickGuides, has filmed as an instructor for Ancestry Academy, and currently works for Ancestry ProGenealogists. She was recognized for her work by being award the title of Fellow of the Ohio Genealogical Society in 2018, as well as receiving the Laura G. Prescott Award for Exemplary Service in Genealogy.

Eric Leach

Eric LeachEric Leach serves as an Asian Experience Manager (Chinese Initiatives Product Manager) at FamilySearch, where he is responsible for developing online features in support of Chinese users. Eric retired from the FBI in 2016 after 25 years of service. He graduated with a BA in Chinese from Brigham Young University in 1989 and an MA in History from California State University, Hayward in 1997. For his master’s degree, his major field of study was modern Chinese history with a minor in western U.S. history, especially the Anti-Chinese Movement in California during the late 1870s and early 1880s.

Marisa Louie Lee

Marisa Louis LeeMarisa Louie Lee is an avid researcher and genealogist passionate about connecting families with records that matter to them. A former archivist at the National Archives at San Francisco, Marisa is co-author of the article "The A-Files: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors", published in the Spring 2013 issue of Prologue magazine. She served as a research assistant for the book Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (2010) and as a researcher for the documentary film The Chinese Exclusion Act (premiering on American Experience on PBS in May 2018.) Marisa is a proud alumna of the San Francisco-based "Roots" program (, which brought her to her grandfather's ancestral village in China in 2004, and continues to volunteer her research skills to assist program participants.

Rev. David McDonald, DMin

Rev. David McDonald, DMin, CGThe Rev. David McDonald, DMin, is a retired minister who served nearly 30 years as a pastor in the United Church of Christ. Dave has more than four decades’ research experience and has been a professional genealogist since his high school days. He has lectured at various national and state genealogy conferences, and has coordinated and instructed four courses at SLIG, IGHR, ISBGFH, and GRIP. As a learner, he has taken courses at SLIG, IGHR, and Gen-Fed. Dave is a regular participant and attendee at GenStock, a retreat for genealogical professionals. Dr. McDonald is vice president of APG, past president of BCG, and formerly served as a director for NGS. Dave works for Ancestry ProGenealogists as a genealogical researcher.

Dave’s research focuses on American migration patterns, the upper Midwest, New England, English & German 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. He holds an undergraduate degree in history & government from Beloit College (Wisconsin), a master’s degree in theology from Eden Seminary in Saint Louis, and a doctorate from Christian Seminary in Indianapolis. He and his wife, Dr. Jennet Shepherd, have three adult children.

Angela Packer McGhie, CG

Angela Packer McGhie, CGAngela Packer McGhie, CG, is a professional researcher, lecturer and instructor. She coordinates the Intermediate Genealogy course at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, and the Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. Angela is an instructor at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records. She speaks at national and regional conferences, and is an instructor for the Boston University Genealogical Research Certificate program.

Angela served as the administrator of the ProGen Study Program for six years and is now on the board of directors. She is a past president of the National Capital Area Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists and has published in the APG Quarterly and the NGS Magazine. Angela currently serves a trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists Education Fund.

Kelvin L. Meyers

Kelvin L. MeyersA fifth-generation Texan and professional genealogist since 1996, Kelvin is a frequent speaker to genealogical societies and family associations throughout the United States. After being employed for ten years in the Genealogy Department of the Dallas Public Library, Kelvin worked as a forensic genealogist serving clients that include probate attorneys, trust department of banks, the US Immigration Service and energy companies for 23 years. Kelvin is now employed by Ancestry’s ProGenealogists as genealogist in southern research. He also specializes in southern brick wall problems for clients.

Kelvin is a 1989 and 1990 alumnus of the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University and has returned to IGHR as lecturer in the Southern Course and the Professional Course. In 2016 he co-coordinated with J. Mark Lowe, A Swing Through the South at SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogical Research). This past year Kelvin coordinated the Burned Counties and More: Overcoming Record Loss course for SLIG.

