ARLINGTON – In family stories passed down through generations, Phil Bartlow’s great-grandfather died in a circus accident that morphed into being killed by lions while working for Ringling Bros.
After attending the Northwest Genealogy Conference four years ago and winning a subscription to the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society’s online resources, he dug deeper into his family background.
The Arlington resident found through old newspaper clippings that the relative, an assistant elephant keeper named Charles “Frank” Bartlow, was actually killed by a circus elephant named Tom Tom in Des Moines, Iowa, in April 1909.
“The actual elephant trainer had left the circus, and Tom Tom wasn’t happy with some of the other things that were going on, so he took it out on Frank when Frank grabbed a pitchfork,” Bartlow said.
You may not have an enraged elephant or circus performer in your family’s past, but there are sure to be intriguing figures and the tools to bring them to life when the annual Northwest Genealogy Conference comes to town again Aug. 14-17 at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center, 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd.
Bartlow and his wife, Lisa, are chairing this year’s conference with the theme “open windows to the past.”
Lisa said it’s an invitation from the hosting society to “discover your history and to make it come alive. It’s just really an enriching process learning how your ancestors got from here to there.”
Each day features dozens of breakout classes led by experts in their field including key presentations from Angie Bush on building a family tree with DNA, Michael Strauss lecturing on military research and Thomas MacEntee sharing the latest genealogy tools. The conference also has many exhibitors.
Aug. 14 is a free day featuring a free class in Beginning Genealogy from 1-4:30 p.m. led by renowned genealogist Janet Camarata. The hands-on course will share the basics to get started in family history research including genealogy resources and tools online and offline, research habits, and tips and tricks that can help make navigating Ancestry, FamilySearch and other websites easier.
The conference banquet Aug. 16 features keynote speaker Daniel Earl in full swashbuckling costume for “How Piracy Affected Your Ancestors.” He will explore historical factors that contributed to Atlantic piracy in the colonial periods and how piracy affected the everyday lives of countless people from Trinidad to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“Genealogical research is a lot more important than people realize,” SVGS president Ruth Caesar said.
Some newcomers to genealogy have it tougher than others. When Caesar started researching her family history, she was suprised to discover someone in her tree had already done much of the legwork. She found that during the Revolutionary War she had a relative who was listed as a private and a privateer, or pirate.
Researching family members, Bartlow added, “Makes them a real person, instead of just a name on a piece of paper.”
In addition to classes, there are plenty of extracurricular activities including a Wednesday meet and greet at Gleneagle Golf Course, and Dress as Your Ancestor Day on Friday.
Register online at https://stillygen.org.
Cost for the full three-day conference is $155 for members, and $175 for non-members. Single-day fee is $75 for members and $85 for non-members. To encourage participation by younger generations, teens aged 13-17 can get in free with one fully paid adult registration. It does not include meals or a syllabus.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-435-4838. Online registration closes Aug. 13.
The all-volunteer Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society promotes interest in genealogy through education, provides instruction in research and preservation of member family histories; and possesses a library of hard-copy publications and records and online genealogical search tools available for the public to conduct family searches. Individual annual memberships are $20. The office at 6111 188th Place NE is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.