ARLINGTON — The quest to uncover family roots is expected to draw hundreds of people to town this weekend.
The annual Northwest Genealogy Conference kicked off Wednesday and continues through Saturday, with events and speakers at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center, 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd. It is hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society.
The first day included a free Genealogy 101 class. It was meant to introduce newcomers and refresh longtime family researchers on tricks for tracing their family stories.
Professional genealogist Peggy Lauritzen walked a group of about 100 guests through the basics. She got them started on charts to track their families, and stressed the importance of having sources to back up every fact, from names and birth dates to marriages and military service.
“If you have no documentation, your work has no credibility,” she said. “It goes from genealogy to mythology.”
She said the first order of business is talking to older relatives. Even vague or inaccurate memories can provide a springboard to more information, she said. There might be hesitation over discussing past scandals or scoundrels, Lauritzen warned, but those pieces of the family history likely made their way into newspapers, court records or other sources.
Genealogical research is addictive, she said, and it doesn’t end. The family tree grows as research continues. From one child, you research two parents, which leads to four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-greats, 32 great-great-greats, and so on. That doesn’t include step-families and other relatives who often are in the mix.
“Every single person, no matter how long you’ve been doing this, is a beginner,” she said. “Every time you find a new grandmother with a new surname, you start all over again.”
Organizers of the genealogy conference anticipate nearly 400 guests over the course of the four days. Though many registered for presentations beforehand, there still is space for genealogy buffs or amateur family researchers. The cost is $90 per day at the door, or $175 for all three days.
It’s a great opportunity for longtime researchers, but especially for newcomers to genealogy, event chair Lisa Bartlow said. There are nationally known speakers and an array of topics.
Among the speakers are Kenyatta Berry, host for “Genealogy Roadshow” on PBS. Her presentations are scheduled for Saturday.
Berry has previously spoken about the important role online access to records has played in popularizing genealogical research. Genealogy has become a genre of television shows, with examples such as “Genealogy Roadshow,” “Who Do You Think Your Are?” and “Finding Your Roots.” Topics she plans to cover include the historical context of slavery and indentured servitude in the U.S., and records related to slavery and slave-holding families.
On Thursday, Diahan Southard is speaking about DNA and how it ties into genealogical research. Daniel Earl is set to present Friday on tracing the hometowns of Eastern European immigrants, placing family members on a broader historic timeline, and using records such as city directories, community histories, maps and newspapers.
They are among dozens of experts leading presentations, classes and workshops over the next three days.
For a full list of events and information on registering, go to www.NwGC.org.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.