The Northwest Genealogy Conference, hosted by the local Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, was held for its fifth year in Arlington from Aug. 15 to Aug. 18.

Those looking to research their family from across the region come to Arlington High School's Byrnes Performing Arts Center for classes and information for the conference.

"People from all over the United States come just to learn about how you do genealogy and finding out the secrets of tracking down your ancestors," said Ruth Caesar, president of the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society.

Attendees can attend a variety of specialty classes.

For instance, one about how to look at coroner's records. "Helping people to figure out what they can glean from that, because there's all sorts of information that people overlook in records," said Caesar.

Another class talked about how to look at Swedish records, "and there's a lot of that online that people can do," said Caesar.

The conference began in Arlington and is the largest in the region.

"People don't have access to something like this in the state," said Caesar.

"We're the only organization that is doing something multiple days like this and so that is something that we saw a need for," she said.

The major West Coast genealogy conferences are in California or Salt Lake City, said Caesar.

"And that is just too far for most of us. We wanted to have something nearby," she said.

Conference participants come from all over the U.S., including visitors as far away as Iowa this year, said Caesar.

Many participants liked that the conference was nearby and full of useful information.

"It's within driving distance of my home and they have really good speakers. I've learned things every time I've been here," said conference attendee Elizabeth Dean.

Horace Foxall Jr., vice president of the Black Genealogy Research Group of Seattle, said he enjoys coming to the conference.

"It's great. I come here every year and this is my fifth year," he said.

He enjoys learning from experts in the field who have been working at genealogy for many years.

"You get to talk to different people that have done more research than me. Many times when you're researching you hit these brick walls and you can't find a resource," he said.

Caesar said she enjoys talking with and learning about the visitors who come to the conference as well.

"I like meeting so many people from so many places with such diverse backgrounds, and we all have different stories of our ancestors," she said.

People also enjoy coming to the conference because it is not as crowded as other larger events.

Even though their capacity is only around 500, they are often able to draw some "very big-name speakers" in the world of genealogy, said Caesar.

"They love us because we treat them well, which has allowed us to draw the quality of speakers that we have," said Lisa Bartlow, Stillaguamish Valley Genealogy Society member and co-chair of this year's event.

The conference is funded in part by hotel/motel grants. Caesar said that the conference usually brings about 300 overnight stays to hotels in the region.

The Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society also premiered their new book at the conference: "Early Stillaguamish Valley Schools."

The organization has been working on the book for a little more than two decades and uses newspapers and other sources to talk about early schools from the area.

"It gives you a hint about the early times in the 1800s and what life was like," said Caesar.

More information about the local conference and Early Stillaguamish Valley Schools go to stillygen.org.

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