Lectures, Classes, and Workshops

If you’re interested in having me come speak to you group, please contact me.  The presentations listed below give you an idea of topics and themes I typically cover, but I am happy to work with you to develop custom presentations or workshops.

Upcoming presentations:

Tuesday, January 31, 2018, 6:30–8:30 pm
DNA Testing for Genealogy: The Basics
Eden Prairie School District Community Education class, Eden Prairie, MN

Get the most from your DNA test. In this class, we discuss the different kinds of DNA tests available and what sorts of genealogical questions they can help us answer. We also explore similarities and differences among the main testing companies and why you might choose one over the others. For beginner to intermediate genealogists or anyone new to DNA testing.

March 31 and May 12, 2018
The End of Anonymity: How I Identified My Sperm Donor Father (A DNA Case Study)
Hennepin County Libraries (specific venues and times TBD)

Commercial DNA tests for genealogy sometimes reveal family secrets in the present day. In 2014, after ordering a DNA test from Ancestry.com, professional genealogist John Vanek learned his parents had turned to a sperm donor to conceive him. He will walk step-by-step through the research process he used to reconstruct the blank half of his family tree and identify his biological father, addressing emotional and ethical issues raised by cases like his along the way.

Monday, May 21, 2018, 6:30–8:30 pm DNA Testing for Genealogy: The Basics
Eden Prairie School District Community Education class, Eden Prairie, MN

Get the most from your DNA test. In this class, we discuss the different kinds of DNA tests available and what sorts of genealogical questions they can help us answer. We also explore similarities and differences among the main testing companies and why you might choose one over the others. For beginner to intermediate genealogists or anyone new to DNA testing.


Past presentations:

DNA Testing for Genealogy: The Basics
Eden Prairie School District Community Education class, Eden Prairie, MN
October 24, 2017

Get the most from your DNA test. In this class, we discuss the different kinds of DNA tests available and what sorts of genealogical questions they can help us answer. We also explore similarities and differences among the main testing companies and why you might choose one over the others. For beginner to intermediate genealogists or anyone new to DNA testing.

French-Canadian Settlement in Minnesota: History for Genealogists
Session at the 2017 North Star Genealogy Conference, Brooklyn Center, MN
October 6, 2017

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 in what later became Minnesota. Though small in numbers compared to the German and Scandinavian immigrants who arrived after 1850, French-Canadians continued to migrate to Minnesota through the end of the 19th century. In this talk, learn why our French-Canadian ancestors left Canada, where they chose to settle, and how to find sources about their lives. 

DNA Basics and the Ethics of DNA Testing
also leader of workshop tables for Advanced autosomal DNA and Y-DNA.
North Star DNA Day, Part of the 2017 North Star Genealogy Conference, Brooklyn Center, MN
October 5, 2017

My DNA testing company says it tests 700,000 SNPs. What, in fact, is a SNP? For that matter, what’s a centiMorgan? What happened to my DNA after I spit in the tube? I felt uncomfortable when a cousin contacted me asking for help identifying her biological parents. What should I do?  All of these questions and more are answered in this lecture that gets down to the basics of DNA testing for genealogy.

Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries
Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International
September 9, 2017

DNA can be the key to unlocking family mysteries, whether you’re trying to identify a biological parent or to get past a brick wall several generations back. But every key needs the right lock to fit into. For genealogists using DNA, that means knowing how to ask the right questions. In this talk, I walk the audience through several case studies that demonstrate the importance of using traditional document-based genealogy to come up with the best (and simplest) research questions to ask of your DNA test results. 

Finding Biological Family: A DNA Case Study
Family Tree University webinar
September 7, 2017

The End of Anonymity: How I Identified My Anonymous Sperm Donor Father and What It Means for Donors and Birth Parents Everywhere
Session at the 2017 International Germanic Genealogical Conference, Brooklyn Park, MN
July 30, 2017

Anonymity is a thing of the past. This statement has profound implications for many individuals and for society at large. Not everyone wants to be found, but genetic genealogy now makes it possible. After describing the technique I used to identify the anonymous donor who helped conceive me, I explore some of the ethical and emotional issues that can arise when searching for living relatives using DNA. I discuss my own experience as well as those of others.

Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries
VINE Adult Community Center, Mankato, MN
May 3, 2017

DNA Discussion Panel, panelist
MGS Spring Conference: Minnesota Melting Pot
April 22, 2017

King William’s War and the Creation of a Mutli-Ethnic Family
Canadian Interest Group at the Minnesota Genealogical Society
March 19, 2017

In 1688, war broke out between colonists in New France and New England. The violence committed by the colonists and their Indian allies was horrific. Called King William’s War, it ripped apart families on all sides. Learn about one unique family that emerged from the rubble of this 17th-century war.

Paternity Puzzle: How I Used DNA to Identify the Biological Father I Never Knew I Had
DNA Interest Group of the Minnesota Genealogical Society
February 5, 2017

Maids in Minnesota: The Garceau Family and Henry Hastings Sibley, 1846-1850
Canadian Interest Group of the Minnesota Genealogical Society
May 15, 2016

Marie and Marguerite Garceau were just teenagers in 1846 when their parents, an aunt and uncle, and a bunch of siblings and cousins set out from their farms in Lower Canada to cross the continent. Their destination was the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where another uncle had recently begun farming after a long career in the Columbia River fur trade. But they never made it to Oregon. Instead, they settled near a tiny French-Canadian village at the western fringe of white settlement in Wisconsin Territory. Almost as soon as they arrived, Marie and Marguerite were sent out of the house to work as servants in the home of prominent fur trader and politician Henry Hastings Sibley. In this talk, I explore why the Garceau family never made it to Oregon and some of the consequences (both welcome and unwelcome) that resulted from the young women’s time at the Sibley House.

Paternity Puzzle: How I Identified the Biological Father I Never Knew I Had
Genealogical Research Society of Eau Claire, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
May 14, 2016

Family History Resources in the Chippewa Valley: The Example of Henry Pattison
Chippewa County (WI) Genealogical Society, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
November 28, 2015