He is a past board member of the Association of Professional Genealogist, a past President of the Lone Star Chapter of APG, and a founding member for the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG). The Dallas Genealogical Society awarded Kelvin the Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck Distinguished Service Award in December of 2018.

In 2016 Kelvin published Research in Texas for NGS (National Genealogical Society) Research in the States series. Kelvin is also the director of the Texas Institute of Genealogical Research (TIGR) sponsored by the Texas State Genealogical Society.

Debra S. Mieszala, CG

Debra S. Mieszala, CGDebbie Mieszala, Certified Genealogist, specializes in forensic genealogy, and 20th-century and Midwest research. She conducts genealogical research for the military to locate relatives of service members missing in past wars, and formerly conducted adoption-related research as an Illinois Confidential Intermediary. A national-level lecturer and author, she has taught at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and she developed an Ancestry Academy course. Debbie’s work has been published in NGS Magazine, The Digital Genealogist, and OnBoard. She is a past trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists. Debbie has attended IGHR, NIGR, and GRIP. Visit her website and blog, The Advancing Genealogist at

David S. Ouimette, CG, CGL

David S. Ouimette, CG, CGLDavid S. Ouimette, CG, CGL, manages Content Strategy at FamilySearch, prioritizing historical content worldwide for digital preservation and online publication in support of family history research. His team prioritizes camera placement and targets records in national, regional, and local archives; they also guide record selection for collaborative projects with partner organizations. David has conducted research in hundreds of archives in over fifty countries spanning all continents. Previously, David was product manager at, responsible for family trees, United States records, DNA testing, and the search experience. David regularly lectures at national genealogical conferences and institutes. He serves as a Trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has served as Vice President of the Utah Genealogical Association and on the board of the National Genealogical Society. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mathematics from Brigham Young University, has contributed articles to many magazines and journals, and authored Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide. David and his wife, Deanna, live in Highland, Utah, and are the parents of eight children.

David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FUGA, FIGRS

David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGADavid E. Rencher, AG, CG, FUGA, FIGRS, is employed as the Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch. A professional genealogist since 1977, he is one of the rare few who have earned both credentials: Accredited Genealogist with ICAPGen in Ireland research and Certified Genealogist with the Board for Certification of Genealogists. He is the Irish course coordinator and instructor for the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) in Athens, Georgia. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1980 with a BA in Family and Local History. He is a past-president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 1997-2000, a national genealogical society umbrella organization, a past-president of the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) 1993-1995 and a Fellow of that organization. He is a fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, London, and is a vice-president of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). He is the past Chair of the joint Federation of Genealogical Societies, National Genealogical Society and International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies committee for Record Preservation and Access; serves on the board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and as a trustee for the Umpstead, Jr. and Elizabeth Jemima Philpott Rencher and the Winslow Farr, Sr. Family Organizations. He is vice-president of the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History and an instructor for the British Institute.

Malissa Ruffner, JD, CG

Malissa Ruffner, JD, CGMalissa Ruffner began her career as a computer programmer at a large insurance company while attending the Evening Division of the University of Maryland School of Law (Baltimore). As an attorney, she worked for the ACLU of Maryland on significant civil rights cases involving education and public housing, including helping to marshal evidence of racial discrimination in federal records. After serving as an elementary school director for a parent-run cooperative that she helped found, she returned to school and earned an MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park. She worked on library, education, and archival projects at Goucher College, Hampton National Historic Site, the University of Maryland, University Archives, University of Maryland, College of Information Studies, and Drexel University (The Internet Public Library). She began taking genealogy clients in 2011 and became a Board-certified genealogist in September of 2014. She is the Director of the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (formerly the National Institute on Genealogical Research, NIGR) that meets each summer at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. She joined the board of the Maryland Genealogical Society in 2012 as an at-large member, served two years as vice-president, and two years as managing editor of the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal. She has contributed to the Maryland Journal, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the NGS Magazine, and the 2018 edition of Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. She currently works for the Georgetown Memory Project, tracing descendants of slaves held on Jesuit plantations in Maryland.

