Melissa specializes in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania family history research with expertise in using DNA test results and genealogical writing. Her ISGS conference lectures include “Go Paperless! Organizing Your Genealogical Research,” “Solving Problems Using Indirect Evidence,” and “No Response? No Problem! Learning More About Your DNA Matches.” Join us in Springfield where Melissa will share her talents with us!
Illinois State Genealogical Society: How did you become interested in genealogy? How long have you been researching?
Melissa Johnson: I became interested in genealogy in grammar school after my paternal grandfather showed an interest, and after two school "autobiography" projects that involved creating a family history. I started researching more seriously during my study abroad in London during college, where I had the opportunity to visit several archives and repositories throughout England.
ISGS: Who is your favorite person (ancestor or otherwise) to research? Why?
Melissa: My Johnson and Morgan ancestors are my favorites. My paternal line (Johnson) goes back to the founding families of Newark, New Jersey. My Johnsons were one of Newark's founding families, and my direct line stayed in the area until recent generations. I was the first Johnson in my direct line not to be born in Newark since the 1600s. Some of the other Johnson lines moved out west to Springfield, Illinois My Morgan ancestors are 1850s immigrants to the United States from the greater London area. They have been one of the more difficult families to research, but their occupations, residences, and family life has always fascinated me. They are also the ancestors that I enjoy writing about the most. I am currently in the process of writing another article on the Morgans.
ISGS: What are you most looking forward to at the ISGS annual fall conference?
Melissa: I'm looking forward to seeing my colleagues and to doing some research in Springfield.
ISGS: What should conference attendees look forward to at your lectures?
Melissa: I plan to incorporate Springfield case studies into my problem solving lecture. I also really enjoy teaching genealogists about technology. One of my lectures will focus on how to use technology to stay more organized and become a more effective researcher, while the other will focus on finding out more about DNA matches using creative internet searches.
ISGS: In your lecture about technology and organizational, you’ll talk about going paperless. What are the benefits of going paperless with genealogy research?
Melissa: The major benefit is having all of your research at your fingertips at all times--when you're at home, at a family reunion, researching out of state, etc. Most of the other benefits involve being able to document and analyze your findings (or lack of findings) digitally, which can be more effective and efficient for most researchers.
ISGS: What's one of your favorite DNA discoveries?
Melissa: I discovered that my maternal grandfather's father was not actually his biological father. This initial discovery was what helped me learn about DNA and using it as a problem solving tool. Since then, I've used DNA as a tool and a hint to identify ancestral origins.
ISGS: In what ways are you expanding your knowledge in the field of genealogy?
Melissa: Even though I teach at most of the genealogy institutes and conferences, I still really enjoy being an attendee. This year, I took a course on military research and a course on genealogical documentation.
The 2018 Fall Conference will be held October 26 and 27 in Springfield, Illinois. Discover more information in the conference brochure and register online.
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