Alaska genealogy researchers celebrate an important milestone. It’s the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase. This special commemoration includes a photography exhibit, musical program, and much more. Keep reading to learn more about resources for Alaska genealogy.
The National Archives is celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years) of the Alaska Purchase with a special Hidden Treasure Alaska panoramic photography exhibit at the National Archives at College Park. It will also include a presentation by the exhibit curator, a musical program at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and a loan to Polar Bear Garden exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. The National Archives programs and exhibit are free and open to the public.
The Musical Program
The musical program will be held on Thursday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. at William G. McGowan Theater, Washington, DC. On March 30, 1867, U.S. Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, signed the Alaska Treaty of Cession that purchased Russian America. To commemorate the life and contributions of Seward, the State of Alaska is sponsoring a performance of the Alaska chamber group, Wild Shore New Music. Wild Shore will perform the work of living composers who have found inspiration through their experiences with the natural beauty and indigenous cultures of Alaska. Reservations are recommended and can be made online.
The Hidden Treasure exhibit will be at the National Archives at College Park, MD, on the lower level. Hidden Treasure dramatically captures the beauty of Alaska, as captured on film by U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographers from 1910-1932. These extraordinary images of more than 6,000 panoramic photographs from the collection were used, but then stored and remained unseen for decades. Thanks to the research, work, and photographic skill of National Archives expert Richard Schneider, these images can now be seen by the public in their original panoramic format for the first time. These images capture work-life in the Alaskan wilderness, surveying techniques, towns, and geological formations, such as the Columbia Glacier. See Richard Schneider’s related Prologue Magazine story: The Alaskan Frontier in Panorama – How the National Archives Preserved Early 20th-Century Photographs.
Schneider will discuss these historic panoramic photographs of the Alaska Territory in his presentation on Wednesday, April 12th at 2 p.m. EST. You may see it live streamed at the William G. McGowan Theater & YouTube.
Polar Bear Garden
Archival and contemporary photographs combined with nesting dolls, cartoons, feature-length films, and Cold War propaganda will take viewers on a journey between Alaska and Russia since the purchase. It will further explore stereotypes, language, storytelling, boundaries, and crossings. The exhibit highlights are on rare loan from the National Archives and include the original cancelled check and President Andrew Johnson’s Ratification of the Treaty. More information about the Polar Bear Garden can be found online.
Your Alaskan heritage will likely include stories of great strength and perseverance. To begin your Alaska genealogy research, you may wish to review the FamilySearch Wiki article titled Alaska, United States Genealogy. In it, you will learn important tips like the fact that Alaska is not divided into counties, as nearly all the other states are. Instead, Alaska is divided into boroughs.
There is also a free guide on the wiki titled Step-by-Step Alaska Research, 1880-Present that you may particularly helpful. Among other things, it will help you located birth, marriage, and death records; wills and probates; and naturalization and immigration records.
Additionally, the Alaska State Archives have resources available. They hold many records that contain information on individuals such as:
- Naturalization records (1888-1972)
- Pioneer Home Residents (1913-1980)
- Probate Index (1883-1960)
- Teacher records (1917-1959)
- World War I Veterans (1913-1923)
- Vital Statistics (1816-1998)
Lastly, check out the Alaska Genealogy online guide provided by the Alaska State Library. This basic guide of Alaska related genealogy resources is not intended to be comprehensive, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Sources for several of the boroughs may be available in other Alaska libraries or through interlibrary loan at your local library. They include:
- Anchorage Sources
- Fairbanks Sources
- Juneau Sources
- Kenai Peninsula Borough Sources
- Other Alaska Town
More Resources for Alaska Genealogy Research
The Alaska State Research Guide Digital Download by Family Tree Magazine is a digital download you will want to have for your genealogy library. Trace your Alaska ancestors with the advice and resources in this four-page download. It includes:
- a how-to article detailing Alaska history and records, with helpful advice on tracking your family there
- the best websites, books and other resources for Alaska research, handpicked by our editors and experts
- listings of key libraries, archives and organizations that hold the records you need
- descriptions of the top historic sites for learning about your ancestors’ lives and times, including visitor information
- timeline of key events in the state’s history
- full-color map to put your research in geographical context
Happy hunting…or should I say mushing!