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGLJudy G. Russell, "The Legal Genealogist," is a genealogist with a law degree. She writes, teaches and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical topics, ranging from using court records in family history to understanding DNA testing. A Colorado native with roots deep in the American south on her mother’s side and entirely in Germany on her father’s side, she is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society and numerous state and regional genealogical societies. She has written for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and National Genealogical Society Magazine, among other publications.

On the faculty of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research in Georgia, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh and Boston University’s Center for Professional Education, she is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, from which she holds credentials as a Certified Genealogist and Certified Genealogical Lecturer. Her blog – chosen as one of the American Bar Association’s top 100 in 2013 and 2014 – appears at The Legal Genealogist website (

George R. Ryskamp, JD, AG, FUGA

George R. Ryskamp, JD, AG, FUGAGeorge R. Ryskamp, JD, AG, FUGA, Professor of History at Brigham Young University, specializes in Spanish language research and United States probate and legal systems, with over 45 years of experience in the archives of Spain, Mexico and the United States. He has authored numerous books and articles on Hispanic research and is a regular lecturer at national and international conferences. For 17 of the last 20 years, he and Peggy have taken student groups to Spain, France and/or Italy to teach archival research firsthand.

Peggy Ryskamp, CG

Peggy Ryskamp, CGPeggy Ryskamp, CG, finds reading Hispanic parish and notarial records extremely satisfying. She uses her experience gleaned from over 30 years of Spanish archival research to do client work, present at national and local conferences and write. She coauthored with George the book Finding Your Mexican Roots (Orem: Ancestry, 2007). They teamed with H. Leandro Soria to write Reading to Understand Spanish Handwriting and Documents 1520-1820.


Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, FUGA

Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, FUGAPamela Boyer Sayre, CG, FUGA, is a professional researcher, educator, author, and lecturer. She has developed, coordinated, and taught the Techniques and Technology course at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research since 2007. She also co-coordinates and teaches in the Researching in Washington, DC, without Leaving Home and the advanced land course at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and the advanced land course at Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. She has taught in Boston University’s Professional Certificate Program in Genealogy and she developed an NGS self-paced Social Security course for family historians.

Pam is former NGS director of education and publications, former board member of NGS and FGS, co-author of Online Roots: How to Discover Your Family's History and Heritage with the Power of the Internet (2003) and Research in Missouri (1999, 2007), former FGS FORUM Digitools columnist, and a former editor of APGQ. She is a popular seminar presenter who has spoken at genealogy conferences and seminars nationwide and on international cruises.

Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA

Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGARick Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA, is a long-time researcher and instructor in genealogical topics. He coordinates the Using Maps in Genealogy course at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University. He also instructs in the Advanced Methodology course, the Techniques and Technology course, the Advanced Military courses, and a variety of other IGHR courses. Rick and his wife Pam coordinate the Advanced Land course offered by the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) and the Advanced Land course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP).

Rick co-coordinates with Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL, "The Law School for Genealogists" at GRIP and the "Family History Law Library" course at SLIG. He also lectures at national conferences and presents nationwide seminars. His areas of expertise encompass records of the National Archives, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Daughters of the American Revolution, including military records, land records, using maps in genealogy, urban research, and government documents. Rick is experienced in the localities of western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Craig Roberts Scott, MA, CG, FUGA

Craig Roberts Scott, MA, CG, FUGACraig Roberts Scott, MA, CG, FUGA, is the President and CEO of Heritage Books, Inc., a genealogical publishing firm with over 5,300 titles in print. A professional genealogical and historical researcher for more than thirty years, he specializes in the records of the National Archives, especially those that relate to the military. He is the former Coordinator of the Military tracks at IGHR, SLIG and GRIP.


