Learn to dig for your genealogical roots

ARLINGTON — The Washington State Genealogical Society’s annual conference is set to bring together about 300 people fascinated by family histories.

It’s a record turnout for the event, according to the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, which is hosting this year’s conference in Arlington.

The two-day event starts Aug. 15 in the Byrnes Performing Arts Center at 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd. It costs $90, with a $5 discount for members of the Washington State or Stillaguamish Valley genealogical societies.

Ruth Caesar, president of the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, said grants and donations helped keep the event affordable for people coming from around the country. It’s open to the public and she encourages anyone who is interested in genealogy to attend.

Workshops run throughout Friday and Saturday. Presenters are scheduled to teach people how to use online resources to trace their family history; where to find and how to handle specialized records; and what options are available for publishing genealogical research.

The conference’s keynote speaker is D. Joshua Taylor, president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and data strategy manager for www.findmypast.com in the U.S. and Canada. He’s been featured on television shows like “The Genealogy Roadshow” on PBS and “Who Do You Think You Are?” on NBC and TLC.

Taylor is scheduled to speak during an Aug. 15 banquet. Tickets are on sale until Sunday for $25 to people who are registered for the conference.

The conference includes more than 20 workshops for professionals and hobbyists at all levels of interest, spokeswoman Karen Stroschein said.

Her husband Eric Stroschein is one of the instructors. Both are members of the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society. In a blog post earlier this summer, Eric wrote that organizers have been blown away by the number of people who signed up for or offered to help with the conference.

Other genealogical organizations donated magazines, subscriptions and online classes as gifts for people at the conference. The Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society estimates the donated items and classes are worth more than $28,000.

“We would also like to thank everyone who has shown support and kindness to our society, members, and victims of the Oso mudslide,” Eric wrote. “Some of our members live or lived in the slide zone and have been directly affected by the mud or the flood.”

There are no firm boundaries for the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, Karen said. Genealogists often work around the country or even across the globe, so groups share information and memberships. For example, she and Eric belong to societies in other states where they do research.

However, most members of the society live in Arlington, Oso and Darrington. Karen said people from around the country can join during the conference and pre-register for next year’s event.

The Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society started as an interest group at the Arlington Library, said Stephen Baylor, one of the founding members who now serves as the society’s library director. In 1985, the group became a genealogical society.

Connections and education are vital when it comes to genealogy, he said. Monthly meetings and major conferences offer chances to learn something new and possibly find missing pieces to family research.

“Whenever you find something, it’s like you struck gold,” Baylor said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439, kbray@heraldnet.com

For more information about the Washington State Genealogical Society’s annual conference or the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, call 360-435-4838 or email wsgs2014conference@gmail.com.

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