Alaska Russian Orthodox Church Books (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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This article describes a collection of records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.
Alaska, United States
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Flag of Alaska
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Location of Alaska
Record Description
Record Type Church
Collection years 1816-1936
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Archive
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


What is in This Collection?

The collection consists of an index to baptisms, marriages, and burials for the years 1816 to 1936, of Russian Orthodox church members living in Alaska when it was part of the Russian Empire and later, after it was sold, to the United States.

The early records of this church are the single most important source of vital records information for the state. Copies of all surviving Russian Orthodox records (in Russian) are at the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. Learn more about Alaska Church Records Alaska Church Records.

Images of translated vital record indexes may be viewed by clicking on the first camera icon in the following catalog listing. Be sure to look at the the beginning of the images for a Table of Contents and Keys to Symbols and Abbreviations before browsing through the images. The original records written in Russian are viewable by clicking on the second and third camera icon in the catalog listing:

During World War II many records of Russian Orthodox baptisms, marriages, and deaths were sent to the Library of Congress to be translated from Russian into English and indexed. The originals are still there. Microfilm copies for 1816 to 1936 are on 25 films at the National Archives—Alaska Region, the Rasmuson Library, the Bureau of Vital Statistics, at the Library of Congress, and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1794 the Russian Orthodox Church established its first mission in North America on Kodiak Island in southeastern Alaska. In 1799, the Church appointed the first American Bishop. By 1808, the capital of Alaska was moved to Novoarkhangelsk (Sitka), where in 1848, the Cathedral of St. Michael was built.

The keeping of metrical books was mandated by a 1722 decree of Peter the Great. A format of three parts, christenings, marriages, deaths, was established in 1724, a printed format in 1806, and in 1838 a format that prevailed until the revolution. The consistory copy was considered official record. A Russian diocese - eparkhia was coterminous with a Russian state - guberniya. The registers of each parish - prikhod in an country- uyezd were commonly filed together for a single year. Confession lists are often interfiled with parish registers. Each Orthodox Christian was to confess and partake of the sacrament at least once a year. The principal time for confession was Lent. Children of both sexes in obligatory fashion were taken to confession, beginning from their seventh year. The form of confession lists was established in 1737: the sequential number of the household, surname, given names of all children at least a year old, sex, ages, whether or not the person attended confession, and if not, why (rarely noted).

To Browse This Collection

You will be able to browse through images in this collection when it is published.

What Can These Records Tell Me?

Baptisms

  • Child's name
  • Birth date and place
  • Christening date
  • Names of parents
  • Birth place of parents

Death and Burial

  • Name of deceased
  • Death date
  • Burial dates and places
  • Age
  • Cause of death
  • Residence

Marriage

  • Names of bride and groom
  • Residences
  • Marriage date
  • Birth date and place
  • Names of parents
  • Witnesses

Collection Content

Sample Images

Original church records were written in Russian:

How Do I Search the Collection?

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of the individual
  • The date of the event or the name of a spouse or parent

Search the Index

You will be able to search this collection when it is published.


How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Use christening and birth records of christenings (baptisms) to identify a person’s birth date and place. These are an excellent substitute for civil birth records
  • Use confirmation records to identify a person’s birth date and place and his or her age. If only the age is given, use it to calculate the person’s death date
  • Use death or burial records to identify a person’s birth date and place. Use age at the time of death or burial to calculate the person’s birth date. These are an excellent substitute for civil death records
  • Use marriage records to identify a couple and the marriage date and place and to begin compiling a family group. These are an excellent substitute for civil marriage records
  • Use church records in general to identify other family members who may have served as witnesses to an event
  • Use the date of the event along with the locality to find the family in census and land records
  • Use the residence and names of the parents to locate church and land records
  • You may need to compare the information of more than one family or person to make this determination
  • An infant’s christening usually took place within a few days or few weeks of the birth
  • Church records are considered a primary source. They are usually reliable because they were kept by the Bishop who usually recorded an event at or very near the time it occurred
  • It is often helpful to extract the information on all children with the same parents. Or, if the surname is unusual, you may want to compile entries for every person of the same surname and then sort them into families based on the names of the parents
  • Continue to search the records to identify siblings, parents, and other relatives in the same or other generations who lived in the same borough or nearby

I Can't Find the Person I'm Looking For, What Now?

  • If your ancestor does not have a common name, collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you find possible relatives
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby town or county
  • Try different spellings of your ancestor’s name
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names, or even initials

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation

"Alaska Russian Orthodox Church Books, 1816-1936." Database. 'FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : Publication date. Citing Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

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