Gerald H "Jerry" Smith, CG

Gerald H. "Jerry" Smith, CGGerald H. “Jerry” Smith, CG, is a full-time professional Certified Genealogist specializing in Pennsylvania research. He has been a course coordinator for IGHR (Land Platting) and a faculty member for other IGHR, SLIG and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Researching Family in Pennsylvania. He is the author of a number of books and journal articles. He researches extensively on projects requiring in-depth knowledge of Proprietor and Commonwealth land records, mapping, and land placement. Regular research venues include the Pennsylvania Archives, State Library of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Law Library, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, military repositories (including David Library of the American Revolution and US Army Military History Institute), National Archives, religious & denominational repositories, county courthouses, and county and local historical and genealogical societies. Southern Pennsylvania border county research includes frequent on-site research at repositories in Annapolis, Baltimore, Maryland counties, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Leandro Soria

Leandro SoriaLeandro Soria graduated from Brigham Young University in 2005 with a degree in Spanish Translation and Interpretation and a minor in Family History. During his studies at BYU, he taught beginning family history classes on Hispanic, Italian, Portuguese and French research, visited and researched at historical archives of Spain, Portugal, France and Italy researching 19th century emigration records and participated in the development of the Spanish and Italian Script Tutorials. Since 2010 Leandro has worked for FamilySearch as Collection Manager for Latin America, Spain, and Portugal overseeing new digitizing and indexing projects for those countries.

Karen Stanbary, MA, LCSW, CG

Karen Stanbary, MA, LCSW, CGKaren Stanbary is an author and lecturer focusing on topics related to using genetic evidence correlated with documentary evidence to solve genealogical brick walls. She holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Chicago and has completed advanced graduate study in Social Anthropology at the Colegio de Michoacan, Mexico. Her genealogical practice specializes in Midwestern U.S., Chicago, and Mexican research as well as complex problem-solving, unknown parentage, and DNA analysis. She is a coordinator and faculty member at GRIP, IGHR, and SLIG. She received the NGSQ Award for Excellence for her complex evidence case study incorporating traditional documentary research and autosomal DNA analysis in the June 2016 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Most recently, she published “Drowning in DNA? The Genealogical Proof Standard Tosses a Lifeline” in Debbie Parker Wayne’s book Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies. She holds the credential Certified Genealogist from the Board for Certification of Genealogists where she serves as a Trustee and is chair of the standing DNA Committee.

Lena Stout

Lena StoutLena Stout has worked for the Family History Department for over 11 years. Her expertise is in Chinese genealogy research. She has worked as a cataloger, in data analysis and now works as a research Specialist/consultant at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lena is a native Chinese and has always loved to do genealogy work. She has participated in several genealogy conferences and taught Chinese Family History classes at the Family History Library. Lena and her Chinese team are working on developing Chinese online classes and making Chinese data more accessible in order to make Chinese research on FamilySearch better.

Michael L. Strauss, AG

Michael L. Strauss, AGMichael L. Strauss, AG, is a professional Accredited Genealogist and a nationally recognized genealogical speaker. He has been employed as a forensic genealogist for 25 years and has a BA in history and is a United States Coast Guard veteran. Michael is also a qualified expert witness in the courts in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and an approved genealogist with the United States Army to locate DNA qualified persons MIA from Korea, Vietnam, and World War II. Strauss has been a faculty member of IGHR, SLIG, and GRIP and has been involved in Civil War reenacting for more than 25 years and also reenacts the Mormon Battalion with the Utah Living History Association.

Kelly Summers, MS, AG

Kelly Summers, MS, AGKelly Summers, Accredited Genealogist, received her Associate’s degree in Professional Genealogy and her Bachelor’s degree in Family and Community History both from Brigham Young University. Kelly received her Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Educational Technology from the University of Utah. She currently works as a part-time faculty member at Brigham Young University teaching Family History. She also teaches online Genealogy courses at Salt Lake Community College. Kelly currently serves as the President for the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA). Kelly has been involved in genealogical research and teaching for more than twenty-five years. Kelly has four premier genealogical credentials through the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) demonstrating genealogical research expertise is in U.S. Midwestern & U.S. Pacific, Mexico and Spain. Kelly is also an experienced researcher in US, Latin America and Southwestern European areas, and China. Kelly's research interests lie in kinship research in primary source records and rural community reconstruction.

