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About Us

The Formidable Genealogist was created by two Midwestern women with a love of solving the mysteries of family histories and preserving the memories of our ancestors.


Our philosophy is that family history is a treasure.  Knowing more about your family's past enriches your understanding of the present and is a gift to future generations.  

Our genealogists use the skills that have been developed through years of thorough research and practice.  We help our clients discover more about their families, build or expand their family tree, and preserve the information and images at risk of disappearing forever.

Our Formidable Genealogists
Jen Shaffer

I was born in Iowa and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. I've had a lifelong love of history, old photos and genealogy stemming from a 5th grade family tree project and thousands of photos from the late 1800s/early 1900s that I have inherited. I have been doing genealogy research every day since 2013 and love every minute of it. Genealogy breakthroughs are so satisfying. 

I am a contributing genealogist to the Know Your Ancestors Podcast. That link goes to YouTube for videos of the podcast, but it's also available anywhere you listen to podcasts. I've loved bringing family history to the subjects of these episodes.

I am a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and also serve as their Booth Coordinator for in-person and virtual genealogy events. 

I am a prolific Community Ed instructor with about 50 classes scheduled in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota in 2023. 

In addition to being able to trace family lines back farther than my clients expect, I also have a knack for:

  • Understanding Scandinavian, Germanic and Slavic records

  •  Finding living relatives and family farms in Norway

  • Finding old family photos online and through distant relatives

  • Locating hard to find obituaries and burial locations

  • Finding ancestral homes or their previous locations

  • Archiving old photos and identifying them

  • Translating old family documents in foreign languages

Holly Bokelman

For as long as I can remember I've had an interest in personal stories and photos from long ago--especially having known several of my great-grandparents. My mother started her genealogy quest in the 1970s, and I've been able to extend her work. Using original documents and formulating my own theories, I've been able to document some branches as far back as the 1600s. I've been researching daily since 2013 and have invested thousands of hours in my own family research and also for other families. 
My specialities are: 

  • Using genetic genealogy to find recent relatives as well as more distant relatives

  • Finding and analyzing Colonial and American civil records from the 17th century onward

  • Breaking through "brick walls" by using original, primary sources

  • Writing family narratives in an easy-to-follow format so that the many pieces of information make sense

  • Digitally restoring and archiving photos

  • Finding obscure resources--particularly those that are free

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