Richland to host state Genealogical Society conference

Tri-Citians interested in their family history will have a chance to pick up some helpful hints at the Washington State Genealogical Society's annual conference.

The Tri-City Genealogical Society, which is celebrating its 50th year, is the host of the conference, which runs Sept. 16-17 at the Richland Baptist Church.

The conference, called "Building Ancestral Bridges," will include a wide range of classes that organizers say will be helpful to beginners and experienced genealogists.

Topics include the different records that can help when trying to find information about a relative's death and how to use the free, online Family Search program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Janis Littlefield, chairwoman of the conference's program committee.

One of the best things about the conference is the chance to talk to others interested in family research, which can mean learning different tips and approaches, said Littlefield, the local society's webmaster.

Susan Faulkner, the Tri-City society's president and chairwoman for the conference planning committee, said it wasn't until she started interacting with other genealogists that her own research took off.

Faulkner said one of the things she finds most helpful at genealogical conferences is the vendors, including Family Roots Publishing Co., which will bring reference and genealogy books.

Putting on the state conference is a chance to bring prominent speakers to the Tri-Cities, such as Patricia Walls Stamm, the National Genealogical Society education manager from St. Louis, Mo., Littlefield said.

On Sept. 16, Stamm, the featured speaker, will talk about how to social network with other genealogists, Littlefield said. Genealogists can find answers to their own family history by posting questions online.

Stamm will give three different presentations Sept. 17, with a breakout session after each of her talks, Faulkner said. With each breakout session, five different presentations are offered.

"There is a wealth of information that is going to be shared," Faulkner said. "I want to go to all of them."

The annual conference rotates between the west and east sides of the state and is organized by a different local genealogy society each year.

The society expects up to 150 people to attend.

The conference is one of many statewide, regional and national conventions that the Tri-Cities will host this year, said Kris Watkins, president and CEO of Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau.

Conventions help bring money into the local economy because out-of-area attendees tend to spend money on accommodations, transportation and recreation and in restaurants and stores, she said.

And conventions show off the Tri-Cities and help attract future visitors, Watkins said.

The area also benefits by bringing new knowledge into the area, whether it is the latest in genealogy or another field, such as agriculture or medicine, she said.

Faulkner said the conference committee, which started planning in October 2009, tried to market what the Tri-Cities has to offer for those interested in history.

For example, the group put together a tour of the B Reactor with the Department of Energy on Sept. 16, and still has a few of the 43 seats left to fill, she said. Members talked to area museums about extending hours on the conference days and put together a map of vineyards close to the conference venue.

They also have encouraged those attending to bring their families so they can explore the area while the genealogists attends the conference, Faulkner said.

To attend, register online at www.tricitygenealogicalsociety.org, or at the door at the Richland Baptist Church, 1632 George Washington Way in Richland.

Lunch is included in the price. A printed syllabus won't be available at the door but is available online with registration.

The conference begins at 5 p.m. Sept. 16 with dinner at 6:30 p.m., followed by a talk, "Social Networking for Genealogists," presented by Stamm. The day's cost is $25.

The following day, Sept. 17, the conference runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs $75 for society members, or $80 for non-members.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com