D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS

D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLSD. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS, is a nationally known and recognized genealogical author, lecturer, and researcher and a frequent speaker at family history events across the globe. Passionate about family history, Joshua is the President of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (NYG&B). He is also the immediate past president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including RootsTech’s Distinguished Presenter Award, the Federation of Genealogical Societies Award of Merit, and the Rubincam Youth Award from the National Genealogical Society. In 2017, Joshua was named as one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers.

The former Director of Education and Programs at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Joshua is the author of numerous articles in American Ancestors, UGA Crossroads, FGS Forum, Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly, New England Ancestors, and other publications. In 2013 he authored “The Keane and Sheahan Families of Bridgeport, Connecticut,” a study of a family’s immigration and life in New England after the Irish famine. He is also the coordinator for courses at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

He holds an MLS (Archival Management) and an MA (History) from Simmons College and has been a featured genealogist on Who Do You Think You Are? with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelly Clarkson, Ashley Judd, Reba McEntire, and Rob Lowe. At the present time Joshua can be seen taking America through their past as a host on the popular PBS series Genealogy Roadshow.

Mel Thatcher, PhD

Melvin P. Thatcher, PhDMel Thatcher, PhD, trained in the history of pre-imperial China and spent his professional life (nearly 34 years) locating and acquiring oral and written genealogical sources in the countries of Asia, Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa for the Family History Library system. During that time, he participated in the compilation of two major catalogs of Chinese genealogies. In retirement he has been teaching courses at the University of Utah in the history and civilization of premodern China to 1368 and the historical development and research uses of Chinese genealogies and local gazetteers. He has also presented at a number of Chinese American genealogy workshops.

Barbara Vines Little, CG, FVGS, FNGS, FUGA

Barbara Vines Little, CG, FVGS, FNGS, FUGABarbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FUGA, FVGS, a professional genealogist, has lectured over the past thirty years at conferences in 32 states on research methodology, Virginia and West Virginia resources, and writing and publishing. Editor of the quarterly Magazine of Virginia Genealogy since 1996 and winner of the NGS Quarterly Award of excellence in 2001, she has written articles for a number of publications including the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, the National Genealogical Society Newsletter, the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ newsletter, OnBoard; and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. The current editor of National Genealogical Society’s Research in the States series, she is the author of the West Virginia volume and has published three volumes of Virginia court records and edited others for publication. She served as coordinator and instructor for VIGR (Virginia Institute of Genealogical Research) Track II, 1996–2004 and as the coordinator and instructor of the Virginia track for Samford University’s Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research from 2007–2012 and the 2017 Virginia track at SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy). A member of the board of the Library of Virginia and a former board member of the Orange County Historical Society, she is a former board member and president of both the National Genealogical Society and the Virginia Genealogical Society.

Paul Woodbury, MEd

Paul Woodbury, MEdPaul Woodbury first developed an interest in genealogy when his grandparents gave him a family history binder for his eighth birthday. In 2006, he was introduced to genetic genealogy through a television special on African American research. The possibilities of this new and developing field captured his imagination, renewed his fascination for family history and led to his interest and career in the field.

Paul is a graduate of Brigham Young University where he studied genetics and family history. Recently he graduated with a masters degree in instructional design and educational technology from the University of Utah. Through his education and client research experience, he has developed specialties in DNA, French, Spanish, and Scandinavian research. Over the past five years he has offered hundreds of classes, workshops and lectures on research topics relating to these areas. Currently he works as a DNA Team Lead for Legacy Tree Genealogists.

In addition to genealogy, Paul enjoys singing, skiing, hiking and balloon twisting. He and his family reside in Provo, Utah.